Espada's Motives
June 9th, 2009

Sen. Pedro Espada said yesterday that he was motivated to join with Republicans to take over the Senate because of a “quagmire” that has enveloped the body since Democrats took control earlier this year. “For the past five months, state government has been characterized by gridlock, paralysis, secretiveness, threats and partisan politics all to the detriment of the people represented by me and my 61 colleagues,” said Espada in a statement. But in an interview from a few weeks ago, Espada fervently defended the accomplishments of the Senate Democrats.

In an interview at his putative apartment in the Bronx on May 21, Espada went to some lengths to explain that the Senate Democrats were doing the best they could with the situation they had and had accomplished significant things for the people not only of his district but of the whole state.

“A lot was going on there that I’m sure the community has no way of finding out about as I have not put out a newsletter yet,” said Espada.
“The MTA, the budget, saving New York City from layoffs and cuts in critical service like the police department and fire safety. Those things can kind of be enumerated,” he continued in the May interview, “but we had to live through Tuesday lobbies, long nights and taking input from communities and various interest groups. ” He said they had to “make sure at the end of the day that the balanced budget restored services, and we did that and we are away.”

But also in that interview, Espada was repeatedly critical of Malcolm Smith’s leadership, saying that Smith “circled the wagons” around members who dissented on critical issues like mayoral school control and the MTA. He said he supported Smiths joining with Republicans to secure votes on mayoral control, but chided him for saying he would reach out for Republican votes before securing consensus in his own majority. ” I think what is troubling to me is this undercurrent of, We may not need your votes.”

However, Espada has problems of his own. He has not addressed or has been slow to address basic issues related to performing his job. Espada has yet to open a district office since he was elected last year, and as he admitted, at the time of the interview he had not yet sent out a newsletter. But of course larger than those concerns is the fact that he has yet to file campaign finance reports from the fall elections and owes the state thousands of dollars in fines.

Espada’s lawyer met with State Board of Election officials about Espada’s outstanding filings and fines on June 2, but according to BOE spokesperson Bob Brehm, no significant progress was made. Espada has yet to file 41 outstanding finance reports, and has not paid anything towards his fines. “It was one more opportunity” for Mr. Espada’s representative to figure out how to address Espada’s campaign finance situation, said Brehm.

Earlier this year Smith demanded Espada take action on the matter, and set a deadline. At the end of the deadline Smith said he was satisfied with Espada’s actions even though reports had not been filed and fines had not been paid. Espada laughed about it.

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is also still investigating Espada and the Bronx District Attorney is investigating his residency.

A commenter at the Albany Project theorizes that Tom Golisano, who helped organize the coup, may be offering to pay Espada and fellow turncoat Sen. Hiram Monserrate’s legal bills. They go on to posit that Smith was going to “cut them loose.”

Another factor that may have played into Espada’s decision: according to the Albany Times Union Espada was unhappy with the amount of pork-barrel money he was scheduled to receive. The Senate was scheduled to approve the distribution of member items yesterday.

According to Fred Dicker Espada felt Smith had not given him any real power. Housing advocates have insisted that Smith promised them that Espada would not be allowed to use his position as chair of the Senate housing committee to bottle up rent legislation he opposed. I asked Espada about those accusations in May. Espada responded by insisting that landlords had told him that Smith had promised them that the legislation would not make it to a vote.

By on June 9, 2009, 10:02 am
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