Friday, June 28, 2013

The Great Preet-ender?

The NY Times is reporting on the concerns among many minority legislators that the federal prosecutors are spending a great deal of time and energy going after mostly minority politicians:

“For nearly three months, New York’s political world has been consumed by a procession of scandals, and minority communities have felt the bulk of the pain. Black legislators have been indicted in three new, unrelated corruption cases, and every lawmaker secretly recorded at the behest of prosecutors by the legislator, Shirley L. Huntley, now a former senator, was black or Hispanic.

“It’s demoralizing,” Mr. Díaz said. “It’s like, ‘When is this going to end?’ ” The accusations of corruption have been particularly stinging for minority communities in part because they have already been upset over a loss of clout in the state capital.” (NY Times)

This spate of prosecutions has given rise to accusations of a conspiracy-an almost racial profiling-like unfairness from both the Southern and Eastern Districts:

“The frustration has boiled over in the aftermath of the corruption arrests, which have ensnared two of New York City’s most prominent black politicians — Malcolm A. Smith of Queens and John L. Sampson of Brooklyn, who are former leaders of the Senate Democrats — as well as a black assemblyman, Eric A. Stevenson, a Bronx Democrat.

In an interview, Assemblyman Stevenson, who was accused of taking cash in return for writing legislation, denied any wrongdoing and said he suspected he was being singled out by the government. He said the series of allegations against elected officials made it seem as if “only black and Latino people are criminals.”

He compared the situation to Cointelpro, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s counterintelligence program under J. Edgar Hoover that sought to discredit civil rights leaders like the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”

Now it is just a little bit droll to see someone accused of taking an envelope full of cash compare himself to MLK, but does the assemblyman have a point? Is justice being even handily rendered by the Feds?

We at WPU would argue in the negative-but we are not at all certain that this lack of fairness is racial in motivation. Maybe it’s just about power-who has it, and who doesn’t. We are keenly aware of the enormous discretion afforded our US Attorneys and the fact that there are no guidelines that structure their decisions to prosecute. Given this free hand, and the lack of any checks and balances, unfairness would seem to be a built-in feature of the system.

What people tend to forget in their rush to turn federal prosecutors into heroes, is that they are nothing more than government bureaucrats-functionaries placed in their positions but elected officials with their own political agendas. In the case of Preet Bharara, his former role was chief of staff to Senator Chuck Schumer. In other words, here’s a man steeped in politics and most likely mindful of certain parameters.

The question here is, where do those parameters lie for Mr. Bharara? Recently, he gave an interview:

“In the interview, Mr. Bharara also shot down criticism, advanced by some pols, that federal prosecutors are unfairly targeting racial minorities in their probes.

“I think I saw that in a blog post somewhere,” he replied. “Anybody who knows me or knows this office, knows that’s a ludicrous accusation to make. If you look at our body of work in this area, or in any other area, it is clear that we go where the law and the facts take us.” (

Perhaps so, but we at WPU remain unsure and skeptical about this. We have witnessed firsthand how the Attorney General of the State of New York has whitewashed the illegal activities of Claire Shulman, her LDC and the Wilpons. Interestingly, this is an AG who rode to power on his robust effort to toss Hiram Monserrate out of the State senate, and then went after Senator Huntley as well-both minority legislators.

The AG had ample rationale for a bringing a strong criminal conspiracy case against Claire’s gang-and even the Economic Development Corporation from whence the conspiracy sprang. Instead he blinked and gave them-kind of like when Spiro Agnew was tossed out of the Vice presidency-a nolo contender. (WPU)

But even Agnew had to at least pay a fine!-Claire’s gang got a buss on the cheek and not even a slap on the wrist-leading us to suspect that there was a certain degree of, let’s say, caution involved in not ruffling certain powerful feathers. (The Morning Call)

Which brings us back to Preet. The US Attorney-and the IRS-is well aware of all the litany of possible federal crimes committed by Claire’s gang. So far, he has chosen to do nothing-and in all likelihood the IRS has been too busy harassing the Tea Party groups. (WPU; WPU)

So the fairness of the justice system is, in our view, rightly a focus of those concerned with the idea of equal protection. But before we come off as too harsh on Mr. Bharara, he does tell the Politicker that, “We investigate cases very aggressively, and we are going to continue to do that, whether the legislature is in session or not,” he said, alluding to the upcoming end of the legislative session. “You can expect more cases to come, because there is a lot more corruption that has not yet been brought to light.”

So, we here at WPU are taking a wait and see attitude since the US Attorney is still slogging away at corruption. But here’s an interesting tidbit, Bharara’s full first name is “Preetinder.” If he decides not to pursue a prima facie case of corruption against Claire’s gang he will be hence known as “The Great Preet-ender.”