Espada's reward for this past performance, according to the memo, was to get the post of senate majority leader with "sufficient staff and resources to carry out his duties." He also was handed the number two slot on the rules committee, which approves all legislation.

Carl Kruger, a wily and wealthy senator from south Brooklyn, cut the best deal of all. Kruger, 58, won election to the senate in 1994 with the support of Tony Genovesi, the late assemblyman and Brooklyn powerbroker who was an eloquent foe of capital punishment. Upon his election, Kruger immediately voted for the death penalty, prompting his mentor to accuse him of betrayal.

But that was classic Kruger, always seizing the opportunity. A former community-board chairman, he beat his own indictment in 1980 on charges of extorting payoffs from local builders. In the senate, he quickly made accommodation with the GOP. Former Brooklyn Democratic senator Seymour Lachman reported in his book Three Men in A Room that Democrat Kruger stunned fellow Dems by campaigning "almost day and night" to help Republican Martin Golden win election. Lachman said Republicans made no bones about their gratitude: Dean Skelos—then in charge of redistricting and now the senate's Republican leader—admitted that his orders were to carve out "a permanently safe seat" for Kruger.

Senator Malcolm Smith: Deals with the devils
Nick Hunt/PatrickMcMullan.com/Sipa Press/Newscom
Senator Malcolm Smith: Deals with the devils

Before the deal was upended, Kruger was slated to become chair of the all-powerful Finance Committee, the panel that not only screens and approves the state budget, but also every nomination. As one legislator put it last week: "If you want to make state government your own personal bank, there is no more powerful position."

Now that is the kind of universal language understood by everyone from Albany to Chicago. We can only hope that a wiretap somewhere has also picked up these talks in their full flavor.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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