Spin Cycle

News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics

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Maybe the feds have just gotten good at doing Albany

This much is clear from recent events: By a cold and intensive focus, wire-wielding FBI agents and federal prosecutors have figured out their way around the halls and habits of the New York State Legislature.

The feds stunned Albany by revealing that, using elected moles, they recorded incriminating conversations among members of both the Assembly and Senate. By one count, 32 lawmakers have been snagged on corruption charges over the past seven years. Four former top leaders in the State Senate since 2008 are indicted or convicted.

Cases brought by U.S. Attorneys Loretta Lynch, Preet Bharara and others are commanding attention somewhat like the high-profile affairs of the 1980s for which New York federal prosecutors Edward McDonald and Rudy Giuliani became known.

Some seasoned operatives play it as less than stunning, that the feds are just fishing in target-rich waters. Says one: "Everyone knew for years the name of people who were out there, who'd get jammed up sooner or later. . . . The feds are scraping away one layer here."

For example, former Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis) and former Democratic conference leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), among the most recent U.S. defendants, figured in a 2010 state report describing crude efforts to fix a bid to run gambling at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens.

Even if the wrongdoing one day proves less than endemic, though, you wonder what kind of recruitment ad this publicity provides -- and which citizens will now want to get involved in public office.

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