El Lobo en la Ropa de Oveja [Divide and Conquer; Part Two]


bum rush:  To run full speed into somebody and body slam them into a brick wall, chain link fence, or similar immovable object.

bum rush:  To attack someone or something by wildly charging them full force with no sort of tact or skill other than one's own momentum and possibly the backs and sides of their fists as they randomly flail them out of rage, but certainly consisting of no precisely swung blows.

bum rush:  The act of attacking someone or something (usually by a group)with the reckless abandon and fervor of one who has nothing to loose.

bum rush:  To get beaten up by a group of lowlifes, or bums.

The day before yesterday I was approached at the Bergen Street Station by two extremely scruffy looking gentlemen who looked like they were trying very hard to resemble authentic “Occupy Wall Street” dilettantes. 

Evidence that they were not authentic: they were engaged in actual political action trying to impact upon an election. In fact, they were carrying nominating petitions!

Evidence that they were authentic: instead of doing the hard effective work of going door to door in the district of their candidate with a list of eligible voters, they were taking street signatures (albeit, under the actual street).

Further evidence that they were authentic: instead of challenging a right wing incumbent, they were petitioning against one of the most liberal members of the NYS Congressional Delegation, Nydia Velazquez.

Further evidence that they were not authentic: their candidate was George Martinez.

Mr. Martinez is a self proclaimed “Occupy Wall Street/Hip Hop” candidate for Congress, whose Federal Elections Committee is actually named: “Bum Rush The Vote George Martinez 2012.”

This may be the only recorded instance where Mr. Martinez is accurate in conveying his political identity.

But I’ve been familiar with George for a long time. George will say anything to anyone in the interest of George.

On his Campaign’s Facebook Page he wraps himself in the glory of the Obama 20008 campaign:

 This is supposed to be a government of the people, by the people and for the people. But we all know this hasn’t been true for a long time. Because on November 4th, 2008, we the people didn’t just speak – we shouted. We screamed. And after an eight year nightmare, our voices were finally heard. We made history and sent Barack Obama to the White House. 

But during that campaign, he proudly appeared at a Green Party rally to encourage support for the Green Party’s national slate.

George will tell you on the same page that he is a college professor and a State Department envoy, and then proclaim that he has no health insurance.

I first encountered George when he was running for City Council against incumbent Angel Rodriguez in 2001.

I had not supported Angel the first time he had run, four years before. My friend, Eddy Castell, then Nydia Velazquez’s Chief of Staff, was running. Eddy was and still is a star; one of NYC’s most brilliant minds in the fields of government and politics. Eddy would have been an outstanding Councilman; one day Eddy might make an outstanding Mayoral Chief of Staff. Whatever doubts I have about Billy Thompson are remedied by the fact that he will have Eddy by his side.

That being said, I told Eddy I didn’t think he would win. He was Cuban, lived in the South Slope, and was new to the district and had no involvement in its affairs prior to joining Nydia’s staff. By contrast, I said, “Angel Rodriguez is Puerto Rican, from Sunset Park, has been involved in the community for years and publishes a community newspaper.”

Eddy might have pulled it out, but for two things. One was a strong white candidate named Susan Loeb, whose supporters would surely have preferred Eddy to Angel. The other stab into Eddy’s white flank was the NY Times, which echoing my own thoughts said:

 Three of the five candidates in this race could serve the district well.  Susan Loeb has a sophisticated understanding of the budget process that would make her a real asset. Eduardo Castell, the former chief of staff for Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, is a relative newcomer to the district who has nevertheless done a good job of building coalitions among the area's diverse communities… Angel Rodriguez, a 20-year resident of the district, got into politics only recently, but he is a very old hand at community service. We like his combination of grass-roots volunteer activity and interest in districtwide issues like schools and roads. Among a strong crop of candidates, we endorse Mr. Rodriguez.”

Though it is hard to remember this in retrospect, by his 2001 re-election campaign, Angel Rodriguez was a local hero, having successfully fought the location of a resource recovery plant in Red Hook at the beginning of what was to become the area’s renaissance (the plant would also have severely impacted Sunset Park as well). Local Yuppies, hipsters and project residents alike were sometimes seen strolling around the neighborhood wearing t-shirts thanking Angel Rodriguez (I still own one, which I keep next to my Victor Barron pen; funny juxtaposition “Victor Barron” and “pen”).       

Angel had many aspects of a bully, and his confusing positioning on the proposed Red Hook Fairway was causing more than its share of head-scratching among local pols; the developer had made all the concessions Angel had asked for publicly, but Angel was still balking and no one could figure out his endgame.

