NYC Mayoral Candidates Spar After Ballot Bribe Scandal

By Andrew Siff
|  Thursday, Apr 4, 2013  |  Updated 11:40 AM EDT
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NYC Mayoral Candidates Spar After Ballot Bribe Scandal

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One day after prosecutors charged State Sen. Malcolm Smith for allegedly trying to bribe his way into the mayor's race, some of the candidates who actually are running for the job discussed how the scandal could affect the election. 

Five Democratic mayoral candidates gathered for a forum in Brooklyn Wednesday, and several criticized City Council Speaker Christine Quinn -- the frontrunner for mayor in recent polls -- for continuing grants known as member items.

The practice, where city lawmakers pick which neighborhood groups and non-profits get funding, was what City Councilman Dan Halloran allegedly bragged about before his arrest in the sting.

"We do have a systemic problem," said Sal Albanese, a Democrat.

Quinn responded, "When I became speaker, I inherited a system that was broken in terms of member items. And I can tell you now, we have changed that system top to bottom."

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said, "With all due respect, Speaker Quinn, it was on your watch. The public didn't know which member items were being printed. That wasn't transparency, and that wasn't good government."

Quinn reminded de Blasio that he'd said the current system is "perfectly transparent" when he was running for speaker in 2005.

De Blasio responded, "In 2005, people weren't going to jail who were City Council members. Things changed as we saw more and more abuses. That's why we need more and more reform."

The other candidates also weighed in, with Bill Thompson stating he wasn't against member items "but it's clear that there are still problems there." Comptroller John Liu said, "We need to overhaul the entire process, not just the member items." 

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