The New York Daily News reports how Vito “Gropez” Lopez is likely to win reelection to New York’s State Assembly because–as they so eloquently put it–the Assembly is an immense “incumbent-protection racket that protects the good and the bad from competition in a one-party town.”
The News explains that Lopez’s power derives from his control over the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, “a social services colossus that provides publicly-funded assistance in many forms to Lopez’s constituents, elderly and otherwise.”
Lopez claims that he has nothing to do with the Council (which is under investigation for fraud), but the Post has outlined his deep and continuing connections (and conflicts of interest) here.
One of the (many) fundamental ethical problems plaguing New York politics is that lawmakers are permitted to directly and indirectly control (and be on the payroll of) state- and federally-funded nonprofit organizations.
The conflicts of interest are so obvious that is unclear how the State permits the practice to continue.
Among other things, the aformentioned Post story reports that:
- Lopez’s girlfriend, Angela Battaglia, is the organization’s No. 2 official, making $329,910 a year. His campaign treasurer, Christiana Fisher, is its executive director and has a $659,591 salary for working only 17½ hours per week.
Lopez was personally paid $57,600 as a consultant in a single year by Ridgewood Bushwick.
Lopez’s Bushwick Democratic Club operates out of a building owned by one of Ridgewood Bushwick’s three dozen subsidiaries, which claims on tax forms to operate the building to provide “respite services” for senior citizens.
Former Ridgewood Bushwick employees, including Richard Velasquez and Pam Fisher, have become Brooklyn judges with Lopez’s support.
As an assemblyman, Lopez has steered at least $335,000 in member items to Ridgewood Bushwick since 2009.
Ridgewood Bushwick has built and manages hundreds of units of affordable housing, which Lopez helped fund with city and state subsidies using his influence as chair of the Assembly’s Housing Committee.
To recap, this so-called “nonprofit” is a state-funded cash and influence machine that permits Lopez to print money for his personal and political associates (as well as for himself).
Anyone see a problem here?