If you’re running for one of the highest political offices in the country, you’d probably be advised to avoid certain unsavory characters who could potentially derail your campaign. You might want to avoid hiring a former congressman who was arrested for DUI (twice) and “had a woman on his lap when he was pulled over” to run your campaign, for example.
But that hasn’t stopped former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and GOP Senate hopeful George Maragos from hiring (er…allegedly hiring in Maragos’ case. More on that below) shamed former Congressman John Sweeney — who was arrested for DUI in 2007 (and again in 2009) and “had a woman on his lap when he was pulled over,” according to police.
As first reported by Jimmy Vielkind at the Albany Times Union, Sweeney sent a letter to the Federal Elections Commission claiming Maragos owes him $125,000 after the two agreed that Sweeney would run Maragos’ Senate campaign.
As even Sweeney notes, though, there was no written agreement — just a handshake.
“It was a handshake — I thought he was a credible guy,” Sweeney tells the Voice. “He kept telling me how much of a billionaire he was and not to worry about it.”
The former congressman — who was dubbed “Congressman Kickass” by former President George W. Bush for his role in organizing the so-called “Brooks Brothers Riot” during the 2000 Florida presidential recount — says he traveled to Rochester with Maragos last month to wrangle delegates at the GOP Convention with the understanding that he would be running Maragos’ Senate campaign.
“I went to Rochester and he told me he’d have my money,” Sweeney says. But Maragos never paid him, the former congressman — who in 2006 was named one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress
by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington — tells the Voice.
Sweeney goes on to say “I was later told by a number of people that [Maragos] didn’t think he needed consultants, and he didn’t like paying people.”
Maragos’ campaign didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment. We’ll let you know if we hear back.
After several seemingly reckless years since losing his Congressional seat to Kirsten Gillibrand in 2007 — including a 30-day jail sentence for one of his two DWIs, allegations of domestic violence against
his second wife, and some health problems — Sweeney is hoping to get back into the political arena.
But don’t call it a comeback — Sweeney’s not planning another run for office, he says he’s sticking with consulting. He claims to be working on several Congressional campaigns, some of which are outside of New York.
“I’ve gotta pay my bills and feed my family,” Sweeney says.
Sweeney denies that his heart’s not in it — or that he’s only getting into politics again for the money.
“[Politics] is part of my life,” he says. “This is how I cut my teeth.”
See the letter Sweeney wrote to the FEC here.