The Political Machine Age
McCain, Obama will debate at a historic political site tonight.
All eyes will focus tonight on the Obama-McCain debate in Hofstra University's basketball arena, but none of the talking heads will note the Long Island school's unique spot in political history.
It's a perfect place for a campaign event: Hofstra is believed to be the only U.S. university to ever name a major campus building for a politician convicted of a felony — after the pol was found guilty in federal court and went to prison.
Too bad that the magnificent 22,500-square-foot Joseph M. Margiotta Hall wasn't quite big enough for the presidential debate.
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Margiotta's all but forgotten, but until the '80s he led the most powerful political machine in the country: the Nassau County GOP. He set the standard in political patronage, and the machine was a behind-the-scenes power in national GOP politics for decades.
The Nassau GOP seized control just after World War I and ruled the now-populous suburban NYC county for the rest of the century. As the New York Times noted in November 2001, when the machine was finally losing its grip:
Until federal prosecutors finally nailed him, Joe Margiotta was king of the county. But as Newsday's handy bio, "The Fall of Joseph Margiotta," notes:
After Margiotta was sent to prison, Hofstra named its plush new football-lacrosse headquarters after him.
But the honors didn't stop there. At its May 2001 commencement ceremonies, Hofstra gave Margiotta an honorary degree. It was his first — if you don't count the first-degree that federal prosecutors previously gave him.
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