Monday, September 15, 2008

With A Blue Moon In Your Eyes

They are The Assembly Sopranos.

Since 1975 Democrats have controlled the New York State Assembly, and they don't merely resemble a fictional organized crime family. They are an organized crime family.

All the shadow of the Capitol requires in Albany is the Bada Bing! and Satriale's Pork Store.

So it was no surprise when Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio, who once boasted of being "John Gotti's Assemblyman," was arrested last week for an eight-year scheme he concocted to collect $500,000 in bribes. The 17-page indictment is damning.

"I'll break his balls. And I know what to break his balls about," Stugots Seminerio tells a bribe-paying hospital executive who was angry with a Department of Health official for not being helpful enough.

Seminerio, a 30-year incumbent, was also brazen and dumb enough to bring the undercover F.B.I. agent who nailed him onto the Assembly floor.

"Seminerio introduced the undercover to the Assembly Chambers' security guard, and requested that the security guard let the undercover enter the Assembly Chamber," the indictment charges. He immediately introduced the agent to Assembly Members who could help pass environmental legislation, and subsequently accepted a bribe for the "service."

Seminerio responded to the charges with his trademark arrogance. "It's one of those stupid things," he said.

He will likely join his disgraced former colleagues in resignation or expulsion from the Assembly. Or in prison. The body's most recent Assembly Sopranos, all New York City Democrats, include:

* Brian McLaughlin, allegedly the "confidential witness" who set up Seminerio. Plead guilty to racketeering charges for stealing $2.2 million from labor unions and nonprofit groups for personal use. Awaiting sentencing;

* Diane Gordon. Convicted of receiving a $500,000 bribe to build a new home. Awaiting sentencing;

* Clarence Norman, former Brooklyn Democratic Party Chairman. Convicted of accepting illegal campaign contributions. Currently serving time in a New York prison;

* Gloria Davis. Convicted of receiving a bribe. Served 90 days in jail;

* Roger Green. Plead guilty to larceny for billing taxpayers for rides to the Capital he received free of charge from a contractor. Resigned.

It never ends with this crew.

A day after Seminerio was hauled in by the F.B.I., the toothless Assembly Ethics Committee met to investigate Democratic Assemblyman Sam Hoyt and Assemblyman Greg Ball (a rare Republican Assembly Soprano). The married Hoyt has confessed to exchanging sexually explicit messages with his goomah, a legislative employee, and Ball is accused of stalking and sexual harassment.

Democratic Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV has twice been accused of rape, and exonerated. Earlier this year he was charged with a D.W.I., and his female passenger was so drunk she had to be taken to a hospital emergency room by the police.

The Don of The Assembly Sopranos is Speaker Shelly Silver. He's no stranger to ethical gray areas and excusing criminal behavior.

Don Shelly once stayed at a posh Las Vegas hotel (how fitting) paid for at a discount rate by a casino company looking to expand in NewYork. And he works for a law firm notorious throughout our business community for supporting tort laws that have enriched trial lawyers and helped cripple our state economy. Because of our weak ethics laws, Silver is not required to disclose how much the firm pays him.

In perhaps Don Shelly's most appalling example of looking the other way in the face of criminality, he aggressively defended his chief counsel, Michael Boxley, after he was charged with raping a 22-year-old legislative employee.

It was not the first time Boxley was accused of rape, and Silver called the young woman a liar publicly. Boxley was dragged out of the Capitol in handcuffs, and is now a registered sex offender.

"Speaker Silver has acknowledged repeatedly that he was wrong about Michael Boxley," said one of his spokescapos at the time. Boxley's victim received a $500,000 settlement from the state.

A primary reason why the Assembly is an organized crime haven is because of its shameful refusal to pass financial disclosure reform legislation. Its Members can hold outside jobs, and they're not required to disclose income and holdings beyond the pittance of $1,000.

The Assembly Sopranos want it that way. It's how they stay organized until they get caught. Until they remove this veil of secrecy and pass strong financial disclosure legislation we will continue to witness the convictions of small-time Roger Green grifters as well as big-time thieves and aspiring Jimmy Hoffas like Brian McLaughlin and Anthony Seminerio.

However corrupt, from bribes to sex scandals to F.B.I wiretaps to rats to convicted felons, The Assembly Sopranos fall short of their fictional counterparts in one respect. No Assembly Member has whacked anyone.

But it wouldn't be a surprise if it's reported one day that one of them: Woke up this morning, got yourself a gun.