New York State Democratic Senator Malcolm Smith and Republican City Councilman Dan Halloran, both of Queens, have been arrested in an alleged plot to rig the New York City mayor's race.
The FBI says Smith and Halloran were arrested early Tuesday at their homes.
During a press conference announcing the indictments on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called the actions of Smith, Halloran and the other officials involved “an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed.”
“The show-me-the-money culture seems to pervade every level of New York government,” Bharara said.
In an earlier statement, Bharara said Smith "tried to bribe his way" onto the ballot for the New York City mayoral race. Bharara says Smith "drew up the game plan" and Halloran found party chairmen who were open to receiving bribes.
Smith and Halloran were arraigned in a White Plains federal court Tuesday afternoon. Smith’s lawyer Gerald Shargel, speaking to reporters after, asked that people not jump to conclusions in the case. He said his client would be pleading innocent.
“The allegations in this complaint do not tell the full story,” Shargel said.
According to the indictment, Smith and Halloran allegedly colluded to help an FBI agent posing as a wealthy real estate developer bribe Republican Party officials in Queens and the Bronx as part of Smith’s attempt to run on the Republican line in this year’s mayoral contest.
Vincent Tabone, the head of the GOP in the Bronx, and Joseph Savino, the vice chair in Queens, were allegedly set to receive $40,000 in bribes to help Smith get on the GOP ballot. Halloran himself was reported to be looking for $20,500 in bribes to act as the go-between.
Both of the accused elected officials also allegedly promised to use their offices to illegally assist the agent posing as a developer.
The indictment states that Smith helped connect the agent with two Spring Valley, New York officials—Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret—were allegedly bribed $10,500 as part of a real estate deal towards which Smith promised to help steer hundreds of thousands of dollars in state funding.
(Photo: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara unveiled an alleged plot to rig the New York City's mayor's race on Tuesday. Brigid Bergin/WNYC)
Halloran is alleged to have agreed to steer $80,000 in council discretionary funds to the FBI agent’s fake real estate company in exchange for contributions to his 2012 congressional campaign.
“That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much. Not whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that…And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else,” Halloran is alleged to have said to the FBI agent, according to the indictment. “Money is what greases the wheels – good bad, or indifferent.”
All told, US Attorney Bharara’s office says more than $100,000 in bribes were either promised or delivered as part of the elaborate corruption scheme.
Governor Andrew Cuomo, during an event in Buffalo on Tuesday, called the reports “very troubling,” and urged those accused of wrong doing to cooperate with officials.
“We have zero tolerance for any violation of the public integrity and the public trust," Cuomo said.
The prosecutor says charges in the case include bribery, extortion, and wire and mail fraud.
New York State Republican Chairman Ed Cox responded to the news by issue a statement condemning the plot:
"The arrest of elected and party officials this morning is deeply concerning. I urge federal and state law enforcement officials to do their jobs as thoroughly and expeditiously as possible to determine the guilt or innocence of those accused. The integrity of the electoral process for the voters of New York City must be preserved."
Also charged are: Bronx County Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino; Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone; Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin; and Spring Valley Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret.
The impact of the arrest is already being felt by Smith.
Independent Democratic Conference Leader and Senate Co-Leader Jeffrey Klein says he has made the decision to strip Smith of his committee assignments and conference leadership position.
“By participating in the alleged scheme, Senator Smith breached the trust of the Independent Democratic Conference,” Klein said. He went on to say Smith should "seriously consider whether or not he can continue to effectively serve his constituents."
Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office announced later on Tuesday that Halloran had been stripped of all committee assignments and lost the ability to make funding allocations.
In an earlier statement, Quinn called the allegations a “reprehensible abuse of the public's trust.”
“If true, then the full weight of the legal system should be brought to bear on all parties implicated,” she said.