NYP: Feds to Round Up More Corrupt Politicians
More Bruno-style investigations and trials are soon to come, today’s Post reported. Here’s the story:
ALBANY — Emboldened by the corruption conviction of ex-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, federal law-enforcement authorities are poised to widen their dragnet on the state Legislature.
Acting US Attorney Andrew Baxter slammed Albany’s porous ethics laws and pledged that the feds would keep the heat on corrupt officials despite their efforts to avoid scrutiny.
“The lack of transparency in the state government and the weakness in the disclosure laws and the ethics laws make it significantly more difficult to investigate and to prosecute,” Baxter, the chief prosecutor for New York’s Northern District, told The Post. “The lack of transparency doesn’t make it easy for us to do our job.”
He declined to reveal where the Syracuse-based Northern District’s 45 assistant US attorneys would next turn their gaze — but John Pikus, FBI special agent in charge at Albany, told the Times Union newspaper that his sights were trained on the Legislature.
“It really is the state Legislature,” Pikus said. “The bureau understands that in any government form of the legislature, there’s going to be some allegations of wrongdoing.
“We are constantly on the outlook for that. I have the agents now, very experienced agents, working on information that’s come to us, and we’re taking a look at it.”
Bruno’s conviction Monday capped a four-year prosecution effort that began when the powerful Republican pol accepted plane trips bankrolled by an Albany-area businessman with business before the state.
A federal jury acquitted Bruno on six counts but convicted him on two, all stemming from some $280,000 in payments from that businessman, Jared Abbruzzese.
Throughout the investigation and the trial, Bruno accused the feds of mounting a political witch hunt, with 81 federal agents assigned to his case. He argued that his outside business interests were all allowed under state law.
Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group welcomed the promise of increased federal scrutiny.
“What must send shivers down the spine of at least some public officials is that the normal ways they short-circuit investigations don’t work with the FBI,” Horner said.
“[FBI agents] are not part of Albany; they’re outside of it. They’re independent of it and presumably would enforce the law without fear of favor.”
Before Bruno, federal prosecutors sank then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and secured a guilty plea and resignation from former Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Queens).
Baxter said he was unconcerned about the US Supreme Court’s decision to review the “honest services” law used against Bruno and scores of other public officials.
“We will deal with that when it comes,” said Baxter, who’s stepping down next month to become a federal magistrate.
He added that he was “completely confident” that his likely successor, Richard Hartunian, would continue the office’s commitment to public corruption cases.
“This is an office of career prosecutors,” Baxter said. “I know that the direction of the office in these important areas isn’t going to change.”
Come back to Atlas later today for a report on the Brooklyn GOP’s Patronage Hack Holiday Fest!