There’s Only One Diego Maradona

Meet Mr. June! It is Maradona, or, as he is more affectionately known by his millions of fans the world over, “The Divine Diego.” What a hunk! He is 25. Diego comes from Argentina, the country he will be playing for in the World Cup this month. But he plays professional soccer for a club in Naples, Italy. There he is called “The God of Napoli!” They even name their children after him! They buy Maradona wigs, and pizzas too. He loves the people, and they love him! Maradona earns $2 million a year, but it does not go to his head. He signs many autographs. “I came from a poor background,” he says, “so I understand how important soccer is to people.” As you can see from the photographs, Diego leads a very exciting life. In his spare time, Maradona is the UNICEF ambassador for the children of the world. That is just another reason why Armonda Diego Maradona is our Mr. June. Divine!

—  Tom Kertes, Mexico, 1986 

GENOA, 1990 — The Mondiale, a frus­tratingly ambivalent experience, sweeps you up in a corporate-fu­eled dolce vita, then wears you out in a morass of anticlimax and overkill. It leaves you lost on nar­row streets asking for directions to the stadium: the locals always as­sure you it’s straight ahead, can’t miss it, but inevitably it’s five ki­lometers off to the right, on the other side of a highway. In Nap­les’s enormous Stadio San Paolo, hundreds of Romanian fans sing­ing songs of the December revolu­tion wave their blue, yellow, and red tricolor; each flag has a big hole cut out of its middle, a re­minder that back home the fight for democracy is perhaps being lost. The national anthem is played. and the woman sitting next to me is on the verge of tears. “This is an important game for Romania,” I say to her in French after a decent interval, “for many reasons, no?” She looks at me enigmatically and says nothing. “Important,” I try again, this time with an emphasis just short of el­bowing her in the ribs, “because of the events in Bucharest — the miners, the government, the dem­onstrations … ” She half-nods noncommittally. I see from her la­pel pin that she works for Roma­nian state radio.

You get pumped for epiphany but end up with exactly what you would’ve expected in the first place. This is what happened to the United States national team. Prior to the selection’s departure for Italy nobody gave them a prayer, but in the last few days before their opening match the phrase “Miracle on Ice” began to appear in newspaper stories, and sportswriters, particularly those who know little about soccer, wondered how the young Ameri­cans might manage to steal a win or a couple of ties and sneak through to the second round. In the end, of course, the U.S. wound up finishing slightly ahead of just one of the other 23 teams, the all-amateur United Arab Emirates, and that’s exactly what everyone expected. Nevertheless, many American reporters who’d come to Italy felt betrayed. So last week at Florence’s Stadia Comun­ale, when the first U.S. players slouched into the interview room after losing their final match to Austria, the reporters asked them the inevitable “How do you feel’?” — a pointed question, since the Yanks had lost, 2-1.

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“We’re disappointed,” said de­fender John Boyle, offering the scribes just the note of contrition they were looking for. “We came to Italy with hopes of moving into the second round, but the loss to Czechoslovakia [a 5-1 debacle] surprised us. There wasn’t much we could do after that.” Jimmy Banks, another backliner, whose game-long battle with rugged Aus­trian attacker Andreas Ogris helped to make the match the roughest of the tournament’s opening round, apologized for al­lowing Ogris to score. So did Des­mond Armstrong, another culpa­ble defender on the play. The room was redolent with shame, hand-wringing, wincing accounts of shattered hopes, and then the reporters asked Tab Ramos for his assessment. “If anything,” said Ramos, “we learned that our soc­cer is closer to the rest of the world than most people thought.”

This was the truest response; for the Americans in this World Cup, God lived in the details. Like in the two goals they scored: Paul Caligiuri’s magnificent solo effort in which he ran past three Czechoslovaks to plant the ball in the net, and Bruce Murray’s op­portunistic garbage goal made possible by Ramos and Peter Ver­mes’s deft give-and-go against the Austrians. Armstrong’s little epiphany game against the Ital­ians, when, “I was able to mark one of the best forwards in the world [Gianluca Vialli], and he only got past me once. There are people back home aching to say they started in the World Cup in Rome against Italy, but only 11 of us did it, and I’m really proud that I’m one of them.”

The American team will get an­other chance in the Mondiale in four years, when the United States plays host to the world’s hugest, most terrifying sporting event. There is a great deal of pressure on the Americans to field a team worthy of the honor, but that’ll be a difficult feat as long as the coun­try remains without a viable pro­fessional league — or, as U.S. Soc­cer Federation president Werner Fricker claims, until the sport in America sheds its “suburban, up­per-middle-class” image and be­comes popular among “poor kids, who know what it means to strug­gle.” Right now, at any rate, the nation’s hopes lie in its players who are good enough to play in European leagues. Caligiuri, per­haps the U.S.A.’s steadiest player, is about to sign on with one of four fair-to-middling first division teams in the Italian League, the world’s best. Twenty-year-old goalkeeper Tony Meola, who per­formed bravely under siege but not as brilliantly as most observ­ers in the U.S. and Italy had pre­dicted, is also about to sign with a midlevel first division Italian club. Ramos, sometimes brilliant as a playmaker, sometimes guilty of tactically unsound individual­ism, is trying to work out a deal with Roda in the Dutch first divi­sion (a stumbling block is the $750,000 transfer fee the U.S. Soccer Federation is demanding  from Roda). And John Harkes, the the American revelation of the tournament for his fire and dogged pursuit of the ball, is negotiating with top teams in Austria  and Belgium. Five other players are talking to European clubs, but right now Caligiuri, Meola, Ramos, and Harkes are the nucleus of the ’94 World Cup team — and of the future of American soccer. “Some kid somewhere in the States is dreaming of playing top flight soccer in the U.S.,” as Caligiuri told a reporter from Rome’s Il Messagero, “and maybe some day that kid will realize his dream. I’d like to think that I will be one of the pioneers.”

It would be nice to end there, with the minor epiphany, but unfortunately the U.S. was one of only three small footballing countries that failed to impress (South Korea and the Emirates were the others). Costa Rica, for example, beat Scotland and Sweden and, most impressively of all, lost 1-0 to joyous and mighty Brazil. With the president and Nobel Peace laureate Oscar Arias Sanchez cheering them on, the Ticos rode the heroic goalkeeping of Luis Cabelo Conejo into the second round, where they finally fell to the Mondiale’s other beacon of civility, Czechoslovakia. Such was Costa Rica’s anonymity that Bob Hughes, soccer columnist for London’s Sunday Times and the International Herald-Tribune, praised the mettle of “this island team.”

On the other side of football’s third world, Cameroon’s Indomitable Lions are now the darlings of the planet. Led by 38-year-old supersub Roger Milla, the Africans humbled defending champion Argentina and flashy Romania before beating the zany Colombians in two overtimes. I might mention here that there is only one city in all of Italy that does not seem to care about the World Cup: inward-looking, medieval Siena, which is preoccupied with the horse race qua internal warfare that is the Palio; no Italian flags in that city, just the banners of Siena’s 17 neighborhoods. Yet, at 7:40 last Saturday, moments after Milla had sealed a victory for the Indomitable Lions, a lone African holding a Cameroon flag strolled into the central square. With each café he passed, the Siennese applauded politely, a delicate rippling sound that wound slowly around the stately piazza.

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The Mondiale revolves around a different kind of world power, the Italians, the Germans, the Dutch — and also the Argentinians and Brazilians, whose encounter in Turin last Sunday marked the first emotional climax of the Mondiale. Thousands of Brazilian fans, some in carnaval fright wigs, some in drag, all in their national team’s yellow jersey, samba’d into the cavernous Stadio Delle Alpi to bury the archrival Argentinians and especially Diego Armando Maradona, the hated, fading prima donna who nonetheless is still the best player the world. Just one minute into the game Brazil established the tempo when Careca (Maradona’s teammate on Napoli, the Italian club champion) ran 50 yards through two Argentine defenders; his shot was just pushed wide of Sergio Goycoechea, the keeper. So it went for the next 70 minutes: Valdo, Alem, Branco, Dunga, Muller, a host of single-named Brazilian footballists, dazzling the crowd with im­possible individual maneuvers and visionary passes, strangling the Argentinian attack, shackling Maradona — but not scoring. The little Argentinian guy sitting next to me is emitting small, choked sounds. “Fifteen times Brazil could’ve scored,” he blurted. ”We are doomed.” Then, with 10 min­utes to go, the stocky Maradona makes one good play, feeding young blond beauty Claudio Can­iggia in the penalty area; Caniggia fakes Taffarel to the ground and … goooalllll! The little Ar­gentinian guy next to me is leap­ing up and down; on the field, Caniggia is mobbed. Maradona lies flat on his back in the corner, alone, his arms raised to heaven. The samba drums in the stands fall silent, the green and yellow flags droop. The game resumes: the Brazilian players are now in disarray, shouting at each other. They almost surrender another goal, but regroup for one last try, and behind me a woman is pray­ing in Portuguese. In the 88th minute Muller gets the ball all alone in front of the net — shoots it wide. The game end, Brazil’s eliminated. The stadium empties out, except for a few knots of leaping, singing, Argenti­na fans, the smiling golden sun on their light blue flags bouncing up and down joyously. Here and there a few Brazilians sit, in shock, staring out at the disas­trously empty field. Afterward Maradona appears before the press for the first time in weeks and is asked what he did on the winning pass. “I prayed to the Lord,” he replies. The defending champ is still alive.

That night in Turin the Argen­tines and Brazilians sat together in bars to watch West Germany trounce the disappointing Dutch in Milan. Then at the Turin sta­tion everyone — South Americans, Italians, Irish, Africans — piled onto the midnight train to Genoa for the next day’s Eire-Romania match (won by Ireland on penalty kicks, 5-4). Four young Napoli fans festooned in a crazy-quilt mixture of Brazil and Argentina garb serenaded the sleeper cars, singing “Un Maradona, c’è solo un Maradona” to the tune of “Guan­tanamera”; “One Maradona, there’s only one Maradona.” The train finally started to pull out. “Ar-gen-tina, Ar-gen-tina,” a couple of young men two windows down chanted to a fat man, dressed in Brazilian yellow and holding a Forza Italia flag, stand­ing near the end of the pier. “Ca-mer-un, (Ca-me-run.” chanted the fat man in response. Everybody cheered, and then the train pulled away into the night, on to the next game at the world championships of football. ❖


Still Krazy After All These Years

Of all classic comic strips, George Her­riman’s Krazy Kat was the most bril­liantly formulaic. For over 30 years, the daily installment climaxed more often than not wi1h the strip’s eponymous star taking a well aimed brick on the head. You might call it a “riff” if you were inclined to be musical.

Krazy Kat — which ended as a strip during World War II and has now been anthologized for the first time in decades by the team of Patrick McDonnell, Karen O’Connell, and Georgia Riley de Have­non — is based on an eternal triangle, a setup that confounds conventional animal (if not necessarily human) behavior. Kat loves mouse and is, in turn, adored by dog — thus establishing an equilibrium based on longstanding obsession and mu­tual misunderstanding.

The strip is a rondo of unrequited love. Ignatz, a spindly splenetic mouse, despises Krazy; his greatest pleasure is beaning the hapless Kat with a brick. For Krazy, however, the brick is proof that Ignatz cares: “L’il ainjil, he has rewarded my watchful waiting,” Krazy beams after being conked. The doggedly faithful Of­fissa Pupp, hopelessly in love with the oblivious Kat, jails Ignatz after each assault. Thus, in a sense, every cliché comes true and all the characters get what they want. Krazy Kat, many commentators feel obliged to observe (as they don’t, for example, of War and Peace), is a fantasy.

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No less than Charlie Chaplin, its only pop rival for the affection of Jazz Age aesthetes, Krazy Kat synthesized a particular mixture of sweetness and slapstick, playful fantasy and emotional brutality. The strip acknowledges life’s school of hard knocks and then negates it. Herriman’s quintessential image is Ignatz crowning Krazy with a brick — the trajectory marked “zip,” then “pow” (or sometimes “bop”) as the missile bounces upwards off the back of Krazy’s head. The image is as visceral as a drawing can get — the monomaniacal mouse is into his Walter Johnson-like follow-through, while Krazy is knocked forward at a 45-degree angle by the force of the blow. A bump is never raised, yet as Krazy pitch­es stiffly toward the earth, a dotted line culminating in a little heart issues from the Kat’s forehead. Usually, the fantastic vista of Coconino County, Herriman’s version of Monument Valley, can be glimpsed in the background.

If Krazy Kat was one strip that never ducked the violence inherent in the term “punch line,” it owed considerable charm to its subject’s personality — the Kat’s ro­mantic optimism, philosophical ram­blings, amiable propensity for ukulele-­accompanied song (“There is a heppy lend, fur, fur a-wa-a-ay”). The strip has no mystery greater than that of Krazy’s sex. Most observers assume it is female. In one 1920 Sunday page, the Kat even carries a banner for women’s suffrage (Ig­natz is thinking he’ll support the movement until he discovers who holds the placard aloft: “I’m for no ‘party’ that has that ‘Krazy Kat’ in it”).

Unlike Krazy, Herriman refused to commit himself. “I don’t know. I fooled around with it once; began to think the Kat is a girl — even drew up some strips with her being pregnant,” he wrote. “It wasn’t the Kat any longer; too much con­cerned with her own problems — like a soap opera. Know what I mean? Then I realized Krazy was something like a sprite, an elf. They have no sex. So that Kat can’t be a he or a she. The Kat’s a spirit — a pixie — free to butt into anything. Don’t you think so?” His certainty is less than overwhelming.

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Herriman’s mystical sense of his cre­ation is epitomized by a 1917 Sunday page in which the Kat asks a Ouija board who his enemy is, receives the answer I-G-N-A-T-Z, and refuses to believe it, stomping the Ouija board (which, of course, turns out to belong to Ignatz) into a crumpled accordion. In an often reprinted box at the bottom of the page, Herriman apologizes to the spirits on Krazy’s behalf: “You have written truth, you friends of the shadows. Yet, be not harsh with Krazy. He [sic] is but a shad­ow himself, caught in the web of this mortal skein. We call him ‘cat,’ we call him ‘crazy’ yet he is neither.” Herriman goes on to conclude that even after Krazy passes into the shadows, “you will under­stand him no better than we who linger on this side of the pale.” Is Krazy then a sphinx without a secret?

This spirit of Krazy-ness governs every aspect of Coconino County. In marked counterpoint to the strip’s rigorous for­mula is its delirious, insistent flux. Herri­man’s attitude toward his graphic details was one of jazzy insouciance. Not only was the Krazy Kat logo a mutable, unsta­ble design but, in blatant contradiction of the continuous action, panels typically alternate between day and night (the lat­ter often signified by a crescent moon resembling a decrepit mobile fashioned from a warped Frisbee).

Albeit taken literally from Monument Valley (where Herriman spent much time after the mid-’20s), the landscape of Co­conino County was wildly fluid, shimmer­ing more drastically than the most extravagant mirage: One typical strip opens with Krazy and Ignatz talking on a hill­side, the second panel places them in a suburban yard, the third further up the hill, the fourth on a drawing tacked to a wall, and the fifth against some nonde­script horizon. The sixth and final panel finds the pair back in the yard, standing by a wall from which Ignatz meaningfully extracts a brick.

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At once crude and delicate, Herriman’s line seems almost free-associational in its spontaneity. Actually, his drawings are masterpieces of dramatic economy, achieving miracles of individuation and expression through body language and suggestive absences. Less is usually more: Because Ignatz has no mouth, for exam­ple, his eyes become beacons of preter­natural alertness on an otherwise blank face. Like Paul Klee’s, this work often looks like inspired doodling, but don’t be fooled; as much as it celebrates Herri­man’s quasi-automatic drawing, the Abrams anthology emphasizes his canny vulgar modernism. From the late ’30s on, the dailies are full of referential gags — ­characters address their creator, make their own drawings, or use erasers to alter reality. In one 1940 strip, Krazy heaves a brick against the side of the frame — it ricochets like a banked billiard ball up and off the top of the frame to slam her on the head. In another, Ignatz makes strategic use of a black brick, having suc­cessfully predicted the placement of the strip’s all black frame.

In the mid-’20s, Herriman’s fanciful Sunday layouts were standardized to give newspapers greater flexibility in running them. As Herriman chafed under this new formal, the authority figure of Of­fissa Pupp came to the fore; even so, the layouts of the late Sunday pages have the sort of impacted, tightly integrated cur­vaciousness — not to mention burnt, sandy colors — of classic SoCal bunga­lows. Although some of the more extrava­gant Sunday pages are wordless (one 1918 example is an extended, chilling riff on trench warfare), Krazy Kat is as dis­tinctive for its use of language as it is for its other particulars. Krazy speaks with a kind of stage Yiddish accent, tempered with miscellaneous Sam Wellerisms: ‘”Oh what a unheppy ket I am these brickliss days-oy-yoi-yoi!” Offissa Pupp special­izeh in ineptly highfalutin (often self-­pitying) speeches: “Krazy burns a late candle tonight — I trust it attracts neither moth nor mouse.” Only Ignatz, as the reality principle (he’s also a householder with a large family), speaks relatively plain English.

Krazy Kat counted Willem DeKoon­ing and Jack Kerouac among its fans; the strip was always a cult writ large. When Herriman died in 1944, it was only being syndicated in 35 newspapers, as com­pared to the more than 1000 that carried Blondie. Indeed, William Randolph Hearst was Herriman’s incongruous patron; he liked the strip and he kept it going. (According to McDonnell, O’Con­nell, and De Havenon, he even forced Herriman, humble to a fault, to accept a raise.)

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As Herriman ‘s creation is widely held to have been the greatest of comic strips, theories of Krazy Kat abound. Gilbert Seldes’s pioneering 1922 appreciation (reprinted in the Abrams book, it first appeared in Vanity Fair) compared Her­riman to the Douanier Rousseau. For Seldes, Krazy was a combination of Don Quixote and Parsifal (with Ignatz his ma­lign Sancho Panza, if not Kundry). Twenty-four years later, when the strip was posthumously anthologized, e.e. cummings furnished a suitably high-­toned introduction. In his view, the “humbly poetic, gently clown-like, su­premely innocent, illimitably affection­ate” Krazy was nothing less than the spirit of democracy itself struggling against the excesses of individualism (Ig­natz) and the stupidity of society (Offisa Pupp).

More recently, Arthur Asa Berger has seen the strip as an existential parable; by Franklin Rosemont’s anarcho-surreal­ist lights, Krazy Kat is “utopian in the best sense, signifying the imaginative cri­tique of existing values and institutions, and the presentation of imaginary alter­native societies.” There is also a belliger­ent view that Krazy Kat has no meaning. In reviewing the 1946 anthology for Partisan Review, Robert Warshaw saw the strip as inspired nonsense, comparable to Lewis Carroll: “We do best to leave Krazy Kat alone. Good fantasy never has an easy and explicit relation to the real world.” (Although Warshaw admired the strip’s “fresh quality of pure play,” he expressed a decidedly Partisan anxiety over its “complete disregard of the stan­dards of respectable art.”)

