Childhood is where the seed of corrupt politicians is planted
By Alan S. Chartock
A long, long time ago, I spent the summers on Fire Island with my family. My best friend, now passed, was Jon Lipsky, who went on to develop a tremendous reputation as a teacher and a playwright of the first order. His older brother, Michael, became an eminent professor at MIT and a formidable administrator at the Ford Foundation. Their younger brother, David, became a scientist and was largely responsible for the New York City water supply. Their father, Eleazar, was the author of many important novels and an assistant district attorney in the office of the legendary DA Frank Hogan. My friend’s cousins included the son and daughter of a publicist, “Uncle David.” Publicist David Lipsky’s daughter, Lisa, ran the Fire Island movie house. The youngest son, young enough for me not to have really known him, was Richard Lipsky. I just remember Richard as a little kid with his stomach hanging out over a bathing suit, walking barefoot in Ocean Beach. For a while it looked like Richard would follow in the footsteps of his distinguished cousins. He did well at college and then went on to earn a Ph.D. in political science.
The next time I heard about Richard Lipsky, I was publishing The Legislative Gazette in Albany and teaching at SUNY New Paltz and Albany. Instead of sticking with an academic career, Richard became a lobbyist and enjoyed some success. He was terrific at gaming the press. He would call the editors and offer them tidbits and stories. Like his dad, he had a temper. Eventually, his success as a lobbyist began to wane, and he fell in with Carl Kruger, the man I have always called the “Bad Kruger.” The “Good Krueger” is Sen. Liz Krueger, a brilliant public servant who seems earnestly devoted to the public good. The Bad Kruger is a complicated man, apparently shaped by a very hard childhood. Today he is seemingly uncommitted to contemporary ethical standards. As you probably know by now, the Bad Kruger took a turn for the worse when he deserted his professional responsibilities and went on the take. People would go to a designated lobbyist—none other than the kid in the bathing suit, Richard Lipsky—and give him money to put the fix in with the Bad Kruger, who would make things happen. When the FBI apprehended Richard Lipsky, there was money all over his home at the prestigious Normandy apartments on the West Side.
This is all a matter of public record. Both the Bad Kruger and Richard Lipsky were caught so red-handed that denial was impossible. They both pleaded guilty and are off to prison. Both made a public show of remorse. At his sentencing, the lawyer for the Bad Kruger made the defense that his client wasn’t as bad as some of the others in politics. I am sure that this did not sit well with the members of the Legislature. The U.S. district judge in the case, Jed S. Rakoff, took note of the good things that the Bad Kruger had done and let him off with a lighter sentence than the federal prosecutors were seeking. Richard Lipsky, the little kid in the blue bathing suit, will also go to prison.
I guess the point is that when you see some kid on the beach, maybe sucking his thumb, it’s possible that 50 years later that kid may turn out to be a brain surgeon or he may turn out to be a crook. The whole thing gives me the shivers. When I talked to my best friend Jon just before he passed and mentioned what was happening to his cousin Richard, Jon said, “Yeah, I know.” I’ve been wondering whether he saw it coming.
Unlike others who have no empathy, I just hate to see this happen to anyone. If you look into the childhoods of Carl Kruger and Richard Lipsky, you might find some clues about what was going to happen.
Alan S. Chartock is president and CEO of WAMC/Northeast Public Radio and an executive publisher at The Legislative Gazette.
Tags: Carl Kruger, contemporary ethical standards, corruption, crook, editors, gaming press, guilty, Jed S. Rakoff, lighter sentence, lobbyist, political science, politicians, red-handed, Richard Lipsky, Sen. Liz Krueger
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