The worst New York political moments of 2009:
10. Senator Charles Schumer calls a flight attendant a "bitch."
Schumer is just about the only national political name we have left in New York, so this was depressing even if, as he claimed later, he only muttered it under his breath. Worse, he's so impressed with his own importance that he seemed to feel health care reform couldn't survive if he was forced to turn off his cell phone on the DC shuttle.
9. Brooklyn kidney ring
An investigation into political corruption in New Jersey produced 44 arrests, including a Brooklyn rabbi who was charged with the sale of black-market kidneys. Levy Izhak Rosenbaum allegedly bought organs from hard-up people in Israel and sold them to patients in the United States. This is only peripherally a political story, but you have to like the change of pace.
8. The Caroline-Kennedy-for-Senate disaster
Some people would put this up higher on the list, as a mess that revealed Gov. David Paterson's indecisiveness and messy management style. But let's face it, Kennedy wasn't entirely without fault in this comedy of errors, and nobody was indicted. By this year's standards, it could have been worse.
7a Anthony Seminerio pleads guilty
Seminerio, 74, had been a Queens state representative for more than 30 years - one of those dreadful "colorful characters" who are known for saying insane things during legislative debates. Outside, he was a "consultant," who prosecutors said took $500,000 in payments from people that had business before the state.
7b. Efrain Gonzalez Jr. pleads guilty
Gonzalez, a Bronx Democrat, copped a plea to mail fraud after being charged with taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from nonprofit organizations to pay personal expenses. In 2008 he lost the Democratic nomination (the actual race that mattered) to Pedro Espada, who we will meet higher up on the list. Weep for the poor voters of the Bronx, and the options they are offered on Election Day.
6. Charles Rangel can't handle money
The most powerful member of the New York Congressional delegation, the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, has already admitted to keeping wildly inaccurate financial records, sitting on four rent-controlled apartments at one time and failing to report rental income from a home he owns in the Dominican Republic because of a language barrier with the managers: "Every time I thought I was getting through they started speaking Spanish." Rangel could well lose his chairmanship over this mess. At minimum he'll be a far less powerful and diminished presence in Washington.
5. State Senate defeats gay marriage
Never, in human memory, has the leadership of the state senate brought a bill up for a vote unless they were sure of passage. This is the issue on which they decided to roll the dice.
4. Carl Kruger, Senate Finance Committee chairman
Kruger, a Queens Democrat, was one of the "four amigos" who threatened to bolt to the Republican side of the aisle and change the balance of power unless they were made happy. The key to Kruger's happiness was the Finance Committee, and when he got it, he used it to destroy the plan to stabilize MTA financing proposed by now-lieutenant governor Richard Ravitch. So blame the fare hikes and the service cuts on Kruger, if you want. He won't care. He hasn't had a real election opponent since the most popular movie in town was "Forrest Gump." Nevertheless, he has more than $2 million in campaign funds stashed away.
3. Joe Bruno convicted
The former Senate Majority Leader was yet another professional "consultant," who took money from people with intense interests in matters before the legislature. Bruno intertwined his business and that of the Senate so thoroughly that his legislative secretary would endorse Bruno's consulting paychecks for him, and give them to Bruno's Senate driver to drop off at the bank. She would also call his clients to nag them if a check was late.
2. Pedro Espada, Amigo
Espada, a Bronx Democrat, was the brains behind the "amigos" strategy, although there wasn't exactly a hard-fought race for the title. Many shifts of allegiance and betrayals later he was back nestled into the Democratic fold with the title of majority leader. His son got a $120,000 Senate job, which he later had to give back after multiple calls for investigation. Espada is being investigated for failure to file campaign reports, for the finances of the large nonprofit health clinic he controls, and - oh yeah - for actually living in the suburbs.
1. Hiram Monserrate, Bad Boyfriend
Monserrate is another amigo, who switched between parties with an alacrity that confused even his allies. But what made his behavior so memorably bad this year was that it was coupled with a court trial for abusing his girlfriend, in a fight that was captured by the video cameras in Monserrate's apartment building. The senator - whose problems with anger management have gotten him into trouble in the past - was found guilty of misdemeanor assault since the girlfriend, Karla Giraldo, testified in court that Hiram had accidentally slashed her face when he fell while carrying a glass of water. But he could still be expelled from the Senate - and anyone who's gotten this far in the list can readily understand how hard it is to shock that crew in Albany.
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