The Abrams book provides material for some new theories. Herriman was a notoriously private person and particu­larly vague about his background. (On his death certificate, his daughter main­tained that his parents had been born in France; colleagues used to refer to him as “the Greek.”) With some difficulty, McDonnell, O’Connell, and De Havenon have researched Herriman’s background and confirmed the long-standing rumor that he was of African descent: Born in New Orleans in 1880, Herriman was clas­sified as “colored” on his birth certifi­cate, and his parents were listed as mu­lattos in that year’s census.

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Catholic and French-speaking, the so-called “colored Creoles” of New Orleans were a tight-knit, sophisticated elite, de­scended from “free persons of color” who emigrated from the West Indies. Al­though the 10,000 or so who lived in New Orleans in the late 19th century were mainly professionals and shopkeepers, their position rapidly eroded with the in­stitutionalized segregation that followed the end of Reconstruction. Indeed, it was just at this time — around 1886 — that Herriman’s family left New Orleans for Los Angeles, where his father found work as a barber and a baker. In 1900, George rode the rails to New York City. By 1903, he was on staff at the New York World.

McDonnell, O’Connell, and De Have­non suggest Krazy Kat’s distinctive patois might be a memory from the Creole quarter of New Orleans. That’s scarcely the only aspect of Coconino County the revelation of Herriman’s background throws into new light. One wonders about the folk stories Herriman might have heard as a child, and Krazy’s vaunted Egyptian heritage now seems like some­thing more than a casual conceit. “Re­member Krazy, my child, you are a Kat — a Kat of Egypt,” she’s told by Kleopatra Kat in one 1919 Sunday page, which also gives the origin of the mouse’s custom “to crease his lady’s bean with a brick laden with tender sentiment.”

In view of Herriman’s origins, the per­sistent comparison of Krazy Kat to the rhythm and spontaneity of jazz takes on an added resonance. The comics and jazz appeared on the American scene at roughly the same time. But how many comics shared Krazy’s distinctive formal mixture of sweetness and rough-and­-tumble, consistency and improvisation. Jazz, as Franklin Rosemont points out, was full of “crazy cats.” Jelly Roll Morton, another Creole given to fantasy and hyperbole, was only five years younger than Herriman. It was he who saw the riff as both jazz’s background and foundation.

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“Krazy Kat was not conceived, not born, it jes’ grew,” Herriman is quoted as saying. His admission is startling both for its equation of Krazy with Harri­et Beecher Stowe’s Topsy and for its echo of James Weldon Johnson’s state­ment about the ori­gin of “the earliest ragtime songs.” Johnson, another Herriman contem­porary, published his novel The Auto­biography of an Ex­-Colored Man two years after Krazy’s spontaneous debut. In fact, Krazy Kat did jes’ grow out of the cracks of anoth­er Herriman strip, The Dingbat Family (a/k/a The Family Upstairs, for the Dingbats’ unseen nemesis). The strip published on July 26, 1910, contains an incidental gag: the Dingbats’ cat had his bean honked by a brick-wielding mouse. Eureka!

The relationship between this cat and that mouse soon became a sort of sub­strip beneath the main action; in late 1913, they were spun off into a comic strip of their own. Thus, the Kat was an eruption from below — not just from the underworld of The Dingbat Family and the lower depths of American popular culture but also from Herriman’s uncon­scious. Ishmael Reed’s Mumbo Jumbo — ­which is dedicated to, among others, “George Herriman, Afro-American” — ­uses that concept of Jes Grew as a meta­phor for jazz (and popular culture in general).

From the first, Herriman’s comic strips revolved around compulsive eccentrics — ­one wonders if he wasn’t the most com­plex of them all. His love for Monument Valley, his identification with indigenous Indian culture, his fondness for western Stetsons — not to mention Krazy’s sexual ambiguity and unrequited passion — take on a certain poignancy in view of what must have been an ontological insecurity regarding his own identity. Herriman’s most African feature was evidentally his tightly curled hair — it’s striking that, in virtually every photograph, he’s wearing a hat.

Does Krazy Kat then exorcise the sort of gut-twisting anxiety and guilt engen­dered by passing for white in a segregat­ed culture? Are these brickbats signs of love? Is Coconino County an American utopia? Denial, raised to the sublime, is what Krazy Kat is all about.❖

1986 Village Voice article by Hoberman on Krazy Kat

1986 Village Voice article by Hoberman on Krazy Kat


Adnan Khashoggi’s Manhattan Grab

The four Manhattan commercial properties that symbolize the “hid­den wealth” of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos have become the subject of increasingly acrimonious litigation in federal District Court. An agent for Saudi arms merchant and de­veloper Adnan Khashoggi who appeared on the scene last summer claiming an interest in three of the four buildings is denouncing the New York Land Compa­ny, Marcos’s managing agent, for “looting” the properties. The reply of New York Land principal Joseph Bernstein is that Khashoggi is engaged in a fraudu­lent attempt to seize the buildings. The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the Philippine government of President Corazon Aquino, says they’re both right: therefore, the court should place all four buildings in receivership.

The Khashoggi claims may represent an effort by Marcos to get around a pre­liminary injunction issued last May by U.S. Judge Pierre N. Leval. Any sale or transfer of the properties has been frozen under this landmark order, won by CCR attorney Morton Stavis, which is the first court recognition of a sovereign nation’s right to freeze U.S. assets stolen by an ousted dictator.

Karl Peterson, a business associate of Khashoggi’s, has claimed that the wealthy Saudi arms dealer and develop­er — who played a prominent role in the secret sale of U.S. weapons to Iran — ei­ther owns or controls the properties. For several weeks last fall, lawyers for the Aquino government and New York Land Company were engaged in three-way ne­gotiations with Peterson and New York land seeking a settlement disposing of the buildings, which are encumbered by mortgages and other liabilities and currently losing money. The chief evidence of Khashoggi’s interest is a “declaration of trust,” with a section whited out, dated August 8, 1985, and allegedly signed in Panama City by Gliceria Tantoco, a crony of Imelda Marcos.

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Stavis, who was first approached by Peterson last summer, originally chose to deal with him because of uncertainty that the decision by Judge Leval prohibiting any transfer of the properties would be upheld on appeal. Had the properties been sold, they might have been lost to the Philippine government permanently. But on November 26, Stavis’s original victory was ratified by the Court of Appeals.

Peterson, meanwhile, has charged that New York Land “looted” the properties, mainly by siphoning off millions in inflated legal expenses through a law firm­ — Bernstein, Carter and Deyo — that includes Joseph Bernstein.

Before the negotiations ended, a tentative settlement was reached that would have paid about $56 million to the Philippine government, and almost $19 mil­lion to the various corporations that hold title to the buildings —40 Wall Street, 200 Madison Avenue, the Crown Building, and the Herald Center. The buildings themselves would have been acquired by New York Land, whose principals, Joseph and Ralph Bernstein, had concealed the Marcoses’ interest until a congressional investigation nearly sent them jail for contempt early this year.

According to court papers filed by New York Land, the settlement fell apart when Peterson demanded an “up front” payment of $5 million to Triad International, a Khashoggi company. Court papers filed by New York Land say that Citibank then decided to foreclose on 40 Wall Street, which has defaulted on a $39-million mortgage from the bank. Prompted by the foreclosure action, Judge Level placed 40 Wall Street in receivership last week.

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Identifying himself as a longtime Khashoggi associate formerly based in Manila, Peterson has produced copies of documents purporting to show that he represents the owners of three Panamanian corporations which, through complicated holding and stock relationships, control the four buildings. Following the breakdown of settlement negotiations last month, Peterson filed suit to remove New York Land as the managing agent for three of the four buildings.

In a deposition taken last month, Peterson claimed to have met with Marcos himself four times this year in Honolulu, and said that Khashoggi indicated that he had obtained an interest in Herald Center sometime in 1985.

The Bernsteins, however, insist that Peterson and Khashoggi are not acting on authority of the Marcoses; and they add that a Marcos financial advisor, Rolando Gapud, and Marcos’s Washington attorney, Stanton Anderson, have so advised them.

In a December 2 affidavit, Joseph Bernstein accused Peterson and Khashoggi’s chief aide, Robert Shaheen, of suggesting a scheme last May in which Khashoggi would have been fraudulently portrayed in court as the properties’ real owner. This would have undermined the Philippine government’s claim to the buildings as ill-gotten gains of the deposed Marcos, and frustrated the injunction which the Aquino government had then just won. Bernstein said he declined to participate in the alleged fraud.

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Since then, he charged, Peterson has “improperly transferred assets of the four building to a Khashoggi enterprise” through a complex set of transactions involving a Swiss bank, and “engaged in death threats” against the Bernsteins “to gain his ends.” Bernstein said he received messages from Peterson that Khassoggi “plays rough,” and that he would be receiving a visit from “a notorious hit man.”

What is Khashoggi up to? Stavis, the attorney for the Aquino government, believes that Khashoggi may be acting as some kind of “commission agent” for Marcos in an effort to clean up the problem over the New York properties. Marcos may have engaged Khashoggi’s assistance to get around the court orders forbidding sale of the properties, or negotiate a settlement that would produce some cash.

Stavis certainly doesn’t believe that Khashoggi acquired control of the building before the court order went into effect and insists that any transfer of the buildings into Khashoggi’s hands violated that order. But the squabbling of Khashoggi and the Bernsteins may no longer matter much. With the favorable appellate decision in his pocket, Stavis seems confident that the Philippine people will eventually recover much of the hidden wealth that the Manhattan properties represent. ❖


The Tax Evaders

The Voice has learned that Henry Kissinger, Frank Sinatra, Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Trump, and other celebrities were involved in a sales tax evasion scam that result­ed in the indictment last year of an exclu­sive Fifth Avenue jeweler and two of its executives.

Danaos Ltd., which operates the Bul­gari jewelry store in the Hotel Pierre, was charged in the indictment with failing to collect sales tax on more than $1.5 mil­lion in transactions. The indictment al­leges that Bulgari and two of its officials, Nicola Bulgari and Richard Storm, used the “empty box” scam to illegally allow customers to avoid paying New York State sales tax. Customers with out-of-­state addresses would have their pur­chases recorded as being mailed or deliv­ered to them in order to avoid paying sales tax. However, the indictment charged, customers would leave Bulgari with their jewelry, while store employees would mail an empty box, or one contain­ing a piece of costume jewelry, to the out­-of-state address.

The Danaos indictment refers to 101 separate transactions, ranging from $240 to $130,000 per item, on which the scheme was employed. While Attorney General Robert Abrams, who is prosecut­ing the Bulgari case, has refused to re­lease customer names, the Voice has in­terviewed two former Bulgari employees who took part in the scam and compiled a partial list of these customers.

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Both former employees detailed how Bulgari security personnel would package worthless chokers and mail them to customers and how, at Christmastime, they would prebox dozens of chokers to be prepared for the holiday tax evasion rush. The employees also noted that se­curity officials would designate the bogus shipments by marking an asterisk next to the transaction in the company’s regis­tered mail logbook. Bulgari employees, investigators discovered, often put only enough postage for an empty box on packages supposedly containing items ranging in weight from a few ounces to several pounds.

During the period audited by state investigators — December 1980 to March 1983 — Bulgari customers involved in the empty box scam included:

  • Henry Kissinger, who made two pur­chases, totaling about $20,000, on which he did not pay sales tax. His lawyer, Ar­thur Liman, does not dispute this, but claims that Bulgari “should have charged him the tax, but they didn’t. It’s their fault.” Liman said that Kissinger’s assis­tant, Chris Vick, was subpoenaed to tes­tify before the grand jury, but that Kis­singer himself was not called. While Liman denied that empty boxes were sent to two Washington, D.C., addresses, a former Bulgari employee told the Voice that he delivered the boxes to the post office.
  • Frank Sinatra had jewelry delivered, on at least three occasions, to his Waldorf Towers suite, where an aide would sign for it. Empty boxes were mailed to casi­nos in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, ac­cording to a former Bulgari employee, who estimated Sinatra’s purchases at about $30,000.
  • Mary Tyler Moore purchased about $20,000 in jewelry during the audited pe­riod and had it delivered to her West Side home. The empty boxes were sent to a business associate in New Jersey. Jack­ie Becher, Moore’s publicist, said the ac­tress was busy rehearsing a new play and would have no comment.
  • Donald Trump, according to the for­mer employees, made at least two pur­chases at the store — a necklace for $50,000 and a second purchase of about $15,000. On the smaller purchase, an empty box was sent to the Connecticut home of Trump’s former attorney Roy Cohn. Trump’s spokesman, Howard Ru­benstein, said that the developer denied using the empty box scheme and that his purchases at Bulgari “were bona fide transactions.”[related_posts post_id_1=”397777” /]
  • Takeover specialist Ronald Perel­man, who last week made a $40 million profit on a stock sale, was one of the store’s biggest customers, and often bene­fited from the scam. A Bulgari employee would deliver Perelman’s jewels to the East 63rd Street headquarters of MacAn­drews & Forbes, his company. Bulgari’s business records made it appear that the jewelry was actually mailed to a Philadel­phia address. On one occasion, store re­cords were doctored to make it appear that a Bulgari car drove to Philadelphia to deliver an item to Perelman. Ruben­stein, Perelman’s spokesman, said that the businessman contends “he made no such purchases and did not appear before the grand jury.”
  • Adnan Khashoggi, the billionaire Saudi Arabian arms dealer, made two purchases totaling more than $200,000 worth of silver items and had them deliv­ered by courier to his Olympic Towers residence. The empty boxes were sent to Geneva. Khashoggi is reported to be the world’s richest man; the empty box scheme saved him about $17,000.
  • C. Z. Guest, who writes a weekly gar­dening column for the Post and is a sta­ple on New York’s social scene, allowed various friends to use her Florida estate as a dumping ground for empty boxes. Guest, herself one of Bulgari’s biggest customers, refused to answer Voice questions.
  • Television producer Mark Goodson used a Fair Lawn, New Jersey, address for his empty boxes. A spokesman for Goodson said be was subpoenaed to tes­tify before the grand jury, but never did. Goodson’s lawyer, Roy Blakeman, did not return Voice calls.

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Though many customers, in effect, conspired with Bulgari to evade sales tax, Abrams has contended that since it is a retailer’s obligation to collect sales tax, they are the only ones who can be suc­cessfully prosecuted. Later this week, Storm and Bulgari will appear before Judge Harold Rothwax where a plea agreement may be announced. ■


Sanctifying the Evangelical Vote

Pulpit Politics

The major political event of 1986 has been the emergence of the Christian right as a disciplined voting bloc within the Republican party. While television evangelist Pat Robertson may be its initial beneficiary, the ride of these white fundamentalist Christians could help push the Republicans further along the road towards majority party status. And in the process it broadens the ideological base for the right, some of whose leaders have been identified with fundamentalism and who have been the stalwarts of the Reagan Revolution.

Inspired by Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority (recently renamed the Liberty Federation), and unscathed by derisory press, the Christian right has shown itself to be a disciplined political machine this spring. Recently, Christian candidates in Michigan loyal to Pat Robertson outnumbered those pledged to George Bush and Jack Kemp in precinct caucuses. The caucuses are the first step in picking delegates to the Republican national convention in 1988. After the Michigan vote, Robertson and Bush were roughly even in delegate strength — about 35 to 40 percent, which Jack Kemp had 20-30 per cent. Robertson campaigned as if he were in the final stage of a presidential election, making half a dozen personal appearances and spending $100,000 to stage a political rally that was televised across the state. Overall, Robertson’s supporters spent far more than his rivals.

Right-wing Christian candidates also dominated last month’s Republican Party delegate and platform process in Des Moines, Iowa. In two Indiana House districts, avowedly Christian candidates recently scored upsets to gain Republican nominations, and in Oregon a fundamentalist Baptist minister drew 43 percent of the vote in the GOP primary against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Bob Packwood. Robertson has hosted fund-raisers for Christian Republican candidates in Tennessee and New Mexico. And fundamentalists in Minnesota are battling to win the Republican gubernatorial candidacy.

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The term evangelical encompasses Protestant individuals and groups with different political views who share a belief in the authority of the Scriptures. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. There are significant groups of evangelicals in the South and Midwest. And within these communities, right-wing, white Christian fundamentalists of the Robertson stripe account for a small but active bloc.

If it could ever be organized, the so-far amorphous and conflicted evangelical vote could be an important factor in politics. Twenty years ago the Gallup poll, which probes evangelism, found that 20 percent of the public claimed to have had a born-again experience (the gauge of evangelism used by Gallup). In 1984, the figure rose to 39 percent. If accurate, this means there are more than 65 million adult evangelicals and potential voters. And while these figures often are dismissed as too high, they may actually underplay the strength of the evangelical movement. Two-thirds or more Americans side with Christian fundamentalists in favor of tougher pornography laws, against homosexuals teaching in public schools, and in the belief that prayer is important, according to Gallup. Over 50 percent were opposed to abortion. All of these have been hotly debated issues on the campaign trail this spring.

Pat Robertson’s victory in Michigan last week makes it all the more likely that he will run for president. He now is a real threat to Jack Kemp, whose natural constituency he is attracting, and a serious obstacle to George Bush. Like Jesse Jackson in the Democratic Party, Robertson could become a major, if not decisive, factor in who gets the nomination and in the setting of party priorities.

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The Christian right poses a severe problem for George Bush, who in 1980 was widely portrayed on the right as an East Coast establishment figure who was both ineffective and soft on communism. Bush has since gained grudging respect from the right. But Robertson, like Reagan, is charismatic, and his right-wing credentials are unquestionable. Whatever the result of the presidential campaign, Robertson has and will act as a corrective influence on Bush, moving debate within the party further right.

When Bush’s advisers warned him recently that Robertson was moving up fast in Michigan and could wipe him out, the vice-president brushed them aside. Since the vote, Bush agents have been attempting to put their best face forward, insisting that the vice-president and Robertson equally split the vote. Privately, one Bush operative acknowledged that Robertson “got it all.”

Robertson is all the more powerful in these early stages because Bush has no real strategy for winning the evangelical vote. Jerry Falwell’s early support of Bush, once thought to be an asset, has turned into a hindrance. “There’s not one single plus in Falwell,” says a Bush adviser, who argues the Moral Majority leader has been discredited among fundamentalists because of his inflexibility (i.e., his unyielding defense of apartheid). Bush still has supporters among fundamentalists — TV evangelist Jim Bakker, for one. And he has good friends, including TV evangelist Billy Graham and Robert Schuller. In an effort to remedy his diminished stature among evangelicals, Bush will soon distribute a videotape in which he explains his position on various matters of faith. Some advisers hope Bush will ingratiate himself with evangelicals by making the protection of their political rights a campaign issue. But after Michigan, the vice-president’s advisers are glum. They acknowledge that Bush must move fast or face a cohesive fundamentalist bloc of Roberson supporters.

The rise of the Christian right within the Republican Party could be the galvanizing event that organizes the evangelical vote. Or, if the Democrats have their way, it could tar the GOP as the party of Jesus freaks. “The religious right is now institutionalized in the Republican Party … they have gained more influence over hitherto moderate candidates,” says Kevin Phillips, the political analyst. Having to address the interests of a fringe within the party, he says, “is likely to cause trouble for the Republicans rather than being an almost unmitigated plus.”

