Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Kindly mark your calendar for our March meeting, this upcoming Monday (March 28) at 7pm at Sam's Restaurant -- where we will discuss the Libyan bombings, budget battles from Wisconsin to NY, and updating local issues and events including last night's surprising visit of NYC City Council President Quinn (and possible 2013 Mayoral candidate) at P.S. 58 in Carroll Gardens.
March 28 -- Guest speaker: Mr. Russell Gallo
Our featured speaker will be Brooklyn Republican strategist, District Leader and President of the new Young Republicans, Mr. Russell Gallo. Mr. Gallo has been spearheading efforts across Brooklyn, co-broadcasting a new GOP web-based 'radio program' and attended the CPAC Conference a few weeks back (where Donald Trump famously announced his consideration of a run for 2012 Presidency).
Time to buy a bigger headset 'cause his head is only getting bigger from here.
But I gotta call it as I see it - although he didn't go to CPAC, I can't take the rest away from Russell. Credit where it's due.
But I still made you, Gallo!
Folks, take a trip to Sam's Restaurant, enjoy some good food, and listen to Gallo wow the crowd!
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Thursday, March 10, 2011
An substantial immigrant community is experiencing political disenfranchisement, much to the indifference of immigrant rights groups and the media. Coincidentally, this group gave roughly 90% of its votes to John McCain in 2008.
According to the latest demographic data, Russian immigrants are now the second-largest group in southern Brooklyn. They are also wealthier and better educated than the general population. So why do they remain almost completely unrepresented in political circles?
Other than Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, who represents Brighton Beach, there are no Russian-American elected officials, despite the hundreds of thousands of Russians living in other parts of Brooklyn and Staten Island. In fact, there are hardly any Russian staffers in the offices of our legislators, and none of them have high- ranking positions, such as chiefs of staff.
The lack of political representation is particularly curious considering that Russian-Americans tend to live in close proximity to each other: southern Brooklyn and right near the Verrazano Bridge in Midland and South Beach in Staten Island.
While other communities that are lesser in number, poorer, and more spread out across various neighborhoods are electing Assemblymen, City Councilmen, State Senators and Congressmen, the Russians are shut out of the political process. Why?
The answer begins ten years ago, when Dr. Oleg Gutnik made the first run for political office by a Russian-American as a candidate for New York City Council. Despite losing, he had the best showing in the district of any Republican in almost a century -- on the shoulders of an overwhelming share of the Russian vote.
The Democratic establishment panicked. Why would Russians who are registered Democrats vote for a Republican? Displaying total ignorance of not just the Russian community, but of immigrants in general, they mistakenly believed that Russians would care about abortion, taxation and "community outreach" more than they cared about electing one of their own.
Immigrants go through three stages. First, as a new immigrant, you try to learn English and get a minimum-wage job. Then you try to get a middle-class job and a condo. As the final step in the integration process, immigrants attempt to join the mainstream by getting "their own" installed on corporate boards and to become elected officials.
Russian-Americans have completed the first two steps. The most important issue for them now is to be seen as equals who can break through the political glass ceiling.
Thus, Russians vote for Russians, whether they are Democrats or Republicans, and will continue to do so until a legitimate number of their representatives are in political office. Before they can afford to vote on "issues," they need to get a few of their own in positions where they can address the concerns unique to the Russian community.
But this problem is more acute for Russian immigrants than anyone else. A large majority of the so-called "Russian" voters are Jewish and were completely excluded from any political power in the Soviet Union. (The exception being a brief period in the 1920s until Joseph Stalin executed nearly all Jewish government officials in the 1930s.)
In the Soviet Union, the Jews were at the top of the socio-economic status in terms of education and income, but at the very bottom of political scale. Being a Soviet Jew meant that no matter how educated and wealthy you may be, you will never be respected.
Soviet Jews left behind their jobs as doctors and lawyers in Russia to become maids and cab drivers in the United States, so that their children could someday be treated as equals. Being able to get the worthy in their community elected was part of the American Dream they sought.
The dream was denied when Dr. Gutnik lost, but the Russian-American community could console itself in the knowledge that most of them were not yet citizens in 2001 and that their time will come very soon.
But in the early 2002, a political assault struck the Russian-American community at the hands of the Democratic Party.
In the second year of every decade, the government re-draws every district based on the data received from the previous census. Usually, ethnic, religious and racial communities are kept together to the degree possible to allow them to have a voice. This is particularly so in New York where ethnicity is something many people are very proud of.
But the old-guard was not interested in having Russians get elected to office. Dr. Gutnik's opponent, Dominic Recchia, then a newly elected City Councilman, whose party dominates the New York political landscape, spearheaded the effort to divide the Russian community into shreds, so that it would not have the ability to elect candidates who understand their concerns. He split the Russian blocks in his district with another new City Councilman, Michael Nelson, who previously served as a chief of staff for State Senator Carl Kruger. (More on Senator Kruger's criminal abuse of the Russian community below.)
Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay were split between two City Council, three Assembly and three State Senate districts. This ensured that Russians can never be a majority the in the same way that Italians, Irish, American Jews, African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians and others are majorities in some New York districts.
In addition, Russian areas were often placed together with neighborhoods whose needs are vastly different from that of the Russian community, usually poor housing projects. Thus, Senator Diane Savino's district consists of Coney Island and Staten Island projects, together with the Russian South Beach and West 8th Street buildings in Brooklyn. Their power in Savino's district is so miniscule that she openly called the views of Russian-Americans "absurd" in a recent interview in the Staten Island Advance, knowing that her Russian constituents are too outnumbered to do anything about the insult during the next election.
Other local politicians went even further. A Village Voice article "Carl Kruger's Russian Secrets" published on July 6, 2010 concluded that Senator Carl Kruger, who represents most of Brooklyn's Russian population, is an outright "threat" to Russian small businessmen.
"What we really should be worried about is protecting our own Russians down in South Brooklyn from our own politicians. This threat comes in the fireplug shape of State Senator Carl Kruger, who has been relentlessly soaking them for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign booty for years."
Around the same time this Village Voice article was published, Russian-American attorney Michael Levitis -- the owner of the Rasputin restaurant -- was arrested after he was taped explaining to another business owner that to solve his problems, Carl Kruger would require a large "donation" and a "fundraiser," something that he has already done for the Senator.
Michael Levitis is expected to plead guilty to a lesser charge, with multiple media sources reporting that he probably received a favorable plea bargain because he cooperated with the FBI investigation of Carl Kruger.
In another case that did not yet land Senator Kruger in trouble with authorities, he reportedly harassed the Russian-owned Cherry Hill Market until receiving a "donation."
Even the most well-known and politically-connected Russian businessmen find it impossible to address their concerns. A Russian businessman, whom I consider to be a friend, recently submitted the lowest bid for his services, and thus should have been awarded a government contract. By law, the contract must go to the business that is willing to work for the least amount of money.
But no, the bidding was suddenly extended, and the $6 million contract was given to someone else, someone not Russian. Several well-known Russian-American figures tried to intervene, but to no avail.
"They told me they were my friends," complained one well-known Russian businessman. "They told me they would look out for our community if they got elected. But when it was time to right an injustice, nobody moved a finger."
Another very successful Russian-American businessman remarked, "To them, we are nothing."
In other communities, such disregard and abuse would be unthinkable. Politicians, even the most corrupt ones, cannot harass local small businesses, nor ignore their legitimate concerns. At the very least, they have to pretend they are trying to help their constituents.
Not so for Russian-American voters. Russians are "absurd." Russian are told to "donate" to avoid harassment and solve problems. Russians are ... disenfranchised.
In early 2012, another redistricting will take place. Once again, the old-guard is seeking to split the Russian voters in such a way that it would be impossible for them to achieve any semblance of political power.
But this time, things are different. Russians are no longer poor recent immigrants who know nothing about politics. Today, they are financially successful, they are registered to vote, they have civic organizations and business networks. Ten years ago, Russians had no political power and had to tolerate the outrageous way their districts were gerrymandered. In 2011, they are a completely different community.
The abuse of the Russian voters and businessmen must come to an end. Russian-American lawyers must make sure that the Department of Justice is aware of any attempt to disenfranchise out community, and Russian-American journalists must keep the voters informed.
The Russian community has a choice: they will either speak out and make their voices heard, or they will get what they deserve -- the same shabby treatment they've been getting for the last 10 years.
David Storobin is a partner at Storobin & Spodek LLP. He has been active in politics since 1992 and is currently a Vice Chairman in the Kings County Republican Party.
Right before last night's show, news broke of Federal corruption charges coming down on State Senator Carl Kruger. Don't just rely on the mainstream media sources out there - he's the actual Federal Complaint. I'm going to read it and (hopefully) have some expert legal analysis to share with you all later tonight.
UPDATE #1 -
Six Others Charged in Bribery Schemes, Including Albany Lobbyist, Two Hospital CEOs, Health Care Consultant, and Real Estate Developer
U.S. Attorney’s Office March 10, 2011
Manhattan U.S. Attorney PREET BHARARA said: “Today’s complaint filed in Manhattan federal court describes a broad-based bribery racket reflecting an unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists, and businessmen. Every single time we arrest a state senator or assemblyman, it should be a jarring wake-up call. Instead, it seems that no matter how many times the alarm goes off, Albany just hits the snooze button. Maybe this time they will get the message.”
