I am a Democratic County Committee memeber in Brooklyn, NY, and the “difficulties” of the Brooklyn Dems has worried me for a few years now. Things are getting worse, not better. The FBI is investigating corruption in Brooklyn. Did the Dem party in Brooklyn do something wrong? Well…probably! The Brooklyn Dem party is split between the corrupt machine and the so-called reform clubs. It is notorious for being mired in corruption. Well now it seems the corruption in the Dem party in Brooklyn just may have gotten the attention of the FBI!
I have been focusing on the Brooklyn DA position because here is where corruption seems to be a key issue and here is where the left has failed in a way that I, at least, see very clearly. And anyone who knows me knows that I have focused a fair amount of effort fighting republican corruption. Well, corruption isn’t just a Republican thing. True, the Republicans of today have taken corruption to new levels, levels that even Richard Nixon could only dream of. But here in Brooklyn, good old fashioned corruption is alive and well…and more disgusting than ever.
Back during the peak petitioning season, I was told (second hand, mind you) about instances of threats and intimidation by people associated with the Hynes and the Sampson campaigns. I have nothing but the word of reliable friends on this, but both Hynes and Sampson have apparently acted like thugs in their bid for the DA spot. But there is nothing so far to pin it on them, so this is nothing but hearsay. But that might change.
The Brooklyn DA race has become in my mind a nightmare that shows the horrible weakness of the Democratic party. The candidates are terrible, by and large, and the best candidate never got the support he deserved from the very people who claim they want a good candidate. This race illustrates the failures of BOTH the leftist and mainstream elements of the Democratic party.
Here has been my analysis to date. The main fight is between two corrupt, thuggish factions within the Brooklyn Dem party. The incumbent, Charles Hynes, has held this post for 16 years. He is known for taking bribes and intimidating opposition. He claims to be responsible for a very reduced crime rate, which may be, in part, true. From what I can tell, he did some good things ten years ago and has ridden on that success since then. He approaches the post as a part-time job, teaching and writing in addition to being the DA for the entire Kings county. Rumor has it that his folk intimidated those petitioning for other candidates. Hynes’ main opposition is John Sampson. Sampson is supported by Clarence Norman. Norman is the man who controls the Brooklyn Dem party. He is head of the Brooklyn Dem machine…a machine that delivers one of the LOWEST voter turnouts in the nation. I am part of his machine in that I am a Democratic County Committee member in Brooklyn. The County Committee meetings are, to put it mildly, little more than farce. Norman is known for his corruption and has four indictments coming from Hynes which are going to be going to trial soon. Sampson is probably MORE corrupt than Hynes and possibly similarly thuggish, if the reports I have been told are true. This Celebrity Death Match between Hynes and Sampson is basically a fight between corrupt and corrupter. Neither is worth much in the eyes of a good, solid, honest citizen. At least Hynes has indicted Norman. THAT is his current claim to fame.
This is already embarrassing to any self-respecting Dem. But there was once hope. There were three reform candidates. Arnie Kriss seems to have little going for him. Despite being focused on this race for months, I know little of him except that he has been described as the “Ed Koch” candidate. Well, these days, that doesn’t count for much. Then there is Mark Peters. I have met him twice. He SOUNDS good. Speaks very progressive and righteous. But, he is a young rich kid and he gives me the impression of someone who knows what to say but doesn’t have his heart in it. I think his intentions are good. BUT, he is a kid! He brags about the money he has raised (mostly from his rich family) and his connection with Eliot Spitzer (who, as far as I can tell, will have nothing to do with him). The main thing going for him is he is not connected with EITHER the corrupt Hynes or corrupt Sampson campaigns. When I first met him I distincly had the feeling he was waiting to figure out what I wanted to hear and then he told me what he thought that was. I don’t trust him, but I have nothing solid against him. I may even be misjudging him. Some folks who I respect considerably have endorsed him, so maybe he is better than he seems.
