Gunning for the Working Families Party

Landlords, lawyers fire at will

The party's tougher legal test is being conducted by the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office which last month subpoenaed financial records from the WFP and all of its city candidates. Nailing political party chieftains for corruption has been an Olympic-level prosecutorial sport for decades. Mug shots of Democratic party bosses Meade Esposito, Stanley Friedman, Clarence Norman, and Nassau GOP chief Joe Margiotta are just some of those gracing the scrapbooks. But this is the first time in memory that a local political party itself has been the target of a public corruption probe. Figuring out how money is handled by those wonderful "housekeeping" committees of all the major parties has always been a challenge, but they don't appear to have ever drawn the attention of the big game hunters at the U.S. attorney's office.

That's not to say that the WFP is a model of organizational clarity. Its cluttered third-floor offices on Nevins Street off Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn house the party, its for-profit campaign firm, and at least one nonprofit group. Downstairs is the community group, Acorn, which engages in some of the same political campaigns and whose leaders overlap with the party. Small wonder that when Edward Isaac Dovere, a reporter for the publication City Hall, wrote a series of articles voicing suspicions that things were badly amiss at the WFP, even many who never made it through the dense pieces assumed that so much smoke had to indicate fire lurking somewhere or other.

Actually, the WFP's biggest flaws are hardly indictable offenses. Its leaders tend to lapse into the arrogant lingo of the old-school bosses they seek to replace. They talk about taking political "scalps" just to show that they know how it's done; diligent legislators outside the inner circles of power are dismissed as "irrelevant." But then you have to figure that FDR's team—the one that changed America—suffered its own share of swollen egos.

Stan Shaw

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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