Well, we can't say that we're totally surprised by the news that the gang that couldn't shoot straight, AKA the Paterson administration, is pulling back on enforcing the law against the Indian cigarette tax evaders. We first predicted an Indian summer of love when it was announced that the tax increase would go into effect in July, while enforcement was pushed back until September. Later, when ace fraud detector Tom Stanton was axed from his investigators job at state tax and finance, we went further and questioned whether this governor-the wrong man, in the wrong place, at the wrong time-would ever actually enforce the tax evasion law.
Now, it appears that we were prescient in our observations about just how pusillanimous and dishonest this governor really is-as the NY Post reports this morning: "It's long been clear that Gov. Paterson's "negotiations" with New York's Indian tribes over their massive buttlegging rackets were just an excuse for his cowardly refusal to enforce state tax law on the reservations. Now we've got a, um, smoking gun. As The Post's Brendan Scott reports, the Paterson administration has clearly halted all enforcement activities targeting the hundreds of millions of packs of untaxed cigarettes moving off state reservations each year."
It is now high time for the state senate and the assembly to put its foot down-no budget without an ironclad enforcement agreement that will forever close the Indian buttlegging loophole. There are hundreds of millions of tax dollars at stake-not to mention tens of thousands of small businesses that are being preyed on by a criminal conspiracy that is apparently being run from right out of the governor's mansion. Since there is no good policy rationale for this latest act of malfeasance, a federal investigation needs to be launched into the motivations for non-enforcement by David Paterson.
The Post continues: "In a June 22 e-mail obtained by The Post, acting Tax Commissioner Jamie Woodward tells Deputy Commissioner William Comiskey, "I am reconfirming that all actions against Indians has [sic] ceased." Comiskey then tells his enforcement team, "We are under an embargo on taking actions against Indians until the dust settles on the new law."
As we had suspected, the governor's ballyhooed enforcement charade was a ruse designed to gull the legislature-and permit him to cut a different deal with the criminals at a later date: "That law, notably, gives Paterson the power to unilaterally rewrite cigarette-tax law to reflect a settlement he may reach with the tribes. Insiders say the governor's enforcement freeze was meant to avoid upsetting the Indians during the talks."
Don't upset the Indians? It's time to follow the money trail here-in the same way that Democratic law makers are calling for an investigation of the money trail in the release of the Lockerbie bomber to the Libyans: "Keep in mind that what Paterson halted isn't the broad-based fix he and his predecessors have been stalling for years in fear of tribal violence -- but rather long-running, on-the-ground stings and busts targeting actual smugglers, whom officials believe are tied up with organized crime and terror groups. And this revelation comes only days after Tax Department enforcement chief Thomas Stanton was canned for revealing that his anti-smuggling covert-ops budget had been decimated."
Cui bono?-as the poli sci folks might say. It isn't enough that the accidental governor is appointing cronies to the parole board, being accused of lying under oath, and advancing millions to a company that employs his wife-shades of Blogo? Now all of the thousands of small shop keepers who have been taking a beating from the buttleggers must continue to pound salt? But Paterson doesn't want to upset the Indians!
It's time that Paterson enforces the tax laws-or, alternatively, have the law enforced against him. We'll give the Post the last word: "Indeed, it confirms the charge leveled last week by a city Law Department attorney, who told this page that enforcement against buttleggers on Long Island's Poospatuck reservation had ended. New Yorkers appear to be witnessing Gov. Paterson's complete surrender to criminal traffickers statewide. It's one helluva way to negotiate."