But at the time, it was hard to regard him as anything but a star, and perhaps a future Council Speaker.   

Angel’s ambitions to become Council Speaker led him to become one of the city’s few Latino elected not to back Freddie Ferrer for Mayor that year. A Latino Mayor was unlikely to see the advantage in having a Latino Speaker.

Mark Green, on the other hand saw plenty of advantages.

The Bronx Machine, led by Roberto Ramirez and Jose Rivera, together with their ally Al Sharpton, were fresh from their triumphant efforts to re-elect their pal indicted right wing Republican State Senator Guy Velella, and were rumored to be looking to give Angel a primary.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, came George Martinez, all of whose political connections seemed to emanate either from the Bronx or Sharpton’s National Action Network.

Martinez was regarded by nearly all observers as a dead fish delivered to Angel from the vicinity of Fordham Road; but, Rodriguez had nearly unanimous community and political support.

Still, George managed during the campaign to transform his image. At the beginning of the race, expert opinion divided between those who regarded him as a somewhat nutty dupe, and others who regarded him as a Latino Sammy Glick trying to make his bones.

Then he revealed himself as a brilliantly bold innovator, pioneering an entirely unprecedented form of petition fraud.

Here’s what highly respected Judge Anne Feldman had to say (citations omitted):   

“Petitioners move by Order to Show Cause to invalidate as fraudulent the designating petition of George Martinez, a candidate for the Democratic party nomination for the Office of Council Member in the 38th Councilmanic District, Kings County.

At a hearing held before me on August 8 & 9, 2001, Petitioners called three persons who served as subscribing witnesses to the petitions, one of whom was also the campaign manager and one of whom was the candidate's father. In addition, Petitioner also called 14 individuals who either acknowledged signing the candidate's petition but who did not live at the address listed on the petition or who testified they did live at the listed address but had not signed the petition. The Respondent called as a witness a consultant who had been retained to instruct the campaign on the petitioning process, as well as one of the subscribing witness who had already testified on behalf of the petitioner.

Petitioners established by clear and convincing evidence that the campaign headquarters were located in the candidate's four room apartment and that the petitions were brought there regularly by the subscribing witnesses and 'cleaned up' by Jose Davila, the campaign manager, who testified that he was assisted on various occasions by several other unnamed persons. Although Davila, the candidate's father, George Martinez, and Margaret Rocco, a subscribing witness, all testified that the candidate had not been present or involved in this process, the candidate did not testify concerning his connection with or knowledge of the 'clean up' process.

An examination of the petitions reveals that on at least 20 occasions the address supplied on the petition by a voter had been crossed out and another address substituted. Davila admitted that these address changes were made under his direction. His testimony that he only substituted  addresses when he was advised by the subscribing witness that the signator had expressed uncertainty over the location of his or her voting address or that he changed the addresses in accordance with instructions given to him by his consultant was totally incredible. The witnesses who had signed the petition had all lived at the addresses listed on the petitions for periods ranging up to 15 years. Moreover, none of the subscribing witnesses testified credibly that they kept any records of signators who expresses doubt about their voting address or had communicated such concerns to Davila to whom they brought the petitions on a regular basis. The consultant's totally credible testimony that Davila had never asked him about the procedure to be followed for changing addresses when the signator expressed doubt negates any possibility that Davila acted out of ignorance or misunderstanding.

It is clear to this court that when Davila reviewed the petitions and found that a signator was not a registered voter, resided outside of the district, or was not in fact an enrolled Democrat, he scrutinized his computerized list of enrolled Democrats residing in the district to find a person of the same name. When eligible voters of the same name were located their addresses were substituted for those of the ineligible voters although they had never signed the petition. Davila's apparent motivation for altering the petitions in this manner is reflected in the Board of Elections' conclusion that of the 2684 signatures obtained on behalf of Mr. Martinez's candidacy, 708 were from non-registered voters, 189 from persons who were not members of the Democratic party, and 359 from voters who did not reside in the concilmanic district. Since Davila could anticipate that additional signatures would undoubtedly be invalidated by the Board of Elections on other grounds he knew that his candidate was dangerously close to not meeting the minimum of 900 signatures needed to establish his candidacy. Accordingly, he embarked upon a strategy to 'save' signatures through fraudulent tactics.

Respondent argues the candidate was not shown to be aware of his campaign manager's conduct and contends that he should not be held responsible for it. Under the circumstances the court finds this impossible to believe. The campaign was conducted solely out of the candidate's small apartment. All petitions were processed there throughout the petitioning period. Moreover, the candidate, although available to testify, did not take the stand to explain how he was able to distance himself from the activities of such an intimate campaign.