FBI Assistant Director in Charge JANICE K. FEDARCYK said: “The complaint lays out a roadmap of bribery, money laundering, influence-peddling, and official misconduct that is eye-opening even to seasoned investigators. The web of graft and corruption, of buying and selling influence, is not what representative democracy is supposed to look like. The FBI remains committed to rooting out official corruption wherever it exists.”
According to the complaint unsealed today in Manhattan federal court:
The Alleged KRUGER Bribery Conspiracy
CARL KRUGER has served as a member of the New York state senate since 1994, representing Bergen Beach, Flatlands, Mill Basin, and other communities in the 27th Senate District. From at least 2006 through March 2011, KRUGER received a stream of bribes totaling at least $1 million in exchange for taking official actions on behalf of the bribe payers as opportunities arose. Rather than receive these corrupt payments directly, KRUGER funneled them to the bank accounts of two shell companies established by MICHAEL TURANO—Olympian Strategic Development Corp. (“Olympian”) and Bassett Brokerage (“Bassett”). KRUGER had an intimate relationship with the TURANO family. He acted and was treated in many ways like a member of the family. Among other things, KRUGER spent his free time with the Turanos, shared holidays with them, went shopping for them, and managed the affairs of their residence. Of all the TURANOS, KRUGER was closest with MICHAEL TURANO. The two men were in nearly daily contact, KRUGER picked TURANO up from work, and people even called KRUGER’s cellphone in order to reach TURANO. MICHAEL TURANO used the money deposited in Olympian and Bassett to pay the lease on a Bentley automobile, pay his credit card bills, and pay off the mortgage on the multi-million-dollar home that he shared with his mother and brother.
As alleged in the complaint, between 2006 and 2011, KRUGER received a stream of bribes from, among others: (1) RICHARD LIPSKY, a lobbyist and the principal of Richard Lipsky Associates, Inc.; (2) AARON MALINSKY, the principal of P/A Associates LLC, a real estate development firm; and (3) SOLOMON KALISH, the owner and operator of Adex Management, Inc. (“Adex”), a marketing/consulting firm that brokered relationships in the health care industry.
LIPSKY directed approximately $252,000 of his lobbying fees to the Olympian account in exchange for which KRUGER took official actions to benefit LIPSKY’s clients. His actions included sponsoring and supporting legislation, lobbying other elected officials, and directing state monies for the benefit of LIPSKY and his clients. For example, KRUGER supported the award of millions of dollars in state funds to certain development projects that were being undertaken by a key client of LIPSKY’s. He even wrote a letter to a judge on behalf of one of LIPSKY’s clients.
MALINSKY, through P/A Associates, caused a stream of payments to be made to Olympian totaling approximately $472,500. In exchange for these payments, KRUGER took official action to benefit MALINSKY’s interest in a certain real estate development project in Brooklyn, including taking positions at a public hearing in favor of that project.
Through Adex, KALISH directed approximately $197,000 to Olympian in exchange for KRUGER’s taking official action. For example, as alleged in the Complaint, in the summer of 2008, ROBERT AQUINO, then the CEO of Parkway Hospital, paid Adex approximately $60,000—half of which KALISH then directed to the Olympian bank account—so that KRUGER would lobby New York state officials in connection with Parkway Hospital’s efforts to acquire certain other hospitals, namely the Caritas Hospitals. In 2008, DAVID ROSEN similarly attempted to bribe KRUGER in connection with efforts by MediSys to acquire the same hospitals. To that end, ROSEN caused Brookdale Hospital to hire a certain third party hospice care provider, knowing that KRUGER had an interest in it. That interest was manifested by an arrangement with Adex pursuant to which Adex was paid for helping to secure business for the hospice care provider. The contractual negotiation between Brookdale Hospital and the hospice care provider appears to have been terminated, however, when Anthony Seminerio was arrested.
The Alleged ROSEN Bribery Conspiracy
According to the complaint, KRUGER was one of three elected officials that DAVID ROSEN sought to bribe. In addition to KRUGER, ROSEN also is alleged to have made or caused corrupt payments to Anthony Seminerio and WILLIAM BOYLAND, JR. Specifically, between 1999 and 2008, ROSEN caused MediSys or its affiliates to make approximately $390,000 in payments to Seminerio through a sham consulting company, Marc Consultants, that Seminerio had established. In exchange for receiving these payments, Seminerio advocated with New York State agencies concerning the discharge of a $19,000,000 loan in 2006, co-sponsored legislation to provide a secured financing option to MediSys in 2006, and, like KRUGER, deliberated with state agency personnel on behalf of Medisys in connection with the acquisition of the Caritas Hospitals. Because of these acts, Seminerio was indicted, pled guilty to one count of honest services fraud, and was sentenced to six years in prison. Seminerio passed away while his case was on direct appeal and the cause of action against him was abated.
