The 43-page federal complaint against state Senator Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and his son Adam Skelos has a running theme: Senator Skelos spent a lot of time making sure his son was gainfully employed.
Whether they committed any crimes is for a jury to decide. But the charges offer a window into the relationship between the 67-year-old Senate majority leader and his 32-year-old son that could be gleaned only by having access to their telephone conversations, via court-approved wiretaps, as well as the investigative resources of the federal government at your disposal for a few years.
Senator Skelos could have averted many of the woes he faces today by suggesting that his son secure a full-time position, in either the public or private sector, where their business interests would not intersect. The complaint alleges that the younger Skelos benefited financially when his father used his governmental influence to route title insurance and environmental technology contracts Adam Skelos’ way.
One of the many interesting tidbits in the complaint involves Adam Skelos’ dismay at Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision to ban hydraulic fracturing statewide, after the governor lost 46 of the state’s 62 counties while winning re-election last fall. Why would Adam Skelos care about this? Well, it turns out that the environmental technology company for whom the younger Skelos was consulting also had a product that could remove pollutants “from water contaminated by hydrofracking,” the complaint states.
Neither Senator Skelos nor Adam Skelos, from what I could see, lifted a finger in 2014 to help a person who campaigned on a pro-hydraulic fracturing platform, the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino. Astorino returned the favor last week by calling upon Senator Skelos to step down as majority leader, something the senator should have done immediately until such time as his name was cleared. Senator Skelos ought to stay, however, in the state Senate in the same way former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver remains a member of the state Assembly.
If you’re a certain age, the complaint against the Skelos’ brought to mind a case brought by another ambitious U.S. attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in the late 1980s. The three defendants were Hortense Gabel, a then-former state Supreme Court Justice, Bess Myerson, New York City’s Cultural Affairs Commissioner and Carl Capasso, Ms. Myerson’s boyfriend.
Judge Gabel, it was alleged, had lowered the financial support payments Capasso owed his ex-wife in exchange for Myerson’s appointment of Sukhreet Gabel, Judge Gabel’s daughter, to a position within the city agency Myerson oversaw. “The chief witness against the defendants, including her mother, was Sukhreet Gabel, who detailed how Ms. Myerson had hired her after they met at Justice Gabel’s home,” stated The New York Times obituary of Myerson, a former Miss America who died in December 2014. “The trial, in 1988, was a font of vivid stories of family strife and political intrigue. But when it was over, the jury acquitted all three defendants of all charges. The jurors said they had difficulty believing Ms. [Sukhreet] Gabel.”
A year later, the person who had brought the charges against those three defendants was running for mayor of New York City in a Republican primary. Few probably recall the 1989 GOP primary challenge Giuliani received from Ronald Lauder, the former U.S. ambassador to Austria, but I do, largely because it featured one of the best—and most prescient—tag lines I’ve ever heard in a political advertisement. After chronicling a few of Giuliani’s misadventures as U.S. attorney, the script closed as follows: “Why are people afraid of Rudy Giuliani? Because they should be.”
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.