From the NY Post:
Assemblyman Vito Lopez bullied and cajoled eight little old ladies during an arm-twisting session aimed at getting them to back his candidate in a Brooklyn judicial race, a shocking audiotape obtained by The Post reveals.
"I'm not a fool or stupid, all right?" the Democrat railed at the elderly community leaders. "I can't always give and get smacked, give and get smacked . . . I am the political leader."
The May 2005 conversation, captured on a hidden recorder, not only exposes the 69-year-old Lopez's heavy-handed tactics in dealing with his core elderly supporters but also offers a rare glimpse into the backrooms of bare-knuckle Brooklyn politics where Lopez reigns.
"I've been around a long time," Lopez tells the women. "And the only thing that's worth credibility -- the only thing I have that's worth something -- is the politics. That's how I get the money."
Lopez called the hourlong meeting at his district office to get the women to support civil court judicial hopeful Richard Velasquez -- once a lawyer for the senior-center nonprofit empire Lopez founded -- in his race against lawyer Marty Needelman. The election was seen as a leadership test for Lopez, who was on the verge of becoming the Democratic Party boss for all of Brooklyn.
He explosively references this power play -- and the competition between Hispanics and Hasidim in the area over housing -- at one point blurting, "If no one respects my leadership, how do I fight the Hasidim?"
From the NY Post:
Assemblyman Vito Lopez claims he has nothing to do with the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, a sprawling social-service cash cow that has received at least $304 million in taxpayer funds over five years and is under investigation for fraud.
But Lopez's ties to the organization he founded as a young social worker in the 1970s still run deep:
* His girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, is the organization's No. 2 official, making $329,910 a year. His campaign treasurer, Christiana Fisher, is its executive director and has a $659,591 salary for working only 17½ hours per week.
* Lopez was personally paid $57,600 as a consultant in a single year by Ridgewood Bushwick.
* Lopez's Bushwick Democratic Club operates out of a grimy building on Wyckoff Avenue owned by one of Ridgewood Bushwick's three dozen subsidiaries, which claims on tax forms to operate the building to provide "respite services" for senior citizens.
* The thousands of constituents of Ridgewood Bushwick and its 2,000 employees form the core of Lopez's political machine in north Brooklyn.
* Former Ridgewood Bushwick employees, including Richard Velasquez and Pam Fisher, have become Brooklyn judges with Lopez's support.
* As an assemblyman, Lopez has steered at least $335,000 in member items to Ridgewood Bushwick since 2009.
From the Daily News:
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said Sunday he is keeping a close eye on a secret city fraud investigation into Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez's nonprofit empire.
"We're now reviewing the investigation material," Cuomo, the Democratic nominee for governor, said at a campaign rally.
As first revealed by the Daily News last week, the investigation found evidence that Lopez's Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council made $340,000 in fraudulent claims to the city.
In addition, the report found it had incompetent management packed with Lopez cronies - including his longtime girlfriend - who were paid high six-figure salaries.
From the Daily News:
Democratic Party boss Vito Lopez has near total control over who serves on the bench in Brooklyn, handpicking judges with no oversight, an insider said Sunday.
"It's not Democratic in any way," said Matt Cowherd, president of the New Kings Democrats, a minority reform bloc opposed to Lopez's rule. "It's not even really a vote."
The process is murky and begins with the selection of approximately 180 judicial delegates elected by voters in the Democratic primary.
The delegates will gather tomorrow night for a closed-door meeting in which they will be given a slate of Supreme Court candidates to approve, all of whom have been selected by Lopez, Cowherd said.
Their choices will end up on the ballot in November. Since Brooklyn is overwhelmingly Democratic, these candidates are typically elected - and in many cases, they run unopposed.
The practice allows a party leader to consolidate political power by offering rewards to district leaders who support him.
In the history of New York City, going back to the Tweed Ring and further, the Espada and Lopez stories seem to fit right in. Power corrupts -- and the pattern of such misconduct endures generation after generation.
Only the faces change, not the desire to make a buck at the expense of the citizens of New York.