The People Speak
The Monster Rat has met his match. By a 65 to 27 margin, former Senator Hiram Monserrate, who had the distinction of being the first State Senator expelled from that august body in over a century, lost his bid to regain his seat to Assemblyman Jose Peralta, who has serious ethical issues of his own, but is not prone to beating up women. Peralta's sins are on the financial side: he is a non-violent offender.
The Republican candidate for the Queens Senate seat, Robert Beltrani, an administrative law judge who is neither a thug nor a crook, received seven per cent of the vote in the largely Spanish speaking district. Peralta will resign from the Assembly to become a Senator, and his newly vacated seat will be filled in another special election, to be held in a month or so.
We assume the Democratic machine will put up another candidate against Monserrate, should he decide to run for Peralta's old seat. Monserrate committed a cardinal act of political treason by conspiring with the ethically challenged Senator Pedro Espada to put the senate in chaos for a month last year. He was no more loyal to the Republicans than he was to the Democrats. He deserted them in about a week, and was rewarded for his return by reinstatement as Chair of the Consumer Protection Committee, a sinecure which is accompanied by a $12,500 lulu to ease the burden of chairing the committee, one of the least demanding tasks in the legislature.
Here is the scoop on Peralta, the Queens Democratic organization's alternative to Monserrate. It is a story by Juan Gonzalez, which appeared in the Daily News on December 9, 2009. We quote: "ASSEMBLYMAN JOSE PERALTA SCORED $500,000 IN TAXPAYER FUNDS FOR INACTIVE NONPROFIT"
"Queens Assemblyman Jose Peralta landed more than $500,000 in taxpayer money for a nonprofit that never filed federal tax records, has no employees and has been inactive for more than two years.
"Peralta helped organize the Corona-Elmhurst Center for Economic Development after joining the Legislature, and for years it was located in the same building as his campaign office.
"This year, he and his chief political consultants have continued to lobby state and city lawmakers for additional grants for the dormant group, the Daily News has learned.
"Until a month ago, the Corona-Elmhurst group maintained an office at 104-01 Roosevelt Ave., in a two-story commercial building, where Peralta rents space for his election committee.
"The building is owned by Dr. Mercedes Mota-Martinez, a dentist who runs a clinic on the building's upper floor and who also employs Peralta's mother, Rosa Hernandez, as an office manager.
"The dentist, Peralta and Hernandez share another connection: All were listed for years on voter rolls as living at the same address - a multifamily house a few blocks from the clinic.
"Peralta moved out of the house in 2005. His mother continues to live there with Mota-Martinez. She and the dentist also co-own another Queens property.
"In 2005 and 2006, according to Peralta's campaign reports, Hernandez provided his committee monthly in-kind contributions of $1,300 - a total of almost $30,000. She also donated another $6,000 in cash, while Mota-Martinez gave nearly $5,000, making the two women his biggest individual contributors.
"Peralta said yesterday the $1,300 monthly contributions from his mother represent the market value of his campaign's free office space from the health center. The Board of Elections requires all such in-kind help to be listed.
"But his mother is not the actual owner of the building, just a worker there, he was reminded.
"'She's the office manager, so we put her name down as the contributor,' Peralta said.
"As for the Corona-Elmhurst group, Peralta secured its first $125,000 grant in 2004 from the state's Economic Development Corp., for technical assistance for neighborhood businesses. The money was an earmark from the fund for pet projects of individual legislators.
"That year, he swore in the group's board of directors. Since then, its storefront sign has proclaimed: 'Sponsored by NY State Assemblyman Jose R. Peralta.' The sign came down last month.
"More than $350,000 in federal and state funds followed the first big grant. The group's director Fernando Fernandez resigned in late 2006. After that, questions arose about the lack of financial reports, several community leaders say, and the group ceased to function.
"'The director got sick and we had to put the organization's work and its funds on hold till we can find a replacement,' Peralta said.
"Meanwhile, the Audubon Partnership for Economic Development, a northern Manhattan nonprofit founded by Peralta's political consultant and mentor Luis Miranda, stepped in and applied for several state and city grants in the name of the Corona-Elmhurst group.
"'We are assisting them because we do the same type of work,' Audubon's executive director, Carmen Diaz-Santiago, said.
"But Corona-Elmhurst has no staff, no phone, and no visible presence in Queens, Diaz-Santiago was told.
"'My understanding is they are in the process of relocating,' she said."
This Daily News story should be appalling to you. It is to us. It is a sad example of how the State Legislature deals with member items, which are ladled out to individual members as rewards for political servitude. It is one of the principal ways the legislative leaders secure the fealty of their members. Money is a language with which the least literate legislator has some acquaintance. Its judicious dispensation goes a long way to insuring submission by senators and assembly members. Verily.
StarQuest #655 03.17.2010 911wds