And you thought Albany couldn’t get anymore dysfunctional

That was the end line of the July 3rd editorial in the NY Post.  They were writing on the growing feud between NY Governor Eliot Spitzer (D), and Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Brunswick).  What started off as a political tiff, has grown exponentially, and has fast crossed over into the dirty tricks department.  It’s now more of a classic school yard confrontation, than it is a political dispute.

On the one hand we have Joe Bruno, the current scion of the NY GOP.  Now Joe is no saint, and has done some questionable, but not illegal things in his career.  He should know that sometimes there mere impression, or hint of something can be as damaging, or even more damaging than to have actually done something.  Even so, Joe is a scrapper, both in and out of politics.  Being a former Army boxing champ will do that for you.  So he’s not one to give in to intimidation, or threats, or attacks upon his character. 

On the other hand, we have Governor Eliot Spitzer.  He’s now giving everyone the impression that if he doesn’t get his way, he’ll throw a tantrum.  He’ll scream, yell, and use profanities in front of who ever is there to witness it.  If that doesn’t work, he will use threats, and try to extort what he wants out of his targets.  While this may have worked while he was AG, it is hardly the methodology for being an effective governor. 

Quick quiz: One of these men grew up poor, and had to work his way up the ladder.  The other is a child of priviledge, given all the perks of that status.  Guess which is which.  Answer later on.

Now all of this tit for tat mud slinging began first with the NY Senate’s refusal to take up some of Spitzer’s pet legislation, specifically campaign finance reform.  For my part, I agree with Bruno and the Senate here.  What Spitzer was proposing would have cemented the fact that only the personally rich would be able to run for office.  It would have enshrined the concept that you need a large personal fortune to be in politics.  This would have shut out the vast majority of people from even entertaining the idea of running for office with any sort of chance of winning.  Further more, given the fact that Democratic donors in NY are the wealthiest, it would have served only to disenfranchise those not of the Democratic Party in NY.  Hardly a democratic concept at all.

There were other pieces of legislation that got hung up as well.  The Tech Valley bills got delayed because of this, and the way the Governor threatened not to sign passed legislation until his bills got through.  The budget was delayed yet again because of this.  It was just a war of words, even with the profanity laceds tirade by the Governor during the budget negotiations.

But then it started to get dirty.  Someone, most likely in the Governors office, leaked some information to the Albany Times Union.  Now the Albany TU has recently (with in the past two years or so), gone through a bit of an editorial change, and it shows.  What was once a solid paper, reporting on news regardless of who or what it was about, has become little more than a activist paper, attacking people they don’t like rather than reporting impartially.  Public enemy number 1 to them?  Joe Bruno.

The reporting on Bruno wasn’t the first incident like this.  During the 2006 Congressional campaign, they had big head lines about the Republican incumbent in the 26th district, John Sweeney, and a domestic violence call against him (Supposedly).  Now John is a bit of a SOB, I don’t deny it.  He’s brusque, lacks the proper amount of inter personal skills, and is a control freak.  Even still, what was reported, and how, is questionable, and can only be seen as a clear attempt to influence an election for partisan and ideological purposes.  John didn’t do himself any favors in how he handled this, but it should not have ever happened to begin with.  FWIW, it would seem that ALL investigations on this matter, from the charge itself to the investigations into how it was handled and who leaked what, were dropped shortly after the elections.

Then there was the TU’s reporting on a local family who were the beneficiaries of the ABC show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”  Instead of showing how the community came together to put this together, and how the receiving family had opened their doors to children with needs, we instead get a slam on that family.  We get an lengthy article on how they have this or that problem, and how the mother is this way or that way.  My question, and the question of many many people in the area was why?  At least the TU printed several letters to the editor in which they were condemned for this, even though the TU never did apologize.  Still we have to wonder why they did this.  I have a feeling that they were trying to taint one of those involved in the project, George Amedore, who is a Republican now running for State Assembly, and was the contractor who donated most of the materials, and provided most of the skilled labor to the project.  Sleezey tactic on the part of the TU if you ask me (and they complain about collateral damage).

