Mario Biaggi

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Mario Biaggi
Mario Biaggi.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 24th (1968-1973), 10th (1973-1983), and 19th (1983-1988) district
In office
January 3, 1969 – August 5, 1988
Preceded by Paul A. Fino
Succeeded by Eliot Engel
Personal details
Born (1917-10-26) October 26, 1917 (age 96)
New York, New York, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Residence Bronx, New York
Religion Roman Catholic

Mario Biaggi (born October 26, 1917) is a former U.S. Representative from New York (served from 1969 to 1988) and former New York City police officer. He was elected as a Democrat from The Bronx in New York City. In 1987 and 1988, he was convicted in two separate corruption trials, and he resigned from Congress in 1988.[1]

Early years[edit]

He was born in East Harlem, New York, on 26 October 1917, to poor Italian immigrants. His father, Salvatore Biaggi, was a marble setter. His mother, Mary, worked as a charwoman.

At age 18, Biaggi became a substitute letter carrier for the U.S. Post Office. Later, he became a regular letter carrier; his mail route included the home of one of his heroes, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. He served nearly six years with the Post Office and, in a preview of things to come, became an activist in Branch 36 of the National Letter Carriers Association.

Police[edit]

In 1942, Biaggi joined the New York City Police Department. His police career spanned 23 years. He retired from the Department in 1965, with the rank of Detective Lieutenant. Among his many exploits as one of the NYPD's most decorated officers, was the rescue of a woman on a runaway horse, which injured him, causing a permanent limp.[2]

Lawyer at age 49[edit]

At the age of 45, and near the end of his police career, Biaggi entered law school. The American Bar Association granted him a special dispensation to study law even though Biaggi did not have an undergraduate college degree.[citation needed]

Biaggi attended New York Law School, and received a full scholarship thanks to Dean Daniel Gutman. Studying days, nights and weekends, Biaggi completed the three-year law degree program in only two and one-half years. In 1966, at the age of 49, he was admitted to the New York Bar and founded the law firm Biaggi and Ehrlich.

Elected to Congress[edit]

In 1968, the 24th District seat in the U.S. House became open when 8-term Republican incumbent Paul Fino resigned to become a New York Supreme Court Justice. Biaggi ran as a Democrat, and won easily, with 60.5% of the vote in what had been a traditional Bronx Republican stronghold.

He was easily re-elected in 1970. From 1972 onward, he was nominated by the Republicans as well, and was effectively unopposed. In 1968, 1970, and 1972, he also got the Conservative nomination, but this support ended after his abortive run for mayor in 1973. From 1978 onward he got the Liberal nomination.[citation needed]

In the redistricting after the 1970 census, Biaggi's district was renumbered the 10th, and included part of Queens. In the redistricting after the 1980 census, his district was renumbered the 19th, and included part of suburban Westchester County.[citation needed]

In 1975 Biaggi introduced a joint resolution of Congress, Public Law 94-479, to posthumously promote George Washington to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States and restore Washington's position as the highest-ranking military officer in U.S. history.[3] This was passed on January 19, 1976, approved by President Gerald Ford on October 11, 1976, and formalized in Department of the Army Order 31-3 of March 13, 1978, with an effective appointment date of July 4, 1976, the United States Bicentennial.[citation needed]

1973 mayoral campaign[edit]

In 1973, he declared his candidacy for Mayor of New York City. He entered the Democratic primary, and also sought the Conservative nomination. Biaggi was a fairly conservative Democrat by New York City standards, and had received the Conservative nomination for Representative three times. Conservative Party leaders supported him and planned to make him their nominee regardless of whether he received the Democratic line. Biaggi lost the Democratic primary, but ran in the general election on the Conservative Party ballot line. He finished in fourth place and received 10.96% of the vote.[4]

Corruption convictions[edit]

In 1987 Biaggi was charged with corrupt actions. He had accepted free vacations from former Brooklyn Democratic leader Meade Esposito in exchange for using his influence to help a ship-repair company that was a major client of Esposito's insurance agency. He was convicted of accepting an illegal gratuity and obstruction of justice, sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison, and fined $500,000.[5] The House Ethics Committee recommended that Biaggi be expelled — the most severe penalty.[6]

In 1988, Biaggi was charged in the Wedtech scandal of having accepted bribes for assisting Wedtech in getting Federal procurement contracts.[7] He was convicted of 15 counts of obstruction of justice and accepting illegal gratuities. He was sentenced to eight years imprisonment but was ordered released in 1991 by the sentencing judge on the grounds of ill health (heart problems, arthritis, broken bones from four falls in prison).

Biaggi, who was about to be expelled from the House, now resigned his seat. Since primary election petitions were aleady filed, Biaggi remained on the ballot for the Democratic and Republican nominations in the 19th District. He did not campaign, and lost the Democratic primary to then-Assemblyman Eliot Engel. Although the 19th District was still relatively conservative at the time, Bronx Republican Chairman and State Senator Guy Velella chose not to field another candidate to run for the seat and left Biaggi on the ballot. In the general election, Engel easily defeated Biaggi.

1992 run for Congress[edit]

In 1992, Biaggi attempted a political comeback. He sought his old seat in Congress, challenging his successor, Representative Engel, in the Democratic primary.[8] Biaggi claimed that many of his former constituents asked him to run, and that Engel had a poor record on constituent service. Despite the enthusiasm of some of his supporters, Biaggi raised little money. Engel, who raised more money and cited Biaggi's criminal convictions, won easily. After the election, the Bronx News reported that some of Biaggi's former constituents wanted to vote for him but could not. In the redistricting after the 1990 census, parts of Biaggi's former district (Throggs Neck and Morris Park) had been shifted to other districts.

Notes[edit]

References[edit]

  • Roth, Mitchel P. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Law Enforcement. Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-30560-9. 
  • Trager, James (2003). The New York Chronology: The Ultimate Compendium of Events, People, and Anecdotes from the Dutch to the Present. HarperCollins. ISBN 0-06-052341-7. 

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Paul A. Fino
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 24th congressional district

1969–1973
Succeeded by
Ogden R. Reid
Preceded by
Emanuel Celler
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 10th congressional district

1973–1983
Succeeded by
Charles E. Schumer
Preceded by
Charles B. Rangel
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 19th congressional district

January 1, 1983 – August 5, 1988
Succeeded by
Eliot L. Engel
Party political offices
Preceded by
John Marchi
Conservative Party nominee for Mayor of New York City
1973
Succeeded by
Barry Farber