This summer, upstart City Councilman Walter McCaffrey was trying to bring something almost unheard of to western Queens: a contested election. Now, thanks to well-placed allegations of misused campaign funds and a deal cut by Queens political heavies, McCaffrey’s given up his Congressional bid. It’s potent proof that the county’s all-white leadership is still in command–and that immigrant groups and other newcomers have lost their best chance to get a voice in the tightly-controlled Queens power structure.
McCaffrey was trying to topple the incumbent Joseph Crowley and buck the formidable Queens machine. But according to one insider, county Democratic leader Thomas Manton vowed he’d “wipe the floor” with McCaffrey.
That seems to be just what happened. On July 26, a host on NY1’s Inside City Hall confronted McCaffrey with a report that the candidate had used campaign funds for personal purposes. The next day, the weekly Queens Tribune published a story revealing discrepancies in McCaffrey’s account keeping. Within another 24 hours, he dropped out of the race.
“This was not about beating Walter. It was about destroying him,” says Lois Marbach, a McCaffrey political consultant. “This was personal.”
But sources inside the Queens Democratic Party report that both the news stories were orchestrated by the county leadership, with the help of the Queens Tribune.
A week before the NY1 report, the Tribune sent a package with details about McCaffrey’s alleged improprieties to The Hill, a Washington political weekly and sister publication. Editors at The Hill assigned the story to Adam Arenson, a summer intern. The following Thursday, it appeared in the Queens Tribune under Arenson’s byline as a “special correspondent.”
McCaffrey’s political career is most likely over, but he’s not the biggest loser in this race. With its burgeoning immigrant population, western Queens is home to dozens of political clubs that were in the process of exchanging their support for promises of future favors and endorsements.
“Is this a dictatorship?” asks Haydee Zambrana, president of Latin Women in Action. “What will happen to Latino empowerment if this kind of mechanism exists in Queens?”
For the full story, look to our website after Tuesday: www.citylimits.org.