So, this now leads us back to the Bruno-Spitzer row.  Now, Joe had been under FBI investigation for his outside business interests.  No secret there, he announcd it before it was leaked to anyone.  He’s been quite upfront about that.  But then comes allegations, via the Albany TU, that Joe used State Police services for political purposes.  This gave Spitzer an opportunity to “get” Bruno, and he called for the AG (Andrew Cuomo), and Albany County DA David Soares (of steroid fame) to investigate.

Well, as I said, Joe’s a scrapper.  He counter punched back, saying that the AG and DA should also investigate the Governor and everyone lese who made use of those SP services.  That would include the Governor, the Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, and other top State leaders.  He also had some colorful quips regarding the TU, showing at one point that the only use he had for it was to wrap his gum in. 

Just like a Ron Popeil commercial, “But wait there’s more!”  The NY Post reported that Spitzer used SP Troopers to watch Bruno while he was travelling with SP escorts.  Uh-oh, not good for the former AG, who should have known better.  It was only in the past two days that Bruno has acted on this information, almost a week after the story broke. 

Yesterday he sent a letter to the AG and Albany County DA requesting that they investigate this potential misuse of the State Police.  It must have hit home for Spitzer, as his response was to try and deflect it.  Spizer said “I wish Joe didn’t send that letter.  I don’t want to distract from the business of running the State of New York.  This shouldn’t get personal.”  Too late for that Eliot.

You see, Eliot is a school yard bully.  He got away with it as Attorney General, as many of his targets didn’t want, or couldn’t afford any bad publicity for fighting him, so they rolled over.  But now, he’s run into a guy who won’t just roll over for him, and doesn’t respond well to threats, Joe Bruno.  Spitzer’s repsonse I think is an indicator of retreat in this.  I think he over played his hand, and the stakes are getting a bit too high for him.  Only now, it’s too late in some respects.

Quiz answer: Joe Bruno grew up “poor,” and used the Army and the GI Bill to get his start, and work his way up.  Eliot Spitzer is the son of a Real Estate mogul, and attended the best and most exclusive private schools in NY.

Now, how bad has this brawl become?  Assembly Majority Leader Ron Canestrari (D-Cohoes) has backed away from the Governor’s position.  Assembly Speaker Silver has remained very, very quiet on the whole matter.  Of course during the previously mentioned budget negotiations, Spitzer miffed Silver, and Shelly is vindictive.  And it’s not only the Democratic legislators who are backing away.  Andrew Cuomo, the AG, and Spitzer partisan, has been awfully quiet, not commenting on any of this.  Bad omens for Eliot, and no ET in sight.

Don’t get me wrong here, there is still a window of opprtunity to get past all this.  For sure it’s a two way street, but this street begins with the Governor.  If Spitzer backs off of this fight, Bruno will as well.  Then, in all likelyhood, this story will just fade away.  The trick will be for Spitzer to keep his temper in check, you know, like not threatening to decapitate political opponents, and to reign in the spoiled rich kid/schoolyard bully routine. 

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5 thoughts on “And you thought Albany couldn’t get anymore dysfunctional

  1. And here was poor little me worrying about my local township school board, school superintendant, teachers union, and parents group not being able to “play well with others”.

    This story makes me feel a whole lot better about my lot.

  2. We are dealing with the ‘Evil of two lessers’. Spitzer will win in the end as he is reaching the peak of his career, Bruno on the other hand is fighting for his political life at the tail end of a long and distinguished state political career. Bruno who is looking at ethical if not leagal issues because of his dealings, will likely face some sort of revolt within his own party. He has survived these before, but I’m not sure he can again. Sptizer who is a dork, knows he has just got to wait it out.

  3. Joe’s not done yet. Something like this only serves to invigorate him, and gets his blood pumping. I doubt that Bruno will suffer any legal penalties or ethical ones. This is a fight no one can win, and if it continues to escalate (though it seems Eliot is backing down), it will bring down not only Bruno, but Spitzer, and perhaps others as well.

  4. Given how everything has spiraled nearly out of control for Spitzer, between the investigation into “Troopergate,” and his Driver’s Liscense plan, it’s a wonder he has any friends left. Add to this recent polling data which shows that his approval rating is around 30%, and 40% of Democrats wouldn’t re-elect him, he may be a one term wonder if the Republicans can come up with any sor of capable candidate.

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