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New York’s Corruption at “Unacceptable Levels”
The corruption of New York State’s political officials is becoming more and more of a problem, said Southern District U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Speaking to the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City, Bharara says the buying and selling of favors among politicians in New York state and New York City’s government is “pervasive,” and something that he will continue to investigate.
“It increasingly seems that the best way to find Albany on a map is to look for the intersection of greed and ambition,” Bharara said. And he isn’t joking. Bharara is certain that corruption is not only rampant, but that he can identify those who are most corrupt and build legal cases against them. In the last 18 months, he has expanded his unit to 10 prosecutors in Manhattan with another four in White Plains in an attempt to bring these corrupt politicians to justice and clean up local government.
In the last several years, 10 politicians in the southern district have been convicted of corruption related crimes in the South District, including a number of state senators, state assemblymen, and New York City council members. Two more prosecutions are currently ongoing, according to New York Law Journal.
The corruption which Bharara is investigating ranges from buying and selling votes to campaign finance conspiracy. He suggested that the common “moonlighting” of politicians as attorneys, consultants, and accountants allows elected officials to withhold information from regulators and the public, and is the root of many of the shadier deals that he has encountered.
“In New York, a politician can figure out a way to buy his way onto a ballot and into the Legislature,” said Bharara. “Upon election, he can turn around and sell that very office to the highest bidder for favorable votes; upon indictment, he can use former supporters’ campaign contributions to fight the criminal charges, upon conviction, he can be forced out of office and imprisoned for years. But he will retain for life a generous state pension, paid for by whom? The tax payer. And that right is enshrined where? In the state Constitution. And that is written by whom? The Legislature.”
Bharara remains committed to prosecuting those elected officials who have acted unethically, but called upon the honest members of New York’s government to increase transparency by enacting laws that reform campaign contributions, term limits, and discretionary funds, and compel the reporting of a crime.