Thursday, April 03, 2008

NYC City Council Speaker Under Investigation

We could play name that party, but this is New York City we're talking about. It could only be a Democrat, or so the naysayers who don't like playing name that party like to assert.

In any event, Christine Quinn has pretty much established a slush fund to spread taxpayer dollars to those who do her bidding.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn's office hid millions of taxpayer dollars by allocating grants to phantom organizations as a way of holding the funds to dole out political favors later - bogus bookkeeping that is the subject of city and federal probes, The Post has learned.

Among the dozens of fabricated groups that were slated to receive funds were the "Immigration Improvement Project of New York" ($300,000), the "Coalition for a Strong Special Education" ($400,000) and the "American Association of Concerned Veterans" ($422,763).

The total amount set aside in 2007 and 2008 for the fake organizations - which are each listed by name in the city budget after being inserted at the council's request - was $4.7 million. In the two years, 30 phantom groups were listed, council aides confirmed.

The money, in effect, became a slush fund for the speaker and was later used at Quinn's discretion to reward groups that were loyal to her and to fund favored council members' pet projects, sources told The Post.

The scheme gave "the speaker a stash of cash with which to thank or pay off politically important allies or cooperative council members," a source said.

Quinn insisted in an interview yesterday with The Post that all of the taxpayer funds were ultimately used for legitimate purposes.

The never-before-exposed practice of hiding the funds dates to 1988, council aides said last night.
That last part is likely the result of the Board of Estimate being eliminated as a governing body in the City because it was deemed unconstitutional as it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution under the 14th Amendment (one person, one vote).

Slush funds are a common way for political leaders to remain in power; the same process happens in Albany as well - as it is institutionalized as member items that are provided to the Speaker's office and doled out in the course of the budget bills. How Quinn operated her funds is at question here. She set up bogus entities to hold the money until such time as it was needed.

This was an end run around City, State, and possibly federal law.

One has to wonder just how many millions of dollars was siphoned off into Quinn's shenanigans.

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