ROSEN also caused MediSys to make corrupt payments to BOYLAND. As alleged in the complaint, ROSEN caused BOYLAND to be hired for what amounted to a no-show consulting job that paid BOYLAND approximately $35,000 a year between 2003 and 2008. In exchange for the approximately $177,000 that BOYLAND received from MediSys, BOYLAND took official action to benefit MediSys, including requesting that the Speaker of the Assembly award millions of dollars to Brookdale Hospital, a member of the MediSys health network.* * *
This prosecution is being handled by the Office’s Public Corruption Unit. Senior Trial Counsel GLEN G. McGORTY and Assistant U.S. Attorneys WILLIAM HARRINGTON, MICHAEL BOSWORTH, and KAN NAWADAY are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The criminal complaint outlined by the U.S. Attorney lays out a roadmap of bribery, money laundering, influence-peddling, and official misconduct that is eye-opening even to seasoned investigators and prosecutors.
Carl Kruger has been a New York state senator representing Brooklyn since 1994. For at least the last five years, while he nominally represented the people of the 27th Senate District, Kruger took official action aimed at furthering the interests of a much smaller circle of people.
Kruger sponsored or supported legislation, lobbied other officials, or directed state funds for the benefit of businesses whose officers or advocates lined Kruger’s pockets, directly or indirectly, with more than $1 million.
Kruger attempted to conceal the bribe payments by having them funneled into bank accounts for shell companies established by defendant Michael Turano, a person described in the complaint as a particularly close personal friend of Kruger.
In fact, the complaint says, “Kruger acted like a member of the Turano family,” and “is closest with Michael Turano.” Bribe payments funneled into the accounts of Olympian Strategic Development and Bassett Brokerage were funds Kruger had direct access to.
Assemblyman William Boyland, Jr. has represented the 55th Assembly District since 2003. He had been—and remained after his election—on the payroll of MediSys Health Network.
In return for official action seeking millions of dollars in state funding for MediSys hospitals, Boyland was paid a “salary” as a “consultant” to MediSys. Witnesses interviewed by the FBI established that Boyland’s consultancy position was really a no-show job for which MediSys CEO David Rosen paid Boyland nearly $180,000.
Rosen is also charged with bribes to Kruger through a scheme involving the steering of Brookdale Hospital business to a hospice care provider in which Kruger had an economic interest. Rosen sought to have Kruger take official action in support of MediSys efforts to acquire certain hospitals.
In connection with this scheme, the hospice company paid Adex Management (and thereby Kalish and Kruger) $5,000 a month. Each month, before the money was due, Kalish would routinely call the person at the hospice company who sent the checks and say, “Carl wants to know where the money is.”
In this instance, Kruger took bribes from competing parties, because at around the same time, Robert Aquino paid $60,000 to Adex, half of which Kalish funneled to Kruger through Olympian. This money was to induce Kruger to take action on behalf of Aquino and Parkway Hospital to acquire the same hospitals MediSys wanted to acquire.
In addition to the payments to Boyland and Kruger, Rosen had also paid $390,000 in bribes to now-deceased long-time Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio. In return, Seminerio took official actions favorable to MediSys.
The Rosen-Seminerio quid pro quo resulted in Seminerio’s indictment, plea, and six-year prison sentence. Now Rosen must answer for his end of the illicit bargain—and for the Boyland and Kruger schemes.
Kruger didn’t confine his bought-and-paid-for advocacy to the hospital arena. Lobbyist Richard Lipsky paid bribes to Kruger on behalf of lobbying clients that included a major real estate developer, beverage distributors, and a supermarket retailer.
In return for bribes, Kruger took official action in the interests of Lipsky’s clients. For example:
- Kruger introduced legislation to delay the start date of the law that required bottle deposits on bottled water.
- Kruger issued a statement in support of a law to permit liquor stores to extend hours of operation.
- Kruger opposed the opening of a retail superstore in Brooklyn, which was also opposed by a coalition of small-store retailers that hired Lipsky.
Real estate developer Aaron Malinsky paid bribes to Kruger by funneling nearly half-a-million dollars to Olympian. In return, Kruger took actions in support of Malinsky and his company, P/A Associates, including in connection with a commercial retail center in Mill Basin, Brooklyn.
The complaint is filled with factual detail we are only summarizing here. Those details do not paint a pretty picture. The web of graft and corruption, of buying and selling influence, is not what representative democracy is supposed to look like.
We remain committed to rooting out official corruption wherever it exists.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Hope that didn't sound too bitter - I made you, Gallo! :-)
Feel free to call in and heckle Gallo (and tell everyone how superior Brooklyn GOP Radio is to them!) at (347) 850-1462, and tune in TONIGHT at 9 PM for the show.
Click HERE to Listen!
Sunday, March 6, 2011
Wanna get in on all of the fun? Come down to the "Victory Center" at 7620 17th Avenue and become a part of the Brooklyn GOP Radio family!