New York state Sen. Malcolm Smith, a Democrat, and New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran, a Republican, were among the six individuals arrested Tuesday by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which alleged a scheme by Smith to bribe his way onto Republican primary election ballots in the 2013 New York City mayoral race.
Smith, formerly the state Senate president, was planning to run as a Republican in the mayoral race and, according to the FBI, paid Halloran, one of the city's few Republican officials, to grease the party's wheels on his behalf.
Smith "tried to bribe his way to a shot at Gracie Mansion," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Halloran "quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes," Bharara said.
Because Smith isn't a registered Republican, the Journal noted, he would need certificates of permission from three of five borough parties to run in the GOP primary.
The four others arrested were Bronx Republican Party Chairman Joseph Savino, Queens County Republican Party Vice Chairman Vincent Tabone, and the mayor and deputy mayor of Spring Valley, a town north of New York City.
Savino and Tabone allegedly pocketed $40,000 each in bribes from Smith, while Halloran was allegedly paid $20,000 to facilitate the arrangement.
The New York City politicos—Smith, Halloran, Savino and Tabone—were each charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud. Spring City Mayor Noramie Jasmin, Spring City Deputy Mayor Joseph Desmaret and Smith were charged with crimes in connection to a real estate project Smith planned to steer state money toward.
"The complaint describes an unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed involving six officials who together built a corridor of corruption stretching from Queens and the Bronx to Rockland County and all the way up to Albany itself," Bharara was quoted by The New York Times as saying.
A New York political source told U.S. News that an official from one minor party may have also received money to award its ballot line to Smith. That allegation was not included in the criminal complaint unveiled Tuesday.
Although the Big Apple is overwhelmingly Democratic, Republicans have repeatedly won the mayor's office. Incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg was elected in 2001 and 2005 as a Republican before becoming an independent in 2007. Republican Rudy Giuliani won the mayor's office in 1993 and 1997. Smith would have had the added advantage of being an African-American, which might have expanded his share of the vote beyond traditional GOP constituencies.
As a Democratic state senator, Smith either provoked—or joined—revolts within his own party's ranks. In 2012, Smith joined four other Democrats defecting to the chamber's Republican caucus, flipping party control. Smith's leadership as state Senate president in 2008 inspired a similar revolt by disgruntled Democrats.
The arrest may spell the end of the line for Halloran, a well-spoken and passionate libertarian who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in November. His endorsement of Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race prompted his Democratic opponent to accuse him of being insufficiently pro-Israel, which Halloran rebutted by rolling out a list of Israeli politicians who had endorsed him. He loudly objected to Bloomberg's pushes to restrict public smoking and large-size sodas. In 2011, the Village Voice dubbed Halloran, who practices a neo-pagan religion, "America's Top Heathen."