For 30 years, the same three men have effectively controlled one of the largest Democratic organizations in America.
They are Gerard Sweeney, Michael Reich and Frank Bolz, the powerful attorneys who serve Rep. Joe Crowley, the chairman of the Queens County Democratic Party. Reich is the executive secretary of the party, a spokesperson and wrangler of district leaders. Bolz is the law chairman, entrusted with keeping county-approved candidates on the ballot and knocking their rivals off.
Sweeney wears no official hat within the party infrastructure. But Queens insiders say he is arguably its most important strategist, helping guide the party’s political machinations on the homefront as it jousts for influence in City Hall and Albany.
He is also the one who gets to be very rich.
As the appointed counsel to the Queens public administrator, a job he has held without interruption since 1992, the 63-year-old Sweeney raked in just over $2 million last year administering in Surrogate’s Court the estates of people who died without leaving wills. Over the past decade, his haul is even more stunning: $30 million since 2006, according to an analysis of court records.
It’s impossible to know how many millions Sweeney received in his first 14 years on the job because the state’s Office of Court Administration, which oversees Surrogate’s Court, says it doesn't keep those figures.
The three men, with Crowley’s blessing, still determine what type of justice is served in Queens County. No Queens judge rises through the ranks without the party’s blessing and regular donations to its housekeeping account.