By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
Maybe I don’t know
the rules. Or maybe Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez doesn’t. But the
local Latina Congresswoman believes it’s okay to spend public money for
represents the 12th Congressional District – a gerrymandered tri-county
seat including parts of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan – faxed and
emailed us a press release on United States Congress letterhead with her
office’s return address endorsing the candidacy of Margarita López
Torres for Brooklyn Civil Court judge.
The contact number was
her Washington, D.C. Congressional office phone and the contact staffers,
two Congressional employees on the Federal payroll. The email account
Nydia.Velázquez@mail.house.gov and the fax are paid for with public
Now we don’t know
Hon. Ms. Lopez Torres and she’s from Brooklyn anyway. But we do know
that it is absolutely unacceptable to use staff, the offices, funds,
stationery, equipment or anything belonging to the House of
Representatives for political endorsements.
House members do their
campaign stuff outside of Congress. They are supposed to spend their own
funds, not ours.
When we called the
office of Congresswoman Velázquez, her staffer told us some mumbo jumbo
about technicalities making it okay.
We don’t buy it. She
broke the rules. But we await her return call to hear her point of view.
Members of Congress and
their staffs are responsible for knowing the rules and must be able to
differentiate between the business of the people and the business of
We have sent a copy of
the release along with this item to the House Ethics Committee, the
Federal Election Commission, the Speaker of the House, the Minority Leader
of the House and Congresswoman Velázquez, requesting a reply and a
follow-up report on appropriate disciplinary steps.
We wonder, with all the
campaign reform in the world, what good is it if they don’t enforce the
rules or the rules have no teeth.
Ethics? What say you,
The Altar Of The Market
So, we sit out there,
worshipping the almighty DOW, its holy houses — the New York Stock
Exchange, NASDAQ, etc — relying on the integrity of the men of that
cloth to steer us righteously.
We take their advice,
read their reports and depend on their words as we go to the altar of the
market to feed our needs.
Now, some of you may
find the metaphor offensive. How dare I compare the purity of the church
to the vile and ugly stock market? After
all, who worships the almighty buck? Who has – in the past decade –
knelt before the altar of the stock market and prayed that they will find
Who? An awful lot of
disappointed people, that’s who.
And, it might not be
the sanctity of the market that is the problem. It appears that the human
intermediaries between the market and the people — call them what you
may — might be less than pure.
I’m not sure whether
they’re called stockbrokers or analysts or researchers or men of some
different cloth, but it seems that they are no more righteous than
everyday folk — and perhaps even less righteous.
No it’s not just
ENRON, but that was the one that opened the floodgates to the outcry about
No, it’s not just the
probe of Merrill Lynch, but that was the first time that the morals of one
so elevated in the hierarchy was brought into question.
Now we understand, the
Attorney General has begun investigating nine more brokerage firms, which
– according to published reports – include Salomon Smith Barney and
It seems that all the
high priests of the industry are suspect.
industry call in the authorities when wrongdoing is reported?
amazing how – over the years and with the number of people praying at
the altar of the stock market – very few wrongdoers are disciplined for
violating the integrity of their position. So few get prosecuted. So few
go to jail. The high never seem to fall. The mighty never seem to pay.
Perhaps it is different
this time. The magnitude of ENRON, the sheer numbers of investigations,
complaints and recriminations, the public outcry that won’t go away, may
cause meaningful change.
It appears to have
shaken those who are elevated and awakened those at the most revered
But sadly, like any
other scandal, the fixers may try to get away with less than a real and
History tells us, in
times like this, there could be a couple of sacrificial lambs. One or two
may go to jail. Some bucks in restitution may be paid. Some new rules may
But unless there is a
vigilant public constantly watching and yelling, unless all who knew of
criminal action are made to pay, I fear that, in the future, some young
innocent will again be raped by one of them.
Let us pray.
