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Editorial April 11, 2013  RSS feed

EDITORIAL

Boss Tweed and Jimmy Walker may be dead, but their crooked Tammany Hall politics remain alive and well. Their brand of corruption lives on not only in the city, but also in Albany.

New York government has become a national joke, and there is no punchline. There is only the shame, embarrassment and anger which we have for allowing crooks to represent us.

It’s getting to a point where prosecutors may eventually move to install iron bars on the windows of City Hall and the State Capitol. The prisons are quickly becoming overcrowded with political crooks.

We voters need to wake up, get angry and act to have a government that represents us—not the liars, thieves and opportunists.

For the past several years, some of New York’s most shameless elected bums have been led into federal courtrooms in handcuffs for their shenanigans, ranging from embezzlement to bribe-taking to domestic violence. But the bipartisan skulduggery exposed by the federal government on Apr. 2—which resulted in the arrests of Democratic State Sen. Malcolm Smith and Republican City Council Member Daniel Halloran—set a new low for treachery in New York.

Smith and Halloran are accused of participating in a conspiracy designed to have the state senator run for mayor as a Republican. Through a crook-turned-government informant and an undercover agent posing as a wealthy developer, Smith allegedly tried to bribe two Republican county bosses into formally approving his mayoral bid. Halloran, it is alleged, worked as the go-between, hammering out the illegal deals and accepting a finder’s fee for his trouble.

If that weren’t bad enough, Halloran was also accused of accepting bribes from a cooperating witness to secure discretionary funds from the city on the witness’ behalf.

How many more elected officials need to take the walk of shame into a courtroom before we voters decide to stop this nonsense? We can blame the system of government and the structures within it all we want, but that’s not the problem.

The problem is that too often during elections, we voters have to choose between weasels anointed by party bigshots, many of whom are weasels themselves (as evidenced by the Smith-Halloran case). And these weasels know how to work the system to their own advantage, rather than on behalf of the people they represent.

Not every elected official is crooked, but if we’re really being honest with ourselves, we realize that too many of them are rotten to the core. The saints are vastly outnumbered by the sinners.

The crooked politicians caught for their chicanery even have the criminal justice system figured out. After getting busted, they throw the other crooks in government under the prison bus in order to obtain a plea bargain and receive a lesser sentence. Then, once the other crooks are busted, they do the same thing: squeal, plead down and finger other politicians for wrongdoing.

Last week, we criticized a plan put forth by politicians who want to appoint an inspector general to police the Police Department. But with so many lawmakers getting pulled out of bed by the FBI at 6 a.m., where’s the outcry for an inspector general for legislators? Where’s the call for party leaders to be investigated?

And yet, it’s not enough to just lock up the bad guys. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said it best: “The public corruption crisis in New York is more than a prosecutor’s problem.” Investigations and prosecutions are reactionary; New York needs to stop corrupt politicians before they even get to take an oath for public office.