An already strange case gets stranger.
Vince Tabone, one of the men arrested in an alleged plot to fix the GOP ticket in the NYC Mayoral race for Queens State Senator Malcolm Smith, actually works for another GOP candidate for Mayor — billionaire John Catsimatidis.
Tabone was taken into police custody this morning along with three other NYC political heavyweights — Republican Queens Councilman Dan Halloran, Smith (former NY Senate Majority Leader), and Bronx GOP head Jay Savino.
They are accused of handing out, or in Tabone’s case accepting, tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to secure the GOP nod for Smith. The election is set for November.
The weird thing is that Tabone is in-house attorney for John Catsimatidis, the billionaire grocery store and gas magnate who is also running for Mayor. According to Tabone’s LinkedIn profile, he’s worked for Catsimatidis for five years.
YouTube screengrabBillionaire John CatsimatidisThat means he was also around for Catsimatidis’ failed 2009 bid for Mayor.
And there was nothing to indicate that Tabone would support anyone else this time around. Last May, he helped write this glowing, pro-Catsimatidis Mayoral race memo from GOP chairs. (via City & State NY):
“Throughout this process the Chairmen have been encouraging billionaire John Catsimatidis, who was prepared to run in 2009 before Bloomberg extended term limits, to again step forward as the preferred candidate of the Party leadership. Catsimatidis has developed a strong relationship with the Chairs based not only on his consistent support for party building efforts and for local GOP candidates, but also for his friendship, advice and counsel to all the chairmen.Catsimatidis has indicated time and again that he believes having a vibrant two party system is integral to New York’s future.”
Of course, this was before Smith announced that he was considering a run in August.
The alleged plot took advantage of the Republican party’s weak condition in NYC. Because so many New Yorker’s are Democrats, the GOP ticket for Mayor is usually up for grabs for anyone fast enough to get the approval of 3/5 of the party bosses from each borough.
And so they could have plausibly made this work for Smith.
Perhaps Tabone truly didn’t think Catsimatidis’ chances were that great anyway (they’re not). As a candidate the billionaire couldn’t be any less like Bloomberg. He’s known for making off-colour statements, like this exchange he had with an NY1 reporter last December (via Capital NY):
Catsimatidis: “We shouldn’t punish any one group, whether we’re punishing the people that are wealthy; New York is for everybody. It’s for the poor, it’s for the middle class it’s for the wealthy. We can’t punish any one group and chase them away. Hitler punished the Jews. We can’t have punishing the 2 per cent group right now. We can’t have —”
Robin: “Wait a second. You see raising taxes as the same as putting people in gas chambers?”
Catsimatidis: “No, no. I didn’t say that.”
Plus, a lot of money has already been thrown behind former MTA Chair Joe Lhota. He has the support of donors like Home Depot founder Ken Langone and hotelier James Tisch.
Politicker NY was able to reach Catsimatidis for comment. Here’s what he said of Tabone:
“It’s very, very sad,” he said in a phone call from his doctor’s office. “I know the family. It’s sad that people create their own problems.”
This is one massive, massive problem.