In a shocking turn of events this morning, New York City Councilman Dan Halloran, along with State Sen. Malcolm Smith, were arrested on charges of fraud and bribery in connection to an alleged plot to fix the mayoral race. The arrests came after an FBI-led investigation, one in which U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara claims Halloran “quarterbacked” the drive to find party officials willing to be bribed. In a meeting with an informant, Halloran allegedly expounded at length on what it takes to “grease the wheels” of New York City politics.
“Halloran, meeting on Sept. 7 at a Manhattan restaurant with the government informant, allegedly made clear that it takes big bucks to bring government action in New York. ‘That’s politics, that’s politics, it’s all about how much,’ Halloran said, according to the criminal complaint. ‘Not about whether or will, it’s about how much, and that’s our politicians in New York, they’re all like that, all like that.’ Halloran allegedly added: ‘You can’t get anything without the f–king money.’ The meeting ended with Halloran receiving $7,500 cash bribe from the feds’ cooperating witness, according to the complaint.”
You can read the full complaint against Halloran, and the other implicated officials, here. On his arrest this morning, Halloran claimed to have no idea as to why he was being picked up by law enforcement, saying he was “sure the truth will come out once I have an opportunity to find out what’s going on.” That said, if even some of these allegations are true, Halloran most certainly will face jail time, and his colorful, sometimes unorthodox, political career is likely over.
For those not in the loop, the reason Dan Halloran’s arrest is being mentioned in a Pagan news blog is that Halloran is the highest elected official in the United States who also happens to openly be an adherent of a Pagan/Heathen religion. Specifically, he was for a time a prominent (and eventually prominently controversial) member of the Théodish belief system, a faith that seeks to practice Germanic pre-Christian religion. Though Halloran never denied being a Théodish Heathen, he also wasn’t very transparent about it in the beginning, causing a great deal of havoc when he was “outed” by the local press during his city council run. His beliefs were often sensationalized by the press, including Village Voice cover art depicting Halloran with a dead sacrificed goat, ceremonial robe and runic cloak.
Halloran’s initial response to the attention was to downplay the Heathen-ness of his faith (infuriating many of his co-religionists), and stress his Catholic heritage.
“I took comfort in my family’s history and our heritage, yet through all of this pain and hardship, I never lost faith in God. Last week, I was attacked for my faith in the Queens Tribune.These attacks happened on the eve of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest time of the year for the Jewish people. Having been raised in a Catholic household that shares its religious roots with the Jewish faith, I was deeply offended that religion would be used for political gain. […] I am a man of faith – and now my faith is under attack by a newspaper working for my opponent. I call on my opponent to disavow the Queens Tribune’s attack on religion. I am running a campaign on the issues.”
From that point, Halloran has steered clear of talking explicitly about his faith, even when journalists dug up former co-religionists who made allegations relating to his leadership role within Theodism. In a 2010 interview with the Pagan Newswire Collective, Halloran reiterated that his faith is private, and “irrelevant” to any policy decision he might make.
“My service in the Council and advocacy for our neighborhoods has proven beyond a shadow of doubt that my religious faith is not only irrelevant to my public policy… but also a source of great personal strength for me which only inures to the benefit of my Community. I do occasionally hear that being a “Druid” explains why I am such an eco-conscious Republican.”
Still, his Heathen faith was a continual punch-line for critics, and already Gawker has posted an “epic poem” today in his honor. Halloran was a complex figure who could be charming and infuriating depending on who he was interacting with, and I can’t picture many politicians within Tea Party and Libertarian circles overcoming the obstacles he did, to the point of making a serious bid for congress. Halloran was living proof that being a Pagan wasn’t an impossible obstacle to modern political office, even if you were a conservative Republican in New York City. It is for this reason that these revelations are especially disheartening, because our collective history will now mark Halloran’s “firsts” with the asterisk of scandal and corruption.
We will continue to follow this story as it develops. The Wild Hunt will also be featuring an editorial this week from Cara Schulz, a Pagan who interviewed Halloran in 2010, and has followed his career over the years.