By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
New York's pension fund scandal, starring former Mod Squad actress Peggy Lipton, claimed another victim last week, and this time it was a wealthy Republican from California. This proves that the most volatile affairs do not have to involve sports idols and sexy cocktail waitresses.
The only victims in the Tiger Woods episode, for instance, are an SUV and the golf star himself, possibly due to a few swings on a nine-iron by his gorgeous wife. Compare that paltry disabled list to the lethal fallout produced after a schlubby late-middle-aged political hack from Queens fell hard for Lipton, the aging but still charming TV starlet. Lovestruck Jack Chartier was chief of staff to the New York state comptroller with influence over billions in state pension funds. The result has been financial scandal history.
Since Chartier, 64, started confessing to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo's investigators about how he abused his office in order to better impress Lipton, at least five powerful figures have been forced to plead guilty to crimes involving the pension fund. Those admitting felonies so far include the former leader of the state's Liberal Party, a Texas hedge-fund manager, a hugely successful investment adviser, and a pension fund broker.
The latest victim is the biggest catch yet: Elliott Broidy, 52, is the former national finance committee chairman of the Republican National Committee and a personal friend of George W. Bush. Broidy was such a generous and prolific giver that he qualified as a "Super Ranger" on Bush's fundraising team, a designation for those ponying up $300,000-plus. One glittering evening in 2006, Broidy and his wife had Dubya as the guest of honor at their Bel Air mansion where more than $1 million was raised for the Republican cause. Broidy's wallet was so wide open that Bush named him to the board of the Kennedy Center, placed him on the Homeland Security Advisory Council, and had him to dinner at the White House with another famously randy figure, Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
None of those powerful connections, however, were any help once Chartier started singing after having been being nailed on his own transgressions. Among the stories that spilled from the portly political aide were all the favors that Broidy had done in order to get in the good graces of the Democrats who controlled the state's pension funds. The Los Angeles investment mogul and his wife had already made $80,000 in perfectly legal campaign donations to Chartier's old boss, former state comptroller Alan Hevesi, who served as the pension fund's sole trustee. They helped raise several hundred thousand more for Hevesi among their West Coast friends. But that was only the start of Broidy's generosity to the comptroller and those around him.
All told, according to Broidy's own confession last week to Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lewis Bart Stone, he paid some $1 million to help grease the way for a quarter-billion-dollar state investment into his Markstone Capital Group.
Included were a series of junkets to Israel and Italy for Hevesi and two of his grown children for which Broidy secretly picked up the $75,000 tab. There was what Broidy admits was a sham consultant contract with the brother of a top Hevesi deputy, who was paid $380,000 over two years for doing very little. Another $300,000 was secretly invested by Broidy in a goofy movie venture by the brother of Hevesi's top investment adviser, David Loglisci, who is currently under indictment for his own alleged role in the wide-ranging financial schemes unearthed by Cuomo's office.
At Chartier's urging, Broidy also agreed, starting in 2003, to quietly funnel payments adding up to $90,000 to help out with Lipton's rent and hospital bills. Another $44,000 was covertly invested in a business venture launched by one of Lipton's daughters.
As Broidy told the judge, all of these payments were made in pursuit of the end goal of persuading top officials in the comptroller's office to violate their sworn fiduciary duty as protectors of the immense $116 billion state pension funds.
In Chartier's case, fiduciary obligations were not foremost on his mind. At the time, the married political fixer was desperately wooing Lipton, whose chirpy good looks quickened so many pulses when she appeared as Julie Barnes on the late-'60s TV show that presented cops as lovable hipsters.
Chartier was introduced to Lipton by Andrew Stein, the former City Council president, who now earns seven-figure fees by hawking investment deals to public pension fund trustees. Stein and Lipton had been an item for a year or so, making regular appearances on the Post's Page Six. At some point, just as Stein was winning profitable deals with Hevesi's office, Lipton started spending time with Chartier. She was clearly the most exciting thing to ever come into his life. In one fell swoop, a man whose biggest nights out had been Queens political dinners found himself strolling red carpets in a tuxedo with a beautiful blonde star on his arm.
This is a heady and potentially toxic combination for anyone, but it was especially so for Jack Chartier. The biggest hint that something was askew in Alan Hevesi's once grand political career was that this brilliant and seemingly upright public servant always kept this smarmy little man at his side. Visitors to Hevesi's office often mistook Chartier for the comptroller's driver or body man, a gofer handling menial and distasteful chores. This assumption was abruptly corrected when Hevesi named Chartier as his chief of staff. Other recruits to the office were astonished to find that the comptroller they otherwise so admired made the unctuous Chartier his top negotiator for even major deals.
The other tip-off that something was badly amiss on Hevesi's watch was the shadowy presence of Hank Morris, the comptroller's all-purpose political consultant. Morris kept his hands in everything in the comptroller's office and left his fingerprints on nothing. Morris, too, stands indicted, charged with having bartered his influence for millions of dollars in pension fund deals.
But while Morris spent his time learning the investment business in order to profit from his client's clout, Chartier was making his biggest investment in Lipton and her well-being. She was battling cancer at the time and was badly in need of someone to lean on. Chartier used his state car and driver to chauffeur her about, delivering her to chemotherapy treatments and other appointments. Lipton was also writing a book about her life, and Chartier spent many nights, with his driver left idling outside, at her Upper East Side apartment, helping her find the right words to express herself.
If not for Chartier's reckless behavior with a beautiful blonde and a state car, it's quite possible that the financial hijinks that went on during Hevesi's term in office might have escaped official notice. The give-to-get atmosphere surrounding the office of state comptroller has always been pervasive. The back pages of every newspaper are filled with stories about the astonishing good luck of those who supported the state's top fiscal officer when it came to winning contracts and investments. It is unseemly, but it's rarely found to be illegal, given the state's wide-open campaign-finance laws.
But after Hevesi was caught on the eve of re-election in 2006 using his own state driver to help his ailing wife, his chief of staff's rascally conduct quickly came to light. One theory is that the story was nudged into print by one of Lipton's old flames. Regardless of how it surfaced, it is entirely unclear whether Chartier, whose own legal fate has not been disclosed, has big regrets. Danger is always part of the thrill in any fling. Just ask Tiger Woods.