New York needs Preet Bharara

New York needs Preet Bharara to stay on as US attorney and keep fighting corruption

Preet Bharara remains New York’s best and only hope for uprooting corruption in politics and business. Yet he’s being touted as a successor to Attorney General Eric Holder.
At the recent Crain’s breakfast, Bharara joked that he’d asked his mother to stop calling newspapers and floating his name to replace Holder.

Don’t go, Preet – New York needs you.

A century ago, another reform-minded, corruption-fighting New York crusader was trundled off to Washington, DC by the political bosses whose livelihoods he threatened.

In 1900, Albany powerbrokers arranged for immensely popular first-term Gov. Theodore Roosevelt to win the Republican nomination for Vice President.

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Today, the heirs of those Albany bosses are probably working overtime to engineer Bharara’s rise from US Attorney for the Southern District of New York to US Attorney General. The Post has already reported that GOP senators are disposed to approve Bharara, should President Obama nominate him.

To his credit, Bharara hasn’t been prone to the media grandstanding of another high-profile crusading US attorney of a generation ago. He hasn’t done anything as theatrical or crass as the time Rudy Giuliani joined then-Sen. Alphonse D’Amato to play dress-up in Hell’s Angels attire for a drug bust.

Preet Bharara only wears one costume: the crisply pressed dark suit of a federal prosecutor casting out the demons that bedevil Albany, City Hall and Wall Street.

He has successfully indicted and prosecuted state legislators, City Council members and Wall Street bankers.

His office is investigating the physical abuse of teen detainees by city Correction Officers on Rikers Island.

He’s recovered tens of millions of dollars for taxpayers from the cash siphoned away in the CityTime scandal.

His takeover of the Moreland Commission’s aborted investigations into political corruption in Albany has given Gov. Cuomo serious “agita.” And he says that his office isn’t working the Moreland investigations on anyone else’s schedule but his own.

Understandably, some South Asians would love to see the India-born Bharara ascend to the position of top prosecutor in the United States. Attorney and Indian-American community leader Ravi Batra says Bharara “is uniquely qualified to be US Attorney General.”

Yet Bharara’s prosecution of Indian bankers hasn’t endeared him to others in that community. At the Crain’s event, he disclosed being called “a coconut and an Uncle Tom.”

The righteous are often disparaged by those blind to their moral purpose.

Bharara has been outspoken in his belief that the media is the best institution for uncovering corruption in business and politics. No one in recent memory has been as forceful in making that assertion.

And his questioning of Albany’s legislative process spurred news media to investigate the nexus between bills, laws and cash – whether campaign contributions or other inducements.

Indeed, the other day he flagged the need for state lawmakers to fully disclose their outside incomes and clients – an area where secrecy only shields the influence-peddlers.

There is no good reason for New Yorkers to permit our era’s Teddy Roosevelt to be trundled off to Washington, DC before he “dissolves the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics.”

Don’t let the Albany bosses win

By Michael Benjamin

(Courtesy New York Post : Published October 2, 2014) Twitter: @SquarePegDem

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