Legislator Exploits Bernie Madoff’s Celebrity for Political Gain

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Photo: Getty Images

New York has seen more than its share of white-collar crime this year, and Republican assemblyman Jim Tedisco is fed up with, among other things, the fact that once these criminals are arrested and put in prison they become wards of the state and are thus supported by taxpayers. Specifically, Tedisco said, he was bothered by a recent incident in which one Tuvia Stern threw a lavish 60-person bar mitzvah for his son in the gym at Tombs, where he is serving time for fraud, and it inspired him to come up with a bill suggesting that wealthy inmates be forced to pay for their own prison time.

The bill — which proposes charging criminals on a sliding scale based on the amount of assets they have — actually makes a lot of sense. Why should we subsidize the life of Martha Stewart, for instance, if we're not even getting any pastel hand towels out of it? But what doesn't make sense is the name: Tedisco has dubbed his bill "the Madoff bill."

That's weird. It's not like Madoff qualifies as one of these wealthy criminals — whatever money he had was, lest we forget, stolen. Are his victims supposed to pay for his prison, too? Why isn't it called the Stern bill, for the case that inspired it? If you ask us, this represents a naked attempt by Tedisco to cash in on the Ponzi schemer's fame and cache. If we were Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, we'd be on the phone braying about copyright infringement right now. Who knows, maybe he could even get some money back for some of his victims.

"Madoff" bill would charge rich NY inmates for jail [Reuters]