Former New York State Senator Malcolm Smith was convicted in federal court last week of bribery, wire fraud and extortion. A former majority leader in the New York Senate, Smith was defeated for re-election in 2014.
Convicted at the same time was Vincent Tabone, a former Queens Republican Party official. Smith, Tabone, and other GOP officials conspired to allow Smith, a liberal Democrat, to run for New York City mayor as a Republican in 2013, in return for $25,000.
Smith is the latest associate of U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) to be convicted of crimes. Formal investigations of several New York politicians began in 2010 after the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) exposed corruption through stories in the New York Post, New York Times and New York Daily News.
The first story, in the New York Post of January 31, 2010, focused on a nonprofit called New Direction Local Development Corporation, which according to its website, was founded by Meeks and Smith.
Our review of IRS tax returns, New York state budget records, and other documents suggested that New Direction did little development. Instead, it operated to the benefit of Meeks and Smith. Among other financial irregularities, New Direction raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never got the assistance.
From a statement from Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, whose office conducted the prosecution:
As the jury unanimously found, the give-and-take of the political process should not be the giving and taking of bribes, which is what Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone tried to make it. Smith gave, and Tabone took, a $25,000 cash bribe to permit Smith to run for New York City Mayor as a Republican. Smith and Tabone were not alone in this scheme – Smith also bribed Daniel Halloran, another Republican Party official.
And sadly, this was just one of many pockets of corruption this Office has uncovered in New York, which has become the ‘show me the money’ state. It should not be asking too much to expect public officials at least to obey the law. This Office will continue the vigorous prosecution of political corruption until every public official understands that violating the public trust will likely land you in prison.