With all the news about the state budget, this slipped under the radar over the weekend but it’s important: feds charged a Republican politician on Long Island with tax evasion.
Hempstead Councilman Edward Ambrosino wasn’t just any old local elected official. He was the lawyer for Nassau County’s Industrial Development Agency and a friend and lawyer for Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano, who is also awaiting trial for corruption.
Only this week did Republican county legislators call on Mangano to resign. He might even still run for re-election.
What, really? Mangano can still run?
Mangano is “innocent until proven guilty,” as the common phrase goes. If he is convicted, he would be barred from office but until that happens, he can still run and serve as County Executive. In fact, if he were convicted of a misdemeanor (a lesser crime than a felony), he could still run. Only a felony would be disqualifying.
In fact, several politicians have gotten elected or re-elected in similar circumstances. James Curley, the Boston politician who quipped “vote early and vote often,” first won election from jail. As mayor of Boston, he was convicted of mail fraud but continued to serve. Now that’s a fun factoid to share with friends.
So where does Edward Ambrosino come in? Is his case connected to Mangano?
Ambrosino’s charges are about what he did with legal fees paid to him by the Nassau County government, which is led by Mangano. Rather than give the money to the law firm that employed Ambrosino, he took the money for himself and then didn’t pay taxes on it.
However, there’s something fishy about the whole thing: Ambrosino is an elected official who was also the special counsel to Mangano. At the same time as he held those two government jobs, he was the lawyer for the Industrial Development Agency (whose leadership was appointed by Mangano) and worked for Mangano’s former law firm. He earned $1.3 million from those different jobs between 2013 and 2015. While some insiders might consider that business as usual, it certainly looks ugly.
Is it just me or does it seem like a lot of politicians are getting caught?
It’s not just you.
Just the other week, two Niagara politicians were charged with trying to hide who they were paying with campaign dollars.
Besides Ambrosino and Mangano, former Republican Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, also of Long Island, was sentenced to prison last year. Interestingly, Ambrosino previously worked for the same law firm as Skelos and now works for the law firm that previously employed Mangano. Also awaiting trial is former Oyster Bay Supervisor John Venditto on corruption charges connected to the Mangano case.
It’s not just Republicans, though. Former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver got a 12-year prison sentence and a $7 million fine for taking bribes. Cuomo aide Joe Percoco is accused of taking bribes; his lawyers are currently pushing for a 2018 trial because of the overwhelming evidence. Democratic Senate Leaders John Sampson and Malcolm Smith, the two immediate predecessors to Dean Skelos in leading the Senate, also went to prison for various misdeeds.
We should make a list of all the politicians who got caught. (Stay tuned on that list!)
So what’s actually going to happen?
Republicans are now calling on Mangano to resign. In evenly-divided Nassau County, Republicans are worried about the county elections in November, and think that Mangano will drag down other Republicans. If Mangano did step down, then Republicans would be able to choose his replacement.
However, even if Mangano does resign, it might be too late.
Remember John Venditto, Mangano’s friend who is charged with corruption? His son, Michael, was also a politician–a state Senator. He’s not anymore. After John was charged, Michael lost re-election, though no one is saying that Michael Venditto was involved in the whole corruption scandal. Voters abandoned him because of the taint of corruption. The same stench of scandal might doom other Nassau Republicans in November, regardless of what Mangano does.
It’s not clear when Ed Mangano, John Venditto, or Edward Ambrosino will stand trial, and recent Supreme Court decisions have made it much harder to prove corruption. When the trial does happen, it’ll be a fascinating chance to see the hidden inner workings of government.
Maybe there really is something in the water here in New York.
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