In the same fashion that cancer metastasizes in the human body and manifests itself in other parts than its point of origin, political corruption spreads throughout the executive and legislative branches across the nation and robs the Body Politic of honest government. Almost on a daily basis, for those of us who follow politics like others follow sports, there is a news story regarding political corruption in some jurisdiction somewhere. I closed my March/April Juniper Berry op-ed with a question: Will trickle down justice hit Queens County before the spring edition of the Juniper Berry? Well, we all know that the wheels of justice grind slowly. However, there is progress; it has struck in Nassau County.
The Tuesday, May 5, 2015 edition of The Wall Street Journal headlined an article entitled “Charges against Skelos Detailed”. New York State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son were arrested and charged in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy to profit from the senator’s political power. This marked the latest federal corruption allegations to buffet Albany and threatening another leadership shake-up in Albany. Suffice to say the article goes on to note that the 43 criminal charges are the result of wire-taps, recordings and cooperating witnesses.
The wheels of justice continue to grind along in this matter, however, at a much faster pace than I had expected. Despite Senator Skelos bloviating about how innocent he is of these charges, his colleagues, after some debate, have lost faith in his ability to lead. Today, as I write this, the Wall Street Journal and other media outlets have headlines that note: “Skelos Ousted as President of the Senate”.
The above mentioned news now brings us to the “Three Amigos in the Room” culture of running Albany. Clearly Preet Bharara has his focus on Governor Cuomo as the last amigo standing. And, Governor Cuomo is quite perplexed thinking about how the noose is tightening; therefore, he mistakenly followed Hillary Clinton’s lead and scrubbed all state computers of any e-mails that would give Preet ammunition. However, contrary to Cuomo’s tactic, it is this action that raises the “Red Flag” to the top of the pole for Preet Bharara. And now that brings up the question of circumstantial evidence which always fuels the flames of inquiry.
I note the concept of circumstantial evidence as written in Black’s Law Dictionary because it’s important to understanding the issue at hand.
Circumstantial evidence is testimony not based on actual personal knowledge or observation of the facts in controversy, but other facts from which deductions are drawn, showing indirectly the facts sought to be proved. The proof of certain facts and circumstances in a given case from which jury may infer other connected facts which usually and reasonably follow according to the common experience of mankind.
Circumstantial evidence will quickly convict a politician in the court of public opinion which has expanded exponentially within the infinite Galaxy of “Social Media.”
Most lay people that read or listen to the news are under the impression that circumstantial evidence is not that lethal and has no bite. For example, in Hillary Clinton’s case, contrary to her surrogates’ continual babble that “there is no direct evidence,” “there is just no evidence,” etc., etc., Mike Carroll from Tuscola, Ill. a retired judge, notes in a very erudite letter, which was printed on the Opinion page of Monday’s May 11th Wall Street Journal, that many people are in prison today based on circumstantial evidence. And, Lis Wiehl, Harvard Law School Graduate, professor of law at NYU said on Fox News in regard to the Hillary Clinton matter, “That people have been convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence.”
Influence peddling is not a victimless crime; it is a conspiracy to defraud the governed of their vote and their tax money. And, all parties that are part of this crime should be punished – not just the politician who sold his office, but also the facilitators who bought it. Bribery is a crime.
Now that brings us to the last “Amigo in the Room” Governor Cuomo. The news flash that came to me several days ago:
“New York—May 11…The New York State Comptroller report released today on Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Start UP NY advertising campaign, proving that the $211 million taxpayer dollars spent on TV ads created virtually no new jobs, raises serious ethical questions about Mr. Cuomo’s decision to run the ads, especially in an election year, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino today charged.”
The State Legislature just appropriated $50 million more for Start Up ads at the request of the governor.
“I commend Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for having the courage to call out the Start Up campaign for what it is: an historic waste of tax dollars,” County Executive Astorino said. “Mr. Cuomo’s ads were designed for two reasons — to boost his image nationally and to stabilize his falling approval ratings here in New York going into a re-election year. It took tens of thousands of New York taxpayers to foot the bill for those ads, and they got absolutely nothing for their money. That is morally unacceptable.”
I am almost certain that the aforementioned news flash came across Preet Bharara’s desk before I got it, and he is focusing his legal laser on the question of Who got What for What, Quid Pro Quo, Something for Something. $211 million can touch a lot of conspirators.
If either Shelly Silver or Dean Skelos cop a plea, I assure you that Preet will move against Governor Cuomo quickly, because in the world of quid pro quo, Preet has to get something to let either one of them plead down.
Pray for our Veterans
E. Pluribus Unum
**The views expressed in this column represent only those of the author and not the board or membership of the Juniper Park Civic Association.