How the New York Political Scandal Reads Like a Cheesy Gangster Movie

Elahe Izadi

The New York political scandal is the stuff of movies: an alleged attempt to rig the city’s mayoral election that got six politicians – both Republicans and Democrats –arrested. It's complete with tales of bribery and, of course, a land deal.

And if anyone does want to write a movie about it, they can just use the criminal complaint by federal prosecutors. The dialogue therein includes a goldmine of quotable lines from the defendants that read like a cheesy gangster flick.

Here’s the gist of what happened, according to prosecutors: Democratic State Senator Malcolm Smith wanted to run as a Republican in the New York City mayoral race, and he’s accused of bribing GOP leaders with the help of Queens Republican city councilman Dan Halloran. An undercover agent posing as a real estate developer provided the money, and Halloran also allegedly accepted money from him in connection with a Spring Valley land deal. The mayor of that town, Noramie Jasmin, is accused of taking bribes to support the project.

Now, on to the most quotable parts of the investigation, according to the criminal complaint:

“That's politics, that's politics, it's all about how much. Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else. You can't do anything without the f---ing money." --Halloran 

A cooperating witness -- who taped many conversations --met up with Halloran at a Manhattan restaurant in September. Halloran said he needed money for his congressional campaign. The witness offered him money, who, in turn, said he could help secure money within the city budget for the witness. This line arose in the course of their conversation.

“Money is what greases the wheels—good, bad, or indifferent.” -- Halloran 

Halloran, who allegedly got $7,500 from the witness, capped off their meeting with this line.

“I’d say, ‘if I even give you a nickel more, you’d have to stand on the Empire State Building, and drop every person you endorsed, and hold Malcolm up and say he’s the best thing since sliced bread. Matter of fact, he’s better than sliced bread.’” --Smith

Smith talked with an undercover agent, posing as a real estate developer, and a cooperating witness, about bribes they made on his behalf to party committee leaders. He wondered if the leaders were delaying providing a certificate that’d help Smith get on the GOP ticket because they wanted more money. Smith told the agent not to give any more money to the leaders, adding this bit of advice.

"The one that I like I'm going to pick. So, if I like yours, I pick you... If I don't like it you can stick [it] where the sun doesn't shine." --Jasmin

Spring Valley Mayor Jasmin met with the cooperating witness in August 2011 about a parcel of land she wanted to acquire for the town, that would then go to bid among private developers. She dropped this line when discussing how’d she pick a developer.

“Oh, I can assure you, I don’t know you at all.” -- Jasmin

Jasmin allegedly coached undercover agents on how to present themselves at a board of trustees meeting about the land project. She was asked if the main undercover agent – posing as a real estate developer – should act as if he had met Jasmin before. This is how she answered.