‘Tis the season for political holiday parties, where local pols gather together with colleagues and constituents for some winter cheer.
But a number of eyebrows were raised at Senate majority leader John Sampson’s recent shindig at Kai Studio in Brooklyn, when none other than disgraced former Kings County Democratic Party boss Clarence Norman dropped by, according to a number of sources who were among the several hundred people present. According to the state Department of Corrections, Norman is in a work-release program, which means that he is technically still in the prison system but is free to live and work out of a Brooklyn home. But Democratic insiders say his presence at Sampson’s soiree creates at least the appearance that the state Democratic Party is not taking corruption seriously enough.
“It’s amazing,” said one Brooklyn Democratic official. “We just lost the majority. It’s like these guys just don’t get it.”
Norman’s appearance comes after Sampson has been eviscerated in the press for favoring AEG in their bid to win a casino deal at Aqueduct Racetrack, even going so far as to hand AEG an internal Senate document that detailed their competitors’ bids. AEG was represented in those negotiations by Carl Andrews, a senator-turned-lobbyist who was one of Norman’s closest political associates.
The AEG scandal broke a few days before the election, and is thought to be one of the factors that led to a Republican takeover of the state Senate.
Wayne Barrett has the backstory on the Norman/Andrews/Sampson alliance here, excerpted below:
Sampson and Andrews joined forces under onetime Brooklyn Democratic boss and ex-Assemblyman Clarence Norman, who wound up convicted in a series of corruption cases in recent years and doing up to nine years in state prison. When Norman was at the peak of his power in 2005, he was audacious enough to run Sampson against the district attorney who’d already indicted him twice, Joe Hynes, and Sampson openly said he’d “re-evaluate” the Norman cases if he was elected. Andrews, who was Norman’s best friend and treasurer of the Brooklyn Democratic organization, was in charge of Sampson’s field operation in that campaign. Andrews usually got paid for such election-day operations, but he doesn’t appear on Sampson’s filings for this campaign, suggesting that he was so tied to Sampson’s that he’d work for free.
I spoke with people who attended the holiday party of State Sen. Eric Adams–a Sampson lieutenant–and they told me that Norman was also spotted there.