As far as federal complaints go, the one filed yesterday against lobbyist Richard Lipsky (my Facebook friend!) and New York State Senator Carl Kruger may be less than meets the eye, relying as it does on "conspiracy" and "honest services" statutes that are notoriously elastic for prosecutors looking for something upon which to pin a crime on a target. Mr. Kruger seems to have an unusual lifestyle: The New York Times news article reports, "Activists traveled last year to the Turano residence and the Brooklyn home of Mr. Kruger's sister, protesting loudly and saying Mr. Kruger himself was gay. Mr. Kruger has said he is not gay." But that hardly amounts to a federal crime.
That will all be for the courts to figure out. In the meantime, what concerns us here is the complaint's handling of the anti-Walmart lobbying campaign in New York City. According to the information in the complaint, Mr. Lipsky was paid by Walmart competitors (a supermarket chain, small retailers) to lobby against Walmart, and he was also engaged in an illicit financial relationship with Senator Kruger, who worked with him against Walmart.
Once you start letting the politicians decide what stores can or can't open in New York City, it's only a matter of time before stores start trying to bribe the politicians to keep the competition out. This can be done "legally" through campaign contributions or "illegally" through checks made to mysterious entities handed over in envelopes in meetings that take place in parked automobiles, as the complaint alleges was done in the case of Mr. Kruger. But either way, it's the government regulatory power itself that creates the opportunity for the corruption. And all the sanctimony in which the anti-Walmart movement is drenched — the supposed concern for mom-and-pop stores, for Walmart's supposed mistreatment of women employees or union organizers — is revealed as just what the prosecutors describe as criminal activity aimed at depriving customers of a choice of where to shop.