But there was one good candidate. I mean REALLY good candidate. This guy was someone I was willing to give some time and money to. He is recognized as honest by everyone. Every campaign recognizes his integrity. He is the smartest of the candidates. His name is Paul Wooten and, among NUMEROUS accomplishments in his life, he was one of the writers of the legislation that created the Public Advocate position in NYC. Wooten was the IDEAL candidate for the Brooklyn DA job. Period.
Paul Wooten should have had the left, progressive, Green, Dean folks flocking to him. THIS is the candidate that they claim the Dems never run, the man with smarts, guts and integrity who puts civil rights before ANYTHING else. I petitioned for Wooten and, when the petition season was over, Wooten had more than enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. Then, almost immediately after the filing deadline, Wooten dropped out “due to lack of funds.” This left a VERY sad field of candidates…and embarrassment to the Dem Party. I blamed it on the fact that, by and large, the leftist wing of the Dem party, which claims to WANT this kind of candidate, failed to back him. Few people backed Wooten. The main person I know who fought for Wooten was the former head of the Brooklyn Kerry campaign. NOT the Dean or Kucinich or Nader campaigns. The Kerry campaign. Where was the left? I blamed the whining, complaining left for talking big but not coming out when their ideal candidate materialized.
Well, I was probably right about that, but…apparently more is going on in Brooklyn. And it isn’t likely to smell good. Something is rotten in Kings county and it probably has to do with the Hynes or the Sampson campaign. And the FBI is smelling it!
Here are some excerpts from the Footnotes Newsletter:
A few weeks ago the FBI requested copies of petition sheets from the Brooklyn Board of Elections. According to reports, the agents specifically wanted to examine the petition sheets submitted by the candidates for [Brooklyn] District Attorney…This investigation is intended to determine whether the Civil Rights of some Kings County Voters have been violated, and who might have been responsible for that possible violation…
The Civil Rights investigation was reportedly triggered by the sudden withdrawal of candidate Paul Wooten from the District Attorney contest. It would also involve the rumor that Wooten might have been pressured to withdraw by individuals connected with candidate John Sampson`s campaign, and also by County Leader and Assemblyman Clarence Norman.
Now let me be clear here. I was surprised at the suddenness of Wooten’s withdrawal so soon after the end of petitioning. I had thought he might not have gotten enough signatures, but I was assured that he had gotten MORE than enough. And, throughout the petitioning period, I heard rumors of intimidation. Nothing but rumors! But there it was. Suddenly, he had withdrawn and the FBI was interested!
From the point of view of the FBI, the withdrawal of Wooten could have deprived many voters of the right to vote for the candidate of their choice. And if this withdrawal was the result of threats or an inducement of some kind, the FBI could determine that there was a Civil Rights violation and maybe something worse.
Candidate Wooten has strenuously and repeatedly denied that his withdrawal was part of any deal made by him. And FOOTNOTES does indeed believe Wooten’s statement.
I met Wooten three times. The one thing that he exuded more than anything else was integrity. In fact, everyone I talked to who supported other candidates agreed that Wooten had the most integrity. So I think some kind of back room deal is unlikely…though, given Brooklyn where even Yasskey can be sucked into the influence of the machine, who knows?
However, just as clearly, his withdrawal was a reluctant one. Wooten had just overcome the difficult and expensive challenge of petition-gathering. He had probably spent his own money, and even borrowed money to get on the ballot. Wooten was on the Ballot. The campaign was really just about to begin. And who knew what could or would happen in the 3 months between June 11 and September 13?
Candidate Wooten had nothing to lose by letting his name remain on the ballot. And at the very least he could have engaged in some level of fund-raising to reduce the debts he had incurred. Nothing to lose, and everything to gain.
Besides, Wooten, like almost every other Brooklyn lawyer (except the carpet-bagging, opportunistic, congressional candidate David Yassky) probably found Sampson’s candidacy to be absurd and offensive.
This is a little unfair to Yassky. He is dedicated and in touch with the district, not such a “carpet-bagger.” BUT, he has been induced to support Sampson, something that greatly surprised me given Yassky’s close ties with the reform Democratic clubs.
