WASHINGTON, April 2 (RIA Novosti) – US federal authorities on Tuesday arrested six New York City politicians on suspicion of trying to rig the ballot in the city’s wide-open mayoral election later this year.
Agents from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) arrested New York State Senator Malcolm Smith, New York City Councilman Daniel Halloran and four other politicians on suspicion of colluding to illegally secure a spot for Smith on the ballot in the November election.
The election will mark the end of Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure as mayor of New York.
Smith, a Democrat from the city’s borough of Queens, is accused of bribing Republican City Councilman Halloran and four of his fellow party members to make it on the ballot.
Preet Bharara, the US district attorney for the southern district of New York, described the case as an “unappetizing smorgasbord of graft and greed” that is emblematic of a “show-me-the-money culture” at every level of government in New York State.
“Smith drew up the game plan and Councilman Halloran essentially quarterbacked that drive by finding party chairmen who were wide open to receiving bribes,” Bharara said in a statement.
According to the criminal complaint in the case, two of the arrested officials allegedly promised to support Smith’s candidacy in exchange for a total of $40,000 in bribes, while Halloran purportedly received $20,000 for arranging meetings with supposed Smith supporters who were actually undercover FBI agents.
Smith’s lawyer, Gerald Shargel, told The New York Times that his client denied any wrongdoing.
“Malcolm Smith is a dedicated and highly respected public servant and he steadfastly denies these charges,” the newspaper quoted Shargel as saying.
The upcoming mayoral election will be closely watched nationally given New York City’s status as the United States’ cultural and economic center.
Bloomberg, who grabbed global headlines with his initiatives to tackle smoking and unhealthy eating in the city, was first elected in 2002. Political action groups have attempted in vain to persuade him to run for the White House in the past two US presidential elections.