A man, a plan, a canal. Erie?
It all started last year, with revelations that some rich donor to the New York State Republican Party had been given an expanse of valuable real estate owned by the New York State government – for just a few dollars. Investigations into criminal wrongdoing ensued, and soon Democratic Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was interviewing everybody who had been to a certain party hosted by Walter Rich, who owns a mansion in Cooperstown, New York.
The parallels to the Tom DeLay scandal start to develop from there. There are allegations of illegal gifts to politicians, lavish accomodations, dinners, and tickets that may not have been paid for, forced donations by employees, and fundraisers under questionable circumstances. Walter Rich has received some pretty interesting grants from Republican-controlled government agencies, including one grant for a rail line that almost nobody uses, and another grant for a rail line that does not even exist.
The New York State lobbying commission has begun an official investigation into the matter, and a public meeting about the scandal will be held in just a little bit over one week. Soon after that, a tell-all book by David Butler, the former police chief for Walter Rich’s railroad lines, will be published under the title, Railroaded in Cooperstown. Butler says he knows quite a lot about the corruption that centered around Walter Rich’s mansion, and will be naming names.
The congressman who represents New York’s 24th District, where Walter Rich has his mansion, is under particular suspicion. His name is Sherwood Boehlert, and he is an incumbent Republican who is scheduled to lose his chairmanship over the House Committee on Science after this session of Congress is over. Boehlert is regarded as a politically weak member of Congress who has few useful connections, and is not expected to get any new chairmanship to compensate for his loss.
When the pork barrel funding dries up, old allies turn into lost friends. The campaign in New York State’s 24th District will certainly be one to watch this year.