For Wooten, who is proud of his expertise, and in fact, even slightly arrogant [funny…I always considered him excessively humble, but…], the support of Sampson by the Clarence Norman gang had to be particularly painful. While Sampson’s legal experience seemed to be restricted to representing landlords in landlord/tenant court, Wooten has had his own Law Office in downtown Brooklyn for many years. He has had decades of experience as a trial lawyer, and is well-known and respected in Brooklyn’s Courts.
In fact, over the years Wooten has handled cases for most of Brooklyn’s Black elected officials and we suspect that most of the time he has received little if any compensation for his legal work. So, as far as Paul Wooten was concerned, this was an opportunity for all those Black elected officials whom he had helped to finally show their gratitude to him…
There was no one in Brooklyn who honestly felt that John Sampson was more qualified than Paul Wooten to be District Attorney. Except Sampson’s father…Maybe. But Wooten found himself running into closed doors and getting apologies rather than checks from people whom he expected to support him.
I will again note that Wooten not only ran into closed doors among the black community, but also among the leftist community who largely ignored him, despite his excellent qualifications and universally acknowledged integrity.
The overt and first part of the message was that Sampson was the County’s candidate through whom County would terminate Charles Hynes on September 13.
The second part of the message is one which John Sampson himself stated to the Daily News. As District Attorney, Sampson would take the extraordinary step of conducting a “review and evaluation” of the on-going corruption trials of Clarence Norman and Jeff Feldman. So really, making a check to Paul Wooten’s campaign would be hurting the County Leader and Deputy Speaker of the Assembly. You wouldn’t want to do that, would you?
Well…here we get to it. Hynes is corrupt and thuggish…but he HAS indicted Clarence Norman, so groups like Independent Neighborhood Democrats are backing him for THAT reason. Wooten would have, if anything, pursued these indictments more doggedly than Hynes. Sampson wants to “review” them. So, the machine could NOT tolerate a Wooten candidacy.
The end result was that Paul Wooten’s fund-raisers ended up costing him money rather than raising money for him. Few people would dare to have their names listed as contributors to Wooten’s campaign.
And then some time around July 11, an “inner-circle” meeting of the elders was convened in Bedford Stuy. FOOTNOTES was informed that it was convened by Al Vann and Annette Robinson, and that Paul Wooten was invited. The purpose of the meeting was to have a number of Black Elected officials and activists point out to Paul Wooten the wisdom and appropriateness of withdrawing from the District Attorney race.
It was the typical “et tu Brute” scene with hugs and expressions of love and admiration for Paul and his unselfishness…
DISGUSTING! Democrats throughout Brooklyn should be FLOCKING to support Wooten. Instead he is opposed by the corrupt machine, ignored by the so-called progressive left and abandoned by his original supporters. I AM EMBARASSED TO BE A DEMOCRAT IN BROOKLYN!
And now, the FBI may be involved in more than the violation of voters rights to have a choice.
Agents could be interested in whether Paul Wooten’s withdrawal was in any way connected with a long-range plan to tamper with criminal trials that are now being prosecuted.
If interviews with the FBI reveal that there have been discussions between District Attorney candidate and defendant Clarence Norman about the future disposition of his criminal trials, John Sampson could find himself in a very sticky situation. Stickier than when he wobbled away from Gaza after hearing the first explosion of a rocket in the distance.
What we have here is a summary of everything that is wrong with the Democratic party. A useless incumbent, a corrupt machine, an absent progressive grassroots, and betrayal of the one good candidate in the whole lot.
I have been asked by many, including David Yassky, who I would support given the field. With the withdrawal of Paul Wooten, NO ONE is a good candidate. That is what the Dems have created for themselves. This is what the Brooklyn Dems are and what the reform clubs and progressive organizations are supposed to be fighting. I have been undecided who to vote for. But now I am almost certain I will either vote for pretty-rich-kid Peters because at least he isn’t corrupt yet, or I will write in Wooten because HE is the man who should be Brooklyn DA.