The McLaughlin Group
In the aftermath of Congressman Gary Ackerman’s decision not to stand for re-election in the Sixth Congressional District, several candidates sought the support of Queens County Leader Joe Crowley.
Most of these candidates had been loyal Party stalwarts.
Only one potential candidate, Assemblywoman Grace Meng, had ever won an election without Party support, winning an Assembly seat in 2008 by beating Ellen Young, the incumbent who had been handpicked by then Councilman John Liu and backed by the Queens Party.
One of the candidates, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, was (and is) actually the County Leader’s first cousin. At least two of the candidates, Meng and fellow Assemblyman Rory Lancman, told Joe Crowley they were running come hell or high water.
We will probably never know the real story about Liz Crowley’s candidacy.
If, as some (including myself) have speculated, she was not discouraged from making the race because her presence potentially split the vote to the benefit of the Party choice, Liz Crowley has not subsequently behaved like a plant, and has emerged as much a potential victor as either of her major opponents.
Though clearly an intellectual lightweight, Liz Crowley has shown herself as an unexpected political heavyweight.
If Liz Crowley was encouraged in any manner by the Queens organization, they’ve now been hoisted by their own petard, which is probably the best thing you can say about her candidacy, though she is still far superior to the Republican, Ron Paul supporting Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Eastwick).
County Leader Joe, however, continued his policy of ethnic outreach and acknowledging demographic trends, which has led to decisions both defensible (Borough President Helen Marshall) and despicable (former State Senator Hiram Monserrate).
Joe chose to support the smart and likeable Meng over the smart and unpleasant Lancman and his likeable but somewhat thick cousin.
Since then, both Lancman (to a greater degree) and Crowley (to a somewhat lesser degree) have attempted to run as anti-boss “reform” insurgents.
To some extent, the credibility of this incredible posture has been aided and abetted by the boys from Austin Street and their clumsy and obvious maneuvers like running stooge candidates Jeff Gottlieb and Robert Mittman.
Had the Boys gone with Lancman, one can rest assured that there’d be at least one extra Asian candidate in the race, and that if Joe was running his cousin, there’d a Jew from Column A and an Asian from column B.
The idea of either Liz Crowley or Rory Lancman being “reform” insurgents is preposterous enough on its face, but it is even more so when you consider both of their connections to a different Irish-American political boss:
Former Assemblyman and Central Labor Council and Electrician’s Union honcho Brian McLaughlin.
McLaughlin was one of the most powerful men in the City until he was charged with, and eventually jailed for, 44 counts of racketeering, embezzlement, conspiracy, and fraud, including stealing $2.2 million from the state government, union members, a political club, and a Little League in his own district.
Prosecutors said Mr. McLaughlin accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks from city street lighting contractors, installed his cronies in fictitious positions with the state Assembly and the Central Labor Council to funnel himself cash, and laundered money to hide his crimes, while supporting his family and a string of foxy ladies in high style.
Janis Joplin sang “Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz.”
If only she’d met Brain McLaughlin.
Now, let’s look at the record:
First, the Lancman/McLaughlin timeline:
Feb. 2001: Lancman sells his condominium to Uma Sengupta and makes a $50,000 profit.
June 2002: The Queens Democratic organization promotes Uma Sengupta for a District Leader post in McLaughlin’s 25th Assembly District. Sengupta would become the first South Asian District Leader in the borough.
Newsday (5/31/02): The party and Assemb. Brian McLaughlin (D Flushing) said her candidacy would be kicked off this Sunday at the Guruduwara Sahib Temple in Richmond Hill. Coincidence, we're sure, but tentative boundary lines for McLaughlin's new Assembly district now push his electoral area south into ‐ ta da! ‐ Richmond Hill, with its booming South Asian population.
