A “Caravan of Corruption” came to Hempstead Town Hall yesterday, one stop on a state-wide tour designed to highlight calls for campaign finance reform by presenting cardboard caricatures of prominent New York politicians who’ve become infamous for abusing the public trust.
With Charlie Vella of Citizen Action New York playing the ringmaster, onlookers at Hempstead were invited to purview the perverse, pilfering, prevaricating politicians. Among the rogues’ gallery of 15 disgraced public officials are former State Senators Pedro Espada, Joe Bruno, Hiram Monserratte, and Carl Kruger.
“The reason why these officials were picked is that they are the most prominent state elected officials who have been convicted on corruption charges of one sort or another in the past decade,” says David Segal of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, whose group, one of the local sponsors of the event in Hempstead, also wanted to “honor” the besieged Hempstead Town Clerk, Mark Bonilla, by offering him membership in the caravan.
Bonilla has been indicted on three misdemeanor charges, including official misconduct, second-degree coercion and petty larceny, all stemming from sexual harassments claims made against him by a woman who worked for him in the clerk’s office. Bonilla has plead not guilty, and pending a trial, the caravan will go on without him but his predicament, coupled with other Hempstead officials’ shenanigans over the years, struck organizers as a logical reason to bring the tour there.
The effort is part of Fair Elections for New York, launched by labor and good government groups like the Long Island Progressive Coalition, to draw attention to four points outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his State of the State Address: public financing of elections, lower campaign contribution limits “to reasonable levels,” ending “pay-to-play” by preventing contractors and lobbyists from bundling their contributions in order to influence state business, and stronger enforcement and transparency of election law enforcement and the disbursement of public matching funds.
No public officials came out of town hall to watch the presentation and no arrests were made, although police were on hand.
“As recent alleged events in the Town of Hempstead show, there’s a strong temptation to abuse the power of an elected office” said Lisa Tyson, Director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition. “It’s up to the voters themselves to look for every possible way to discourage the abuse of power in public office, and fair elections are one clear and easy way to do it. We’re calling on elected officials to pass these reforms, and put the power back into the voters’ hands.”
According to the Associated Press, the tour also hit Manhattan, Kingston, Mount Kisco, Utica, Rochester and Albany over a two-day period.
“From Buffalo to Brooklyn, and everywhere in between, we’re taking our creepshow on the road to show what happens when we don’t hold greedy politicians accountable for their actions,” says the advocates on their website: http://caravanofcorruption.org.