If This Is True…

When I was much younger, I naively believed that endemic corruption was only a problem in other countries–that America would of course have its share of slimy folks, but their influence would be episodic, not part of the culture.

My experience with Indianapolis’ municipal government was consistent with that conviction.

I began to question whether I could generalize that experience when–as a lawyer in private practice–I represented real estate developers and had occasion to interact with lenders from states like New Jersey, where I was astonished to discover it could take a couple of years and some dubious “arrangements” to get a building permit. (At the time, you could pull such a permit in Indianapolis in a day or two.)

These days, watching the Trump Administration is a Master Class in sleaze. As we learn more about the backgrounds of the people Trump has installed in cabinet and White House positions, it becomes more and more apparent that they aren’t new to corruption and self-dealing (just google “best people” sometime…). Presumably, that’s why Trump feels comfortable with them–they are “his kind of people.”

Then there’s Rudy Guiliani. It appears that Trump’s “you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” relationship with his “personal lawyer” goes back some years as well–at least to 1988. According to Daily Kos,

U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani had FBI Agent Tony Lombardi end the FBI’s investigation on Trump money laundering.  A few weeks later, Donald Trump raised $2 Million for Giuliani’s mayoral campaign.  Quid Pro Quo?

Now, Daily Kos is not an unbiased news source. It definitely leans Left. But its political preferences tend to dictate what it chooses to report, and how it reacts to actual “facts on the ground.” To the best of my ability to tell, it doesn’t engage in Fox-like distortion/invention.

Here are relevant portions of the rest of the post:

Journalist, and author, Wayne Barrett writes in his 2016 article:

Tony Lombardi, the federal agent closest to then-U.S. Attorney Giuliani, opened a probe of Trump’s role in the suspect sale of two Trump Tower apartments to Robert Hopkins, the mob-connected head of the city’s largest gambling ring.

Barrett explains:

The government subsequently nailed Hopkins’ mortgage broker, Frank LaMagra, on an unrelated charge and he offered to give up Donald, claiming Trump “participated” in the money-laundering — and volunteering to wear a wire on him….

Lombardi, who discussed the case with Giuliani personally (and with me for a 1993 Village Voice piece called “The Case of the Missing Case”), went straight to Donald for two hour-long interviews with him. Within weeks of the interviews, Donald announced he’d raise $2 million in a half hour if Rudy ran for mayor. LaMagra got no deal and was convicted, as was his mob associate, Louis (Louie HaHa) Attanasio, who was later also nailed for seven underworld murders. Hopkins was convicted of running his gambling operation partly out of the Trump Tower apartment, where he was arrested.

Lombardi — who expected a top appointment in a Giuliani mayoralty, conducted several other probes directly tied to Giuliani political opponents, and testified later that “every day I came to work I went to Mr. Giuliani to seek out what duties I needed to perform” — closed the Trump investigation without even giving it a case number. That meant that New Jersey gaming authorities would never know it existed.

I guess the old adage “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” was certainly true in New York’s white-collar crime community.

This was 1988. More evidence, as if we needed it, that Guiliani was never entitled to be called “America’s Mayor,” that Trump’s venality is nothing new, and that my naiveté was just that.


  1. welcome to NYC, its been that way since crime was invented,there.. not to mention preet bharara, former manhatten fed DA who was fired by
    trump investigating russian ties to trump,and the magniski acts passage.kushner,and family,the laundering was not just a single case,it also,crossed into russian money being filtered out of the u.s. (james henry,and craig unger,via the nation,by bob dreyfuss 8/3/17)the articles are in blue,pressem and read. very entertaining..as a kid who grew up across the river,we heard alot,my folks were union memebers, jersey city,NYC.area. its all controled,and its not a game. trump grew up around these thugs,who protect intrests,he is and always will be a wanna be thug. im sure the mob rubs on him. the trump tower sales,were investements, with alot of the money coming from russian interests,and russian mafia money..even his atlantic city casinos,were a wet towel for them. like you write about indy,we walk the streets of the NYC metro area. everyone here knows trump and his bullshit,and they laugh at him. hes a joke, a wanna be con,who hasnt the backbone to be one. now his ego is inflated,and hes dangerous. even the heads of state just threw him under a ship. now,lets finish the job in November,and watch the dog leave wth his tail between his legs..

  2. About New York City; years ago, when the History Channel still broadcast actual history programming, they aired the history of the New York City Police Department from its beginning. A lesson in how NOT to run a police department if one expects to fight criminals and crime.