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Up the hill from sterile downtown Des Moines lies the political redoubt of the new Christian right — the large complex that houses the First Federated Church, its offices, and its Christian school. A few blocks away stands the equally impressive First Assembly of God Church. Within these buildings, fundamentalist churchmen preach both the Bible and politics. First Federated, which has a Sunday television worship program and a congregation of over 2000, has contacts with Falwell’s Moral Majority and Robertson’s Freedom Council. The church is active in voter registration and issues report cards on how politicians stand on issues that matter to its members. Recently, officials of the churches and members of their congregations have begun to organize the priorities of the city’s Republican Party apparatus.

Iowa is in the news these days because of the farm crisis. But it may turn out that religious conservatism will play a stronger role in the state’s politics than the demise of the family farm. The social issues of the Christian right have had a thorough airing in Iowa. The state, for example, has been the center of a fight to win equal time for creationism in the public schools.

The center of the Christian movement is in Des Moines (Polk County) and its suburbs (Dallas County). In mid-January, some two dozen fundamentalists in Dallas County met to organize for precinct caucuses. Both Republicans and Democrats were scheduled to hold 22 caucuses where they would elect delegates for county conventions and begin work for political platforms.

“God is giving us one last chance to get our act together,” Steve Scheffler told the group of fundamentalists in Dallas County last January. Scheffler is the state coordinator for the Freedom Council, the Virginia Beach-based organization, founded by Pat Robertson and dedicated to restoring “traditional” American values in government. The Freedom Council is a tax-exempt organization and refrains from overt political endorsement. Scheffler never mentioned Robertson’s campaign; instead, he encouraged the group to form a Christian caucus to plan for the precinct meetings.

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Scheffler himself has little experience in political organizing. He previously ran unsuccessfully for state office in Iowa; then last summer he took a training course in political organizing at the Freedom Council’s headquarters. This past winter in Des Moines, Scheffler became the catalyst for fundamentalist organizing.

“So many times we holler, but we don’t take a stand,” Scheffler told the Dallas County group. “If we want those Christian values returned, we have to get out of the pew.”

Two weeks later, 50 fundamentalists caucused informally at the Dallas Country Christian School and, taking Scheffler at his word, broke into 22 groups, one for each precinct in the county, decided who to nominate at the upcoming caucuses, and discussed possible platforms. Having shown their strength at the precinct caucuses, the Christians moved on to the county conventions and, in Dallas County, easily established dominance. Marc Stiles, a reporter for the Dallas County News who covered the event, gave a description of the debate: Moderate Republican attempts to water down a plank against abortion were easily beaten; an effort to weaken a plank supporting stronger laws against pornography, on grounds that such a law would infringe on the First Amendment, was quickly silenced. “Pornography,” said one fundamentalist delegate, “is stench on the nostrils of the holy God.”

A motion to strike the word “prayer” from a plank supporting a return to prayers and the Pledge of Allegiance in the public school system drew the ire of the Christians. “Removing prayer from the public school system was the same as removing God,” said one. The motion was decisively beaten. Next was a platform supporting the rights of business people and landlords not to accommodate gays. “Everyone thinks it’s cute to see two men kiss,” said another Christian delegate. “I think it’s sick.” The plank that labeled homosexual acts as “perverted sexual deviations not socially acceptable by American society” easily passed over objections by a man who said it was against the law in the U.S. to discriminate against people on the basis of race, religion, and lifestyle.

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Don Morris, the associate pastor of the First Federated Church in Des Moines, began to preach politics during the presidential campaign in 1984. This year he was a delegate to the Republican district convention. Morris says he was drawn to politics by other fundamentalist ministers he admires, and by the examples of Falwell and Robertson. Like many of the fundamentalists I spoke with in Des Moines in late April, Morris voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976, then, realizing the error of his ways, supported Reagan. Morris now supports Bush for president in 1988, as do, he says, many members of his church. In Morris’s view, Bush has been a loyal Reagan-supporter, and he is a more realistic candidate than Robertson.

“For the longest time we blamed the politicians for stealing our rights,” he says. “Then we finally woke up and realized that we hadn’t spoken out when we should have, and said instead of complaining, let’s do what is right as citizens and use our God to bring back to America the Judeo-Christian ethics it was founded on.” Morris is especially concerned with social values. In a pamphlet, “The Battle for Our Children,” he attacks Smurf dolls, whose magical games make them agents of Satan. “If the pulpit does a good job,” Morris says,”the Christian community will always be involved in having a voice in government and legislating morality.”

At the county convention in Des Moines in March, Christian activists distributed a set of principles that revealed how thoroughly they had thought out the political situation. “When you have control of a party,” read one, “it might not be wise to place ‘our’ people into any and every position. Get the counsel of wise Christian politicians when in doubt.”

As the Christian right’s organizing drive in Iowa picked up steam, it made allies among nonreligious conservatives. Among them is Ian Binnie, a fiscal conservative, former member of the Des Moines school board, and secretary of the Polk County Republican Party. “There is an evangelical vote in this area, and it is based on some very clear-cut issues,” Binnie says. “I am not a religious conservative by any means, but I consider them natural allies … I diverge with them on the abortion issue. I wish it would just go away. I concede them the high moral ground.” On prayer in schools: “I’m not sure it did me any good, but it didn’t do me any harm. I can’t get excited about the idea of a minute of silence.”

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“Robertson is a real force, but I don’t see him as a viable candidate,” Binnie says. “Kemp is not as strong here as theoretically he should be. These people are all for Reagan now, and Bush has a loyalty to Reagan. Bush is very powerful here.”

Having successfully gained control of precincts in both counties, then asserting themselves at the county conventions, the alliance of newly active Christian fundamentalists and fiscal conservatives went on to easily dominate the district convention. By margins of two-thirds, they adopted social policy planks attacking abortion and pornography and endorsing family values. The Des Moines Register said the coalition fielded 400 of 450 delegates and attributed the large attendance to the evangelical turnout. Operating with the precision of a political machine, the fundamentalists sought to widen their coalition, supporting moderate Republicans for the party central committee and voting down audacious amendments from their own ranks (i.e., proposals to make committing an abortion a capital crime.)

Bob Dole, the Senate majority leader from Kansas, who is unofficially campaigning for president in 1988, was in Iowa during the county conventions last month. Seeking support from where he could find it, he embraced the Christian right; “the evangelical movement in the GOP is welcome,” Dole said. “There is lots of room in the party … If we want to be the big national party, then we have to be diverse.”

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Christian fundamentalists around Des Moines believe their ideas are misrepresented by the press, which often depicts them as intolerant kooks. So it was with some uneasiness that Jim and Kathy Michael agreed to sit down with me over breakfast in their DeSoto home one recent Saturday morning. We sat in the kitchen over coffee and doughnuts and talked about politics, AIDS, communism, and Christian rock as an antidote for rock ‘n’ roll.

Kathy was brought up in the Baptist Church and, as a child, Jim attended Methodist Church. He left the church early, but became religious as an adult. Jim Michael works for the Des Moines power company. Kathy is a housewife, bringing up their five children — four boys and a girl. Both are fundamentalists and are active in Republican Party politics. Jim has served as a member of the DeSoto planning and zoning commission and most recently spent a four-year stint on the town council. Last year, he ran for mayor and came in third. Over the last four years, Kathy has been a poll-watcher at local elections. Both Michaels were active in previous precinct caucuses, but this year they ran as delegates and won. When asked who they’d support for the presidency, both said they hadn’t made up their minds. “If they were running tomorrow, I’d be in trouble.”

On abortion their views were similar to those of most Christian fundamentalists: “We recognize the amoeba as a primitive form of life,” says Jim. “If scientists can do that, then what is their problem in recognizing that two cells are tying into one and creating life.” Unlike some pro-lifers who oppose the death penalty as inconsistent with their support for sanctity of all life, Kathy Michael was adamant in her support: “An eye for an eye,” she says. “I don’t mean that if someone kills my child I should go out and take his life. I feel that we have laws and that people should abide by them.”

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AIDS has intensified the Michaels’ fear of homosexuals. Both Michaels believe the population at large should be tested for AIDS antibodies, and, “until we know” more, Kathy is for a quarantine. “It even crossed my mind when one of my children had something,” says Kathy. “He kept getting sick. I don’t know how in the world he would have gotten such a thing, but once in a while the thought will cross your mind.”

“I am against homosexuality because God says ‘no.’ But I am not against the homosexual, and there is a difference,” Kathy says. “It’s just like when I tell my children I love them very much, but I do not love everything they do.”

Should homosexuals be denied certain jobs? Should they be permitted to teach in public schools? “I have a hard time with that,” Kathy says. “How do I know if this person keeps his private life to himself. If a person chooses to be a homosexual, that is his right. Does he have the right to molest small children? Many of them do. I’m not saying all of them do.”

“It’s hard to say these people don’t have the right to teach,” says Jim. Kathy disagreed: “My instincts would tell me no because of fear for the children.”

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In the Des Moines area, fundamentalists increasingly have turned to Christian schools, and there is considerable support for teaching children at home. The Michaels support the trend. “I am 100 percent behind it,” Kathy says. “We have to be careful of the textbooks being used today … [they] have socialism in them — material on Russia versus our own country and Marx versus George Washington.”

The Michaels are opposed to communism, not only because they are fearful of aggressive war launched by the Soviet Union, but also because it runs counter to their Christian values. Jim wants to roll back communism.

“I’m not saying we should go into every place with guns,” Jim says. “I’m just saying that they [anti-Communists] may need help and we should aid them. But Communist nations mostly don’t go in and take over militarily. They go in and start educating people. They take their own agents in and begin to cause turmoil. I believe this is happening on our campuses today, that there is a certain amount of turmoil and unrest that is being bred on our campuses. They are putting a lot of questionable doubt in the minds of these future parents and leaders.”

Because they have teenage kids, rock ‘n’ roll music presents a real problem for the Michaels.

“I don’t want rock music in this house,” says Kathy. “I don’t even like this Christian rock music, but we have compromised on that. But now you’ve got backmasking. You can take records and play them backward. They’ve got hidden messages … The new thing is political rock with Bruce Springsteen. I like the music, I just don’t like the words. I think he’s teaching rebellion across the country.”

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Behind the politics of the Christian right lies the powerful engine of Armageddon theology, which lends an emotional intensity to the movement. Numerous fundamentalist leaders — Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson to name but two — preach the doctrine of “premillennialism,” which holds that the world is entering a period of indescribable devastation and suffering. Its climax will be the battle of Armageddon and the return of Christ.

Premillennialists have been wrong in prophesying Armageddon at various points in history. Under President Reagan such prophecies have gained new currency. The president himself speculated on the subject in a 1981 interview with People magazine: “Never, in the time between the ancient prophecies up until now has there been a time in which so many of the prophecies are coming together. There have been times in the past when people thought the end of the world was coming, and so forth, but never like this.”

Jerry Falwell told the Los Angeles Times in 1981, “All of history is reaching a climax, and I do not think we have 50 years left.” And when Falwell was asked whether Reagan agreed with him on such matters, he replied, “Yes he does. He told me, ‘Jerry, I sometimes believe we’re heading very fast for Armageddon right now.'”

The right often pictures the farm crisis in the Midwest as a sign of the end times. Pornography, homosexuality, and AIDS are all viewed as signs of God’s judgment on sinners. The increasing conflagration in the Middle East, Libya’s threatening acts, and Communist aggression in the third world are all seen by some fundamentalists as part of an Armageddon countdown.

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In the story of Armageddon, the Middle East becomes the world’s last battleground, with God saving Israel from destruction by invading armies. In The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon, Hal Lindsey, by far the most popular writer on the meaning of the end times, unaccountably concludes that, although he believes the U.S. will decline in power, it can still survive. “If some critical and difficult choices are made by the American people right now,” he writes, “it will be possible to see the U.S. remain a world power.” The choices Lindsey has in mind amount to embracing a right-wing political program.

Tim LaHaye, self-proclaimed “Christian ambassador to Washington, D.C.,” is president of the American Coalition for Traditional Values, which supports fundamentalist politics. He says he represents 45 million “born-again, Bible-believing Christians.” LaHaye argues that God will rout the Communists: “Some Bible teachers say when God rains fire and brimstone on the armies around Israel, gathered to destroy this nation, he is also going to send a similar fire on the coastlands. Now these coastlands could be the nations of the Western Empire, so that wherever the Marxist spies are entrenched they will suddenly drop dead … That would mean in a practical sense that the Marxist spies in America, on the university campus, in the State Department, wherever they are moled out, and in Great Britain, Canada, and Australia, where they are doing their devious work—suddenly they will be eliminated by fire.”

Other fundamentalist writers counsel that survivalist techniques can help true believers make it through Armageddon until God rescues them in the Rapture. “We are considering the time when Christians will not be able to buy and sell, and will want to be independent of the utility system,” writes Jim McKeever, who says he is a computer expert, consulting economist, and Bible teacher. “You must do whatever God tells you to do at the moment.” McKeever’s brand of survivalism is popular in Christian circles. Pat Robertson wrote the forward to one of his books, and the 700 Club, Robertson’s television show, has promoted the stockpiling of food and other survivalist preparations.

Survivalism is also the connecting link between Christian fundamentalism and far-right anarchism. Some fundamentalists fear that the Antichrist will take over the world economy. National identification cards will be a warning of such an eventuality. Mary Stewart Relfe in When Your Money Fails proposes that Christians should avoid as many financial transactions as possible. They should work hard, remain free of debt, buy land in the country, and learn to live independent of city conveniences. Liquid assets should be turned into gold and silver. All this, according to Relfe, should help Christians fend off Armageddon until God can save them.

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It’s too soon to tell whether the Christian right can organize the evangelical vote and help assure the GOP majority party status. In all likelihood, the Christians will be most successful in exerting their influence within the narrow boundaries of precinct caucuses and party primaries, where small numbers of activists can have a substantial impact. On a larger scale, their influence may be more circumscribed. Though they have pushed debate over party priorities further right, forcing the presidential candidates to heed their interests, they, in turn, will be pulled by the political process toward the middle. If what happened in Iowa is any gauge of the future, the Christians themselves will moderate their program to gain power and eventually form coalitions with fiscal conservatives and even moderates. The ultimate question for Robertson and the Christian politicians is whether they can maintain their ideological program while playing electoral politics. ❖

Research: Marcia Ogrodnik; Andrew Lang at the Christic Institute. See Timothy Weber’s Living in the Shadow of the Second Coming for more on the politics of Armageddon.

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party

1986 Village Voice article by James Ridgeway on evangelical Christians and the Republican party


Cocaine Republic

The bi-prop to Tocache slipped in and out of clouds, above the dark green of the jungle, and since I had a fever the colors were even more intense than usual. Clouds flowed down steep green moun­tains into the deeper green of the Huallaga River valley. The valley floor is broken up by the winding river and occasional tiny airstrips. The hillsides are speckled with coca plantations, like casual slashes in the thick jungle. “There are lots of Colombians in Tocache,” someone had told me in Tarapoto, further north. In the Huallaga, “Colombians” is shorthand for dog-kicking young men with shiny watches. “You shouldn’t go there,” the Tarapoto man had said. “Colombians will kill you just for looking at them.” Colombians have a very bad reputation in Peru.

The Huallaga River valley produces about 40 per cent of the world’s coca leaves, and Tocache’s in the middle of it. The leaves are refined into paste, which is then exported to Colombia to be turned into nose-worthy cocaine. Coca brings roughly $800 million a year into Peru, which recently passed Bolivia as the main source of raw paste. Coca paste is the country’s largest export. In the Huallaga, people use bi-props as if they were cabs. The airlines don’t have sched­ules; the pilot just lounges around until 10 people show up to fill the plane.

I got to Tocache a few days after a general strike to protest government coca-eradication schemes. “Viva Coca!” was scrawled on the town’s walls. “Coca or Death!” Such strikes are traditional in the Huallaga. There had been one last year to protest an attempt by antidrug police to establish a post in the region. 3000 citizens stoned the outpost, and two cars belonging to investigative police were burned. Months later in Uchiza, 27 miles upriver from Tocache, 250 armed citizens surrounded antidrug police, and forced them to leave town. “There wasn’t much shooting — [the drug police] judged they were not in a winning position,” one source said at the time.

These are examples of organized, pop­ular, even democratic violence. There are other kinds of violence in the Huallaga that are merely organized. The narcotra­ficantes have wars among themselves, notably the three famous battles of Ca­chicoto (40 dead), Monzón (40 dead), and Uchiza (100 dead). In April of this year, 40 miles south of Tocache along the Mar­ginal Highway, some 60 soldiers and po­lice were ambushed by narcotraficantes; six were killed. In March two groups of coca farmers fought each other with sticks, machetes, and revolvers, leaving 12 dead and 20 wounded. “Witnesses to the massacre revealed to police that the confrontation occurred because some farmers received 5 intis [about 30 cents] per kilo of coca leaves while others got 50 intis,” said a news report. For a while there was even “terrorism” in the Hualla­ga. From August 1984 to December 1985 the zone was placed under military con­trol because of the alleged presence of Shining Path guerrillas. Human rights activists say they’ve found several com­mon graves dating from this period, presumably a legacy of the armed forces. If you’re looking for violence, the Hualla­ga’s a good place to go.

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I visited Nelson Chavez in his office at Radio Marginal. Nelson is one of those people everyone knows. He is perhaps the only resident of Tocache who could be considered a “booster.” A clean-cut, earnest man around 30, Nelson would listen attentively to ques­tions, then lean forward over the desk, gesturing with open hands, giving an impression of urgent frankness; he clearly felt there were grave misconceptions about Tocache, and he wanted to set them straight. The strike, he said, had not been violent (“What guns? I didn’t see any guns”). And there was no connec­tion between the strikers and narcotrafi­cantes, as was widely alleged.

Radio Marginal had, in a modest, way, supported Tocache’s strikes. It publi­cized the abusive behavior of the drug-­eradication programs. It treated the Front for the Defense of the Interests of the People of Tocache (FEDIP), which ran the strike, as a respectable political group. Radio Marginal had, in an unre­strained moment, encouraged the people of Tocache to help burn those two police cars.

But Nelson didn’t want to talk about militancy, he wanted to talk about devel­opment economics. Because the coca problem is essentially an economic one. People grow it, he says, because they need the money. Most of the farmers are small-timers, emigrants from the Andes who come down to grow coca rather than stay in the mountains and starve; Tocache province’s population has in­creased some 500 per cent since 1980, when the narcotraficantes’ investment program began showing returns. Yes, coca is more profitable than growing po­tatoes. A coca picker makes about $4.70 a day; a day laborer on the coastal planta­tions will get $1.30 a day; a laborer in the mountains would probably get even less, if there were work.

For those who have their own land the difference is still more dramatic: the next most remunerative crop, cocoa, pays about a fifth what coca does. Rice, the only other dimly profitable crop in the region, usually pays even less and re­quires enormous investment. All you have to do for coca is find an unclaimed hillside and cut down the trees.

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Coca farmers don’t, however, make a mint. The narcotraficantes and local middlemen control prices, and they’re not about to pay campesinos a lot of money they can just as easily keep for themselves. In any case, Nelson says, the campesinos would do something else if they could. Nobody likes the life. The police are violent, the narcos are violent, the military are violent. All the Colombians, all the prostitution — “All the hotels have prostitutes!” It’s not very wholesome when you’re raising a family.