Tony Avella stopped by
Tony is one of the
class of fourteen new Queens Councilmembers. He represents northeastern
It apparently hasn’t
been quite so smooth sailing for Tony who has both ruffled feathers and
had his own ruffled as he’s made the transition from civic activist to
Tony’s drive and
independence have both elevated his community activism into a commitment
to constituent service and caused him to occasionally cross swords with
others on the political scene. This community-caring crusader, who built
his rep on painting over graffiti, is tackling a new graffiti which he
sees spoiling the community character or city process. He’s yet to
adjust to the go along, get along process that marks the old boy political
He is the first
Councilman – that we know of – to mail out a constituent service
questionnaire. He intends to address constituent concerns with the same
energy level that earned him community recognition and, eventually,
Tony’s new politics
typifies the new class of City councilmembers. He is not prepared to sit
back and take orders. He’s loyal to Council leadership and the Queens
Democratic organization but unwilling to back down just because of that
loyalty. He cares deeply about the quality of life in his community and
has taken on fights even though they could negatively impact on his
reelection campaign. Tony does not make decisions by testing which way the
wind blows. Tony makes decisions from the gut and he reacts quickly.
But like most of the
new class of Councilmembers Tony cares. He cares deeply. Like them, he is
not mired in the old ways of City politics and looks for real life
solutions that positively impact the communities he represents. Like most
of his new colleagues, he works hard — putting in many more hours than
the average workweek.
Tony Avella is one of
fourteen new Queens Councilmember and judging by our brief chat last week,
the residents of northeast Queens have a noble champion.
With Al Gore
Al Gore came to town last week, just to
say thank you.
And when I say town, I don’t mean
It was an intimate gathering at the Inn
at Great Neck.
No, it wasn’t a fundraiser and the
press wasn’t invited. Gore flew up from his Tennessee home to thank PR
guru Robert Zimmerman, his partner Ron Edelson and a handful of friends,
supporters and contributors.
with Al Gore.
I was invited because of my charm and
The first intimate get-together of about
25 people included Congressman Gary Ackerman, Nassau County Exec. Tom
Suozzi and what seemed to be the folks who wrote some big checks during
Gore’s Presidential run.
The second gathering of 75 included
several more politicos and more contributors.
There was no formal agenda. Al shook
hands, there were a couple of pictures, and he spoke to the groups and
He opened each of the two sessions with,
“Hi, I’m Al Gore. I’m the man who used to be the next President.”
He was light-hearted, self-effacing,
witty and charming. He was at ease with himself, the surroundings and
handled the groups with grace and humor.
He was better than the Al Gore I
remember from 2000.
He’s either gotten much better or
he’s gotten better writers.
He was aiming at the President, who he
said did a good job in the Sept.11 crisis, then added, “But look at us
Gore explained: Afghanistan is back in
chaos. He shouldn’t have set Osama Bin Laden as the yardstick to measure
our success. And the administration’s Mideast policy changes weekly, if
not daily. As a matter of fact, added Gore, I remember once when it
changed twice in a day.
His intellect was apparent as he spoke
with authority on foreign affairs and without pause moved to the next
question on the environment.
The fox is watching the chicken coop was
Gore’s description of every regulatory agency under the Bush Presidency.
His commitment to the environment shown brighter than it had during the
campaign. Then again, he had an issue where he pointed to the
administration’s big-oil-directed environmental policy.
“Why did Ken Lay interview energy
commissioners?” he shouted.
And he took off on the economy and the
Bush administration’s tax breaks for the wealthiest one tenth of one
Al Gore was on. Al Gore was fighting. Al
Gore was good.
He pledged to cross the country this
election helping the Dems keep the Senate and try and take the House. He
portrayed as unimaginable the damage that an unchecked Bush administration
would do to our country.
He has yet to make up his mind about
running for President in 2004. He did, however, sound an awful lot like a
candidate — a candidate who was committed, a candidate who was driven
and a candidate who came “that close” to winning a lifelong dream.
He’ll be back.
No...he is back.
by Dom Nunziato