Garcia for Governor?
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
The talk around Foley Square is that the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, Michael Garcia, is eyeing Manhattan law firms to join as the Bush administration draws to a close. Here’s hoping it is a departure akin to the tour one of his predecessors as U.S. attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, took at White & Case and at Anderson, Kill & Olick before running for public office. Because Mr. Garcia looks as if he’d be a great governor. He’s certainly done better than anyone recently at cleaning up Albany.
Mr. Garcia first made his name as a terrorism prosecutor and went on to lead the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement division of the Department of Homeland Security — a thankless task if there ever was one — before President Bush installed him in his current job. There, he has made a priority of prosecuting politicians.
The latest case came this week when Mr. Garcia filed a criminal complaint against an assemblyman from Queens, Anthony Seminerio, alleging that the lawmaker accepted about $500,000 from clients of his consulting firm for influencing his colleagues in the legislature. Mr. Seminerio is the third state legislator whom Mr. Garcia has charged in recent years.
In 2006, Mr. Garcia charged a state senator from the Bronx, Efrain Gonzalez Jr., with funneling state money to a non-profit organization that he was using to pay personal expenses and to get a cigar company off the ground. That same year Mr. Garcia also brought racketeering charges against the labor leader and Queens assemblyman, Brian McLaughlin, for embezzling money and creating no show jobs on both the New York City Central Labor Council and his Assembly staff.
It’s not only politicians in Albany whom Mr. Garcia has pursued. Along with the city’s commissioner of the Department of Investigation, Rose Gill Hearn, he uncovered the largest scandal involving the City Council in a decade: that the council allocated money to non-existent organizations.
Mr. Garcia has sometimes fallen into that prosecutorial trap of overzealousness. His office bungled a major tax shelter case against former executives at the accounting firm KPMG, by pressuring the company to cut off payment of legal fees for employees under investigation. It was a shocking abuse of power, and a court found it violated the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution. Mr. Garcia may have overstepped when he included mention of a certain Client #9 in a court papers he filed against the operators of a prostitution ring. The governor of New York was forced from office without being charged with any crime.
As Governor Spitzer’s tenure as governor showed, a prosecutorial personality isn’t always one most conducive to success. But as Mr. Giuliani’s successes as mayor showed, it can also have its virtues. Given all that Mr. Garcia’s indictments have done to shake our faith in our elected politicians, the least that the prosecutor could do would be to give serious consideration to a run for office that would help restore that faith.