Based on the foregoing, this court concludes that the designating petitions in this case are permeated with fraud.

Furthermore, because of the close working relationship that the candidate had with his campaign manager who constructed the fraudulent scheme, the candidate cannot avoid being charged with knowledge of the fraud.

Accordingly, the designating petitions are invalidated in their entirety and it is ordered that the Respondent Board of Elections in the City of New York shall remove from the ballot for the aforesaid Primary Election the name of George Martinez as candidate in the Democratic Primary.”

I will note that, for someone who whines about being raised by a single mom, George seems very close to his daddy.

George did continue to run in the General Election as the candidate of Brooklyn’s Independence Party, then controlled by its despicable Fred Newman cult/Nappie faction (a sometimes Sharpton ally). He got 11%. 

George seemed a dead issue, but by the next year, Angel’s fortunes had turned. Mike Bloomberg became Mayor with the de facto support of Sharpton, Ramirez and Rivera. Giff Miller became Council Speaker and Rodriguez’s puzzling posture concerning Fairway was explained when he was indicted. Suddenly, his endgame became crystal clear.  

Much to my horror, the best and practically only source of web history of that time’s arcane local Brooklyn political controversies has disappeared, so I will have to reconstruct these events from my imperfect memory.

George challenged the indicted Rodriguez for his District Leadership. I do not recall (and cannot find on the web) whether Angel ran himself, or let a member of his club run in his place. Based on what I did find, I believe that he ran. At any rate, Angel copped a plea in late August, just before the election, and George beat out Ivan Perez (who I believe was Angel's last minute substitute) and  ended up as the District Leader.

George’s next moved can either be interpreted as a stunning example of his independence or a foreshadowing of things to come.

Angel’s claque and County Leader Clarence Norman got behind Angel’s choice for his replacement, Community Board Seven Chair Sara Gonzalez. The more reformist and liberal elements of the community backed School Board Member Eddie Rodriguez.

But, much to our consternation, George ran for the seast as well. Strangely enough, he had the support of Freddie Ferrer.

George split the insurgent vote, allowing Gonzalez a minority victory. Some suspected a deal had been made.

Within ten months of his election as an anti-machine insurgent, George seemingly collected his reward from Clarence Norman in the form of a patronage job delivered by Norman, then already under investigation in the wake of the indictments of Judges Victor Barron and Gerry Garson. 

George became the Assistant Director of Intergovernmental Relations for the New York State Attorney General.  

The Director was Carl Andrews.

For those who don’t remember Carl, here’s how I described him when he ran for Congress:

Turning to the other candidates does not offer much relief. I think it’s unfair to link Carl Andrews to the criminal convictions against his friend Clarence Norman, since the charges Clarence has been convicted of thus far are pretty personal, and are no reflection on Carl, even by association. However, whether criminal, or just unseemly, the activities of Clarence Norman as Democratic Leader are to be fairly imputed to Carl, who basically functioned as one of the organization's underbosses, and received more than his share of tribute from the Surrogate and Supreme Courts, to the point where some regulars, who had no problem with the concept of victors indulging in spoils, found unseemly the Norman clique’s seeming inability to let anyone else wet their beak. Perhaps Carl can articulate a case that his activities on behalf of the organization inured to the public good, but, for good or for evil, it is fair to hold him accountable for the actions of the County organization under the Norman regime.

And here I am on the peculiar relationship between Andrews, Norman and the Attorney General, as he was then, Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer’s support, at this particular juncture in history, for his onetime aide and political strategist Carl Andrews, one of the biggest recipients of judicial patronage in Brooklyn, and the right hand man of recently convicted county leader Clarence Norman, sends a mixed message about the real meaning of the term “new paradigm”. It also shows a steadfast sense of loyalty that is, in some respects, admirable. Spitzer obviously has an extremely high regard for Andrews’ abilities (he apparently attempted to impose him as the Senate’s Democratic Leader), and his willingness to take what can only be regard as an unnecessary political risk in disregard of the conventional wisdom does not merely display remarkable hubris, but in some sense speaks well of Spitzer (and of Andrews). Like he says in the ad, Spitzer never asks if it is popular or unpopular, but simply asked whether it was right or wrong. As he says, it's not a bad rule, but, even accepting, arguendo, it's application in this case, such actions do not inspire confidence that Spitzer is totally committed to avoiding the appearance of conviviality with the culture of “this thing of ours”, and one would certainly not be unreasonable in expressing some doubt concerning whether this is truly is the best way of conveying a message that everything will change on Day One.