Given these hardships, Nelson was surprisingly cheerful. He mentioned that Tocache really needs U.S. money for a hydroelectric project. If the town had this, he said, it would be able to develop a “modern economy.” He thought I might exert some influence back in the States toward getting funding. So maybe the cheerfulness was to say: Sure, things are bad here, but there’s a lot of potential. “The ground underneath Tocache is excellent. It could support very large buildings,” Nelson said. “We could expand tourism here. Tocache has excellent access to the jungle. It’s a beautiful setting.”

We drove around and around on Nel­son’s motorbike while night fell. Tocache doesn’t have a single paved road. It does have a half-dozen banks, several stereo dealerships, and countless restaurants, almost none of which have anything but beer on the menu. It also has six telex machines that do good business, mostly to Bolivia and Colombia.

Nelson, young and energetic, a bache­lor, kept shouting “Hi! How’s it going! What’s up!” to people as we putted by. The reaction was usually a slightly suspi­cious, weak smile. We went past an emp­ty lot where there was a dance party for young people. Lights were strung across the humid evening. Boys slicked back their hair with water, girls smoothed their dresses. “Tocache’s a great town,” Nelson said over the sound of his motor­bike, not for the first time.

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In Tocache I was staying with a Swiss missionary couple, Julio and Veroni­ca. They were, they felt, being run out of town. A mob had come and jeered outside their house earlier in the year. Julio didn’t visit outlying churches for fear of being killed. Their 20-year effort at moral and cultural promotion had been undone by six years of Colombians, coca paste, and consumer goods. The “old Tocache” they’d loved was gone. So they were heading for East Texas, to buy a mobile home and start over. They subjected me to many conversations about Texas, in exchange for room and board.

The morning after Nelson’s optimistic sightseeing tour, Veronica said she’d had trouble sleeping because of the shooting. “I heard two people walking by, like they were drunk, outside the house. One of them kept saying, ‘Don’t kill me. Don’t kill me.'” I told Veronica over breakfast that I was going to the farm of Abelardo Collantes, head of FEDIP. So she prayed for me. “Please protect our friend when he goes out to the farm.” Like many local people, and all of the Lima press, she believed Collantes was involved with the narcotraficantes.

Collantes and I left Tocache standing in the back of a pickup. There were 15 to 20 others in the truck, and it was a small pickup. All during the drive Collantes —­ taut and wiry, standing in the front of the truck-bed with his hands spread on top of the cab, pulpit-style — gave a lecture on the local agrarian economy. Fertilizer’s too expensive; so are water, feed, machinery, seed. “All the best land is taken by big projects, like Emdepalma [an enormous plantation that produces palm oil for export]. It’s land that was taken away from farmers. The big projects forced farmers into the hills. So of course they plant coca. Nothing else grows there.”

Most of our fellow travelers were farm­ers, and they seemed a little embarrassed by Collantes. He was arguing on their behalf; but he was also stretching the truth. Emdepalma does have the best land. But most of the coca farmers, in­cluding Collantes, came down from the mountains in the ’70s and ’80s. Emde­palma was built in the late ’60s.

But Collantes was right about farmers’ costs. What little capital there is will go into coca. That includes loans made available by the year-old Garcia govern­ment to improve agricultural production. “We request an affirmation that [our borrowers] not use the money for coca cultivation,” the state Agrarian Bank’s local director told me. “But we aren’t too we rigid in this respect, because otherwise we might not be able to give loans.”

We rode several hours by truck then walked another half-mile through the jungle. Collantes’s house was a small platform on stilts with a thatched roof. A little stream went by the clearing, and in the stream were ducks. There were various farm animals wandering around, including a dozen guinea pigs, which are eaten on special occasions (the meat is lean and delicious; the little rodents are fattened on special herbs). Collantes isn’t a merchant prince but life at streamside looked, by Peruvian standards, pretty comfortable. In Peru, if you can eat suffi­ciently and sleep in safety you’re in the privileged class.

We sat down to lunch with Collantes’s wife, daughter, and the coca farmer from next door. “The government and the press have satan-ized this area. They say that the campesinos are like the narco­traficantes. But it isn’t so. People think we’re making a fortune here. But we’re just getting by.” The other farmer mainly nodded while Collantes talked.

After lunch Collantes took me on a tour of his property. He has an outbuild­ing full of farm machinery, mostly Ameri­can, all waiting for spare parts. We went by his fields of rice and maize. We went by a pig shed which he’s quit working on because of the price of feed. Then we walked up and up a jungle mountain. There was almost no path, it was very slippery and steep. Collantes, though not young, showed annoying stamina. Peruvi­an men sometimes get into this competi­tive thing when gringos visit.

“This … is where … they dry the leaves,” he said when we reached the ridge. We stood in a clearing and wheezed for a while. There was coca everywhere, light green leaves fluttering in the sun­light, against the deep green of the jun­gle. Dark clouds were rolling over the highest mountains, further to our left. We walked down into the middle of a coca field where a farmer had built a little open hut.

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In the hut Collantes returned to a fa­miliar theme — American morality. Is drug addiction increasing? he wants to know. Doesn’t all the drug abuse in my country bother people? Why do people pay so much for coca? If it’s harmful, why doesn’t the government do something about it?

I tried to give a little socioeconomic profile of drug abuse in America, explain­ing cocaine as an aspect of bourgeois consumerism. I told favorite anecdotes about Betty Ford and Pat Nixon being pharma­ceutical junkies. While carefully avoiding personal details, I tried to explain coke’s considerable allure. In any case, once Collantes heard the word “bourgeois” a few times he thought he’d gotten the drift and began to pay attention to other drugs, namely the plants around him — “The person who owns these doesn’t take very good care of them.”

A cool breeze was blowing through the hut, making it very pleasant. I took photos while Collantes scurried to stay out of them. It was odd to think that New York’s recreational habits were determining the fabric of life in a distant and unknown place. It was also odd to watch Collantes display his poverty, nervously jumping around some dimly perceived standard. He wanted to be the right kind of poor; he didn’t want to be ashamed; but he didn’t want to starve either. He had an idea that people far away think people like him are evil, or at least greedy.

Collantes left me on the road with two drunken drivers in an old Chevrolet. The three of us chatted about life in Tocache. The driver said that the shooting is worst near the center of town, and by the river.

“Why by the river?”

“They take the bodies to get rid of them.”

“And the current is strong enough to carry the bodies?”

“Sure it’s strong enough! It’s the Huallaga!”

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Tingo Maria was for several years the capital of Peru’s coca indus­try. Tourist books warned travel­ers not to go there. Tingo Maria is surrounded on three sides by hills; on the fourth side, the Mar­ginal Highway descends into the Huallaga valley. Some of the hills are supposed to represent the body of a woman. In Tingo’s heyday these hills served an im­portant purpose for visiting journalists. They provided a nice segue into adjec­tives about sensuousness, corruption, and moral abandon. But Tingo’s days as the country’s premier coca boomtown have passed, and so the adjectives have been abandoned as well.

Now it’s just “dirty,” or maybe “mean.” Tingo still runs on coca money, but it’s done more subtly than before. In 1982 the Reagan administration put pres­sure on then-president Belaunde to do something about the narcotics business. American advisers came, spent money, and created three programs: PEAH, which was intended to encourage alterna­tive crops and improve local infrastruc­ture, particularly in education and trans­port; CORAH, which would hire engi­neers and field workers to eradicate coca plantations; and UMOPAR, charged with protecting CORAH workers as well as in­vestigating narcotraficantes and demol­ishing clandestine airstrips.

These programs set up shop in Tingo Maria. As a result the hills immediately around the city are not thick with coca like the Huallaga further north. So the farmers who once worked the Tingo hills have either left or become peddlers or beggars or thieves. Tingo is the only Hua­llaga town with a large number of beggars.

Outside of greater Tingo Maria, how­ever, there’s not much evidence of the programs’ success. Airstrips are de­stroyed by UMOPAR then rebuilt in days; CORAH uproots the occasional plantation, but the amount of land under coca continues to increase. PEAH has had more lasting effect — it has contribut­ed to public works projects and educating local administrators — but the program is now moribund for lack of funds and gen­eral public antipathy within the coca zone.

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CORAH’s headquarters are in an un­marked white building on a side street and everyone in Tingo knows exactly how to get there. There’s a high protective wall around the compound. Behind the wall are men in civilian clothes with auto­matic weapons, and a staff of engineers and secretaries. I went to talk with two of the head engineers about Tocache’s strike. The government had said CORAH would be suspended while being “reeval­uated.” The Tocache Defense Front had taken this as their big victory. Collantes felt the strike had forced a re-think of eradication policies generally. The press in Lima took this idea and blew it up to mean there wouldn’t be any more plant-­eradication efforts. So I wanted to know what CORAH thought about that.

The two engineers weren’t eager to talk. When we met, in their conference room at dusk, they said I couldn’t use their names. As we talked it got darker in the room, and they were whispering. All of which seemed rather melodramatic except that the engineers were sincerely terrified. “Narcotics traffic has much in­fluence, but under the table. They have a lot of power, and a lot of money.” In November 1984, 19 engineers and work­ers from CORAH were murdered in their sleep.

As far as the engineers are concerned the Tocache strike was inconclusive. “We are going to continue. Everything’s pre­pared. And the eradication program will continue.” There’s apparently no com­munication between the farmers and the people pulling up their plants. “You can’t talk to those people.” I said I’d been in Tocache and they surprised me by asking what it was like. They’d never been.

Later, in Lima, I went to the U.S. em­bassy. Workmen were repairing the fa­cade, which had been bombed recently, causing the ambassador to flee (the state department gives Lima a risk-rating just below Beirut’s). The coca eradication is all paid for by the U.S.; I wanted to inter­view the man in charge. But when the interview finally took place I was told it was all Deep Background. This means that you can’t name anything more spe­cific than “informed sources.”

In Lima, informed sources say coca­-eradication efforts won’t get another pen­ny from the U.S., beyond current funding levels. They say “the Peruvian govern­ment is doing a very fine job,” but there just isn’t the money to expand coca­-eradication efforts. It’s not a priority for the Reagan administration, struggling as it is with budget cuts. Informed sources affirmed that Peru has surpassed Bolivia as a source of coca, despite Bolivia’s be­ing free of large-scale eradication pro­grams. (This was before the sending of American troops to Bolivia, that strange bit of war-on-crack propaganda.) In­formed sources sounded a note of cheer­ful pessimism. “It’s hard to compete with coca!” they said. “The Peruvian govern­ment doesn’t have marketable alterna­tives. And the U.S. doesn’t have enough money to replace the market.” Informed sources and I had a little chuckle imagin­ing the U.S. spending $800 million a year on Peru.

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So where, then, does the coca mon­ey go? Eight hundred million dollars is not spare change; Pe­ru’s total legal exports were less than $3 billion in 1985. The con­sensus opinion is that two-thirds of the coca dollars enter the banking sys­tem. All coca business is in U.S. dollars, either deposited directly by narcotrafi­cantes (farmers are generally paid in intis) or laundered through businesses. The remaining dollars stay in the informal currency market, either in Peru or, more likely, abroad.

During the Belaunde administration (1980-85), coca dollars, being the main source of foreign exchange, were the key to a process called “dollarization.” Be­launde’s U.S.-trained economic team be­lieved it was okay — often desirable — for a third world country regularly to deval­ue its currency. The devaluations are aimed at discouraging domestic demand, encouraging exports, and moving the giv­en currency to its rightful place vis-a-vis the international market. So Belaunde devalued Peru’s currency constantly.

This made dollar speculation extreme­ly popular. Both in terms of Peru’s cur­rency and internationally, given the strength of the dollar against other cur­rencies in those days, dollars were a great investment. All you had to do was hold them in your hand and their value increased.

The trick was to get them in your hand. And the best place to find them was the Huallaga. Peruvian banks, in­cluding several that were state-owned, opened branches in undistinguished towns like Tocache and Uchiza. Under Belaunde there was virtually no regulation of currency trading. Banks didn’t have to say how much they were changing, and deposits often didn’t have to report where the dollars came from.

The result was that anyone with dollars made a lot of money as the rest of Peru continued to suffer a horrible de­pression. It was a remarkably transparent way of shifting wealth from the poor to the rich. From 1980 to 1983 average real household income dropped by 24 per cent. At the same time, banks returned excellent profits. The Banco de Credito, for example, holds about a quarter of the foreign exchange in Peru’s banking system (and has its own light planes to make the Lima-Huallaga run). In 1984 it returned a profit of 24 per cent on capital.

The Garcia government, which took office in July of last year, had tried to change this coca-based “dollarization” of the economy. It has frozen almost all dollar assets in the banks, raised the per­centage of dollar assets that banks must keep in the Central Reserve, and en­forced a system of fixed exchange rates (after devaluing the inti 12 per cent right after corning into office). Banks are also required now to report daily on how much foreign currency they exchange.

Based on interviews with bankers, smugglers, and currency speculators in the Huallaga and Lima, demand for dollars has decreased greatly. And when the banks do have dollars, they’ll often just put them in the Central Reserve, since the government pays excellent interest as part of its effort to remove dollars from the market. The government has, in a sense, become a super-speculator, hoard­ing dollars that originated to a great ex­tent in the coca zone. The disastrous syndrome of devaluation and inflation has been broken, at least temporarily.

But the underlying causes of the struggle between currencies remain, namely the desire of the Peruvian rich, and ulti­mately of capitalists in the developed countries, to increase the value of their capital without investing in production.

Part of the government’s idea in freez­ing the dollar was that, deprived of their currency speculation scam, Peru’s capitalists would have to start investing in productive enterprise. But private investment has not shown substantial increase over the last year. Alejandro Toledo, an economist on the boards of three major Peruvian banks, said, “There’s no lack of capital. It’s just that there aren’t any investments that the banks have faith in.” If there’s no private investment there’s not likely to be much growth (public investment has decreased under the new administration). And if there isn’t much growth, then the government will eventually need to devalue its currency.

When the devaluations come, dollars will again be a favorite investment. For the Peruvian poor, this mean a further distribution of wealth upward. Relations between the narcotraficantes and the Lima bourgeoisie will grow more intimate. But in the Huallaga things wouldn’t change all that much. The de­mand for coca is more reliable than the demand for dollars.

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I went to visit the gringo narcotraficantes with my friend Joseph, a trade unionist. In Lurigancho, Lima’s main high-security prison, the gringos have their own building. They govern it themselves. There are almost no guards; the prisoners even run their own little restaurants on the main fioor.

Joseph had a friend inside named Rob­ert. Robert had been imprisoned when he was 17. He was, Joseph had warned me, “very degenerated — both physically and morally.” When we were a few yards from the building entrance there was a little high-pitched yelp from inside. We en­tered and Robert was embracing Joseph, his hands shaking and tears in his eyes. Joseph is a big man (he used to work in a factory, killing chickens by snapping their necks), which made Robert look very fragile. When we finally sat down Robert was breathing heavily. He said he’d been having problems with asthma. Several people told me later that he’d been smoking three or four coca paste joints a day since he went in six years ago. He had sores on his legs and face. His lips were wounds.

Joseph and Robert spoke in French for a while — they’re both French Canadi­an — then switched to Spanish for my benefit. Joseph suggested we go to the main meeting area and I could talk to some of the Americans there. We entered a large, appropriately filthy and horrible room. The second and third floors each had balconies from which one could look down to the main floor. The cells were set back from these balconies. Most of the cell doors were open, everyone moved around freely. There were no guards that I could see. Robert shouted out “Manny!” A short, jumpy-looking man got up from a nearby table and walked over to us. There were introductions.

Manny grew up in the Mission district of San Francisco. I grew up in Oakland, so we had a lot to talk about. We had the same favorite bar in San Francisco — ­Gino and Carlo. Manny’d done a lot of different jobs back home — accountant, hairdresser, selling men’s clothing, selling heirlooms. He’d had a 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom III that he rented out as a lim­ousine, with him driving. He did nine months in a San Francisco city jail for seven kilos of marijuana. Then he worked in cocaine smuggling, until around dawn on November 23, 1982, when police wait­ed for him at the Lima airport on a tip he had cocaine. Sure enough, his shoe in­soles were full of white powder, 671 grams according to court testimony. Manny was supposed to get 12 grand for being the mule once he got back to SF. A Peruvian court gave him 10 years, taking into account he was a first offender.

“I’d been in [the narcotics business] for six or seven years. I think it was about time to go down. I’m kinda glad really.”

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Manny has seen the worst of the Peru­vian prison system. At first they put him in Sexto. “If these guys had seen Sexto, they’d think this is a country club. This is a fucking joke,” Manny said. A few years ago, hostages were taken in Sexto. Some of them were eventually tortured and burned. I asked Manny if he’d participat­ed in the takeover and he said, “Yes, you couldn’t help it. There weren’t any spectators. Everyone had to participate.” Manny also took notes on the uprising, which he says he’s hidden away. “That was one helluva show. I’d like to write it up someday.”

Most of Sexto’s prisoners were moved to Lurigancho. There, partly in response to the Sexto murders, the prisoners were allowed to “govern themselves.” Manny, being an American and moved by the Yankee entrepreneurial spirit, set about organizing the building’s financial sector.

“It used to be chaos. Everyone had to do their own enforcement.” Manny set himself up as a bookkeeper/financier. If someone had something to sell or hock, he’d find a buyer. If someone needed to borrow, Manny would find a lender. He kept track of all the deals in account ledgers. The main forms of exchange were joints of cocaine paste and cash. We went to Manny’s room and he showed me the books. “It’s all in there,” he said. And it was: dates, how many joints owed, rates of interest. Manny takes care of the enforcement, but he says there isn’t much need for it now. If people welsh they know they won’t get credit again. Since most of the borrowers are feeding coke habits, they’re careful not to lose their credit rating. “It’s something to do. I’m very busy around here.”

Two other Americans came in. Like Manny, they were small-timers, young; they had their own horror tales about the Peruvian justice system. One had gone on hunger strike to protest. “We used to have to carry him around. He really showed those motherfuckers.” He looked like hell.

There were copies of The Washington Post “International Edition” lying around. “It makes great rolling papers. Everyone uses it here.” No one was in a hurry to talk about anything and I gath­ered life moves slowly in Lurigancho. The Americans make colorful rugs to pass time. Manny showed me his rug-in-progress, and a photo of the painting it was based on, Colourful World by Karel Ap­pel. “Americans are different,” Manny said. “We’re the only ones who do this kind of stuff  here.”

I had to leave. Manny and I walked to the door, picking up Robert and Joseph along the way. Manny said, “It’s been good. I needed this. I needed this hard­-knocks schooling. This education in values. You leave here, you’re one sharp son of a bitch. No one will get over on you.” At the door Robert and Joseph embraced again. Manny gave me a copy of his indictment and asked me to call his dad in San Francisco, which I later did. “Thanks a lot for coming,” he said. “It really makes a prisoner’s day.”

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Weeks later I talked to Joseph and he said Robert had gotten out. He was living in some kind of religious home; the bargain was that if he kicked the coca paste they’d lodge and feed him. According to Joseph, Robert had stayed clean for a week or two, but lately he’d been making long, poorly explained trips into Lima. His keepers didn’t like being lied to. They were think­ing of throwing him out.