    Regular readers here are aware Sheila and I worked during Mayor Bill Hudnut’s administration; I was there for almost the entire SIXTEEN YEARS of Republican progress. Moving on to the Goldsmith administration was a move in reverse; mostly thanks to his highest out-of-state donor Warren Tyler who was and remained vice president of a bank in Columbus, Ohio, where he lived full time. He would appear 5-6 days a month to do whatever it was he was doing. He was hired by Goldsmith to study Public Housing but given the run of the City-County Building, temporarily covertly the acting director of the Department of Metropolitan Development where the privatization and development deals for Indianapolis moved into Ohio via Tyler’s bank position and connections. The biggest and ugliest deal led by Tyler and approved by the Metropolitan Development Commission was the sale of FIFTEEN pieces of property on Indiana Avenue for $82,000 to a developer from Hamilton, Ohio, through his banking connections. This was 1993 or 1994; Indianapolis wasn’t then and isn’t now a “big city” but graft was as rampant here as in “The Big Apple”. Goldsmith moved on to that big city to become appointed Deputy Mayor by Mayor Bloomberg who is back in the news attempting to buy the presidency out from under Trump. Goldsmith’s lies about his permanent residence lost him his Deputy Mayor position when he was jailed for domestic abuse at his actual home in Washington, D.C., and later divorced by his wife, granddaughter of Eugene Pulium, former owner of Indianapolis Star and Indianapolis News daily newspapers. Definitely a “who you know” situation locally. And Tyler “knew” Goldsmith; both left this city with full bank accounts.

    “I guess the old adage “it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know” was certainly true in New York’s white-collar crime community.”

    This old adage is now running our federal government; can we stop it? Are we willing to fight the big dogs to rid the White House of its current occupants? Another old adage comes to mind, “It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight that counts, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

  3. My son, a Public Defender at Legal Services in Manhattan, who has PhD In Mechanical Engineering from UC-Berkeley and a JD from Columbia, and his wife went 6 months without hot water last year, because a City inspector showed up and claimed they had an illegal gas connection. It didn’t take long to fix the connection, but it took that long for the City turn to the gas back on.

    Thanks for the post. I’m beginning to understand the problem.

  4. Where would we all be today if back in 1988 U.S. Attorney Giuliani and a NYC FBI agent had been honest? Would Donald Trump have gotten away with money laundering? Would he have been tried and sentenced to federal prison? Would he have been able to run for public office in 2016?
    The ramifications of corruption even at the local government level are not petty. The damage done to our country by corrupt officials has become legion, and in the case of Trump it started long before he became the laughing stock of NATO.

  5. “In a society that rewards greed, corruption is expected.”

    Examples of corruption are endless in the USA from small towns all the way up to Washington. People abusing power is the norm rather than the exception — it’s systemic.

    I’m not sure that voting will somehow end the corruption; it will just rearrange the seats and the players.

    There are progressives trying their best to change the system which might stem some of the corruption, but the lust for money and power brings out the worse in human beings.

    Trump isn’t very bright but wants to be boss. He has to surround himself with shady characters and idiots without morals who will take orders. Look at all the resignations since Trump took office and even before from his campaign staff.

    Even world leaders mocked him at the NATO Summit. His shady dealings may work in the private world, but when the world is watching, his stupidity is amplified.

  6. Was anybody wondering how Rudy could be so confident that 45 wouldn’t throw him under the bus? My guess is that he knows where all of the bodies are buried, literally and figuratively.

  7. e.g. > Just this morning Reich put down Betsy DeVos for registering her 40 million dollar yacht in the Caymans when her tax via American registration would help public schools survive. While such registration to foreign countries is not unusual and not a violation of law, who wrote the laws? The laws were written by representatives of Amway in the case of DeVos, and by Boeing, Northrop and other huge defense and other corporations who pay the politicians to exempt them from taxation. Case in point > Boeing had a profit of 11 billion dollars last year and paid no tax. I paid more than they did, and that’s a GRRRR! Verizon also paid nothing, and that’s another GRRRR! And to make things worse (but to shareholders’ delight), dividends went up and capital gains opportunities followed suit. GRRRR once again, but those such as me who want fair taxation for all are labelled socialists and un-American – a cross I will gladly bear in the interests of just and fair taxation.

    I often write elsewhere that we should ignore the entreaties about rate that big corporations PR to cover their tracks. It doesn’t matter what the rate is if (via deductions and credits) the corporation has no income to tax under existing law. I also write elsewhere that we need to recall some semblance of the progressive tax we were promised when the income tax started out in 1913. That can only be done if we have a Congress ready to redo our internal revenue and bankruptcy codes with a new look at anti-trust legislation (which is currently ignored given competition as the only arbiter of yes or no to mergers and acquisitions). Another GRRR!

    If corporations are people per Citizens United vs. FEC, then let’s have them pay taxes like people.

