Fed Probe in NY Legislature Raises Race Question

Wall Street Journal, May 11, 2013

It’s a glaring aspect of the most talked about issue in Albany’s burgeoning public corruption investigation that few are willing to raise publicly: Is the federal corruption sting rocking New York politics singling out black and Latino politicians? Experts and many lawmakers acknowledge it may appear that way but it’s not the case.

So far, in a Legislature where minorities have long been underrepresented, the five figures who have been charged and eight who have been caught on FBI surveillance wires in the last five weeks are all black or Latino.

“Black and Hispanic politicians are the ones being wired and sent out to root out corruption among black and Hispanic officials,” said Sen. Ruben Diaz Jr., a Bronx Democrat. “I would hate to think that as black and Hispanic leaders …. we would be targeted to weed out corruption only in our backyards and that we would be held to a higher standard than the non-black and Hispanic leaders.”

But in years past, the federal investigation largely ensnared whites. {snip}


In this latest corruption investigation, Sens. Malcolm Smith, John Sampson and Shirley Huntley and Assemblymen Nelson Castro and Eric Stevenson are charged. All are black or Latino Democrats and come from Brooklyn or the Bronx.

Go back a few years, though, and find this roster of federal corruption cases from 2009 to 2011: Sens. Nicholas Spano, Carl Kruger and Vincent Leibell and Assemblyman Anthony Seminiero, all white and half of whom were Republicans from outside New York City.

That period also included one of the biggest corruption cases in Albany history, which sent former Democratic Sen. Pedro Espada Jr., a Bronx Latino, to prison. Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a white upstate Republican, was convicted, but that decision was vacated and he still faces a new trial. And just before that, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a white New York City Democrat, was forced from office in 2007 and imprisoned in one of the highest-level corruption cases in New York history.

The clearest delineation, which may not be obvious to the general public, is which U.S. attorney’s office is handling the cases. The big cases from 2009 to 2011 were handled by federal prosecutors upstate and in the suburbs, where most politicians are white.

The current corruption cases are handled by U.S. attorney’s offices in New York City, where minority politicians prevail. The U.S. attorney for the southern New York district who came out with the first charges in these arrests of racial minorities is Preet Bharara. He was born in India and was appointed by President Barack Obama.


But the concern for many is that recurring TV news video, known as B-roll, and newspaper photos will likely show images of the recently embattled black and Latino lawmakers leaving courthouses or at the Capitol, and video and photos of white defendants in the previous investigations won’t be used.

“If we picked a different year, the B-roll would be Bruno, Spano, Seminiero and Leibell,” said Sen. Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat, who is white. “I don’t believe they are only going after African-American and Latino legislators. But I worry that will be spun wrong, especially upstate.”


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  • It makes me wonder: How much of this stench deserves to spill up to Andrew Cuomo?

    • MBlanc46

      Good question. I hope that someone with knowledge of NY politics can answer it.

      • Dr. X

        Andrew Cuomo is a dedicated left-wing scum, but frankly he is too smart to become involved in the corruption and sleaze that permeates state government. I think he learned a lot from his father, the three-term governor, and one of the things he learned is that one way to succeed in politics is to simply let your enemies self-destruct while you sit back and wait for them to do it to themselves. Cuomo has been playing the role of “Mr. Clean,” and while I despise the arrogant [email protected] with every fiber of my being I honestly don’t think he will get caught up in any scandals.

        • MBlanc46

          That’s the way it works here in Cook County, IL, too. The bigwigs manage to deny responsibility even while top aides are sent to the slammer. Two of our recent governors have been in the penitentiary for corruption, but only because they weren’t clever enough to make sure there was no paper trail (or, in the case of Blagoevich, to not conspire to sell appointments whilst being wiretapped by the Feds).

  • sbuffalonative

    Is the federal corruption sting rocking New York politics singling out black and Latino politicians?

    Like most things, blacks/Hispanics get it backwards. Just like they believe having their child attend a high achieving school means their child will be a high achieving student.

    Silly minorities.

    • The__Bobster

      Yeah, and the Black Congressional Caucus has been “singled out”, too.

  • non kosher one

    “Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a white upstate Republican, was convicted, but that decision was vacated and he still faces a new trial. And just before that, state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a white New York City Democrat, was forced from office in 2007 and imprisoned in one of the highest-level corruption cases in New York history.”

