The Council’s WFP cadre turned out for a press conference this week to denounce the “political hatchet job” on one of its beloved members, Councilmember Debi Rose of Staten Island. Rose was named as an unindicted co-conspirator along with two of the staff of her 2009 Council campaigns: shady dealings by Data and Field Services, the WFP’s old for-profit arm, had caught up to Richmond County’s sole Democrat.
Progressive rhetoric was let off its leash at the press conference, as councilmembers one-upped each other in foot-stamping outrage, expressing shock and dismay that someone as lowly as a Staten Island special prosecutor could deign to question the probity and rectitude of the Working Families Party electoral operations. Indeed, may a cat look at a king?
Brad Lander took the lead, explaining patiently that he used Data and Field Services in 2009, and that their services were strictly aboveboard. “There is nothing here that merits criminal prosecution…it’s appalling,” said Lander.
Now it has been common knowledge since 2009, among anyone who was paying attention to city politics and the WFP, that there were irregularities in Debi Rose’s first Council campaigns. Local North Shore ACORN operatives got involved in a way that didn’t happen in other WFP races, and eyebrows were raised. Maybe it all falls into a gray area, but for Brad Lander and the rest of his crew to pretend that investigation of Debi Rose has come out of nowhere and is purely malevolent or a politicized fishing expedition, is absurd.
If the case is so vaporous, then why did top Bill de Blasio aide Emma Wolfe refuse to talk to the special prosecutor about her role managing the WFP’s campaign machine? She was given immunity from prosecution, so she isn’t protecting herself.
Furthermore, how do Brad Lander and the rest of the WFP know that there is nothing to see here? Isn’t that what investigations and prosecutions are for? Note that whenever a Democratic politician is arrested and indicted (cf. Ruben Wills), his or her colleagues withhold judgment and say that they want to let the process play out. So why don’t they trust the process in the case of Debi Rose?
Well to listen to Donovan Richards and Laurie Cumbo, we can’t trust the process because it is corroded with racism. Cumbo, just one year on from her impassioned justification of anti-Jewish violence in Crown Heights, now claims that the investigations into Debi Rose’s campaign treasurer “have racial motivations.” Earlier that same day, Cumbo held a press conference to expound her thesis that Rachel Noerdlinger, Chirlane McCray, Melissa Mark-Viverito and Letitia James have all been victims of a conspiracy, a “growing, growing attack particularly on women of color.” Who is behind this conspiracy? Unnamed forces of reaction, one presumes.
Donovan Richards linked the indictments to the Eric Garner case, perhaps not understanding that the current investigation has been going on for almost two years, and that the matters under investigation happened almost six years ago. Richards noted cryptically, “we just have to watch with a keen eye, with a keen sense on what is happening and when it is happening and why it is happening.” Indeed.
The most bizarre, even demented, comments came from Corey Johnson, who let loose against Roger Adler, the special prosecutor. Johnson ranted, “Roger Adler is a failed civil court judge who has never been a prosecutor and is trying to make a name for himself. It is disgusting he is doing this to one of the finest elected officials we have in this body. Shame on you Roger Adler, go do something else with your life. Go after real criminals, not Debi Rose.”
Roger Adler is not a “failed civil court judge”; he ran for civil court judge in a 2008 election and lost. He has, however, been practicing law since 1971, was president of the Brooklyn Bar Association, worked in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office, and was three times appointed a special prosecutor, by Elizabeth Holtzman and Charles Hynes. He was counsel to the NY Senate Investigations Committee, and was praised by Democratic Senator Craig Johnson as “a brilliant attorney and extremely fair minded.”
Given that Roger Adler is almost 70 years old, it seems weird that Corey Johnson would accuse him of “trying to make a name for himself.” After all, Adler has argued cases in front of the US Supreme Court, and appears to have had a full career. Certainly he is at least as accomplished as Corey Johnson, the part-time hotel lobbyist and former “political editor for Towleroad,” whose signature professional accomplishment was advocating for a higher percentage of affordable housing at a parking lot. That and lettering in three varsity sports in high school…well done, Sir!
Does Corey Johnson understand that Roger Adler was given the job of Special District Attorney to investigate the Debi Rose case by Fern Fisher, the Chief Administrative Judge of the City Courts? That Roger Adler is not running a Star Chamber where he can pick and choose whom to investigate? Perhaps an attorney in the Council’s central staff can sit Corey Johnson down and explain to him some of the basics of the legal system.
Corey Johnson, like Bill de Blasio, who cannot stop talking about the heroism of his historic victory, thinks that getting elected to office was his grand achievement. Let’s hope the novelty wears off soon…the Progressives’ self-congratulation is really starting to cloy.