"The only practical way yet discovered by the world for curing its ills is to forget about them” Ben Hecht
Republican Mob Boss “Saratoga Joe” Bruno was revealed to have seen Martin Scorsese’s “The Departed”, and contrived a secret plan to infiltrate the opposition with those loyal to his own agenda. Gatemouth, having seen Steven Speilberg’s “Munich”, came upon a list of the collaborators in the Bruno Mob’s 2002 rub out of Democratic State Senator Vincent “Gamberetti” Gentile, and is now, Mossad style, having them executed one by one.
As Michael Corleone so aptly expressed it, the time has come to “answer for Santino”, and Gatemouth is manning the toll booth.
In last week's episode, a long Tarantino style flashback recounts how State Senator Carl “Mengele” Kruger betrayed his own party by openly working against it at every turn (helping Democrats lose seats, and vulnerable Republcans to hold them, while also sabotaging efforts to get Republican Senators to jump ship), to the point where he deserved personal credit for Bruno’s continued grip upon the Throat of State, and amply earned his promotion to Underboss of a (not so) secret regime within the Family Bruno.
This week, the flashbacks continue, focusing open Mengele’s early years:
INDICTED, BUT NOT CONVICTED
In the early 1980s, Kruger, then a member of Brooklyn’s Community Board #18, was indicted by a Kings County Grand Jury under a multiple part indictment charging that, in 1978, he and another board member, with the intent to steal property (a quantity of United States currency) by extortion, acted in concert to commit the crimes of grand larceny, attempted grand larceny, and attempted bribe receiving, by attempting to compel and induce a gentlemen to deliver that property (the currency) to them (and a third person) by means of instilling a fear that, if the property was not delivered, they would use and abuse their positions by engaging and failing to engage in conduct in such a manner as to affect the gentleman adversely.
In a typical southern Brooklyn flourish, Kruger later became Chair of the Community Board. The woman he lives with (in whatever capacity) became the Board’s District Manager.
INVESTIGATED, BUT NOT INDICTED
In 1982, Kruger first came to the favorable attention of the Senate Republicans, when, as an Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee staffer, he gave aide and comfort to a Republican State Senator as part of a “successful” scheme to elect Tom Duane’s brother, John, to a Queens Assembly seat.
Collectors of New York political memorabilia still pay valuable money for a copy of the famous photo of Kruger and his buddies proudly posed with broad smiles (a rarity for Kruger, who prefers scowling) in front of a polling place before a large sign illustrating for voters how they could vote for both Democratic Assembly candidate John Duane and Republican Senator Frank Padavan (running against a brilliant attorney named Nick Garaufis).
Sadly, this was far from being the campaign’s most despicable act, and had the virtue of being perfectly legal. On the other hand, a series of phony “dear neighbor” letters (many fomenting and exploiting bigotry), as well as other related activities (apparently done without the candidate’s knowledge), resulted in multiple investigations for charges such as mail fraud. No indictments ever resulted, apparently since the only crimes which could be proven were those against human decency.
As a result, “successful” candidate Duane, who had literally lost control of his campaign to Kruger and company (and confessed to such in a conversation with Garaufis), was besieged by embarrassing headlines before he had even been sworn in, spending one term in Albany as “Dead Man Walking”, before the Republican he’d defeated was vindicated by the voters, and the hapless Duane retired from politics, bearing the entire brunt of someone else’s disgrace.
Ironic twist: Nick Garaufis is now a Federal Judge, leading to the possibility that, in the event that anyone in the area ever gets any more wacky ideas about creative uses of the postal system during a campaign, they might get an opportunity to have their case tried by someone fully conversant with the issue.
LOYALTY TO A HIGHER AUTHORITY
When Assembly Speaker Stanley Steingut was challenged in a 1978 primary, Kruger and other members of Majority Leader Stanley Fink’s club helped to run Steingut’s campaign; and they did; they ran it into the ground. After Steingut’s loss, Fink became Speaker.
Favorite tactics: sending stumbling drunk Senator Howie Babbush into Italian and Irish areas to expound upon how proud he was to be supporting Steingut because of Steingut’s principled opposition to capital punishment; reprinting the posters of Steingut standing with a group of black ministers, and hanging those posters in front of Synagogues on Shabbos morning (one of dozens of tactics, probably done without Steingut’s opponent’s knowledge, which were based upon fomenting and exploiting bigotry).
Nowadays, Kruger regularly dances on the grave of his mentor, Assemblyman Tony Genovesi, by loudly supporting the death penalty (but not for grand larceny, attempted grand larceny or attempted bribery).
MORE THAN I CAN BERES
Back in 1983, Kruger and his friends ran a slate of School Board candidates in southern Brooklyn’s School District 22. Dear neighbor letters were distributed urging a vote for the slate, lest a candidate “from north of Flatlands Avenue” (and we know who lives there) get elected to ONE of the NINE seats in contention (God Forbid!). The letters, probably done without the knowledge of all the slate’s members, were aimed at fomenting and exploiting bigotry.
Incidentally, the only candidate that year living north of Flatlands Avenue was a little Jewish guy with Bell’s Palsy named Arnie Beres, who wanted to be on the board to ensure that the needs of children with special education were not ignored.
Special folks with special needs seemed a particular Kruger obsession. As Community Board Chair, he routinely opposed the placement of group homes in his district, refusing even to suggest alternative sites which might have been more acceptable, because no sites anywhere were acceptable to Kruger.
Tired of waiting for a local office to open up, Kruger re-registered to vote from a Canarsie address in the district of stumbling drunk State Senator Howie Babbush, who’d spent the prior decade under indictment, but too ill to stand trial.
