Year of Scoundrel provides Hall of Shame inductees

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 31, 2004

It was such a good line in the Bible that John F. Kennedy recycled it, with minor change: "For of those to whom much is given, much is required."

Alas, not everybody who was given much in 2004 met the test. Some saw fit to take more than they were entitled to. And some simply violated the spirit of social responsibility Kennedy famously cited. However they did it, their piggy-piggy ways took them all from the A-list to rogues' gallery. Drumroll, please, for the 2004 Hall of Shame.

4Martha Stewart: It was in March that a federal jury found the multimillionaire guilty of lying about a stock sale that saved her $51,000. Stewart is now in prison, doing five months and preparing for a relaunch of her life and career.

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But even if she succeeds in having her conviction overturned, the new image of inmate No. 55170-054 can't be erased. Her trial exposed her as a cheap bully who charged her company for routine living expenses. The conviction cost her stockholders millions and some of her employees their jobs. Those are not good things.

4Bernie Kerik: The former top cop had it all: a national reputation for heroism, millions from some sweet consulting deals and a new family. If only he had stopped there.

But when Kerik foolishly said yes to President Bush's offer to run homeland security, the gates of hell opened on him. Within days, he was exposed as a serial skirt chaser and faced allegations that he took money from people doing business with the city. Each day brought new charges, and Kerik is the subject of official probes.

He is also unemployed, no longer a partner with Rudy Giuliani in a consulting business. Giuliani, who ignored signs of Kerik's messy life, apologized to Bush over the fiasco.

4Jason Giambi: Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? Giambi's boyish good looks and long home runs led George Steinbrenner to give him a $120 million contract. Turns out the muscles that hit those home runs were inflated with steroids, as Giambi admitted to a grand jury. The revelation coincided with the breakdown of Giambi's body and performance. The Yanks want to dump him - if they can get out of the contract or find a team willing to take a certified cheat.

4The Dolans: Father Charles and son James are funding the campaign to defeat a new Jets stadium. Two problems: their motives and their money. The Cablevision bosses don't want competition for their Madison Square Garden. And the money spent on TV ads is ours. Thanks to a tax break gone awry, the Garden hasn't paid property taxes since 1984. The Dolans are saving $11.8 million this year - enough to hire about 150 cops or teachers. You'd think they'd have the decency to give back the money. Think again.

4Jim McGreevey: "I am a gay American" was his pitch for social martyrdom, but the New Jersey governor's shameless bid to hide the mushrooming corruption probes didn't work. He was about to be exposed for hiring his boy toy at $110,000 to be an anti-terror aide, and that is the real reason McGreevey quit. His wife, who gives new meaning to "out of the loop," is now living separately with their daughter while McGreevey is free to be himself, assuming probers don't charge him.

4Guy Velella: The Bronx GOP boss and state senator was convicted in May of pocketing $137,000 from state contractors. He was sentenced to a year in jail but got out after three months through tearful pleas to a little-known public agency. The release was overturned, and he went back to Rikers Island on Monday. Still, with his time out subtracted from his sentence, he beat the system out of 90 days.

That's shameful. And a perfect credential for the Hall of Shame.

Michael Goodwin is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the New York Daily News, 450 West 33rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10001; e-mail: