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Reality Often Rivals Fiction In Political Corruption Scandals

The federal criminal complaint against New York politicians arrested after an FBI sting was a reminder of how often real-life political scandals can read like the imaginings of Hollywood screenwriters. (Think $90,000 in cash in a congressman's freezer.)

Tuesday's allegations from the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York will be just another log on the fire of the public's cynicism about politics and its practitioners. And in alleged conversations involving the implicated officials, those politicians sound pretty cynical themselves, according to the FBI.

Take New York City Republican Councilman Daniel Halloran. A onetime New York City cop who recently ran for Congress, he was arrested on charges of accepting bribes.

Among the allegations: that he accepted payment as part of a scheme to help a Democratic state senator — one who wanted to run for mayor of New York as a Republican — obtain the approval of certain GOP officials.

Halloran allegedly delivered this gem to a witness working with the FBI::

"That's politics, that's politics, it's all about how much. Not about whether or will, it's about how much, and that's our politicians in New York, they're all like that, all like that. And they get like that because of the drive that the money does for everything else. You can't do anything without the f- - - - - - money."

The complaint also reports that Halloran at one point allegedly said:

"Money is what greases the wheels — good, bad, or indifferent."

The dialogue gives the famously recorded lines from Rod "I've-Got-This-Thing-And-It's-F- - - - - - Golden" Blagojevich, the former Illinois governor now in prison, a run for the money, so to speak.

Halloran's alleged statements would very likely have made a New York politician of another era, William "Boss" Tweed, nod in agreement.

Democratic state Sen. Malcolm Smith, who represents a district in the New York City borough of Queens, was arrested on conspiracy charges. Smith is the Democrat who had hoped to run for New York City mayor as a Republican. That's allowed in New York, so long as party officials sign off on it, and Smith allegedly sought Halloran's help to get GOP leaders to approve it.

Two GOP leaders arrested for allegedly accepting payments to participate in the conspiracy, Republican Party chairmen for Queens and Brooklyn, explained that they needed money for personal reasons, the complaint alleges.

And the mayor of the village of Spring Valley, Noramie Jasmin, also arrested Tuesday, allegedly agreed to sell village land to so long as she received a piece of the action. The complaint includes this alleged dialogue:

"JASMIN and the CW [cooperating witness] discussed the financial stake that each of them would have in the Real Estate Project. The CW suggested that JASMIN receive a 20% stake in the project, and JASMIN replied 'Partnership is fifty fifty, right?' "

And for many a politician caught in a federal sting, hindsight is a very much 20-20. Unfortunately, foresight is much more myopic. Which explains why the FBI won't be ending its investigations of corruption by public officials anytime soon.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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