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Working Families Party is OK with Bribery – So Are Others
Amid Dianne Morales’s proven bribery, progressives continue to endorse her mayoral run – despite rescinding their support for Scott Stringer over an unproven sexual allegation
When Jean Kim, a registered lobbyist for real estate clients, announced that mayoral hopeful Scott Stringer had sexually harassed her 20 years ago, the reaction in progressive circles was swift. The next day, the Working Families Party, the Sunrise Movement, and other progressive organizations and politicians recoiled from Stringer, not only rescinding their endorsements but voicing visceral disgust.
But Stringer denied the allegation. Reports came out the following week casting doubt on Kim. Though the accusation is practically impossible to prove or disprove, it was granted as true by many progressives solely on the basis of Kim’s press conference. No time was afforded to assess the accusation’s merit before flipping on Stringer. In doing so, the most viable progressive candidate’s campaign was put in jeopardy. Nonetheless, many progressives switched their endorsement to Maya Wiley or Dianne Morales – candidates with much less practical political experience and polling much lower than Stringer.
Now, Dianne Morales has a scandal all her own. THE CITY reported on Sunday night that Morales bribed a Department of Environmental Protection inspector in 2004, paying $300 to make a $12,500 water bill disappear. The report is documented by city investigators. Morales lied to the investigators repeatedly during the investigation. They concluded that Morales should be terminated from her then position at the Department of Education, and that her bribing should be considered in any pre-employment screening should she ever seek another DOE job. The crooked water inspector was prosecuted.
But the movement away from Morales has not been swift. Actually, it seems no one is shying away from her at all. The Working Families Party website continues to endorse Morales, though the party did not respond to multiple requests for comment rationalizing the bribery affair. The Sunrise Movement, an organization specializing in climate issues, did not respond to multiple requests for comment squaring their endorsement against Morales’s bribery of environmental regulators. Jimmy Van Bramer, a progressive city councilman in Queens and candidate for Queens borough president, did not respond to multiple requests for comment about his endorsement of Morales amid the new revelations. Each had previously endorsed, and then un-endorsed, Stringer for mayor.
Despite the proven bribery – which she does not deny – Morales depicted herself as a victim. In a statement released by her campaign, she acknowledged that she consulted with a real estate attorney before reaching out to the DEP. Her statement claims that her bribe paying was the product of her ignorance. “It would never have occurred to me that I could challenge this man and the bureaucratic systems he purported to represent. I didn’t feel like I had a choice,” the statement read. But the city investigators found that six out of nine other known individuals approached by the same corrupt inspector declined to pay the bribe.
The statement goes on to relate her experience to “poor people, single mothers, Black and Brown people, and immigrants,” claiming that, “the unfortunate reality is that these incidents are everyday occurrences for the city’s most vulnerable communities.” But it was not clear exactly how paying bribery was relevant to ethnicity. Her campaign did not respond to request for comment.
Despite the city investigators recommending her termination, Morales’s campaign statement claimed that she decided to leave her city job “completely independently to pursue a different opportunity.” Years later, when she was up for an opportunity in current Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, she did not land the position, THE CITY reported.
Bribery is not a victimless crime – and the victim is not the one placing the bribe. Bribery is a crime against society. Corruption is rampant in government, it impacts all aspects of civic life, disproportionately effecting the lower and middle classes, who can’t afford to buy influence or privilege. Paying bribery is a trait antithetical to the entire progressive movement. But Morales’s progressive endorsers do not seem to care, despite fleeing from their previous endorsements of Stringer, on much flimsier evidentiary grounds.
Wiley, the other remaining progressive candidate, and sharing the Working Families Party endorsement with Morales, did not accept Morales’s defense. “I was frankly shocked and surprised,” Wiley told the Daily News. “She chose to pay a bribe and lie about it. I don’t know how that makes someone a victim if these facts are true.” Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment in time for this article.
At least one progressive has expressed remorse at rescinding his endorsement for Stringer. Congressman Jamaal Bowman pulled his Stringer endorsement around the same time everybody else did. But on a Zoom meeting earlier this week with Northwest Bronx Indivisible, a grassroots political organization, he said, “quite frankly, I sometimes regret it, because I wasn't more patient and didn't ask more questions.” He said that his decision to rescind was informed by his conversations with other former endorsers of Stringer, including sexual abuse survivors. “I tried to be sensitive to that, and just be responsive to the moment,“ he said. And yet, “I believe in Stringer as a leader and as a person, and I think he would make a really good mayor.“ Bowman has not endorsed Morales for mayor.
Though Stringer’s campaign has definitely suffered a publicity hit, according to recent polling from Pix11 News and Emerson College, Stringer remains the most viable progressive candidate, virtually tied at 15 percent with Andrew Yang, the former candidate for Democratic presidential nominee turned CNN commentator. Eric Adams, the former NYPD captain, narrowly held the lead at 18 percent.
Stringer still maintains the endorsement of many labor unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, Teamsters Local 237, LIUNA-NY, Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York, and others. Stringer is currently the city’s comptroller.
Illustration by John Bolger. Fair use photos from Dianne Morales for NYC Mayor, and Department of Environmental Protection.