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Long IslandPoliticsSpin Cycle

Bharara, once Schumer's man, says fundraising and bribery differ

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charts the money flow

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara charts the money flow in a state corruption case. Photo Credit: Craig Ruttle

Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara made quite a splash this week, indicting five pols in two bribery cases, alleging that New York’s political system has “rampant” corruption and broadly condemning unnamed “officials” who he says know about corruption but keep silent.

Bharara, of course, holds power largely due to one of New York’s consummate practitioners of politics and money-raising, Sen. Charles Schumer.

He served as Schumer’s chief counsel from 2005 to 2009 -- part of a six-year cycle in which the senator, a legendary fundraiser, brought in $19.5 million. That total included $2.8 million from the securities industry, while Schumer was serving on Senate committees such as Banking and Finance.

But Bharara apparently saw nothing untoward go on, and by 2009 the two men had a cordial enough relationship that Schumer was his biggest booster for the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

At one of his press conferences this week, Bharara was asked how he could be shocked that politicians in New York take money from people looking for favors and influence on legislation after what he saw during his years with Schumer in Washington.

“I didn’t see legislators…in hotel bathrooms in the Capitol taking hundreds of dollars in an envelope specifically in exchange for legislation that they had drafted,” Bharara responded, referring to a charge in his indictment of Bronx Assemb. Eric Stevenson.

“That’s perhaps the chief difference.”

“There’s venality and corruption everywhere, I suppose, where there is money involved,” he added. “We’re not saying there should be no fundraising and campaigns can’t raise money. We’re saying that the law provides when there’s a specific quid pro quo of cash money for official acts, that’s unlawful.”

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