Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith, a close crony of embattled U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), was arrested by the FBI this morning, along with several Republican party officials. According to various news reports, the arrests result from a scheme to bribe Republican officials to allow Smith to run for New York City mayor as a Republican. Smith is the former president of the State Senate.
From afar, the scheme seems bizarre, but in the context of the endemic graft in New York City, it is not far fetched at all. NLPC has played a key role in exposing a rotten political culture that is corrupt from top to bottom, and spans both parties.
In January 2010, NLPC exposed the involvement of Smith and Meeks in a charity called New Direction Local Development Corporation. The group appears to have served as a slush fund for Smith, Meeks and their associates. Among other problems, New Direction raised money for Hurricane Katrina victims who never received the assistance.
In March 2010, NLPC filed a Complaint with the House Ethics Committee against Meeks. It detailed the relationship between Meeks, Smith and an architect named Robert Gaskin. Gaskin received several government contracts within the areas represented by Smith while at the same time doing work on several properties owned by Smith.
The New Direction revelations focused scrutiny on a casino license bid by the Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), led by Rev. Floyd Flake, Smith’s political mentor. Governor David Paterson initially granted the lucrative license for video gaming machines at Aqueduct racetrack, in apparent exchange for Flake’s support of Paterson’s re-election campaign. The franchise was eventually revoked when an investigation found the process for selecting the winning bidder of the license was fraught with political favoritism. A January 8, 2013 article in the New York Post described Malcolm Smith as the target of a federal investigation into his dealings regarding the AEG casino bid.
One of the Republican arrested today is Jay Savino, Bronx GOP Chairman. He was referenced in a front-page New York Times article in July 2012, based on information provided by NLPC. The story was about a “mysterious donor” named Bob Williams who made $900,000 in political contributions despite living in a small apartment in Queens and having no visible means of support. Williams gave $8,000 to the Bronx GOP. In the story, Savino says of Williams, “”The guy is unbelievable.”