Won’t Go Meekly
First, Rockaway lost its Congressional representation when Congressman Anthony Weiner was caught in a sexting scandal and was forced to resign. Now, time may be running out for Rockaway’s other Representative, Congressman Gregory Meeks, who is under investigation by several governmental agencies, including the House Ethics Committee, federal prosecutors and the New York State Attorney General.
According to local political sources and a recent story in the New York Post, Queens Democratic leaders are so worried that the ethical and criminal probes surrounding Meeks will bring him down, they recently held a meeting to pick his successor.
The behind closed doors meeting reportedly held last month at the Guy Brewer Democratic Club in Queens was chaired by the borough’s Democratic boss, Representative Joseph Crowley, according to two elected officials familiar with the gathering, who talked to the Post on the promise of anonymity.
The Post says that the group handpicked Meeks’ successor, State Senator Malcolm Smith, a Meeks’ crony who is also under investigation by both the feds and the state for his involvement in the Aqueduct Racino controversy, for his co-sponsorship with Meeks of a non-profit, New Directions in Community Empowerment, from which most of the public money earmarked for the organization has disappeared and for his involvement with Meeks in NOAH-F, a nonprofit linked to helping those who fled New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
“Putting Smith in Congress is like putting a Meeks’ clone in place,” said one local Democratic operative, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution by the powerful duo. “They are in it together.”
“It would send a terrible signal to DC,” a source told the Post of Smith’s possible coronation. “We would be the . . . joke of the country.”
Smith reportedly was at the meeting, along with City Council members Ruben Wills and Leroy Comrie, according to sources.
Meeks is up for reelection next year in a heavily minority and immigrant district that covers much of southeast Queens, including the eastern portion of Rockaway.
If Meeks resigns or is expelled from Congress, the governor could call a special election to fill the seat or leave it vacant until the November 2012 elections.
“The problem with Greg is that he has done too wrong for too long,” the anonymous source told The Post. “It’s just a question of which thing catches you first.”
Comrie reportedly was tapped in the closed-door meeting to run for Smith’s Senate seat if Smith vacates it for Washington.
Both Comrie and Smith denied any knowledge of the meeting.
Meeks, 58, last month was named one of the most corrupt members of Congress by a Washington-based watchdog.
The House Ethics Committee is probing whether a $40,000 payment Meeks accepted from a Queens businessman in 2007 was a gift and not a loan, as the congressman maintains. The businessman, Edul Ahmad, was arrested in July on charges of operating a $50 million mortgage-fraud scheme.
“The jockeying for position began the day they indicted Ahmad,” said one of the elected officials. “Everyone assumes Ahmad is going to tell the feds what he knows about Greg.”
The US Attorney’s Office opened an investigation in 2010 into both Meeks and Smith after The Post reported they helped found a Queens charity that failed to document most of its spending.
Smith steered $56,000 in state member item cash to the group, which also collected money for the victims of Hurricane Katrina but distributed almost none of it.
Calls from The Wave to representatives of both Meeks and Smith, requesting comment, went unreturned.
A Meeks staffer, however, said that Meeks had no plans to leave office because he had not been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
“The Congressman plans to run for reelection in 2012,” he said. “The electorate will make the decision on his future.”