And here’s a little ditty (written by Maurice Gumbs to the tune of Tom Paxton’s “I’m Chang My Name to Chrysler), which reflects Carl’s influence on Brooklyn Judicial nominations at the time:

“I’m changing my name to Garson
So County will think I’m a mensch
I’m giving my money to Carl and Clarence
And buying a seat on the bench”

Suffice it to say, if George Martinez got that job, he got it from Clarence Norman.

In exchange for the job, “reform/insurgent” firebrand George Martinez resigned his District Leadership, allowing Clarence to bestow it upon his Assembly colleague, Felix Ortiz (D-Albany), who has held it ever since.

Incidentally, Carl Andrews was most recently in the news for his role as the lobbyist at the center of the “Racetrack Empire” scandal. Most notably, he was alleged to have held received confidential information from Senate Democrats during the bidding process, and to have invited those same Senate Democrats to a victory party for his clients held in his posh Albany apartment (I hear the shrimp were bigger than a baby’s fist).   

Since that time, George has basically disappeared from the Brooklyn political radar. The last sighting was in 2010.

George and some schmuck named Bruce Hirschfeld (a mortgage broker) both decided their unique talents required that they sit in the United States House of Representatives.

Sources then thisclose to County Leader Vito Lopez told me at the time that both Martinez (a buddy of Lopez/Dilan protégé Michael Olmedo) and Hirschfeld had made entreaties to Lopez asking for support. I am told that they were both given encouragement to circulate petitions, and both told that the discussions would resume if and when they made the ballot.

Neither did, and the discussions ended.

As I noted yesterday, Vito Lopez protégé Councilman Erik Dilan is now challenging anti-Lopez incumbent Nydia Velazquez for Congress. 

As I noted, I do not believe Dilan can beat Velazquez in a head to head race.

But I do believe that he can win in a multi-candidate race if other candidates draw votes in areas and groups where Dilan is weak.

Yesterday, I outlined those areas and groups as being white liberal/lefties/insurgent types, more conservative whites, Asians, and the areas of Sunset Park and Red Hook.

Yesterday, I outlined how candidate Dan O’Connor was set to appeal to Asians and more conservative whites. I further opined that there was evidence he was being helped by Lopez, specifically citing Buddy Scotto, a prominent Lopez ally.

After I posted this, Scotto admitted to Chris Bragg that I was correct, and copped to helping O’Connor in order to assist the election of Dilan.

SCOTTO: I’m hoping for the very best in this mix [of candidates.]… I wish both [O’Connor and the fourth candidate in the race George Martinez] well against Nydia, and I definitely feel certain they’ll be able to get votes that Dilan would have trouble reaching. The two of them will be able to take quite a few votes…“I think Nydia has done a terrible job”

Bragg then asked Scotto if he had personally spoken to Lopez or Dilan about his efforts to prop up O’Connor’s candidacy. He would neither confirm nor deny it.

SCOTTO: I think you have to talk to Vito Lopez about that,”

BRAGG:  Scotto add[ed] that he had great admiration for the Brooklyn Democratic leader… I asked Scotto whether he thought Martinez’s candidacy was beneficial to Dilan’s candidacy.

SCOTTO: Yes, he can take votes [from Velazquez] from the Sunset Park area, I wish him well.

So, let’s review, George Martinez, likely put into politics by the Bronx machine, portrays himself as a reformer, while pioneering new forms of election fraud. Acquiring a party position by posing as an insurgent, immediately after his election, George helps split the vote in a Council race so that a machine candidate can win. He then gets rewarded with a patronage job delivered to him by a Party Leader (who eventually went to jail); the job is as Assistant to that Leader’s underboss. George later attempts to run for Congress; he makes entreaties to the new boss, and is encouraged to pursue this venture. He is a known associate of one of the new boss’s protégés. (I have no idea whether Jose Davila is related or not to Vito Lopez’s Co-District Leader, Maritza Davila, so I do not add that to the list).    

And then George Martinez again ends up running for Congress, attacking the anti-boss incumbent for being insufficiently left/liberal, trumpeting his own (convincing until you examine them) “reform/insurgent” giant-killer credentials, and running from a personal base where the machine candidate is weak and the anti-machine incumbent is strong.

My conclusion is that George Martinez is in this race to split the votes of white liberal/lefties/insurgent types, and the areas of Sunset Park and Red Hook.

He is as much of a genuine Occupy Wall Street insurgent as I am.

I submit that, for the second time in his life, George Martinez is running for office to split some else’s vote in an effort to benefit the Party organization, and that, for the second time in his life, George is running for office with the encouragement of Vito Lopez.

And Buddy Scotto seems to agree.