NEW YORK TIMES (6/23/02): McLaughlin, a supporter, praises her leadership. He also knows that redistricting has expanded his district to include several South Asian neighborhoods where Ms. Sengupta is well known and an asset to his own re‐election
INDIA ABROAD (9/6/02): “As we looked for the right candidate, the name Uma Sengupta kept coming up every now and then," said Phyllis Spencer Shafran, McLaughlin's spokesperson.
2003: Brian McLaughlin raises $1 million in an exploratory campaign for Mayor. Lancman supports the effort.
Early 2004: More than two years before the raids on his offices, and just before he dropped his mayoral bid, WNBC‐TV reporter Jonathan Dienst calls McLaughlin's offices, saying that he'd learned from sources that the labor official was the target of a criminal investigation. The message is relayed to McLaughlin. He "turned white," according to a source. "He just got panicky."
McLaughlin ends his exploratory bid. Lancman is quoted as being surprised at McLaughlin’s departure from the mayor’s race without explanation. "It was like he just couldn't pull the trigger," said Lancman, then McLaughlin’s handpicked male District Leader from his own political club. "We never had a discussion about him quitting the race; he just announced it. That was the frustrating thing about dealing with Brian. He was this big, powerful guy, but no one ever knew what he was doing."
Newsday (1/16/06): McLaughlin says he won’t run for re‐election. Lancman declares his candidacy for the McLaughlin Assembly seat as soon as McLaughlin says he won’t be running for re‐election. "I'm running," Lancman said in an interview the same week McLaughlin bows out. "I've been on Community Board 8 for 15 years. I'm president of the Flushing Heights Civic Association."
Lancman becomes McLaughlin’s handpicked choice as successor.
INDIA ABROAD (8/25/06): Sean Finnerty is Lancman’s campaign manager. Joe Dorsa, Mary Ann Dorsa and Uma Sengupta run for district leader with Lancman.
March 2, 2006: At dawn, Brian McLaughlin’s union and district offices are raided by the FBI.
DAILY NEWS (“Pol’s a Friend to the End” 5/28/06): Even after his offices are raided by the FBI, Lancman has a website “tribute” to McLaughlin. "Loyalty and friendship and respect for the good work Brian has done are important values to me, "Lancman said.”Until he's been charged with something, or until any evidence has been produced that would make me question Brian's service, I'm sticking with him." “Political consultant Scott Levenson, who had worked with labor groups affiliated with McLaughlin, said that ‘people who have been friends with Brian for 20 years can't deny they are friends with Brian…Rory's proud of the work they've done together.’
CRAIN’S (10/23/06): Lancman’s campaign publicized photos of him with Mr. McLaughlin even after McLaughlin’s office was raided by the FBI in its bid‐rigging investigation. Mr. Lancman noted in an e‐mail at the time that in 20 years of knowing Mr. McLaughlin, ``I've never seen him do anything unethical or inappropriate. My job right now is to be his friend and, as a candidate, to assure people in the district that their next Assemblyman will share Brian's work ethic, his commitment to his constituents and his commonsense approach to issues.''
New York Sun (10/18/06): The charges also put the Democrat running to replace Mr. McLaughlin in the Assembly, Rory Lancman, in a political quandary. Mr. Lancman is close to Mr. McLaughlin and had posted on his campaign Web site a photographic "tribute" to the assemblyman. That tribute has since been removed, although photos of Mr. McLaughlin remain on the site. Lancman said it was a "sad day" for the community.
Now, the Liz Crowley/McLaughlin timeline:
2001: Crowley announces she will run for the 26th council district, covering Woodside, Sunnyside, Long Island City and parts of Maspeth.
5/9/01: Crowley announces she would run for the 30th Council District ‐‐ covering Middle Village, Glendale and parts of Ridgewood instead.
McLaughlin runs Liz Crowley’s “failed 2001 council campaign, personally going door to door and urging residents to cast their vote for her.”