How many months or years could he survive on the streets of Lima? How long would he want to survive? In Lurigancho Manny had said, “Robert hasn’t seen the light yet.” This came after a discussion of how Manny had seen the light. The “light” had to do with discipline, and “hard knocks.” Manny’d told me a story about Sexto, how the guards used to line up in two rows, with clubs, and make prisoners run the gauntlet, said he had a lump on his shoulder from those days and I could touch it. It was the size of a large walnut. I didn’t see how that was physically possible. Was it all scar tissue? Or a protruding bone?

The “light” apparently signified that Manny had been a prisoner long enough to become a citizen. This is not my idea of citizenship. But then, I don’t have a walnut-sized lump on my left shoulder, and I haven’t seen my friends killed in front of me, or run between rows of swinging clubs. Still, the idea that one is either a prisoner/citizen or a dangerous rebel seemed to lack moral subtlety.

Then I returned home and found that our highest public officials, and a proportion of the citizenry, have arrived at the same moral schema that Manny achieved only after four years in Peruvian prisons (and eight years of daily freebasing, by his own account). Politicians are vying for the chance to undergo drug-testing. The Reagan administration wants employers to screen for drugs before hiring, and hopes to institute tests for federal workers. The president points to rock and roll as a key cause of abuse. Some of his advisers urge the death penalty for dealers. Troops are sent to Bolivia to do symbolic, and comically inept, battle with the scourge. Which doesn’t make me agree with Manny, though I wondered how, from a Peruvian prison cell, he’d been able to anticipate the American mindset so exactly. ❖


Koch’s Clan: The Way We Were

NEW HAVEN — It is worth remembering what might have been. If Ed Koch had been elected governor in 1982, Stanley Friedman would not merely be the boss of the Bronx. Governor Koch would have made him head of the state Democratic Party in early 1983. Later that year the governor and his party chief would have moved to elect Donald Manes mayor. Then Manes, as the Queens boss once promised his bagman Geoff Lindenauer, “would’ve really showed” Lindy “how to make money.” In Ed Koch’s city, Stanley Friedman and Donald Manes were the twin towers of insider trading, the most powerful of the mayor’s men. The just­-completed trial record of their crimes is in a sense Ed Koch’s third book — a can­did account, at last, of his government.

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It is also worth remembering what was. Twenty years ago, Donald Manes and Friedman’s codefendant Michael Lazar first assumed public office. In January 1966, they were sworn in as newly elected members of the City Council. At precise­ly the same moment, an unknown club­house lawyer from the Bronx, Stanley Friedman, got his first City Hall job as associate counsel to the City Council majority leader. A few months later, Ed Koch won the Village council seat in a special election and joined the other three in City Hall. The four became gi­ants in this city on virtually the same calendar — until Manes decided to cele­brate their mutual 20th anniversary of public prominence by slashing his wrist on January 10. Lazar was by then king of the clubhouse developers, cut in even on Times Square, while Friedman and Ma­nes owned entire counties. Koch, who be­came mayor in 1977 by running against an administration then dominated by Deputy Mayor Friedman, Transportation administrator Lazar, and Borough Presi­dent Manes, wound up giving pieces of his own government to these same per­manent pols, in exchange for a recurrent position on Manes and Friedman’s Elec­tion Day palmcards. Koch would now have us believe he was naïve. He says he didn’t know who he was dealing with.

Finally, it’s worth noting what’s to come. The Times‘s Josh Barbanel recent­ly reported that the city’s former taxi chief Jay Turoff, slated for trial in Febru­ary on federal bribery charges, may soon be reindicted, adding new charges. His trial will lift the curtain on the operations of another Koch agency ceded to the clubhouse: the Taxi and Limousine Com­mission. In addition, U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani told Gabe Pressman on a Sunday talk show that Friedman’s conviction is hardly the climax of the city scandal, that there are more cases to come. Giu­liani says that he has “concrete reasons” to expect the convictions to loosen other tongues. The most likely new government witnesses are two longstanding Friedman allies who, unlike most Friedman friends, never made a supportive appearance in New Haven: Bronx party secretary Mur­ray Lewinter and former city planning commissioner Ted Teah. Bronx beep Stanley Simon has been publicly volun­teering to go into a Giuliani grand jury. The brewing Giuliani cases revolve around cable, towing, and water tunnel contracts, as well as city economic devel­opment projects.

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Former city transportation chief Tony Ameruso has just been indicted, and fed­eral prosecutors in Brooklyn are closing in on the borough’s former Democratic boss Meade Esposito and Bronx con­gressman Mario Biaggi. The new U.S. at­torney in Brooklyn, Andrew Maloney, is still considering the long dormant case against Staten Island beep Ralph Lam­berti. Federal and state probers are also refocusing on the Brooklyn and Queens projects of developer Joshua Muss, whose special relationship with the city’s Public Development Corporation led to his des­ignation for two prime public sites.

There may also be more direct reper­cussions of the Friedman case. Manhat­tan District Attorney Robert Morgen­thau still has his own version of a Friedman case ready for trial. In addition to Friedman and his businessman code­fendant Marvin Kaplan, the state case involves three more principals of Citi­source, the Friedman computer firm whose city contract was the centerpiece of Giuliani’s case. Two of the state defen­dants, Martin Solomon and Kaplan’s brother Albert, regularly attended the trial in New Haven. Since Morgenthau is presently probing a state Citisource deal that involved the Biaggi law firm, this federal conviction may give the D.A. new leverage to cut a deal with the Kaplans that could protect the state defendants not nailed in New Haven.

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While there is no indication that either Kaplan would be willing to cooperate, an­other defendant in the Friedman case, Michael Lazar, went to a lawyer close to Giuliani and tried to negotiate a deal be­fore the trial began. He may well seek to lessen his time in federal prison by reap­proaching Giuliani before Judge Whit­man Knapp sentences him in March. A close friend of Manes’s, Lazar had exten­sive dealings with PDC, the department of Housing Preservation and Develop­ment, and other city and state agencies. Lazar’s trial strategy seemed to concede conviction on the two cash bribe counts and concentrate instead on undermining the two other, more arcane racketeering charges (involving Lazar’s alleged bribe of former PVB director Lester Shafran by offering him an investment opportunity in a mid-Manhattan real estate ven­ture and Lazar’s promise of an equity interest for Lindy and Manes in a collec­tion company, Miller & Rothman, that never got off the ground).

Had Lazar been convicted only on the cash bribes, he could have tried to get the whole case thrown out on appeal by argu­ing that the cash bribes should have been a single count and were arbitrarily split into two counts (under federal racketeer­ing statutes, a defendant must be nailed on at least two racketeering acts). But his conviction on the Miller & Rothman charges, as well as the cash bribes, leaves him with little to appeal (though he is reportedly considering using high-priced appellate attorney Alan Dershowitz). In­deed, the only defendant convicted in New Haven with appealable legal issues is Marvin Kaplan, who was convicted on only two racketeering charges that argu­ably might be regarded as the same act. But Kaplan was also found guilty on per­jury and mail fraud charges.

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Friedman was convicted on every rack­eteering and mail fraud count. The jury apparently had little difficulty making up its mind about Friedman since only one of their notes to the judge asked a question about his case (most of the jury notes required the readback of testimony related to Shafran and Lazar). The one note about Friedman had nothing to do with the allegations involving the Citi­source stock scam, which the jury accepted without question. Clearly the jury did not believe that Friedman, whose two days of testimony constituted virtually the entire defense case, was telling the truth.

So far the Friedman appeal discussions have focused on Judge Knapp’s decision to bar the testimony of an assistant dis­trict attorney who interviewed Manes im­mediately after the first suicide attempt and would presumably have testified that Manes initially lied about trying to kill himself. Friedman attorney Tom Puccio was going to use this testimony, together with a videotape of Manes in his hospital bed admitting he lied, to suggest that Manes had deceived Lindenauer about Friedman’s role in the Citisource scam. Such are the slim pickin’s of a Friedman appeal. ❖

Research assistance: Leslie Conner and Kathy Silberger 

CITY HALL ARCHIVES From The Archives NYC ARCHIVES Uncategorized

After Stanley Friedman’s Fall

It’s Time For The Governor To Act

I once saw Stanley Friedman cry. It wasn’t last Tuesday morning in New Haven when the jury foreman said he was guilty of racketeering. It was a night long ago in the Hunter College gym, when Stanley Friedman’s mistake cost City College a basketball game. It was the only time I ever saw Friedman show any weakness or vulnerability. He was 20 years old then, and his wiseguy nickname was already Bugsy.

About three months ago, a partial ad­mirer of Friedman asked me why I never wrote anything kind about him. I replied that the only sincere compliment I could pay him was to say that “Friedman proves there is honor among thieves.”

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Stanley Friedman was probably the only honorable crook that Donald Manes and Geoffrey Lindenauer could trust to hold 50,000 shares of Citisoursce stock for an indefinite period of time. He was the person Datacom trusted to broker bribes. Witnesses against Friedman called him “a stand-up guy” who had “brass balls.” For this he deserves a cer­tain grudging respect — and about 10 years in prison.

As a defendant, Friedman behaved with a kind of arrogant cynicism that can easily be mistaken for dignity. He had the chutzpah to lie on the witness stand, and concoct a sentimental alibi that he was holding the bribery stock for his chil­dren — and then denounce prosecutor Ru­dolph Giuliani for bringing his 10-month­-old son, whom Giuliani hadn’t seen for weeks, to the courthouse during jury deliberations.

Friedman was the exact opposite of his co-conspirator Donald Manes. Manes re­membered right from wrong, and when he was about to be found out, felt such guilt and pain that he killed himself. To have killed himself, Manes had to have been mentally disturbed. But he was able to feel disgrace, because at some level he understood that taking bribes in the uri­nal of his public office was a shameful act. He felt he couldn’t survive it and grow a new skin.

Manes had started in politics as an idealist. He named the political club he founded after his hero, Adlai Stevenson; he probably was gradually corrupted over the course of his career by power, by envy, by feeling he owned the office he occupied for 15 years.

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I don’t think Friedman was ever an idealist. He was a cynic who thought he was a philosopher about where the line was drawn between cunning and crime. He was in politics and government to enrich himself and his bribery ring, and he didn’t care what happened to the citi­zens of Morrisania, Hunts Point, and the South Bronx. In one sense, this indiffer­ence to his community is among his worst felonies. There is no cable TV in the Bronx, and a scarcity of cabs, because Friedman represented the interests of his clients instead of his constituents.

And he was in politics to get even as well as rich. He grew up in the South Bronx, the only child of a poor family. His father was a taxi driver, and for the last several years, Friedman controlled the taxi industry as the lobbyist for the fleets and power broker at City Hall. He paid taxes on $914,000 in income for 1985, and he acted like that wasn’t mon­ey enough to heal the hurts of his childhood.

Friedman was defiant about his amo­rality. He couldn’t feel the shame Manes must have felt, because he didn’t think his kind of white-collar gangsterism was outside the law. He didn’t see the differ­ence between extortion and politics. He even tried to cultivate the look of a semi-­hood with his fat cigar, his eyeglasses with rhinestone initials on the rims, his flashy style of dress, and devilish goa­tee — before he tried to disguise himself as a dentist on the eve of his trial.

There was one moment in the trial when I became convinced Friedman was going to be convicted. Rudolph Giuliani asked him if he had made $10,000 for making two influence-peddling phone calls to Donald Manes. “No, just one call,” Friedman corrected — his warped sense of government hitting the Hartford jurors in the teeth.

During the trial two witnesses testified that Friedman, rather than speak and risk being taped, wrote incriminating things on pieces of paper, and then ripped and burned the paper like a pro­fessional mobster. These anecdotes reinforced a story a journalist told me several years ago about Friedman.

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During the last week of the Beame ad­ministration, Friedman, who was then deputy mayor, had promised the journal­ist some documents. But Friedman failed to deliver them and time was running out. So the journalist left a note for Friedman on his desk, reminding him of the promised papers. A few minutes later an irate Friedman rushed into the press room, waving the note, and screamed at the journalist: “Goddamn it, I told you, never put anything in writing. Never.”

The people never chose Stanley Fried­man to be Democratic county leader. He was not even a district leader. He only moved to the Bronx after he became county leader. He wasn’t elected. His im­mense power had nothing to do with de­mocracy or elections. His power came from Ed Koch’s persuading the elected district leaders to name him county lead­er, and from getting hundreds of patronage jobs from City Hall, and millions of dollars in contracts from City Hall for his clients. Most of Friedman’s power de­rived from Koch and the three tainted enforcers of Bronx politics — Ramon Velez, Joe Galiber, and Mario Biaggi­ — whose influence made him the county leader.

Perhaps because he hadn’t faced the voters, Friedman wanted his trial moved to New Haven, with a jury pool from Hartford. He didn’t trust the people of the city he’d looted from a backroom. He was convicted by a jury he selected. Friedman had no respect for ordinary New Yorkers, and that is one reason why he was able to steal and lie with no guilt.

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There is an element of tragedy to Friedman’s fall. He had authentic leader­ship qualities, particulary intelligence, and the capacity to be loyal and inspire loyalty from others. He reminds me of the cops who get medals for bravery and then turn crooked, and get a lot of youn­ger cops to follow them into corruption because they are so effective on the street.

There are also two other ways of look­ing at the city scandals that have tragic dimensions.

One involves Mayor Koch, who every few months declares the scandal finished and behind him, and then has to distance himself from each new “shock.” Koch continues to treat the historic and sys­temic corruption as an annoyance to be­ dealt with by wishful thinking and public relations.

I remember Koch’s early campaigns for district leader against Carmine DeSapio in the 1960s, when Koch ran on promises to eliminate all clubhouse patronage, and root out conflicts of interest, and award city contracts on merit.

If Koch hadn’t betrayed his own best principles, his city government wouldn’t have become the cesspool it now is. In fact, there is an almost Greek tragedy in Koch’s odyssey from the conqueror of DeSapio to the defender of Friedman’s Citisource contract at the City Club in 1984. The need to acquire power made him close his eyes. Ambition made him choose to act naive. He took power, not money. What is the difference?

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The roots of these scandals go back to the Sunday morning in September 1977 when Ed Koch received Meade Esposi­to’s commitment to throw the Brooklyn machine behind him instead of Mario Cuomo in the runoff for mayor. Cuomo wouldn’t even ask Esposito for support, because he knew the price would be too high — that when Esposito said “respect,” he meant patronage. Koch, who needed to win more than Cuomo did, promised to make Anthony Ameruso and Jay Thr­off — Esposito’s clubhouse stooges — city commissioners. Koch bargained his soul to get what he desired. If he had kept faith with the ideas and values in his 1963 speeches, he might have lost the election, but the city would be better off today. And even Koch might be more at peace with himself today, and less fright­ened of tomorrow’s newspapers.

The other tragic element in all this is the absence of visible public outrage. Perhaps the ordinary working people of this city have no way of expressing anger, and we are only seeing powerlessness rather than apathy, or fatalism, or indifference.

Since the scandal started to evolve in January, nothing fundamental has changed. Because of Warren Anderson’s obstructionism, the state legislature did not enact any of the more serious ethics reforms proposed by the governor and the attorney general. The city council has not acted to change the way no-bid, sole-­source contracts are given out to campaign contributors, or to ban county lead­ers from holding an interest in companies that receive city contracts. (Remember, with the convictions of Friedman, Pat Cunningham, Matthew Troy, Carmine DeSapio, and the ghost of Donald Manes at New Haven, the crime rate among Democratic Party bosses is higher than the crime rate of the Hell’s Angels.)

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None of the opportunities for corrup­tion have been abolished. Tom Manton (who left the country to avoid testifying in New Haven) became the party leader in Queens even though he also holds pub­lic office — the same mixing of govern­ment and patronage that Manes abused. Joe Galiber has been reelected to the state legislature while he is on trial in the Bronx for crimes involving the mob. The decision by The New York Times to en­dorse Al D’Amato for reelection showed that even the establishment doesn’t take ethical government all that seriously.

The drastic reforms that need to be adopted are not secret. They are all listed in the excellent reports issued by the So­vern Commission; in press releases from Robert Abrams, Franz Leichter, and Ruth Messinger; in speeches by Rudolph Giuliani. They are in Ed Koch’s 1963 campaign leaflets. What’s missing is pres­sure from the people, and anger pointed directly at Koch, Warren Anderson, Howard Golden, Tom Manton, Stanley Simon, Denny Farrell, Peter Vallone, and others who still practice business-as-usu­al. An hour after Friedman was convict­ed, Vallone put out an oddly irrelevant statement about the appeals process. He did not mention public financing of cam­paigns. Or Carolyn Maloney’s bill lan­guishing in his city council to prohibit politicians from simultaneously holding public and party office. Vallone is the Rosemary’s baby of New York politics — ­the offspring of the final deal between Manes and Friedman.

One of the lessons we learned from the Watergate hearings and the Knapp Com­mission hearings and Andrew Stein’s nursing home hearings is that the best way to educate the public to feel con­structive anger is through the drama of televised testimony. These instructive hearings did not prejudice the trials that occurred subsequently. The truth may make us free — if enough people see it in their living rooms. That’s what we need now in New York. The time has come for Governor Cuomo to appoint a Seabury-­type commission, with broad subpoena powers, to hold public hearings and com­pel those responsible for the shame of our city to testify under oath about exactly how they did it.

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A commission modeled on Seabury could be chaired by politically sophisti­cated but independent statesmen like federal judge Eugene Nickerson, federal judge Jack Weinstein, former U.S. attor­ney Paul Windels, or presiding appellate judge Milton Mollen.

I want to hear Geoffrey Lindenauer ex­plain how he — a pathological liar with a fraudulent degree, who had sex with his patients at a phony clinic that went bankrupt — got himself appointed by Mayor Koch to be deputy director of the Parking Violations Bureau in July 1980, a job for which he had no qualifications or experience.

I want to see Stanley Simon, in front of the cameras, asked why he wouldn’t waive immunity and testify before a Bronx grand jury after he promised that he would. I want to hear Simon explain why he successfully pushed Cablevision to get the Bronx franchise after the com­pany had promised to pay $3 million in “fees” to Friedman, Mario Biaggi’s for­mer law firm, Ramon Velez, and other clubhouse sponges.

I want Meade Esposito to explain how he became a millionaire in the insurance and printing business through his abuse of political influence. I want Esposito to explain to the people of this city why he was such intimate friends with a hood named Fritzie Giovenelli, who walked around with a loaded gun and murdered a New York City police officer last January.

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Let’s hear Anthony Ameruso explain to the people who pay rent and mortgages and day-care fees where he got the money to secretly invest $20,000 in a parking lot while he was transportation commission­er, and what he did with the $140,000 profit he took out of the lot while he was still a city official. (Ameruso was indicted yesterday for lying about how he invested the money he took out of the parking lot.)

Put Ramon Velez under oath and on television and ask him to tell us how he has come to control $16 million in anti­poverty funds, placed in his custody by the Koch administration.

And put Stanley Friedman and Mike Lazar in the hot glare of the TV lights. Warn them that unless they tell us everything they know about cable television, midtown development, the taxi industry, the water-tunnel cost overruns, towing contracts, and the making of judges, they will both receive substantial prison terms.

