How a backroom deal in Albany scarred a top New York mayoral candidate

What it turned out was a classic Albany story of lobbyists exerting undue influence, acting backrooms at the highest level, and pointing fingers at what threatened Adams’ political career.

“It’s a really incredibly shameful episode of Adams’s time in the Senate,” said John Kaehny, executive director of the good government group Reinvent Albany, in a recent interview. “He’s a major player in the entire unfortunate drama here … the level of cynicism and shame and the total, total dullness about the conflict of interest and ultimate public interest – it’s just amazing.”

Now that his mayoral campaign soars weeks before the New York City primary, Adams is likely to face renewed attacks on the matter as candidates prepare to face each other in Thursday’s primary televised debate. The Brooklyn District President has a lot to lose: he is on the verge of overtaking Andrew Yang as the front runner in the race after closing the gap in recent weeks.

A destructive, 308 pages The state inspector’s general report on the casino affair found that Adams gave investigators an unreliable testimony, received campaign money from Aqueduct Entertainment Group – the troubled gambling company trying to cut the deal – and while attending a victory celebration, ” showed extremely poor judgment ”The choice was made first. Eventually the whole arrangement fell apart.

“Our heads of state have given up their public duty at every turn, imposed no ethical restrictions and focused on political gains that cost New Yorkers millions,” said then Inspector General Joseph Fisch said in a statement at the time.

According to state law, the leaders of the state senate and the assembly and the then government. David Paterson had to agree to AEG’s selection to open the “Racino” in Queens. The company was later disqualified and replaced by Genting New York, Which now operates the Resorts World Casino locally.

“The state’s decision brought New York thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in annual tax revenue,” said Adams spokesman Evan Thies when recently asked about the matter. “Borough President Adams has always acted ethically and, as an elected official, made decisions based on fact and merit.”

POLITICO reported last month on ethical issues raised in relation to Adams’ use of his office and an official charity he founded that helped raise his profile ahead of his current mayoral run.

The Inspector General’s investigation revealed a chaotic process with no guidelines for selecting a bidder, driven by lobbyists and political favors.

The IG identified potential violations of state ethics laws by former Senator John Sampson, chairman of the Democratic Conference, who was accused of providing internal Senate documents containing information about other bidders to an AEG lobbyist and putting the group under pressure set to use a preferred developer. Then-Senate President Malcolm Smith was also charged with possible violations for continuing to stand up for the AEG after claiming to withdraw from the trial. Both men later went to jail for unrelated crimes.

The Imbroglio became a political football in the state elections 2010, seized by Republicans who successful regained control of the State Senate this year.

Adams was not charged with legal violations, but he was not unscathed. The President of the Brooklyn District claimed that his behavior was correct.

The IG report states that Adams “was very much involved in Sampson’s decision-making process” and “was selected by Sampson to assist in the selection process”.

Adams received campaign donations of $ 3,500 from AEG groups and an additional $ 3,000 from the chairman of AEG’s Nevada-based gambling component in the months leading up to the selection.

The US state inspector general focused on a Manhattan dinner between Paterson, Sampson and Adams as the key to the selection – and said Adams’ testimony about the meeting, at which he denied as a full participant, was not credible.

Dinner was in January 2010, and Paterson testified that he had dinner with Sampson and Adams, who “officially asked me to suggest AEG with them.”

“[M]My understanding was that Senator Adams was asked by Senator Sampson to conduct an assessment of all groups, that they had a trial, and that at the end of the trial, Adams was convinced that AEG was the best alternative, ”Paterson told investigators. Sampson also testified that he had dinner with Paterson and Adams, but said he did not remember campaigning for AEG at the meeting.

However, Adams testified that it was not part of the dinner. He said he ran into Governor Sampson and an AEG representative at a restaurant on 57th Street. “I just said hello to you and I moved on,” he said.

The inspector general thought his account was “unbelievable”.

“Adams’ version of events weighs on credibility,” he wrote. The report later concludes: “The Inspector General also notes that Senator Adams gave the Inspector General an incredible testimony of a crucial dinner with Governor and Senator Sampson, which both Governors Paterson and Senator Sampson objected, about his involvement obviously to limit and responsibility when choosing the AEG. “

Adams was also criticized for attending a victory ceremony at the home of AEG lobbyist Carl Andrews. Sampson, Smith, and other lawmakers also attended the February 2010 party.

“It reflects at least an extremely poor judgment of those senators who were actively involved in the selection of AEG, to put aside any pretext for maintaining the appearance of objectivity and to deal with AEG directors and lobbyists in the house of a paid AEG lobbyist celebrations affect them in relation to a contract that had yet to be signed, ”wrote the Inspector General. “Your participation in this winning party undermines public confidence in your actions, increases the appearance of inappropriateness in the selection of AEG, and further demonstrates the relationship between these Senators and Andrews that gave him access and influence beyond those of other bidders.”

Adams has defended his role in the aqueduct process, insisting that his testimony that he did not attend dinner is accurate and that the party he went to was a regular annual event, not a special victory celebration.

“My behavior during this process was always correct and unrepentant.” he told the Brooklyn Paper at the time . “As we worked to select a new operator for the aqueduct, my actions were centered around one important goal: to serve the good of the people of New York state and my district by finding the bidder who would develop a project that accelerated job creation and reflected the contribution of the community. “

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