The New York City Mayoral Race Already Has a Bribery Scheme

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In order to get on the New York City mayoral ballot as a Republican, doomed Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith (above) would have needed approval from three of the city's five GOP county chairs. He did not have that, and this morning he was arrested along with City Councilman Dan Halloran (right) and other suspects for allegedly bribing to pay off those chairs and trying to rig New York City's mayoral election. "FBI agents arrested them both at their Queens homes shortly after 6 a.m.," report the New York Post's team of Josh Margolin, Lorena Mongelli, and Erin Calabrese, who explain: 

To get on the GOP ballot, Smith allegedly enlisted Halloran, a Republican, to set up meetings with party leaders and negotiate thousands of dollars in bribes. The money was masked as payments for legal and accounting services, sources said.

The criminal complaint was set to be unsealed later Tuesday morning, according to the New York Times, with a press conference set for later in the day, according to the New York Daily News. But this complex (and alleged) plot goes back to the apparent reality that Smith, a former State Senate majority leader, did not exactly do himself any favors within the state Democratic party. In December, Smith, along with five others, joined the Independent Democratic Conference in the State Senate and aligned himself with Republicans, thereby nullifying the majority the Democrats had won in elections—Dems had won 33 seats compared to the GOP's 30—and also nullifying any control Democrats thought they had in the State Senate. That move essentially sealed his fate in the Democratic party, and apparently in a Democratic mayoral primary that in its early stages is looking like a potentially dominant one for Christine Quinn.

But that move was seen as part of Smith's over-arching plan to run on the GOP ticket while still being a Democrat. As The Post mentions, in order to get on the Republican ballot you have to convince three of the city's five GOP county chairs to let you on—it's called a Wilson Pakula authorization.

When YNN's Capital Tonight checked in on the possibility of that happening back in August, it looked grim for Smith. "I spoke to everybody today, and three of them were like: ‘No’ ... One would not rule out the possibility." Manhattan GOP Chairman Dan Isaacs told Capital Tonight on August 1. Isaacs added:

I am not open to him, quite frankly. His problem is the baggage he brings along. There have been a lot of disconcerting stories about what has gone on with him with the nonprofits, the racino, his stewardship of the Democratic majority, his distasteful use of campaign funds. At the end of the day, there are a lot of issues with Malcolm Smith.

The "racino" Isaacs is referring are a separate set of allegations that Smith had used political favoritism in the Aqueduct Entertainment Group’s bid to build the Aqueduct Racino and minimized his involvement in two non-profits that had been the subjects of official investigations," reports the Queens Times Ledger.

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So you could see why a bribery plot wouldn't necessarily be out of the question for a hungry politician, especially since Republican party leaders and its GOP chair were already sour on Smith. And according to The Post, it seems like Smith wasn't even the initial target:

He [Halloran] is separately charged with taking bribes from a consultant in return for up to $80,000 in City Council discretionary funding.

The feds were already investigating Halloran when they got wind of the alleged ballot-manipulating plan in November, the sources said. Smith met with his alleged co-conspirators as recently as February.

WABC-TV adds that authorities expect to make at least five arrests in the corruption probe, including Spring Valley Mayor Noramie Jasmin and Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret. Though, according to both the Post and WABC, it's unclear if Jasmin and Desmaret are connected to Smith. The Daily News more directly links two other men:

Agents were also rounding up four suspects, including Bronx Republican Chairman Jay Savino and Queens GOP vice chairman Vincent Tabone who were to receive bribes in exchange for backing Smith when he switched sides last year in a never-realized run for City Hall.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.