We need to know what has happened. Our history also has been stolen from us. Only a commission whose mission is edu­cation, not prosecution — appointed by the governor — can disclose the facts that will bring about the outrage that is the necessary prologue to reform.

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Televised hearings would help reveal to the voters the nature and values of the men who rule the city, in the way that Friedman’s testimony at the trial re­vealed his mentality to the jurors. Let the whole city see Velez, Simon, Esposito, and Ameruso the way they really are.

In late 1930, Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed Judge Sam Seabury to investigate corruption in the courts. Three years later, after dramatic public hearings at which Mayor Jimmy Walker testified under oath, the mayor was forced to resign, just as the governor was about to remove him from office.

Walker was followed into City Hall by Fiorello La Guardia because the Seabury hearings had informed and outraged the people. Unless some forum is created to convert fatalism into fury, nothing, in the long run, will change.

The ultimate remedy for corrupt gov­ernment is participatory democracy. Peo­ple who are now apathetic have to become politicized. We need to change the methods of government, not just the faces at the top. The problems are the alliance between the clubhouse and the contractors that can turn city agencies into racketeering enterprises; the domi­nance of campaign money over public policy; and the capacity of outside power brokers like Friedman, Lazar, Esposito, and Velez to manipulate the contract and franchise decisions of elected government by delivering votes and contributions.

The real tragedy would be if two years from now, Friedman and Lazar are in prison, the Sovern Commission reforms are forgotten, and Ed Koch, Howard Golden, Peter Vallone, and Denny Far­rell are the leading candidates for mayor. ❖


How Ed Koch Handed Over City Hall


“After eight years of charisma and four years of the clubhouse, why not try competence.”
— Koch slogan, 1977 mayoral race

Ambitious people of­ten become the thing they hate. His­tory is full of young idealists obsessing about some en­trenched evil and then replicating that evil when they come to power. The Aya­tollah has become the Shah. George Bush spent the 1970s fighting right-wing extremists and now he wraps himself in extremist icons like William Loeb, Jerry Falwell, and Ferdi­nand Marcos. And Ed Koch, who first achieved fame by conquering Tammany Hall boss Carmine DeSapio in the early 1960s, has become Carmine DeSapio.

Not the DeSapio who later went to prison, but the DeSapio of the early 1960s and late ’50s, who Koch opposed as the personification of patronage, conflicts of interest, and cynical abuse of the pub­lic trust. Koch has also become the Abe Beame he defeated for mayor in 1977, the incumbent he accused of abdicating gov­ernance to the political machines.

This city is now witnessing the start of the largest municipal scandal since the revelation of police corruption in the ear­ly 1970s. It’s not just that Donald Manes is accused of extortion, or that the depu­ty director of the Parking Violations Bu­reau, Geoffrey Lindenauer, has been ar­rested for taking a bribe in a public urinal. Bronx Democratic leader Stanley Friedman is also under criminal investigation by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giu­liani, Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Voice has learned that in December Friedman dumped a large amount of his stock in Citisource — the company for which he got a $22 million Parking Violations Bu­reau contract in 1984 — apparently be­cause he was tipped off about the federal investigation.

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The Friedman probes focus on allega­tions of insider trading and fraudulent misrepresentation of his role in Citi­source. (No one has so far suggested that Manes’s crew at PVB had the temerity to charge Friedman for his contract; it may have been the only freebie Lindenauer, et al. handled.) Friedman and Manes are the two county leaders closest to Koch and have been bulwarks of support for his last three races, including the 1982 gubernatorial primary when Manes re­jected Queens’s hometown candidate, Mario Cuomo, in favor of Koch.

The recent conviction of Queens Su­preme Court judge William Brennan for taking payoffs to fix cases from mob defendants, and the separate federal probe of Richard Rubin, the executive secretary of the Queens Democratic party, for taking kickbacks by check for court guard­ianships and receiverships, suggest that the county party is an organized crime enterprise in a literal sense. The mayor suggests, that he thought Friedman and Manes were altar boys until this burst of revelations, but at least two prior Manes­-recommended city appointees and one Friedman associate have been involved in similar scams.

The Taxi and Limousine commissioner from Queens, Herb Ryan, pleaded guilty to taking a bribe from an undercover agent in 1982, and Nick Sands, who was apparently recommended by Manes for mayoral appointment to the board of the city’s Public Development Corporation, wound up surviving nine bullets in a mob hit and was convicted twice of embezzle­ment. Not as lucky as Sands was Rick Mazzeo, the Friedman and Roy Cohn-­connected distributor of multimillion dollar leases for city-owned parking lots, newsstands, and other concessionaires. During the first couple of years of the Koch administration, Mazzeo, who man­aged to put $564,934 into a private com­pany he started while a $15,000-a-year civil servant, ran the real estate section of Marine & Aviation, a subsidiary (like PVB) of the city’s Department of Transportation. Mazzeo was convicted and sent to jail once by the feds; but when he faced a second indictment in 1983, his body was discovered in the trunk of a car parked in Brooklyn.

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The PVB brand of civic service is inev­itable when the mayor awards whole city agencies or sections of them to DeSapio’s descendents — party bosses like Fried­man, Manes, former Brooklyn honcho Meade Esposito, Staten Island’s Nick La­Porte, as well as their top soldiers such as South Bronx kingpin Ramon Velez. Con­tracting out to the clubhouses is the root cause of the current sensational revela­tions. A mayor who does not recognize that these career party businessmen are mere vendors of the public weal is wearing blinders.

The continuation of clubhouse patron­age was a clause in the Faustian compact that Koch made with much of the city’s old-line party leadership during the run­off campaign of 1977, when he got Espo­sito, Friedman, and others to back him against Mario Cuomo. He’s renewed that pact time each time he’s run, always with the support of every county leader but Manhattan’s. Koch’s acceptance of club­house patronage is what opened the door to corruption, because it based hiring on connections and party loyalty rather than merit. It is hardly surprising that these appointees then began to award contracts and leases based on the same consider­ations that got them their jobs.

It was Meade Esposito, for example, who gave Koch his worst previous scan­dal: Alex Liberman, the city’s director of leasing, who was the “Man of the Year” in Esposito’s Canarsie club and who (almost unnoticed by the media) pleaded guilty in 1984 to extorting more bribes — $2.5 million — than anyone ever previously in­dicted by a federal prosecutor anywhere in America. Memos filed by both sides in the Liberman case concluded that Liber­man “would have been unable to wield such tremendous arbitrary authority without the complicity of others in the Brooklyn Democratic machine.” Yet in his current book, Politics, Koch describes Esposito in loving terms as someone who “has always been helpful to me,” and his administration is still filled with other Esposito appointees. “After Koch was elected, he called us to City Hall,” Espo­sito once told reporters. “He gave us some doughnuts. The powder came off on my pants and he said he wanted to work with us. He catered to us, in patronage, whatever.”

The Koch administration has also giv­en Esposito contracts. The prime clients of his small insurance company are city contractors, and they’ve made Esposito a rich man. “I’ve been very successful in business,” Esposito told the News in 1980, “and I owe it all to politics.”

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No Goodies for Crooks

Throughout the Manes explosion, Koch repeatedly said that the public would forgive anything except criminal­ity. Since the mayor believes he is the embodiment of the public’s common sense, he meant that he was comfortable with anyone but a crook. That is now the moral standard for a mayor who spear­headed a crusade against DeSapio long before DeSapio became a felon.

The most disgraceful and self-serving indicator of Koch’s no-rap-sheet heroes was his embrace of Staten Island beep Ralph Lamberti, who he endorsed for re­election in 1985 even after his own Inves­tigations Commissioner Pat McGinley had publicly reported that Lamberti had committed five misdemeanor violations of the city charter, one of which provided for the forfeiture of his office. A Staten Island grand jury ultimately refused to indict Lamberti, but the record is clear that Lamberti greased the delivery of a 50-acre parcel of prime city-owned land to a developer who was his own private partner. The mayor described Lamberti as “an honest man,” a “partner,” and a “friend,” adding that he was “shocked” by McGinley’s charges. McGinley must’ve been shocked that Koch had be­come Lamberti’s leading media character witness.

Ed Koch is not personally corrupt. And he hasn’t turned his entire government over to hacks. Fritz Schwarz, Stanley Brezenoff, Torrence Moan, Henry Stern, Robert Wagner Jr., Gordon Davis, Jo­seph Hynes, Haskell Ward, James McNamara are just some of the honest public servants he’s empowered. He’s appointed many judges of distinction.

But at the same time, he’s given the clubhouses custody of agencies like the mammoth Department of Transportation and the Taxi and Limousine Commis­sion. He’s given them hidden little shops, where the leases and contracts that feed machines are processed, like PVB, Liber­man’s leasing office inside the Depart­ment of General Services, Mazzeo’s Ma­rine & Aviation, some Tax and Planning Commission appointments, the Civil Ser­vice Commission, and pieces of such key, obscure entities as Ports & Terminals, the Public Development Corp., and the Board of Standards & Appeals. And then he’s looked the other way.

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The other way has most often been somewhere in the direction of a mirror. Koch could always look at himself and see clean hands. He could stand in front of a Gracie Mansion mirror with his arms raised triumphantly above his head and know he had done no wrong. He could mistake himself for his government. And then he could turn on the tube. His ad­diction is power, not money. Lesser poli­ticians develop an appetite for gambling, drugs, women, and a lavish lifestyle. Koch lives on the narcissistic need to watch himself every night on the televi­sion news. To be on the news, he has to be in power. And he has long been pre­pared to allow others to do just about anything if they would permit him to keep power. That is the bargain that is only now beginning to haunt him, be­cause finally it, too, is playing on the television news.

He has manufactured his press confer­ence answers. I-am-not-responsible, he sometimes intimates, because I only ap­point commissioners. The commisioners hire everyone else. This is a myth. May­oral assistant John LoCicero has been publicly identified for eight years as the mayor’s patronage chief. What has he been doing all that time if the mayor’s claim is to be believed? And what has the best kept secret of the Koch years — Joe DeVincenzo — been doing?

DeVincenzo is identified in the Green­book as a special assistant to the mayor, but no one except people who hustle city jobs has ever heard of him. A leftover from the Beame administration, DeVin­cenzo occupies a basement office in City Hall. He sits on the dais of the Brooklyn Democratic organization dinner dance. City personnel officials say he is in charge of something called the mayor’s talent bank. One former Koch commis­sioner told the Voice: “I couldn’t hire anyone without the Joe D. letter.” He has been processing jobs for Koch — every­where in city government — since Koch became mayor. A half dozen sources have told the Voice about having to go to Joe D., even for raises.

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Remember Candidate Koch, running against Cuomo, in 1982? Remember how he decided to play hardball after Cuomo rapped him in the first debate? Remem­ber that Koch made a TV commercial about Cuomo’s aide Bill Cabin, who had hidden five no-shows on the lieutenant governor’s payroll, copped the checks himself, and gotten indicted? Remember Koch snarling that he ought to be im­peached if he ever carried five phantoms on his payroll? The same Koch is now saying he never met Geoff Lindenauer. He says he neither selected nor knew the PVB crew — an entire agency handling millions in city funds. He says he just looked at the revenue bottom line and saw it going up. He says he always thought Stanley Friedman was in the holy water business. He says it’s “news to me” that Anthony Ameruso, the trans­portation commissioner who oversees PVB and several other past and future scandals, is identified with the Brooklyn Democratic organization. He says it’s also news that Ameruso has stacked his agen­cy with hacks from every county party.

Our mayor, after 25 years of public life and two books about politics, is a babe in the woods, a shock absorber. He can only shake his head in surprised chagrin. He can only argue that the question is not whether his government caused this scandal, but what it is now doing to cor­rect it. He can actually say that the scan­dal “is not a major problem for me or my administration.” He can announce that he wouldn’t have visited Mane’s at the hospital if he’d known what Jimmy Bres­lin was about to write, suggesting that all those he calls friends may only be a head­line away from nowhere. Or worse still, a headline away from being called a crook.

The mere existence of the Michael Dowd contract, earning $2 million from the city in six years, is the best evidence of just how much the mayor will tolerate to satisfy powerful friends. Koch names Dowd in his own book as the man who managed Cuomo’s 1977 race and hired a private detective to probe Koch’s sex life. Yet the mayor who says he never forgets a slight has, indirectly, been making Dowd rich. Once Manes was given an agency, he was allowed to reward whom­ever he would reward. The legendary long memory gave way to Manes’s large pockets. Everything else dissolves when Koch’s power needs are at stake.

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The Koch Machine

Pol-businessmen like Stanley Fried­man are so arrogantly confident that the voters will never get in the way of their public profits that they put themselves up front in the collection business, seem­ingly the last place a politician would want to be. The letters we get dunning us to pay our parking tickets have become the unlikely prism through which we can all finally see, with sudden clarity, the nature of our leaders and our govern­ment. But PVB is only one of the ma­chine haunts in the Koch years. Here are a few others:

• Top Koch officials have been leaking stories that Transportation Commission­er Anthony Ameruso is on his way out for at least the last four years. They said it because they thought it was true. Then, magically, Ameruso would ride out the rumors. He was appointed commissioner when Koch became mayor. Koch ignored the advice of his own screening panel, which opposed the appointment of Amer­uso, who comes out of the Boro Park club of Brooklyn beep and county leader Howard Golden. His other rabbis are Esposito and Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi. Ameruso not only survived the Mazzeo scandal during the first couple of Koch years, he then went job hunting for the discredited Mazzeo in other city agencies.

Ameruso was the target of two 1981 probes by the State Investigation Com­mission. SIC reports obtained by the Voice (and written about in a 1983 NYC column) say that the investigations “fo­cused on the awarding by the NYC DOT of the midtown tow-away contracts to TRW Transportation Inc.” and on the granting of “no parking anytime signs” to the mob-owned SPQR Restaurant in Lit­tle Italy. In the SPQR investigation, wired agents were sent to interview Ameruso himself about the decision, in violation of city regulations, to treat mobster Matty the Horse Ianniello’s lat­est swank restaurant as if it were a church: John Culhane, an SIC commis­sioner who did parking lot business with Continued from preceding page Ameruso, helped kill these inquiries into his conduct.

At a press conference last week, Koch emphatically denied that he’d ever been urged to appoint or retain Ameruso by any Brooklyn political leader. But Espo­sito told the authors of I, Koch (a biogra­phy written by the Times, News and UPI bureau chiefs): “There were rumblings that Tony was going to be dumped. I saved him by telling Koch that he’s my guy, he’s a good man, don’t drop him.”

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• Taxi and Limo chairman Jay Turoff, a Brooklyn regular out of the Benson­hurst club led by Howie Golden aide Marcy Feigenbaum, was originally ap­pointed on the final day of the Beame administration in 1977. But Koch reap­pointed him in 1982, making him his own. The SIC is currently in the midst of a year-long probe of Turoff, investigating a possible hidden interest he may have in a car service and an allegation that he has several lines of credit in Atlantic City casinos. Other Koch appointees to the nine-member commission include party regulars Douglas McKeon from the Bronx and John Russell Sr. from Staten Island.

• Housing Preservation and Develop­ment commissioner Anthony Gliedman is an active member, coordinating election day activities, of Canarsie’s Thomas Jef­ferson Club in Brooklyn. He is close to both Esposito and district leader Tony Genovesi. “I recommended him for a job,” Esposito told the authors of I, Koch about Gliedman. “I spoke to LoCicero and told him to take care of this guy because he’s good.” When another club member, Mo Silver, lost his state job in 1983 and went to work for the nonprofit Wildcat Services Corporation, he imme­diately began negotiating new contracts for Wildcat with Gliedman, who employs his wife, Sheila Silver, another club-­member. Gliedman’s agency has also de­livered countless housing projects and community consultant contracts to neighborhood groups controlled by ma­chine loyalists, including multimillion dollar sponsorship deals to hacks like for­mer city councilman Luis Olmedo, who recently got out of jail on federal extor­tion charges, and Ramon Velez, the well­heeled prince of Bronx poverty who is Friedman’s prime minority property.

• The newly named Environmental Protection (DEP) commissioner, Harvey Schultz, is, like Gliedman, a competent machine bureaucrat. But Howie Golden, who is now to Brooklyn politics what Ma­nes is to Queens (wearing both the party and public hats of dual dominance), knows he has someone he can count on. Schultz has been Golden’s top assistant so long that many Brooklynites think he’s been the borough president. The agency he inherits already has its other party players, like deputy commisioner Fred Carfora, a Friedman regular. The PVB scandal has already hit a subsidiary of DEP, the Environmental Control Board, which uses many of the same col­lection companies as PVB. The Board’s collection chief, Joseph Scelzo, was con­victed of taking bribes to kill tickets last year.

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• When Manuel Bustelo was named Employment Commissioner in 1985, Ra­mon Velez and his two business partners, Jorge Batista and Frank Lugovina, threw a party celebrating the appointment. Bustelo earned his appointment as pub­lisher of El Diario, which he turned into a Spanish version of the Post, swinging an endorsement of Koch even in 1982, when he lost every Latin assembly dis­trict to Mario Cuomo. But it didn’t hurt that the Velez crew loved him (including Lugovina, whose company, Mobicentrics, has multi-million dollar, for profit, train­ing contracts with Bustelo’s agency). Ve­lez also threw a party when Batista was named by Koch to head the South Bronx Development Organization, the city’s planning arm there. Batista, whose conflict of interest ties with Velez and Lugo­vina [“How Ramon Velez Bleeds the Bronx,” Voice, Dec. 31, 1985] are now under investigation by the city’s Depart­ment of Investigation, is also Koch’s Loft Board chairman. The combination of the two posts has given Batista a commis­sioner level status. Lugovina was recently named by Koch to the Water Finance Board.

• Two days before Manes was discov­ered on Grand Central Parkway, Koch named a new chairman of the screening panel that recommends city marshals to him for appointment. The chairman, Peter Rivera, who says he has a “friendly and cordial relationship” with Velez, is a contributor to Velez’s sidekick, Assem­blyman Hector Diaz, and represented Ve­lez’s wholly owned subsidiary, City Coun­cilman Rafael Castenaira Colon, in an election law matter last year. Rivera’s partner represented a Velez backer charged with assaulting the wife of a can­didate running against Colon. Rivera, who has a $7 million collection contract with the city’s Health and Hospitals Cor­poration, and has also been appointed to the Off-Track Betting board, says he is tied to Latin pols unconnected to Velez, like Bronx State Senator Israel Ruiz.

City marshals are among the juiciest organization plums — potentially six-fig­ure jobs that require nothing more than a high school diploma. New York is virtual­ly the only major city that relies on such bounty hunters to collect court judgements. Their annual income (as much as $300,000) is determined by how many people they evict, how many salaries they garnish.

A lifelong opponent of the marshal sys­tem, Koch introduced a bill to abolish it when he first became mayor, lost in the assembly, and then gave up. After Stan­ley Fink became speaker in 1979, Koch never even asked him to back an aboli­tion bill. Instead, Koch adopted the win­dow dressing of a screening panel. Voice stories over the years have listed the numerous new marshals who’ve climbed out of clubhouses, as well as the party ties of some of Koch’s panel members. The most prominent duo were Carlos Castellanos and Elba Roman, two Luis Olmedo-des­ignees, both of whom were suspended for pocketing collections and not reporting them to the city. Castellanos also wound up nabbed in the Olmedo extortion case and trooped off to the federal pen with the man Koch used to call his favorite councilman (another shock).

