A letter written by state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose) on behalf of disgraced former colleague Brian McLaughlin set off a firestorm of political rhetoric last week.
State Democrats blasted Padavan for writing a letter to the judge who is set to sentence McLaughlin next week after he pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge last year.
Padavan was the only elected official among 47 people who wrote letters for McLaughlin, many of whom asked for leniency when Judge Richard Sullivan sentences the former politician May 20 in Manhattan federal court.
“While I have no direct knowledge of the legal matters involving Brian McLaughlin, I have known Brian for over two decades,” Padavan wrote on his official Senate stationery. “I worked closely with him in advancing important legislation in the Senate and Assembly. In addition, I have known Brian to be a dedicated community servant, an active member of his parish and a loving father.”
Shams Tarek, a spokesman for the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, criticized the letter.
“It seems that Sen. Padavan’s campaign slogan that ‘Nobody cares like Frank’ is especially true if you’re a corrupt politician who steals money from little kids,” Tarek said. “Not only does this bring disgrace to Sen. Padavan and his office, but it shows a gross lack of judgment and raises serious questions about what kind of relationship he had and continues to have with Brian McLaughlin. It’s an unholy alliance to say the least.”
Padavan called Tarek’s comments “despicable” and pointed out he never asked for sentencing leniency in his letter to Sullivan.
“They’re calling me a crook. I’ve never seen this kind of horrible rhetoric come out from someone who is clearly working for the majority leader,” Padavan said. “What [McLaughlin] did, he’ll have to pay for that. I did not ask for leniency. I did want to let the judge know that people saw him in this better light, however.”
State Democrats have been gunning for Padavan’s Senate seat as they attempt to bolster their thin majority in the state Senate.
Tarek, who recently was hired as spokesman for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, was formerly the chief of staff for City Councilman James Gennaro (D−Forest Hills), whom Padavan narrowly defeated in November to retain his post.
McLaughlin pleaded guilty in March 2008 to federal racketeering charges for stealing millions of dollars from several groups, including his own campaign committee and a Little League.