Now that word has leaked that convicted former lobbyist Richard Lipsky is cooperating with federal authorities in hopes of reducing his jail sentence, “no-good” elected officials wringing their hands, looking over their shoulders, and treating their cellphones like “live” grenades.
As my Mom always said, “drowning men don’t go to the bottom alone.”
In his effort to his effort to earn a “nonjail” sentence, Mr. Lipsky is allegedly sharing with federal investigators his knowledge of wrongdoing by others in public life. Disgraced ex-assemblyman Brian McLaughlin turned Judas and helped to entrap at least one other wrongdoing legislator. Not surprisingly, he was reported in fear of his life in the “big house.”
The NY Times implies the same about Lipsky and the possible targets of his “cooperation.”
Over the last six years, 27 elected officials in Albany have been indicted, convicted, censured, or otherwise accused of misconduct, according to a running tally maintained by the New York Public Interest Research Group. The allegations have been diverse; they include a senator attacking a photographer and an assemblyman having an affair with an intern.
Now, it seems probable that the list will grow: Richard J. Lipsky, a well-known city and state lobbyist convicted of bribing former State Senator Carl Kruger, has been secretly cooperating with the federal authorities, suggesting that other elected officials could soon find themselves in trouble with the law.
“I thought, ‘Who did Lipsky turn on?’ ”
said State Senator Liz Krueger, a Manhattan Democrat who has pushed to improve ethics rules in Albany. She added, “I bet many people in elected office and in the lobbying world said to themselves, ‘I wonder if it’s X.’ ”
Mr. Lipsky was a regular presence in the Capitol and in City Hall in Manhattan, his Bluetooth device seemingly permanently attached to his ear. He built a reputation as a lobbyist for the underdog, waging public battles with large corporations like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and powerful developers.
His clients in recent years have included the Red Apple Group, which operates the Gristedes supermarket chain, and the developer Forest City Ratner, and he gave tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions to officials at the city and state levels.
Around City Hall on Tuesday, there was no shortage of speculation among officials and lobbyists as to whom Mr. Lipsky might incriminate. Much of the talk focused on the officials who represent parts of the city like the South Bronx, Downtown Brooklyn and central Queens, where Mr. Lipsky was actively involved in land-use debates, particularly in efforts to derail development projects.
Although his crime was political, more so than transactional public corruption, there’s something to be said about Watergate co-conspirator G. Gordon Liddy‘s old school, hard case attitude regarding his conviction and subsequent imprisonment. After his release from federal prison, Liddy became a conservative talk radio host and bestselling author. (Some say that was his reward for not snitching.) We’re not likely to see his kind on the political scene today.
Did you hear that noise? That’s the sound of the crooked pols on the chain gang groaning about throwing their lives away. There’s a special place in Hell awaiting them.
Sam Cooke may have had them in mind when he ended “Chain Gang” with this refrain:
“Give me water. I’m thirsty.”
Disclaimer: I do not endorse the “no snitching” culture endemic to poor, crime-ridden urban neighborhoods or in the halls of power. I oppose, however, government sponsored entrapment of people who are not suspected of corruption. Inciting someone to commit an act or facilitating the commission of an act they otherwise are not accustomed to doing is wrong.