Of course, in recent days, Koch has made ex-Queens marshall Sheldon Chev­lowe even more notorious than Castel­lanos, calling him “a bag man.” It was at Chevlowe’s funeral that Manes allegedly approached Dowd and asked him to switch the payoffs from Chevlowe to Lin­denauer. As Post stories have estab­lished, Manes tried to penetrate the screening process Koch created for marshalls with a few phone calls to City Hall. Chevlowe’s wife was quickly appointed, rushed past hundreds of other applicants.

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• The transportation department (DOT) is loaded with high and low level patronage. The agency’s chief counsel, Robert Shaw, is a Friedman appointee, out of Stanley Simon’s Riverdale club. The job was handled in classic patronage fashion — Shaw replaced another Bronx jobholder, George Salerno, who won a more significant state post. The chief of Legal Affairs is Michael Mondshein, an active Jeff Club member from Brooklyn. Deputy Commissioner Julian Prager, who’s now overseeing PVB, has been ac­tive in the Village Reform Democratic Club, an invention of Koch and LoCi­cero’s designed to counter the anti-Koch Village Independent Democrats

Felice Saccone, an assistant commis­sioner who now handles all of DOT’s leas­ing and facilities management, is also ac­tive in VRDC, together with his wife Joanna. Both are close to LoCicero and, ironically, to Carmine DeSapio. Saccone and DeSapio repeatedly share tables at the dinner dances of the Brooklyn and Bronx Democratic parties, and stayed for a private dinner together after the Man­hattan organization’s recent Tavern on the Green affair. Sources indicate that Joanna Saccone babysits for DeSapio’s daughter’s child. Felice Saccone was orig­inally named to replace Mazzeo as real estate director in Marine & Aviation in 1980, but she has been promoted twice since and now handles the entire agency’s facility portfolio.

• DOT Assistant Commissioner Leon­ard Piekarsky, a Friedman friend and primary day worker who is also a member of the Rockaway club in Queens, became Saccone’s boss at Marine & Aviation in 1980, which was renamed the Bureau of Ferries and General Aviation in the after­math of the Mazzeo scandal. Piekarsky replaced Leon Tracy, another Jeff Club captain who was tainted by Mazzeo and burned in a series of city comptroller’s audits. Though Piekarsky made substan­tial improvements in the agency, he also delivered at least one notorious conces­sion to a Cohn/Friedman-represented newsstand firm, after negotiating the terms with a Cohn associate already under indictment in a videotaped bribe case   involving an Amtrak contract in Washington. Piekarsky says he didn’t know about the indictment at the time.

Piekarsky was recently dumped by Ameruso, and Staten Island beep Lamberti has reportedly laid claim to name his successor. Lamberti and party boss LaPorte already have dozens of patron­age employees in the bureau, including the beep’s brother James, who is part of the ferry police force, district leaders Diane DiAngelus and Carl Berkowitz, La­Porte gopher Al Smith, and Lamberti campaign aide and contributor Robert Massaroni. Two Lamberti cousins also worked there, but left in the last year or so.

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• The unit at DOT that inspects pot­holes caused by utility companies has long been a Brooklyn patronage preserve. East New York district leader Everett George is a pothole supervisor; so was former Brownsville leader Edith Broth­ers. Jeff Club officers Lucy Schwartz, Claudia Shapiro, and Gerdie Gerst have also worked in the unit in recent years. Another top Jeff Club official, Frank Seddio, who is Genovesi’s business part­ner in a travel agency, was hired last year as an administrator in the traffic depart­ment. A Golden club member, Sam Aza­dian, is the DOT’s ombudsman. Two oth­er longtime Brooklyn clubhouse activists, Rita Levinsky and John Nelson, also have agency jobs. Ameruso’s executive assistant, Joel Stahl, is reportedly tied to the Queens organization and was impli­cated in the Liberman scandal. The fed­eral indictment of Liberman details how he used two letters signed by Stahl pre­tending that DOT was doing a feasibility study about a municipal parking lot to extort a $5000 bribe.

• Koch’s appointments to the Civil Service Commission have been bipartisan clubhouse, including Bronx regulars Harry Amer and Stanley Schlein, former Brooklyn Republican district leader Frank Gargiulo, and Juanita Watkins, the chairperson of the Queens Democrat­ic County Committee. Similarly, he named Nick LaPorte Jr., son of the Stat­en Island county leader, who goes to par­ty dinners and was once active in the county party, as first deputy of the city’s personnel department. By law no person­nel department officials are supposed to be connected with political organizations.

• Ted Teah, a partner in Stanley Friedman and Roy Cohn’s law firm, is a Koch-appointed City Planning Commis­sioner from the Bronx. And planning commissioner John Gulino, whose ap­pointment in 1978 was vigorously op­posed by the American Institute of Ar­chitects, is the former law chairman of the Staten Island Democratic party. Gulino shares his three-story office building on the island with LaPorte’s county headquarters, and he is the lawyer for several developers doing business with the city.

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• Harold Fallick, another Brooklyn pol out of Marcy Feigenbaum’s clubhouse, is an assistant commissioner at Ports & Terminals and processes some contracts. Throughout much of the first Koch term, the agency was notoriously tolerant of lease abuses and rent arrears at a city-­owned pier facility by operators tied to Tony Scotto, the convicted Longshore­man Union leader and Gambino crime family member. The ILA and its leaders have given the once scornful Koch $69,000 since 1978.

• Steven Spinola, the president of the increasingly powerful Public Develop­ment Corporation (PDC), was selected after getting votes of approval from both Manes and Esposito. PDC’s vice presi­dent in charge of the sale of city-owned property is Margaret Guarino, a longtime Esposito ally whose husband is active in the Jefferson Club and is a regular con­tributor to Golden and the Brooklyn par­ty. Spinola was taken to a pre-appoint­ment interview with Esposito in his Brooklyn office by Guarino. “Meade said he would put in a good word for me,” Spinola told the Voice in 1983. Two sons of Guarino’s brother-in-law, who runs fu­neral homes with Guarino’s husband, were murdered in mob hits in 1982, one while acting as a pallbearer. Federal orga­nized crime strike force sources told the Voice that Anthony Guarino, Margaret’s brother-in-law, is an associate of Tom Lombardi, a capo in the Genovese crime family.

Staten Island beep Lamberti’s land­-grab for a business partner was quietly processed through PDC. And minutes of a clandestine 1985 meeting obtained by the Voice reveal that Ramon Velez and his partners Lugovina and Batista tried to steer a piece of city property out of the agency that controlled it and into PDC, because they believed they could get Spi­nola to turn it over to them.

Responding to press accounts, Koch asked DOI this week to investigate an­other PDC-negotiated deal: Manes’s de­livery of the air rights over the municipal parking garage behind Queens Borough Hall to developer Joshua Muss. Muss, who plans to build a 28-story tower there, gave Manes a $10,000 contribution at the time, exceeding the $5000 legal limit. A related Muss company and employees gave over $21,000 since 1981 to Brook­lyn’s Golden (one contribution of $7500 was also illegal), who’s spearheading a Muss-developed hotel for downtown Brooklyn through PDC.

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• Virtually every city tax commission­er has been tied to party organizations — ­none more so than Brooklyn’s Sandy Rozales, who is related by marriage to Shir­ley Weiner, Esposito’s longtime vice chair of the county party and former Canarsie district leader. Rozales got swept up in the flurry of investigations in Brooklyn in recent years, and Koch did not re-ap­point him when his term expired in 1984. But Koch did not replace him, either, so Rozales has remained a holdover commissioner, exercising a wide latitude of judgement over tax reductions granted in the borough. Rozales was the law partner of another Weiner relative, Spencer Lader, who was convicted of stealing $600,000 in an array of scams, and then became a federal and state witness. Wei­ner herself became a target of the Lader inquiry and wound up pleading guilty to a state charge that her deputy court clerk position in Brooklyn State Supreme Court was a no show.

Ed Rappaport, the president of Gol­den’s Boro Park club and the man Howie chose to replace him in the city council when he left it almost a decade ago, has been interviewed by top city officials and is awaiting appointment to one of the two Brooklyn tax posts, probably not Rozales’s.

• Sanitation Department clubhouse appointees include Roger Fortune, a dep­uty commissioner in charge of real estate and the son of Brooklyn district leader Tom Fortune, and Ralph Uzzi, a Jeff Club official who is the sanitation depart­ment’s director of administration for the Office of Resource Recovery. The Build­ings Department long featured Deputy Commissioner Blaise Parascandola, and Chief Engineer Leonard Dwoskin, both Brooklyn regulars who recently resigned. Former Manhattan city councilman (and Koch backer) Robert Rodriguez was named to a fire department deputy commissioner post when he lost his seat but gave it up when the Alvarado scandal forced many of the ex-chancellor’s East Harlem allies to run for cover. He was succeeded at the fire department by for­mer mayoral aide Rafael Esparra, who has his own Velez and Esposito ties.

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• Jeff Club leader Marvin Markus chaired the Rent Guidelines Board for years and Board of Standards and Ap­peals vice-chair Vito Fossella is a long­time Staten Island regular with strong Friedman connections. Fossella, the brother of a recently defeated Staten Is­land councilman, put Mazzeo in place initially at Marine & Aviation but has survived this and at least one other em­barrassing DOI probe. Longtime Esposito ally Steven Aiello is now the chairman of the city’s Youth Board and ran the Edu­cation Construction Fund through much of the Koch era. Carpenters’ union boss and Koch backer Teddy Maritas was named to the PDC board where he served until he was indicted in a 1981 racketeer­ing probe. Tapes played at his trial re­vealed him boasting of his relationship with Koch, but he was murdered before he could be convicted.

• Koch is the third mayor to allow Esposito to turn the 261-acre, city-owned Brooklyn Navy Yard into an Esposito playground. Every pier and every naval vessel that docks there for repairs is in­sured by Esposito. Esposito’s firm, Serres, Visone, and Rice, is the prime broker for a minimum of $50 million worth of insurance covering the dry­docks, and shipyard building leased on a 40-year basis by his principal client, Coastal Drydock, headed by Charles Montanti. Esposito personally pressured David Lenefsky, the Koch-appointed chairman of the yard’s board, to deliver the no-bid, extraordinarily favorable lease to Montanti, who’s been the subject of two federal probes. Lenefsky told the Voice that Esposito did not disclose his insurance interest in Montanti’s contract when he called to complain about “why it was taking so long to get the negotiations finished.”

Both Coastal and the city corporation that runs the yard have been heavy pa­tronage employers as well, with Coastal carrying another Weiner in-law as per­sonnel director and a longtime Esposito district leader employed as the Lenefsky board’s secretary. Koch did not name Lenefsky to begin the clean-up of the corporation until a couple of weeks after he was re-elected in 1981 — leaving the management of the Navy Yard firmly in the hands of Esposito cronies until then. A Brooklyn Supreme Court judge, who was asked to rule on a pay claim submit­ted by the the yard’s executive director through most of the first Koch term said that conditions there, which led to sever­al indictments, made “the corruption of the Tweed Courthouse architects look amateurish.”

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One top executive at the yard during the early Koch years, Charles LoCicero (not related to John LoCicero), was an associate in the Columbo crime family; his father was a consiglieri in the same family and was machine-gunned to death. Hired ten days after he finished a six-year jail term, LoCicero got a series of rapid promotions until he held two of the five highest executive posts there. LoCi­cero was eventually indicted in 1980 on 190 counts of bribe receiving, grand lar­ceny, forgery, falsifying business records, and theft of services, but he is still a fugitive. One of his scams [“Pirates Plunder the Piers,” Voice, Dec. 20, 1983] in­volved the theft of hundreds of thou­sands of dollars in Navy Yard checks written to fictitious individuals and con­tractors that were endorsed by the hot dog vendor who parked his wagon at the yard. The vendor turned the payments over to LoCicero. The LoCicero scandal was a second or third wave at the yard (a previous executive director was convicted of conspiracy to sell $1.6 million in stolen cashiers’ checks); but nothing deterred the Koch administration from treating the port as Meade’s motherland. Even Lenefsky’s current board and adminis­tration has its Esposito players and favors.

Four More Years

For years Ed Koch has prospered by manipulating the press, baiting blacks, taking credit for things he didn’t do (like solving the fiscal crisis), and governing effectively from the point of view of the richest third of the city. But the scandal that started with a slashed wrist could change everything. It has, at least tempo­rarily, persuaded the public that its gov­ernment is in trouble. What will it mean for Koch in the end?

We put that question to one of the city’s most astute powerbrokers this week. His reply was: “No fourth term. And a very messy third term.” The PVB scandal has put things in perspective. It’s illuminated the recent past. It’s revealed a flaw in Ed Koch’s character that may become his fate. A year from now he will look at thlie government of this city and not see a lot of the present faces. He will look into a mirror and see a face that has aged, that has sagged, like Dorian Gray’s.

No fourth term is what this is all about. ❖

Research assistance by Janine Kerry Steel and Leslie Conner. 

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Manes’s Patronage and Plunder Zones

When Donald Manes announced his candidacy for governor in April 1974, he was flanked by Peter Smith, his cam­paign manager, and lawyers Sid Davi­doff and Donald Evans. Manes said he would spend $90,000 on radio and televi­sion commercials, a buy that would be paid for by loans co-signed by council­man Eugene Mastropieri and Ann Groh, the wife of deputy borough president and Sanitation Commissioner-designate Robert Groh. The candidate unveiled his campaign slogan (“Manes — He’s For Real”) and told 50 supporters at the Roosevelt Hotel, “I have looked after the needs of more people than the governors of 19 other states.”

The Manes campaign disintegrated quickly, but it signaled that the borough president was a pol in a hurry, content to do deals with the dreck of the Queens organization:

• Smith, Koch’s first Department of General Services (DGS) Commissioner, was bounced after it was revealed that he embezzled money from the law firm he worked for before joining the Koch administration. Smith, who helped orga­nize various Manes campaigns, was eventually convicted in the swindle and served time. He now runs the Partner­ship for the Homeless, a not-for-profit organization funded by Koch adminis­tration grants.

• Mastropieri was backed by Manes and the county organization until he was booted from the city council after being convicted in 1980 on federal corruption charges. Back in 1978, the Voice and the News detailed Mastropieri’s history as a  scofflaw, council truant and compromised hack. At the time, Jack Newfield wrote that Mastropieri “is a public servant seemingly imbued with the tastes of ­a drug lawyer — a Mercedes-Benz, a yacht — but without the guile necessary to support his greed.”

• Sid Davidoff is as close to Manes as any pol. Davidoff visited Manes’s hospital room the night he tried to kill himself — six hours before police were allowed in. Soon after the bedside visit, Davidoff began interviewing attorneys to represent the borough president; he eventually chose former Knapp Commission counsel Michael Armstrong. Davidoff was a special assistant to John Lindsay and later doled out patronage for Abe Beame. In 1976 Davidoff was indicted on charges of failing to pay the state taxes he withheld from employees of  a restaurant he owned. His company agreed to plead guilty to grand larceny, pay a $1000 fine and $33,000 in back taxes in exchange for criminal charges against him being dropped. Davidoff represented Warner Amex in its success­ful bid to get the lucrative Queens cable television franchise and has also served as counsel for the Jamaica Water Com­pany, which has, for years, successfully fought off city takeover attempts.

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• Robert Groh, a Manes protégé, was indicted in 1977 on charges that he ex­torted $7000 in political payoffs from a Queens businessman in exchange for a zoning variance. The money went for the purchase of tickets to Manes fundraisers in 1972 and 1973, when Groh was still an  aide to the borough president. Groh was acquitted of the extortion charges in 1979 and continues to serve as a civil court judge.

But while Manes’s discredited main backers in the short-lived 1974 gubernatorial race remained close to him for years thereafter, they are hardly the only close associates who could have given Ed Koch reason to temper his enthusiasm about the Queens boss:

• Herbert Ryan, another Manes pal, was convicted of taking a $1400 bribe from an undercover cop while serving on the Taxi and Limousine Commission. In 1982, New York magazine reported that federal law enforcement officials claimed that city officials “torpedoed a potential sting operation — called ‘Cabscam’ — that was inspired” by Ryan’s arrest. The magazine reported that federal authorities believed if they could “turn” Ryan it would be a “way to open a wide-ranging” probe of the Queens Democratic ma­chine. However, Koch and then-Depart­ment of Investigation commissioner Stanley Lupkin nixed the idea and pushed for Ryan’s prosecution. At the time of his indictment, Ryan held a $7400-a-year part-time patronage job with Queens councilman Morton Pov­man. Appointed to the commission in 1975, Ryan owed his spot to Manes and former county leader Matty Troy, an­other Queens convict. Ryan is still a member of Manes’s home club, Flush­ing’s Stevenson Regular Democratic Club.

• Richard Rubin, the county organi­zation’s lawyer, is the target of a federal probe into a kickback scheme involving court appointments and receiverships. Rubin, a longtime Manes adviser, him­self collected $20,050 in legal fees from Queens Surrogate Louis Laurino over the past 21 months. Laurino has en­riched numerous organization lawyers and pols, including State Senators Emanuel Gold ($7000) and Jeremy Weinstein ($3500) and district leaders Jay Bielat ($7450) and Charles Cipolla ($4250).

• A close friend of Rubin’s, lawyer Abbey Goldstein, landed a spot on the city Tax Commission in 1982, thanks to his organization ties. Commission mem­bers meet once a week and are paid $21,000-a-year to rule on tax exemptions and aaseeaments. Like most member of the commission, Goldstein is politically active: a former reformer, he ill now a regular in Manes’s Stevenson Club.

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• David Love is a Lindsay-Republi­can turned-Queens-clubhouse-regular. He attends most county dinners and made noise about running for Ben Ro­senthal’s seat after the congressman died in 1983. Love resigned as first deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation in December 1981 as part of a department shakeup. At the time, Koch said he was “not happy with the bottom line on what the transporta­tion department” accomplished during his first term. Love has worked as a counsel for EDP Medical Computer Sys­tem, a collection agency which held a small contract with the PVB until it was cancelled in 1984, and still has larger contracts with the Environmental Con­trol Board (ECB) and other city agen­cies. A source familiar with the compa­ny’s contracts told the Voice that PVB officials recommended that another agency hire the company to collect out­standing fines.

• Former Taxi and Limousine Com­mission (TLC) chairman Michael Lazar traveled with Manes to the 1984 Demo­cratic National Convention in San Francisco and can often be seen at Manes’s shoulder during county political dinners. His real estate business is booming, thanks to his ability to land city and state development deals, one of which has resulted in a state investigation while others have spawned numerous lawsuits. One of the suits is aimed at “politically influential individuals” who scored big in the Times Square deal. An example of Lazar’s political sway was the 1980 purchase of the Candler Build­ing on 42nd Street. Lazar and partners paid $1.3 million for the building in 1980 and resold it for more than $14 million in 1984. The building, which houses the offices of the agency Lazar once headed, was one of only two buildings in the 13- acre project area not slated for demoli­tion. Lazar, one lawsuit claims, was “the only apparent reason for not condemn­ing the Candler Building.” Manes was an early supporter of the Times Square redevelopment project and voted for it at the Board of Estimate.

