Posts Tagged 'organized crime'

The Trumpanos

To understand the Trump White House, one needs only remember whence Mr. Trump hails. He is the quintessential New York City and New Jersey real estate mogul and casino magnate. As such, he has had a long and close relationship with organized crime. It is not surprising that he is running the government the way Tony Soprano would. Here are some facts, based in part on an article that appeared in Politico in May 2016.  

Trump’s links to organized crime date back to the early 1970s when he befriended Roy Cohn, a mob consigliere whose clients included “Fat Tony” Salerno, boss of the Genovese crime family, and Paul Castellano, head of the Gambinos. Both families were deeply involved in the concrete business that supplied material for Trump Tower. The indictment that led to the imprisonment of Salerno 1988 listed $8M of concrete provided for Trump Plaza, another of the Don’s projects. Before Trump Tower could be built, the old Bonwit Teller department store on the site had to be demolished. That work was done by illegal Polish immigrants working for contractors under the protection of the Genovese crime family. Eventually, Trump was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the workers and paid $325,000 under a sealed settlement.  

When Trump decided to build his first casino in New Jersey, his license application was approved in far less time than was usually the case. He denied any wrongdoing when questioned by the FBI and allegations of improprieties quietly disappeared. Trump was widely believed to have cut an under-the-table deal with then NJ Attorney General, John Degnan. Although probably unrelated, in 2014 NJ Governor Chris Christy appointed Mr. Degnan, retired chairman of the Chubb insurance company, to head the Port Authority of NY and NJ in the wake of the Ft. Lee lane closure scandal.

In the mid-1980s, Trump’s helicopter pilot, Joseph Weichselbaum, who had a record for embezzlement, was indicted for trafficking in marijuana and cocaine. Trump defended him as “a credit to the community.” After he was released from prison, Weichselbaum and his girlfriend “bought” adjacent apartments in Trump Tower for $2.4M. However, there is no evidence that any money actually changed hands raising the question of whether Trump was paying him for some services. By 2016, Trump appeared to have forgotten that he ever knew the man even though Wiechselbaum has said that he tried to convince the Don to break off his affair with Marla Maples.

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg. Read the Politico article for more details on Trump’s close association with the underworld. When you do, the fact that the Trump White House resembles the Bada Bing will make much more sense.

Something stinks in the kitchen

Not surprisingly, our esteemed County Executive, Li’l Debbie Preston, is eager to move ahead with a contract award to the sole bidder for the county’s central food services. This despite the fact that the numbers simply do not add up. Currently the county pays an average of $4.30 per meal for a million meals a year. Under the proposed Aramark contract, based on what little information the Executive has allowed to be made public, that will be reduced to an average of $3.40 a meal while the company invests $350,000 in new facilities. Assuming the company makes about 8% profit, which is roughly what cost-reimbursable service contracts usually yield, that brings the actual amount spend per meal to $2.80. ($3.40 – $0.35 – 8%) Unless the quality of the food suffers greatly, which Preston assures it will not, it is clear that the workers will be taking it in the shorts. Some of the reduction in labor costs will come from Aramark’s proposed use of prison labor—basically slave labor—but no one knows how much or how quality will be sustained as the jail population turns over. For that matter, we do not even know what prison or jail will be involved. And there appears to be no provision in the proposed contract to give current employees any preference in hiring. Clearly many if not most, especially the most experienced, will be out on the street. Has anyone calculated the cost to the County of putting dozens of people on the food stamp and welfare rolls?

Besides the obvious shabby treatment of long-time county employees, this contract raises other questions. Why did no one else besides Aramark bid? After all, their leading competitor, Sodexo, already provides food service at Binghamton University and so has a strong presence in the area. Could it be because of Aramark’s well documented history of bid rigging? While I can find no evidence of political contributions by the company to Broome County officials, in 2008 they spent thousands of dollars helping Orange County Sherriff Carl DuBois get elected. Not surprisingly, the Orange County jail is run by Aramark Correctional Services. And no less a champion of government outsourcing than the Wall Street Journal has reported on Aramark’s ties with organized crime.

No matter how you look at it this deal stinks and should be turned down by the legislature. If the County Executive still wants to explore outsourcing the central kitchen, the competition should be reopened with a request for proposal that includes provisions for protecting the currently employees. And the County should run an open competition including a pre-bid solicitation of interest and a pre-bidders conference with the identity of interested parties made public. If there is no competition, the idea should be dropped.