Throw the bums out


| dbrennan@queenscourier.com |

If you go through State Senator Malcolm Smith’s district in Hollis, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t have a kind word to say about him.  Smith has been popular there for years, bringing home the bacon.

He had made what was seemingly an abortive attempt to run for mayor, but a try on the GOP line did not seem to be in the cards.  Little did we know.

I’ve covered Smith, here and in Albany.  He is a charismatic guy, and it’s no secret how he manages to get re-elected.  But does he have other secrets?

I’m a big believer in “innocent until proven guilty.”  Just because a prosecutor alleges something, that doesn’t make it so.  I’ve seen my fair share of over-zealous prosecutions, and yes, some unfair convictions.

But it’s always troublesome when things are caught on a wire, or spilled out to informants.

The scheme that Smith and City Councilmember Dan Halloran are charged in connection with seems bizarre.

Prosecutors allege the pair attempted to bribe Smith’s way onto the mayoral ticket.  Smith, a Democrat wanting to run on the Republican line, needed a waiver to do so. Prosecutors allege he attempted to do it by bribing some party officials, who are also charged in the case.

But why?  Why take such a huge chance when the odds of actually running and winning the mayoralty were so small?

Let’s look at Smith’s chances:  he would be going for the GOP nomination against Joe Lhota, a big fundraiser, and John Catsimatidis, a guy who can fundraise with his own money.

What were the odds that Smith could win a race like that?  And even if he got the GOP nomination, he’d have even longer odds winning in the general election.  For this, you risk 20 years behind bars?

Smith allegedly told an undercover about the scheme: “If you pull this off, you can have the house and I’ll be the tenant.”

Halloran allegedly said of politics: “You can’t do anything without the money… money is what greases the wheels… good, bad or indifferent.”

Good government groups say it takes about $400,000 dollars to get elected, and donors want influence, so cue the corruption.

The case once again puts the State Senate in the harsh spotlight.  Ten Senators have been busted in just the last eight years. TEN IN EIGHT YEARS!

I’ve also found that the environment in the halls of the State Capitol is one in which corrupt pols feel that nobody is watching. If they only knew, sometimes the feds are recording.

Some solutions suggested are term limits or publicly-financed campaigns. Not bad ideas.  But how about more disclosure and fewer secrets?  How about holding our own elected officials accountable?

Perhaps the best way to police the corrupt pols in to show up on election day.  And throw the bums out.