  8. I believe every member of Congress and many (most?) state legislature members are equally guilty of corruption by choosing to accept Dark Money campaign contributions and refusing to create laws to require that all campaigns for office receive only a designated amount of cash to run their campaigns. The allowed amounts would be decided by and paid for by the taxpayers.

    We, the Public Citizens, must figure out a way to demand change to our entire campaign finance system. It will never be above board until they are all subject to rules and regulations that create equal opportunity.

    In addition, we need to demand complete transparency of ALL donations to members of state legislatures and congressional members, whether they are made in the form of cash, gifts or favors for which a monetary value can be assessed.

    For instance, ALEC’s semi-annual corporate sponsored conference is currently taking place in Arizona. The attendees are given royal treatment as member corporations provide them with bills to take back to their state legislatures for approval. Members of Congress and the State legislatures allow this corporate bill mill to keep the names of all who attend their conferences and the conference agenda a secret. This type of secrecy should be illegal.

    I’ve spoken to my State Rep Dave Wolkins at public meetings about his membership in this organization. He always defends it and claims it is an above board organization. He is an Indiana State co-chair in ALEC. Most people at the public meetings where I bring this up have never heard of ALEC and most don’t even seem interested in learning about it.

    I am just experiencing a case of wishful thinking this morning.

  9. Re Peggy’s comment –

    That has to be the “Insurance” that he recently publicly referenced .

  10. Heard a pundit randomly ponder about the impeachment proceedings last week: “it seems as if we no longer have general agreement about right versus wrong.” If we have come to this, it looks like a nearly impossible turnaround with fewer people turning to a religion with such standards and many more touting and living “anything goes”, especially the next generations.

    Cole Porter:

    The world has gone mad today
    And good’s bad today
    And black’s white today
    And day’s night today…
    Anything goes

  11. If it’s true is a bit of a stretch. However, what we now know of President Agent Orange and Rudy Guiliani is they are a couple of con-men, using other people to line their own pockets.

    What we do know from the Paradise Papers and Panama Papers is the extent of shell corporations to avoid taxes and hide assets.

    Somehow companies like Amazon pay no Federal Income Taxes. There is corruption here in the USA. During my College years (mid 1970’s), I took many business courses, with one exception the instructors assured us the USA’s legal climate protected us from the corruption endemic in Third World Countries. This was before the Enron scandal and Junk Bonds.

    The idea that corruption could not happen here was an Alice in Wonderland, or Pollyanna view that the justice institutions would always remain true. It is the 1% that control who control selection, election of those officials that best serve their interests, through campaign donations or lobbyists.

    What President Agent Orange has revealed is the extent of the corruption, that it is not just the one bad apple.

  12. Lester, you and Cole said it well today.

    Like most/all of you, back in my day, cream came on top of milk in a glass jar brought to our porch, which was a very useful “room” to great neighbors from. We lived in a village in upstate NY that meet the definition of diverse in every way except for the more remote of our relatives, other races. It did contain representation from every corner of Europe though. Everyone knew who the good and bad guys were and that while both were generally tolerated we did have our standards and occasionally someone crossed the line and got held accountable when they did. They were considered failed criminals and were therefore generally poor. Small town America. Very Cole Porter.

    Now milk is homogenized and so is America (except for the distant relatives thing. We still know what our eyes inform us of.) Even the good and bad are much less distinguishable now. In fact in America even the worst of criminals can become President.

    Of course there are other changes too. Hard physical work has been replaced by entertainment and crowds being entertained and entertaining each other have been replaced by individuals being entertained (sort of) by screens. Apparently while our attention was being diverted from each other the good and bad guys intermixed and the line between tolerable and in- got blurred.

    Where do we go from here?

    Up to us.

  13. While I agree with your vision of reality, I feel that you (and most others) are totally missing the main point(s) that are relevant to movement forward including Impeachment and the 2020 election. Trump was Not elected based upon “rational” issues or argument. Clinton clearly could speak much more coherently upon what mattered to most people. Close to 40 percent of Americans are strongly supportive of both Trump and the Republicans. The very wealthy have reasons to be Republicans. Another perhaps 40% of Americans are clearly against Trump and will vote against anyone opposing him. The main core of Trump’s support as well as the support (or apathy and not voting) of the remaining 20% are who deserve our focus. The clear Trump supporters have a Strong Emotional Draw to Trump and against Democrats – particularly when someone like Hillary Clinton. Very few of such people can be convinced of more than possibly a few not voting at all in 2020. The critical 20% of potential voters are significantly white men and women. (Also important are the views of Black voters, who may not vote, unless they are angry at Trump and NOT disempowered.) IF, they were concerned that abortion will likely be illegal in many states if Trump is re-elected, they would clearly vote for any Democrat. If they cared about reasoned arguments, the Impeachment Hearings would already have turned them against Trump. Why is Wisconsin now purportedly 3% ahead by Trump vs. Biden? You and I may blindly ignore it, but it is: “Poor Donald Trump” being picked on, rather than the facts. Voters in a few key states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin for example) may well determine the election. Trump – and Republicans – reach the emotions and hearts – of people, not their intellect! Democrats – need to get these people ANGRY at the deception – emotionally connected, not intellectually convinced! I am not suggesting that the hearings ignore the facts. I am however saying that – emotions and hearts – need to be reached for both white and Black people. Black People – need to be convinced that voting matters. Whjte people need to be reached emotionally – They need to understand emotionally how they are being manipulated and cheated. It isn’t to do what I am suggesting. It is, however, very important! Thanks!

