Could we have predicted the ‘Bad Kruger’ ?

A long, long time ago, I spent the summers on Fire Island, New York 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 a lawyer who wrote many important novels and who, himself, was 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 them 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 who I have always called the “Bad Kruger.” The “Good Krueger” is Senator Liz Krueger, a brilliant public servant who really seems devoted to the public good. The Bad Kruger is a complicated man, with 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 Richard Lipsky was apprehended by the FBI there was money all over his prestigious Normandy apartment on the west side of Manhattan.

This is all a matter of public record. Both the Bad Kruger and Richard Lipsky were caught so red-handedly that denial was impossible. They both pleaded guilty and are off to prison. Both were filled with public 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 US 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 to make the point that corruption among elected officials was not a good idea. 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 fifty 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.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 4/30/12

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