“I would never run, never. I don’t know where they got that from."
August 24, 2018 2:25 PM   Subscribe

The New York Times called dozens of the Queens party machine’s nominees for county committee. The candidates for 21 seats were running without their consent. Only four candidates The Times spoke to said they were running on purpose. Some no longer even live in New York. Meanwhile, more than 60 members of the progressive New Queens Democrats sought nomination but were disqualified for paperwork technicalities by the Board of Elections - whose commissioners are chosen by county political bosses.
posted by showbiz_liz (20 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
(all credit to Chrysostom for the link!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:28 PM on August 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seems that not living in New York should also disqualify from the ballot?
posted by Chrysostom at 2:45 PM on August 24, 2018

Maybe - but it sounds like they would have been rubber-stamped in anyway (and probably have been for years): County committee candidates do not appear on a ballot unless they have an opponent. If they are unopposed, nominating papers accepted by the city Board of Elections are all that’s required to put them in office. That would be the same Board of Elections who disqualified the New Queens Dem candidates.
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:51 PM on August 24, 2018

So my wife and I are running for Democratic county committee under the aegis of the New Kings Democrats and the Brooklyn machine is pulling a lot of the same shit. In fact I’m now on the ballot because the (sigh I don’t know all the terms very well yet) guy in charge of the local district threatened to run people against anyone who wasn’t on board with the platform. They do the elections by gender (4 seats in my location, 2 men, 2 women) so my wife is definitely in because I guess they couldn’t get a second woman to run but it’s between me and two other guys both allied with the current people in charge themselves allied with the machine because until recently that was the only way to get anything done and we’re trying to change that.

The fucked up part is the guys I’m running against seem like decent, progressive dudes both way more involved w the neighborhood than I am (I mean we just started and they’ve been in the game for years) but intra-party politics means now there’s conflict. I don’t feel great running against these guys but I guess this is county politics.
posted by griphus at 2:53 PM on August 24, 2018 [36 favorites]

Well how bad could it—
It is not entirely clear why the party would want to populate the committee with people who did not know they were on it. But any seats filled by party candidates would not be filled by insurgents.
So pretty bad then?
Many of the machine’s unwitting soldiers are elderly or in poor health, and were confused or upset to learn of their political careers from a reporter’s phone call.
I see. Worse.

Why is everything so cartoonishly evil? Wasn’t this literally a Simpson’s episode? Is my block captain Snowball II?
posted by schadenfrau at 3:43 PM on August 24, 2018 [16 favorites]

Is my block captain Snowball II?

It's Santos L. Halper.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:10 PM on August 24, 2018 [11 favorites]

Cui bono?

If you follow the "Queens County Democratic Party’s executive secretary Michael Reich statement" link at the Times, it leads to this April 2, 2017 NY Daily News article: "Three lawyers control Queens Democratic Party while one rakes millions from Surrogate’s Court wills."

"For 30 years, the same three men have effectively controlled one of the largest Democratic organizations in America. They are Gerard Sweeney, Michael Reich and Frank Bolz, the powerful attorneys who serve Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party. Reich is the executive secretary of the party, a spokesperson and wrangler of district leaders. Bolz is the law chairman, entrusted with keeping county-approved candidates on the ballot and knocking their rivals off. Sweeney wears no official hat within the party infrastructure. But Queens insiders say he is arguably its most important strategist, helping guide the party's political machinations on the homefront as it jousts for influence in City Hall and Albany.

"As the appointed counsel to the Queens public administrator, a job he has held without interruption since 1992, the 63-year-old Sweeney raked in just over $2 million last year administering in Surrogate's Court the estates of people who died without leaving wills. Over the past decade, his haul is even more stunning: $30 million since 2006, according to an analysis of court records."

They're in practice together, as Sweeney, Reich & Bolz, LLP ("since 1986"); their website is queenscountyprobate.com.

On May 19, 2017, a month after the Daily News article, the Village Voice published "The Queens Machine that Turns Foreclosures Into Cash" subtitled The men who run the Democratic Party in New York's largest borough have a tasty side hustle

"In Queens, where the insular political and legal system often breeds obvious conflicts of interest, the law firm’s influence can be felt virtually everywhere. All civil court judges are elected, which means they run in uncompetitive Democratic primaries with the support of the county organization. Sweeney, Reich and Bolz, in consultation with loyal Democratic district leaders, determine the judicial candidates. Anyone who rises to become a State Supreme Court judge must make donations to a county organization housekeeping account overseen by Reich and his law partners.

"The end result of this system is beleaguered Queens homeowners walking into court to face judges who owe their livelihoods to the three men. Friedheim recalled an otherwise pro-tenant Queens judge once paying particular deference to Gallo, knowing the firm he came from. She soon found out why.

“"It’s totally machine-connected,” Friedheim said. "That’s how it is.'"

["Gallo" = David Gallo, a partner until 2015, when the firm was Sweeney, Gallo, Reich & Bolz, LLP.]

The "loyal Democratic district leaders" being consulted by these three? Choosing local judges is one of the tasks of the Democratic County Committee.

More than a year later, Reich (per the Times) and Bolz (per the firm's website) retain their executive roles with the Party; Sweeney can't have strayed very far.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:58 PM on August 24, 2018 [25 favorites]

There’s little I dislike more than predator fish in small ponds. Trying to get away with wrong (if not illegal) things in corners where not many people are looking. Where there’s money to be made, there will be someone out to make it at the expense of many others, somehow justifying their actions as something they need to do to put their kids through college, maintain their family’s lifestyle, etc. (Colleges that most of us could never afford, that will set their kids up with connections that will give them a leg up on their peers, and thus the cycle perpetuates.) I’m generalizing, but ugh.
posted by mantecol at 5:51 PM on August 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

I'm sure there's nothing here for future AG Zephyr Teachout to look into, nothing at all. Nope.
posted by kokaku at 6:00 PM on August 24, 2018 [14 favorites]

Also, I'm totally down for bringing back dingy mental asylums and locking every corrupt politician in a big open room to fight each other for scraps of moldy bread like they've been getting the American public to do for as long as I've been alive.
posted by kokaku at 6:02 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the foreclosures thing...I mean.


These guys should get eaten alive.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:48 PM on August 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

posted by odinsdream at 10:11 PM on August 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

posted by lalochezia at 7:52 AM on August 25, 2018 [1 favorite]

Is leaving unopposed candidates off a ballot entirely a common thing? Has some judge found that an election that noone votes in and no write-ins are allowed in is a valid election?
posted by joeyh at 9:47 AM on August 25, 2018

I know that's the practice in Florida. I'm guessing it varies by state/locality?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:13 AM on August 25, 2018

Ok, I was curious because it does not seem to be the case here in TN where both primaries (both sides) and generals are littered with single candidate races. They even leave zero-candidate races in the ballot.

I suppose this is one of those little things that a machine can easily slip into place to perpetuate itself.
posted by joeyh at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yeah, restrictions on write-ins are inherently un-democratic, I think. Like some places make you get write-in candidates pre-approved.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:19 AM on August 25, 2018

The article seems to mention that this practice is in violation of a state law but didn't really address that issue further.
posted by odinsdream at 12:24 PM on August 25, 2018

That's typical of the NYTimes, and to a lesser extent newspapers in general, and it drives me nuts. Their responsibility is to provide information for sake of empowering the populace. Facts and details matter. If a law was broken, tell me which law.
posted by cribcage at 1:27 PM on August 25, 2018 [5 favorites]

Also, flagged as fantastic, Iris Gambol. Goddamn.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:52 PM on August 25, 2018 [2 favorites]

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