  14. Hate to continue to remind, but….

    In 2016, about 251 million Americans were eligible to vote, but
    Only 200 million were registered: about 80%, continuing a downward trend
    Only 139 million of those registered voted: about 55%, continuing a downward trend
    About 10 million millennials did not vote; ~ 4 million for other parties

    The US is 27th out of 34 developed countries in voting participation – well behind those “deplorables” from Mexico.

    24% (2017) view both political parties unfavorably (2% in 2002)

    Most people who sit out elections say they weren’t interested in voting, disliked the candidates or didn’t care.

    A challenge, eh???

  15. Republicans and Democrats agree that Trump’s behavior falls under the Constitutional definition for “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

    Republicans therefore want the term redefined.

  16. It was reported yesterday that Giuliani was back in Ukraine, talking with former prosecutors. He’s working with a right wing TV show about conspiracy theories? He was quoted as saying he’s representing his client. All this brings to mind what Pelosi said “All roads lead to Putin with you” in reference to tRump. Could it be that under the guise of investigations of the 2016 election, they’re actually setting up & using back-channels to Russia. We need to follow the money

  17. Excellent article. I never cared for Guiluani pre or post 911. However, like most Americans, I have watched his devolution aghast that he could sink so low as a former US Attorney. I thought possibly Trump wore a wire to help Guiliani nail the five families. This article you referenced adds clarity. As an Indiana native, and an attorney, I too was naive. The US attorneys, prosecutors, and judges I interact with, act with integrity. Even though I stringently disagree with many of their filing decisions, or rulings. I have never personally encountered “pay offs,” or quid pro quo deals for personal enrichment or political gain. I remember the first time a potential client asked me “how much would it cost to make a charge go away.” I firmly told him I knew of no prosecutors or judges who would make “something go away,” for any amount of money. I have watched, appalled beyond words, at the in your face corruption of the Trump administration. I even believed Barr would rise to his constitutional responsibilities if push came to shove. I remember my sweeping nausea when, after grossly mischaracterizing Mueller’s report, Barr testified that he believed there “was spying,” on the Trump Campaign in 2016. The sick irony of this nightmare presidency is that even sans research on Trump’s background, Trump told us, and showed us, exactly who he was, yet Americans voted for him anyway. However, contrary to Trump’s belief, many Americans who did not vote for him hoped he would be humbled by the immeasurable weight of the Presidency and act with a smidgen of integrity. Instead,
    these last 3 years have produced daily affronts to our Republic’s separation of powers and the global image of what it means to be an American, or even just a decent human being. Yes, corrupt politicians are nothing new, and Citizens United must be overruled. However, even without Citizens UnitedTrump would be, indigenously and gleefully, corrupt. Even now, as I write this, Giuliani is back in Eastern Europe doing god knows what. House Republicans, are smirking at their Congressional oaths and are possibly, active agents and accomplices in Trump’s endangering of our nation for personal gain. They are refusing to look at Trump’s behavior. Behavior, that from day one, screamed that Trump is unfit to be the president of the local PTA, let alone President of the United States of America.

  18. I’ve spent all my adult life working with and in the public sector in Indiana and Washington. Most of the folks encountered were honest and appalled at not just illegal acts but conflicts of interest, ethics violations, and appearances of impropriety. It’s unfortunate that the bad ones get 99% of the publicity and the honest ones receive little attention for their good works.

    A friend who works in the financial sector once told me that the reason so many individuals, multi-national corporations, and even countries invest and park their money in the U.S. is because of our laws, judicial system, and public demands for honesty in government protect against rampant corruption and inspire confidence that their money is safe here. I’d never thought about how or whether our financial institutions and laws inspired global financial confidence and investment but was enlightened by her perspective. Now I worry a LOT that the current occupant of the White House and whether our Congress decides that he is above the law undermines what has taken 200+ years to build – public confidence in our country’s moral leadership and commitment to the rule of law.

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