The state investigation arises from Lazar’s rental, to New York State, of office space in Jamaica’s Gertz Building. The head of the World Trade Center relocation task force, Joseph Siggia, rec­ommended that the state transfer offices from Manhattan into Lazar’s building. Siggia has now admitted receiving $23,625 in “commissions” from Lazar a few months after retiring in May 1983 from his post at the state Office of Gen­eral Services (OGS). A State Investiga­tions Committee report on Siggia and Lazar is due aoon.

• But it is the role of Manes’s former executive assistant, Daniel Koren, in the attempt to organize Grand Prix races at Flushing Meadows Park that might be the most disturbing Manes-wired, and Koch approved, city deal of recent mem­ory. As the Voice reported in May, 1983, Koren started organizing the race while he was still on the Manes payroll. Then he left to become the company’s chief executive officer. With Manes running interference, Koren’s company whipped through the city approval process, brushing past widespread editorial and community opposition. Manes was so committed to Koren’s project that he personally presided over a raucous, six-­hour borough board meeting at which he rammed the project through. In addition to Koren, two other Manes cronies — Sid Davidoff and Michael Nussbaum, the borough president’s political strategist — also had a piece of the Prix action. Only the subtle roadblocks, invisibly built by Koch subordinates who dared not open­ly oppu,e the project, slowed the race down. With Manes’s demise, the scam may also disappear. ■

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Friedman: The Bronx “Scofflaw”

Bronx county leader Stanley Fried­man’s reputation, and the attention it has brought him, are well-earned. His list of political operatives includes Ra­mon Velez, Joe Galiber, and Stanley Si­mon. Friedman is a law partner of Roy Cohn (who Ed Koch once called “the most vile person in New York”), and until John Calandra’s death last week, Friedman divvied up the borough with the ultra-conservative Republican state senator as if he were a brother Democrat.

The first of many blights on Fried­man’s record came in 1972, when the city Department of Investigations (DOI) found that Friedman — then an assistant to council leader Tom Cuite — ­sent a few parking tickets to his father Moses, an administrative assistant at the Parking Violations Bureau’s (PVB) Bronx office. DOI investigators deter­mined that Friedman’s father, instead of forwarding them to a hearing officer, marked “dismissed” on the summonses. Friedman told DOI that he did not know how his father was disposing of the tickets.

In an internal report obtained by the Voice, then-DOI Commissioner Robert Ruskin wrote that Friedman’s explana­tion “strains credulity.” Ruskin con­cluded that if Friedman’s father had not died during the investigation, the case would have “certainly been re­ferred to the district attorney’s office.”

The following year, Friedman left Cuite’s office to become Abe Beame’s Albany lobbyist, and a year later he was appointed deputy mayor for intergov­ernmental relations — Beame’s patron­age czar. During the final 10 days of the Beame administration, the city awarded a mammoth tax abatement to Donald Ttump. The $160 million abatement — ­which Friedman shepherded through the city bureaucracy and which typified his blatant self-dealing — went to Trump for the construction of the Hy­att Hotel, although the developer had not even arranged financing and did not yet have legal title to the property. Friedman had already agreed to join Cohn’s firm, Saxe, Bacon and Bolan, while he was securing the Hyatt abate­ment. Trump, as Friedman surely knew at the time, was already a Cohn client. The Hyatt package, Barron’s conclud­ed, was “the most generous package of tax abatements in state history.”

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Since becoming county leader in May 1978, Friedman, whose wife Jacqueline holds a $47,000 post in Koch’s office, has lorded over a massive political cesspool The low points have included:

• The political partnership Friedman has entered into with Ramon Velez and State Senator Joe Galiber. This pact has delivered patronage and contracts to these minority fronts, while Fried­man gets their support and the assur­ance that empowerment is an ideal left for the other boroughs. Galiber is cur­rently under indictment — for grand lar­ceny and falsifying business records — ­along with former Labor Secretary Ray­mond Donovan in connection with a scheme to defraud the Transit Author­ity of $8 million. The current charge stems from Galiber’s business dealings with mafia hoodlum William Masselli, the twice-convicted felon who was Galiber’s partner in the Jopel Contracting and Trucking Corporation. Despite the fact that, according to a DOI report, “the City of New York probably had information sufficient to disqualify Jo­pel as a subcontractor based on William Masselli’s criminal record, plus the on­going investigation against him … ” the city awarded Jopel two excavation and hauling contracts worth $1.6 million. FBI tapes caught Masselli saying that, “I don’t think that this Koch you could do business with him on this level.” However, Masselli did not rule out the possibility of cutting deals without Koch: “Maybe the people around him I say yes.”

Galiber-controlled community groups are also favorites of Friedman and Koch — one, the Mid-Bronx Council, re­ceives more than $6 million in antipov­erty funds. Despite Galiber and Velez’s sleazy records, both Friedman and Koch have refused to break with the pols.

• Friedman has delivered patronage plums to friends of borough president Stanley Simon, including Stanley Wolf’s $58,000 commissioner post on the Board of Standards and Appeals, and Robert Moll’s spots on the Tax Commission ($21,000 a year for attend­ing weekly meetings) and the Taxi and Limousine Commission. Moll and Wolf are members of Simon’s political club.

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• In 1981, Koch proposed an 8 per cent tax on the sale of taxi medallions. A group of taxi owners paid Friedman $15,000 to work his magic with the may­or and administration officials. After some lobbying, Friedman had the tax cut to 5 per cent, thus saving his clients $3 million annually. At the time, Fried­man said that people like the taxi own­ers “want to feel like they’re getting an edge. That’s what life is all about.”

• Friedman’s wired Citisource deal has prompted a city investigation into how he was awarded the contract and a federal probe into possible insider trading by Friedman of the company’s stock. Friedman reportedly owned 25 per cent of the company’s stock at one point. He then quietly dumped much of his stock last month at the midway point in the stock’s fall from $14 a share to $2 a share. Friedman also has repre­sented another PVB contract holder, Datacom, which had its contracts stripped by the city last week. A No­vember 1982 DOI report ripped Data­com’s contract performance and at­tacked PVB’s contract monitoring. On December 13, 1984, Ed Koch received contributions of $5000 from Datacom, $5000 from Citisource’s parent compa­nies and $5000 from Friedman’s Bronx county committee. Both Citisource and Datacom had lucrative contracts ap­proved months earlier.

Friedman, like Manes, has always re­alized that in return for political sup­port, Ed Koch would provide plums. In October 1983, both leaders refused to endorse Koch in the 1985 mayoral race despite pleas from the incumbent. At the same time Friedman was rejecting an early Koch endorsement, he was lob­bying city officials to approve a multi­million dollar contract for hand-held, ticket-writing computers from his new company, Citisource. Friedman ex­plained that he did not want to come out for Koch two years before the may­oral primary, because if he did, “pots of money” available in the following two years “would not go to the borough that’s already in somebody’s pocket.” ■

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Mayor Meese

The mayor of New York City is a lawyer. Indeed, in his selfless years, his knowledge of civil rights and civil liberties law made him persistently effective in those areas in Congress.

Now, after eight years of intoxicating sovereignty, Koch has jettisoned his history as an advocate for and defender of the Constitution. In publicly declaring Donald Manes guilty of having “engaged in being a crook” — and then insisting he be imprisoned — Koch has allied himself with the nation’s preeminent enemy of civil rights and civil liberties: the Attorney General of the United States. Edwin Meese, too, has proclaimed publicly that if someone, anyone, is a suspect, he or she must be guilty.

Koch says, “In the case of Donald Manes, we clearly know he was corrupt … in the court of public opinion.”

We have a Bill of Rights to prevent people from being lynched — before indictment and trial — “in the court of public opinion.”

Nothing Ed Koch has done in his time as mayor has so dismayed those who remember him as a courageous defender of the presumption of innocence than this self-­transmogrification into Joseph McCarthy.

And, in view of the Mayor’s widely publicized prejudicial pre-trial judgment of Manes, if there is a trial, where can fair-minded jurors be found? Not in the city of New York.

— Nat Hentoff



Memories of Meade and the Mob

Bugging Mr. Big

After 15 years of investigations that fiz­zled in dead ends, federal investigators are now confident they have enough evi­dence to prosecute former Brooklyn Democratic boss Meade Esposito. Sources in the FBI and the Justice De­partment say they can prove conspiracy, stock fraud, and possibly mail fraud against the legendary 79-year-old politi­cal figure. For the past five months, the FBI has had bugs and wiretaps in Esposi­to’s offices, authorized by four federal judges. The FBI’s code name for the in­vestigation was “Runnymede.” Perhaps it will lead to a Magna Carta for Brook­lyn politics.

Esposito’s machinations around two corporate enterprises are the focus of the investigation. One company is Coastal Drydock, a ship-repair firm based at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Coastal is the big­gest client of Esposito’s insurance bro­kerage company, Serres, Visone & Rice. SVR is the sole broker for liability insur­ance for ships being repaired by Coast­al — insurance valued at about $1.8 mil­lion a year. Last month, Coastal declared bankruptcy after a long fight with the Department of the Navy over millions of dollars in disputed funds.

Federal investigators contend that Esposito improperly used his influence to try to bail out Coastal. Coastal owed SVR $613,000 in commissions at the time it went bankrupt.

A television report last week said that Bronx congressman Mario Biaggi was also being investigated for accepting a free vacation at a Florida spa in return for helping Coastal. But Biaggi has made available to the Voice an American Ex­press bill and cancelled checks that show he paid for the vacation himself.

Biaggi acknowledges interceding on Coastal’s behalf to help solve some of the company’s problems, but says he did so because of his friendship with Coastal’s president, Charles Montanti, not because of Esposito.

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Esposito is also under investigation for his dealings with LoPat, a New Jersey chemical company which was marketing an environmental cleanser that it claimed could remove asbestos and other pollut­ants. Investigators are inquiring into allegations that Esposito tried to manipulate LoPat’s stock and use his influence to obtain government contracts.

Two weeks ago, federal judges Leonard Sand and Leo Glasser signed search war­rants for FBI agents and New York City police officers to raid three of Esposito’s business offices to seize financial records. Normally, federal judges do not sign search warrants without credible evi­dence of possible crimes being presented to them first.

Perhaps of equal significance to any possible crimes, the federal probe has do­cumented Esposito’s 40-year friendship with gangster Fritzie (Carbo) Giovanelli. Giovanelli is now in jail, accused in the murder of plainclothes police detective Anthony Venditti on January 21 in Ridgewood, Queens. Venditti was the fa­ther of four daughters, including a one-­month-old baby. Esposito, who has made 60 or 70 judges in his political career, spoke with Giovanelli several times every week and socialized with him on a regular basis. Giovanelli was involved in the Lo­Pat stock deal with Esposito, and Gio­vanelli’s son worked for Esposito’s insur­ance company.

According to testimony given in court by FBI and police intelligence experts, Giovanelli is a member of the Genovese crime family and controls a gambling and loan-sharking cartel with a gross annual income of “more than $20 million.” Gio­vanelli has a record of 11 arrests and three misdemeanor convictions. He had $4700 in cash in his pockets when he was arrested for Detective Venditti’s murder.

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In April, Queens Supreme Court Jus­tice Sidney Leviss outraged the law en­forcement community by setting bail of more than $1 million each on Giovanelli and two co-defendants. Previously, Judge William Earlbaum had ordered Giovan­elli held without bail. According to the Queens DA’s office and the police depart­ment, no accused cop killer in the last 20 years had been granted bail.

Within three days, Giovanelli’s friends came up with $3.7 million to set him free. At a subsequent court hearing, evidence was presented that much of the bail mon­ey came from criminal rackets controlled by Giovanelli.

After the hearing, Judge Leviss changed his mind and revoked bail for Giovanelli and his co-defendants. Last week, FBI agents questioned Judge Le­viss about whether anyone had ap­proached him about giving Giovanelli bail. Leviss said no one had spoken to him.

Esposito’s intimate connections with organized crime have been known for more than 20 years. They are part of his myth and maybe part of his power.

For years while he was Brooklyn Dem­ocratic leader, Esposito met regularly with mob boss Paul Vario. Henry Hill, Vario’s protégé, and the federal infor­mant who is the subject of Nick Pileggi’s best-seller, Wiseguy, told the FBI that Esposito was the only person Vario in­sisted on meeting alone, often on a bench in Marine Park. Hill was in on all of Vario’s other meetings.

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The 71-year-old Vario is now in federal prison for four years as a result of Hill’s testimony. But during his career as a mob boss, Vario twice received suspiciously le­nient treatment from state judges close to Esposito. In 1967, Vario was arrested for conspiracy and bribery. The maxi­mum sentence he could have received was 15 years. But Justice Dominic Rin­aldi allowed Vario to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and let him go with a $250 fine.

In 1976 Vario was convicted by a jury of conspiracy and “rewarding official misconduct” as part of the famous “Gold Bug” investigation into a Canarsie junk­yard. Justice Milton Mollen sentenced Vario to the maximum four years in pris­on. But in February 1977, the conviction was reversed by an appellate panel that included Esposito’s friend, the late Vin­cent Damiani. Not only was Vario’s con­viction reversed, but the indictment was dismissed for “insufficient evidence.” Justice Mollen had rejected a defense motion to dismiss the case on the same grounds before it went to jury.

In the January 3, 1974, Village Voice, I wrote an article called “Meade, the Mob, and the Machine” that sketched Esposi­to’s ties to organized crime.

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Meade Esposito is a cunning and self-­centered con man. He has outwitted prosecutors and journalists for a genera­tion. He has a routine of illusions that has worked. He intimidates the well-bred with vulgarity and he plays the primitive with a heart gold for the masses. He has been a survivor.

For example, when his then friend and political ally Alex Liberman got caught extorting millions of dollars in bribes from landlords as director of leasing for the city, Esposito told everyone that he knew all along Liberman was a crook, and had “warned” mayors Beame and Koch about him. The fact is that Esposito had recommended Liberman for a high-level job in writing during the Koch transition and later sought pay increases for him. And Esposito quietly arranged for letters to be written by religous leaders asking for leniency for Liberman. At the same time, Esposito told me that Liberman “should rot in jail.”

My first exposure to Esposito the con artist came in 1972. I had written two articles accusing his friend, Brooklyn Su­preme Court Justice Dominic Rinaldi, of going easy on drug dealers and mob de­fendants, including Paul Vario. Esposito had an intermediary invite me to lunch with him at Foffe’s restaurant near the Brooklyn courthouse.

At lunch, Esposito made an emotional appeal for mercy and human sympathy. He said Rinaldi and his wife were suicidal because of my articles. He said Rinaldi’s son was in a mental hospital, and that was contributing to the grief in the Rin­aldi family. He said that if I had any decency at all, and if I didn’t want a suicide on my conscience, I ought to find another subject to write about.

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I was sufficiently troubled by Esposi­to’s pleading that I went straight to the chambers of a judge I knew and told him what Esposito had said to me. The judge, a good friend of Esposito’s, started to laugh uproariously. He then informed me that Judge Rinaldi’s son was “a little strange” but that he was not in any men­tal institution. He was, in fact, a peace officer, with a gun, in that very courthouse, courtesy of Esposito patronage, and he was furious at me, and looking for me — and I had better leave immediately, with the judge as a personal escort.

Esposito played a decisive role in Ed Koch’s winning the run-off for mayor against Mario Cuomo in 1977. Esposito threw the support of the Brooklyn club­house organization behind Koch, as part of a deal in which Koch promised to make Brooklyn hacks Anthony Ameruso and Jay Turoff city commissioners. Sub­sequently, Koch’s own screening commit­tee found Ameruso unqualified, so Koch disbanded the screening panel and appointed Ameruso anyway.

In his book Politics, Koch described the deal in more general terms: “… we made it clear that the one thing we didn’t want him [Esposito] to do was to endorse me in any public way … he agreed to pull strings very discreetly.” This meant Esposito delivered money, palm cards, and workers from the machine.

Koch went on to add that Esposito “has always been helpful to me.” Koch more than reciprocated this generosity by giving jobs to dozens of Esposito’s friends. And last week, when news of this new scandal first began to seep out Koch jumped to Esposito’s defense. Attacking the messenger, Koch told the Citizens Crime Commission: “Do you think that’s fair? Let’s assume that he is never indicted. Do you think that he will ever recover from that story?”

Esposito, the artful con man, was able to flatter Koch, and made Koch feel like a regular guy. And Koch, who prefers gazing into the mirror rather than out the window, chose not to see Esposito for what he really is — a venal intermediary between the world of judgemakers and the world of bookmakers.

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But the mayor is not the only person Esposito has fooled. Because of the six grand juries that Esposito outsmarted over the years, he has received a predom­inantly positive press.

On December 10, 1972, The New York Times Magazine ran a favorable cover profile of Esposito by Rick Hertzberg.

When Esposito retired as county leader in January 1984, the New York Post paid tribute to him in a sentimental editorial that concluded: “They don’t make politi­cians like Meade anymore, and we can’t imagine the prospect of being without his earthy wit and wisdom. Politicians, mere mortals, come and go. The Meade Espo­sitos, for whom a man’s word is his bond, go on forever.”

The same week, Roger Starr wrote a signed editorial farewell to Esposito in The New York Times. With some naive­te, Starr wrote: “Many are incredulous that Mr. Esposito was content with the rewards of power, prestige, and friend­ship, instead of wealth … this boss was not brought down by scandal.”

Starr wrote a vale­dictory to a disguise. The fact is that Esposito has a vast appetite for wealth and has accumulated four homes, a yacht, an insurance company, and a printing business. Esposito has associ­ated in a secretive way with vicious criminals, while at the same time plac­ing some men of no merit and doubtful integrity on the bench. As party boss, Esposito pro­moted the ambitions of corrupt black pol­iticians like Sam Wright and Vander Beatty, and ostra­cized independent and honest black lead­ers like Major Owens and Al Vann. Espo­sito’s insurance bond was his bond; his word was unreliable.

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When he held party office and con­trolled elected officials, Esposito did some good things. He was a complex man of occasional underdog sympathies. He backed George McGovern for the Demo­cratic nomination in 1972. He helped John Lindsay defeat Mario Procaccino for mayor in 1969. He supported the gay­-rights bill for years before it became law.

Meade Esposito is a shrewd manipula­tor who has worn many masks. Even the trademark cigar he always held in his hand was a mere prop for the role of Boss. He never lit the cigar.

Now, at 79, the bill is coming due. The FBI knows Esposito was in business with a hood who killed a cop. And they think they have enough proof to prosecute him.

Over the last few months and years, we have discovered how many of our leaders have lived secret lives, pretending to be statesmen or lovable rogues in public, while behaving like gangsters in private. After hearing Watergate tapes of Richard Nixon and John Mitchell, who among us should be surprised by what politicians do in secret? After hearing the tapes of “labor leader” Anthony Scotto taking payoffs in a men’s room to reduce work­men’s compensation claims, or seeing the Abscam videotapes of congressmen stuff­ing cash into their pockets and suitcases a few hours after quoting Jefferson and Madison, who can be shocked?

Most recently we have seen, this phe­nomenon with Donald Manes.

Meade Esposito is probably just one more leader who has lived a double life. ■

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