    Alan Hevesi is Jewish not white. Jews do indeed make this distinction; so I will also.

  • JackKrak

    Just in this story, I can see LOTS of examples of diversity being NY’s greatest strength.
    Can’t you?

  • The__Bobster

    Bantu voters expect corruption from their politicians. They don’t care as long as they are only stealing YT’s money.

    • Sue

      I don’t think they care if their interests are met either as long as the skin is black and it talks a lot of s*it. The difference is Europeans want their own exposed and dealt with. They don’t.

  • Nathanwartooth

    I wish they would detail their crimes. I would like to know just what they were doing and how much money they made from it.

    • Dr. X

      Democrat Sen. Smith offered $100,000 in bribes to the Republican Party to let him run for mayor of NYC, and Democrat Sen. Sampson stole $440,000 from his legal clients to run for Brooklyn D.A. so that he could put other people in prison. He came within 4% of winning the primary which would have guaranteed him the job of D.A. If I recall correctly Stevenson solicited $22,000 in bribes to try to pass legislation outlawing competition for company in his district.

      • Nathanwartooth

        If people getting caught is any indication, there is MASSIVE corruption in politics.

        I find that only a small portion of those who commit crimes ever get caught.

  • MBlanc46

    Big city politicians busted for corruption. I’m shocked. Big city machines are noted for envelopes full of cash. Minority politicians seem to feel that it’s their turn to get their share. Unfortunately for them, electronic surveillance has made taking bribes riskier than it used to be.


    I think this is more of a matter of non-white politicians being stupid and not hiding things well than of them being more corrupt.

  • APaige

    The black leadership paradigm is ‘big chief-big thief’. Black areas are controlled by ‘gang-leaders’ from street level to national level. The store-front preachers become civil rights leaders. It is all the same just on different scales.

  • smells_just_like

    “Once again, the obvious remains unmentionable.”

    Using the word “obvious” has been deemed hateful racist discourse.

  • ye, ol’ swampyankee

    When’s NYS going to cut lose that ball and chain called NYC and those bordering counties? It’s such a shame since large chunks of NYS are white like Vermont and just as rural.

    The problem of course is NYC. They’ll never give up those upstate tax dollars. All the reservoirs providing NYC with fresh water are in Sullivan and Ulster counties.

    Ahhhhhhh, there’s a bargaining chip.

    • lanceman

      Upstate NY probably gets more in taxes than it pays. It has been in economic depression since the late 1950’s. No business expands without a subsidy or a tax break. This is largely due to NYC policies of high taxes and onerous regulations. Certainly there are other factors as well. The legislature is dominated by downstate. What Upstate is valued for is water resources and electricity generation/transmission. No political entity wants to see it’s territory get smaller.

  • Billy Mitchum

    Yea, worried that the Upstaters think the wrong way. You know, being from Upstate – they are slow and all..

  • WR_the_realist

    New York produces ample numbers of corrupt politicians of all races and creeds. But God help the FBI if they go after any black or Latino ones.

  • Dr. X

    The article failed to mention sexual perverts like former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, and former Congressman Anthony Wiener, Chris Lee, and Eric Massa, all whites and/or Jews. In addition, Sol Wachtler, the highest judge in the state, went to prison for making death threats and stalking in the 1990s. New York State is literally a criminal organization. The state government is no different from the Mafia except that it is a lot bigger and the New York State Police are its enforcers. This is not an exaggeration, it is literally true. If you’re a politician in New York State and you are NOT a criminal you are the exception no matter what you race is. The only difference is that the black and brown criminals play the race card to get elected and play the race card when they get indicted. The sad thing is that some of the towns in Upstate New York and the Adirondacks are some of the nicest, lily-whitest, well-administered towns you will find anywhere. They are simply overwhelmed by the stench and corruption from “The City.”

    • lanceman

      I grew up in upstate NY. Yeah, the winters were brutal and the economy in depression since 1960. But there are many beautiful places there that are 99% White. The do gooders are trying to settle refugees there, unfortunately. I wish upstate could divorce itself from NYC/Long Island. It would start out poor but with sensible tax and regulatory policies could be another New Hampshire.

  • jbrennan

    Lots of Politicians are Lawyers and as for as I’m concerned Lawyers are dispicable