After the “move” was accomplished, Donnie Halperin, the Senator representing Kruger’s once and future "legal" residence in Georgetown, took another job, and Kruger “moved” again, and won the nomination for the Special Election at a Democratic County Committee Meeting. Poignantly, Kruger was the most loyal Democrat amongst the serious candidates, who included future Kruger aide Joel “Numb Nuts” Garson, a member of the Garson Organized Crime Family (see upcoming chapter).
Pathetically, no one had read the State Constitution, which (except in reapportionment years), requires a person to reside in their district for a year before they can seek to represent it in the State Legislature. Kruger won the election and was seated.
Kruger regularly holds press conferences in his district whenever some jerk scrawls a swastika somewhere. Somehow, those media savvy Sheepshead Bay Nazis always plan their art exhibitions on slow news days. The Nazis don’t mind, as Kruger votes with them on immigration issues (in the interest of fomenting and exploiting bigotry).
THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING
In the 2000 US Senate race, Kruger made an early endorsement of Republican Rudy Giuliani, who soon left the race when overcome by the combined forces of his nether regions (prostate and promiscuity). Hillary was not forgiving, and her campaign manager, Bill DeBlasio, personally saw to it that, to punish the Senate Dems, the Democratic Coordinated Campaign withheld much needed funds from the Senate Dems until they arrived too late to be of optimum use.
This is reminiscent of a passage from Mario Puzo’s novel, “The Godfather” describing the operations of a rival Don:
“He had a fleet of freight hauling trucks that made him a fortune primarily because his trucks could travel with heavy overload and not be stopped and fined by highway weight inspectors. These trucks helped ruin the highways and then his road-building firm, with lucrative state contracts, repaired the damage wrought. It was the kind of operation that would warm any man’s heart, business of itself creating more business.”
In this case, Bruno was Don Stracci, and Kruger was the largest truck in his fleet.
LOBSTER KRUGBERG (TWO ALTERNATIVE RECIPES)
Shortly before the 2001 Mayoral Primary run-off, operatives from underdog Mark Green’s campaign (including Tom Duane protégé Frannie Miller) met at Nick’s Lobster Dock with local southern Brooklyn politicos to discuss strategy.
Kruger attended the brunch, apparently loudly advocating that Green’s campaign drop a piece in white Brooklyn featuring a New York post cartoon of rival Freddy Ferrer kissing Al Sharpton’s fat ass (a description, not a value judgment), possibly with the intent of fomenting and exploiting bigotry (although one certainly doesn’t need to be a bigot to dislike Sharpton). There was fierce opposition from many around the table, and the issue was unresolved.
The literature was ultimately printed and distributed, apparently without the candidate’s knowledge. Shortly after the meeting, Kruger endorsed Ferrer, and eventually dropped a dime on the Green campaign.
Theory #1: Disgusted by the lukewarm response to his suggestion, Kruger concluded that Green didn’t have the cojones to win, and decided to be with the winner.
Theory #2: The whole thing was a set-up on behalf on Mike Bloomberg. If Green won the run-off, Bloomberg would have a sure-fire issue to rip apart the Democratic base; if Ferrer won, Bloomberg would have his own base energized, without leaving any fingerprints of his own, with a sure-fire message to help ensure his victory. Win/win!
Either way, by such political re-alignment surgery, Mark Green was magically transformed by into John Duane.
HELP ME SONDA
To his credit, and the surprise of many, Kruger voted for the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act (SONDA). But Joe Bruno is an honorable man, and had promised ESPA Kruger’s vote, so that Bruno could instead let some of his own conference off the hook. However, in a stunning display of his lack of empathy, Kruger, a Republican trapped in the body of a Democrat, refused to support an amendment extending the law’s protections’ to the transgendered.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: Isn’t this piece an unfair cheap shot? Weren’t others involved in most of the incidents documented, and shouldn’t they be held accountable as well?
A: Yes, and no.
No, it’s not unfair; in fact, it’s gentle, because at least one tempting topic for cheap shots was left virtually untouched (although those in the know are free to bring it up in the comments section).
But, yes, the piece is unfair. Kruger was not the Lee Harvey Oswald of Brooklyn dirty tricks; he did not act alone. However, as bad as any single incident documented here may be, the whole is far more repugnant than the sum of its parts.
Everyone in politics has had their moments of disgrace. The question remains, are these moments an anomaly, or emblematic? In Kruger’s case, the answer is “res ipsa loquitur”. This may also be said of at least some of Kruger’s co-conspirators in these endeavors, but even they have had the redeeming virtue of not having whored for Joe Bruno (and those who lacked this virtue will eventually get their’s in later chapters, so don’t lose any sleep; let them lose it).
Unfairness is the whole point of this series; it is meant to be the equivalent of shaving the heads of collaborators (seemingly pointless in the instant matter) and parading them naked through the streets, as an example to others. Surely, in the case of Kruger, this is greater punishment for those forced to watch than it is to the “victim”.
Q: What is the proper response when running into Kruger at a political fundraiser?
A: First, go back to the lobby of the catering hall and make sure you haven’t accidentally wandered into a Republican or Independence Party event. Then go up to him and scream at the top of your lungs, “I thought this was a DEMOCRATIC club!!!”. He’ll then threaten to have you fired, but unless you work for a Republican, the threat is probably an idle one.
Q: Why didn’t Kruger endorse Noach Dear?
A: He didn’t want to leave his party without a candidate for State Senate.
Q: What’s the only good reason to support Kruger for Borough President?
A: The Democrats will pick up a seat in the Senate.
Q: What is the proper way to treat a “Democrat” who’s helped Joe Bruno to retain his majority?
A: You just read it.
(Note to Senator Kruger: If you don’t understand the significance of the title and Hecht quote up top, you can always ask Dov Hikind to explain them)