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New York Post


Anthony & Malcolm

April 13, 2013

By Steven Malanga

Two faces of NY’s sick politics

Sunday’s New York Times magazine features an interview with disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner, which Weiner granted in a bid to gauge if the public is ready to accept him back in public life.

The Weiner piece comes in the wake of the arrest of state Sen. Malcolm Smith for trying to buy his way onto the Republican mayoral primary ballot. His indictment left many asking, "Why is New York so corrupt?" The answer may lie in the careers of people like Weiner and Smith.

Both the ex-congressman from Queens and the state senator are part of an expansive and expensive political culture which affords them a lifelong job as a New York politico, with virtually no experience doing anything else.

It’s no wonder that many elected officials seem willing to do just about anything, like Smith, to preserve and advance their careers while others, like Weiner, grow arrogant, egotistical and out of touch with everyday norms after spending years in the New York political bubble.

It’s not like that everywhere else, believe it or not.

Consider Smith: After graduating from college with a business degree, he looked at a real-estate career. In New York City, real estate is a heavily politicized, often subsidized enterprise which may be why, while still in his 20s, Smith got a job as an aide to City Councilman Archie Spigner.

Smith quickly got the political bug and began running for office at the tender age of 30. Though he failed in three bids to get elected to the City Council and Legislature, he advanced his career, serving as an aide to Rep. Floyd Flake and as an appointee in the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development. He also founded a real-estate nonprofit which built homes on public land, and became president of a housing-education group that received extensive funding from government.

In 2000, Smith won a special election for state Senate against former Assemblyman Andrew Jenkins, who was trying a comeback after serving a year in jail for money laundering. That election began Smith’s controversial 12-year Senate run, where rumors of investigations of Smith have been so common that in a September 2012 newspaper article he declared, "People think that I’m a crook and a thief, and I’m absolutely not."

Weiner similarly seemed headed for a lifetime political gig until he self-destructed. Right after graduating from SUNY-Plattsburgh, he took a job in the office of then-Rep. Chuck Schumer. At 27, he won a City Council seat in a controversial election in which his campaign blanketed his district with anonymous leaflets tinged with racial overtones in the wake of the Crown Heights riots. He later admitted he was the source of the pamphlets.

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