Well, well, well. Virginia’s dems are in turmoil over scandal. It’s a sad state of affairs when the entire government can’t find someone who, in the words of The Economist, “hasn’t applied shoe polish to their face or been involved in an assault.” In the old days, we were supposed to be sweeping these things under the rug for the good of political power. “Yeah, he did something embarrassing 30 years ago but he’s on our side!.”
Those days are over. Virginia, if I were you, I’d run to the nearest woman of color and ask, nay, beg her to run for political office. It’s not that being a woman of color ensures virtue (it doesn’t), but it would eliminate the two major sources of worry now plaguing those poor Virginians.
But wait! Before I get all smug and start saying things like “I betcha Big Bill never put shoe polish on any part of his body!” let’s take a step back. New York, you know I love you. But you are in a class by yourself when it comes to political scandal. True, we’ve never had to issue bumper stickers saying “Vote for the Crook – It’s Important” in response to having to choose between a felon and the former Grand Wizard of the KKK (Louisiana, 1991). Still, you really don’t have to go too far back in time before your shovel starts digging up unpalatable racists, anti-Semites, misogynists, Mafiosi, sex criminals, and world-class crooks right here at home in New York.
That’s our bread and butter! Bribery, kickbacks, slush funds, hush money, “legal payments”, “campaign contributions”, boondoggles, free houses, super bowl tickets, no-show jobs for your lazyass do-nothing useless or deranged family members – we got it covered. I mean, local media runs periodic articles called “here’s who’s been convicted this year.” This year. And it’s only February.
There’s lots to talk about, so let’s get to the high points.
Charles Rangel We’ll start nice and easy, with someone who did a lot of good in his political career but had a few, er, ethical deficits. Full disclosure: Charles Rangel’s office was instrumental in removing bureaucratic roadblocks when Al and I adopted our first daughter from half way around the world (long story, another time). So, I owe him big. See, that’s how politics works: I may know that Charles is taking payola, basking on a beach in the DR, and downright stealing from the public coffers. However, on personal level, he helped me out so I’ll always feel the warm and fuzzies for him. I’d probably send him a valentine to his jail cell, too. Fortunately for him, he didn’t actually go to jail for not reporting income from his beachside villa in the DR and using taxpayer money for some very nice vacation perks. He got called up in front of the House Ethics Committee but prison time was not involved. In fact, he got re-elected in his mid-eighties and then retired as promised, presumably to enjoy the beach. By comparison to everyone else on this list, he’s a shining star of ethical probity.
Sheldon Silver Sheldon was big into payola. He liked to get huge checks under the table from law firms trying to weasel out of asbestos claims, among his many hobbies. His $4 million haul makes Dean Skelos look like an amateur. Dean got a $300K no-show job for his slacker son. Only 300k? Are you kidding me? Sheldon got $4 million. At his height, he was the most powerful man in New York politics. When the tide finally turned, he got 7 years .
Boss Tweed Ah, the classics. Boss Tweed ran New York with an iron grip the way Al Capone ran Chicago. Tweed used what he called “patronage” and everyone else called “blackmail” to amass an estimated $45 million dollars in tax money for himself. That’s worth around $2 billion today. Makes Sheldon Silver look like a chump. Plus, Boss Tweed got re-elected AFTER he was arrested (but before he was convicted). Eventually, he went to jail but then escaped from the Tombs, worked as a sailor in Spain, but got re-arrested by the US and died in prison. So I guess there was some justice, after all. Didn’t seem to work as a deterrent to others, though.
This is certainly everyone’s favorite topic, mine included. There’s so much of it, I had to break it up into sub sections.
Eliot Spitzer If you want to make a name for yourself in New York, be a tenacious bulldog public prosecutor who takes no prisoners and is always on the side of right vs. might. Take a look at Eliot Spitzer, for example! He put the bad guys in jail, he pursued justice, he looked out for the little people. That type of conduct propelled Elliot from lawyer to attorney general, and then it got him elected as governor of the great state of New York.
If you want to make another kind of name for yourself, be sure to start using public money to pay for private sex. It works very well to start hiring expensive call girls who are eager for fame and fortune. After meeting you, they also have a story to sell. If you can rack up big bills (let’s say $15k a pop) everyone will enjoy the spectacle and you’ll go down in history.
I have one word for you: Anthony Weiner. Athony let grandmas all over New York become acquainted with the word “sexting”. He swore he was reforming. He swore he was going to get help for his “addiction”. His wife Huma stood by him through lie after lie, until he got the kids involved (not in a good way). Jail time, divorce, disgrace, but I assume he still has a smartphone, so watch out!
I have one more word for you: Eric Schneiderman. This one is ewwwww with a bracing dash of hypocrisy. Eric jumped on the #MeToo bandwagon, but that’s before the lurid and nasty details of his private life came out. Turns out, what he called “harmless consensual role play” was called assault and battery by his bruised victims.
Not everyone in the sordid world of New York power is an elected official – some of them prefer pulling the wires behind the scenery. Be sure you pay no attention to the man behind the curtain when you take a look at…
David and Jeff
Jeff Bezos. He’s a rich and powerful man with both a wife and a girlfriend! So, far, so yawn. These days, that’s a private matter between the man, his soon to be ex-wife, his board of directors, and her lawyer. I believe in this case, the wife will be changing her name from her married name (Mrs. Bezos) to her divorced name (MacKenzie Getting-Half Amazon). Into this sad but private tale steps media giant, publisher of the National Enquirer, scandal monger and kingmaker David Pecker. Mr. P. is decidedly old-school. See these nice pictures, Jeff? What’s the young lady’s name? Dear me, you don’t have any clothes on! Do what I say and no one gets hurt. He also rolls the other way – you got a scandal involving my pal? I’ll pay you a huge amount of money for an exclusive – say, ten THOUSAND dollars? And you can’t talk to anyone else about it again. Oops! Forgot to publish it! I think that’s called deep-sixing the story.
Anyway, one of these two tactics has always worked before. But now, Bezos is having none of it. He called out David’s business dealings for what they are – blackmail. And I say hurray for him. Double-hurray for MacKenzie Getting-Half, too.
So there you have it. No blackface amongst ‘em, but I’m only one yearbook photo away from being proven wrong.