JUNIPER BERRY EDITORIAL STAFF (March 16, 2012): “At that time the financial brains and main fundraiser for her campaign was assemblyman and union boss, Brian McLaughlin. Several newspaper articles linked Elizabeth Crowley romantically to McLaughlin even though he was a married man. Crowley has never disputed these charges on the record.”
Daily News (9/5/01): A Union representative from Brian’s McLaughlin’s Electrical Worker’s forges a series of money orders from electricians working for the McLaughlin connected Petrocelli Electric. The money orders were consecutively numbered, a tipoff of possible fraud and land Crowley in hot water with the Campaign Finance Board.
The campaign said the union representative had collected $20 each from nine electrical workers and, to save time, bought the money orders and signed the cards himself. The Crowley campaign called it an honest mistake and returned the $180, but the board decided to hold up the matching funds. "It raised questions about how the campaign is being run, and the board felt that we had to examine their statement in detail," said board spokeswoman Molly Watkins.
The intermediary listed on the checks is Brian McLaughlin.
9/26/01: Crowley wins the Democratic Primary with 3,163 votes (46 percent).
11/6/01: Crowley is defeated in the general election by Republican Dennis P. Gallagher, 59%‐40%. During 2001, Crowley spends $293,039. She paid her brother, Francis, who was under federal indictment at the time, $563.00. She paid her mother, $4,500 in rent. She paid her brother, Walter, $11,400 to reimburse him for “office expenses.” She did not report any payments to McLaughlin, who was supposedly “ran” her campaign.
Sept. 2002: Brian McLaughlin’s campaign committee makes two $5,000 payments for “rent” to Crowley Realty in Queens. It is the same address where Elizabeth Crowley for City Council was located, and where her mother, Mary, ran a preschool/day care business. The building was owned by Mary Crowley, a former City Councilwoman.
2004: (JUNIPER BERRY EDITORIAL STAFF): “...and one day in 2004 ‒ as McLaughlin explored running for mayor ‒ he skipped out on an interview with a New York Times reporter, after hiding out in his office with Elizabeth Crowley. She's his close political pal and a failed City Council candidate. Brian wouldn't come out of his office ‒ I was banging on the door, said a former staffer at the New York Central Labor Council. When asked about the incident, McLaughlin's lawyer, Jonathan Bach, would not comment.”
Oct. 2006: Brian McLaughlin is arrested by the FBI. According to the Queens Chronicle, “Elizabeth Crowley, a cousin of Congressman Joseph Crowley and a political ally of McLaughlin, has been reported to be one of three female friends with whom he had "a close personal relationship," according to the indictment.” According to the Post, “a second woman with whom he allegedly had a personal relationship received thousands of dollars in union checks and was given a no‐show job with a contractor who used union workers, the feds said.”
NEW YORK POST (10/19/06): Elizabeth Crowley, the cousin of Rep. Joseph Crowley (D‐N.Y.) and a close political pal of McLaughlin, refused to comment when asked about her friendship with the labor boss and the charges against him. Standing outside her Glendale, Queens, home, the divorced mother of two said, "All I can say is that Brian has been a political ally and I know nothing of any alleged wrongdoing."
If guilt by association is going to be the decisive factor in this race, I’m gonna hafta say backing Ron Paul trumps anything else on the ludicrous scale.
But, while Grace Meng’s support by the Queens organization (which appears to have been the smart move for their own long term self-preservation), while hardly a plus from my viewpoint, it is no worse than the long association of both Lancman and Liz Crowley with the man who not only went to jail, but sent two other pols (Tony Seminerio and Carl Kruger) there as well and resulted in the indictment of one more (Junior Boyland).
Those who run as purported “reform” insurgent invite us to judge them by the company they keep.
I am not ready to make “birds of a feather,”“ fruit not falling far from the tree” comments. But the holier than thou pronouncements of Rory Lancman and (to a lesser extent) Liz Crowley are just laughable and it is high time someone called them out and made them stop.
I just did.
Post new comment