And the fun continues…

Shock and awe.  That has to be what the reeling ex-Mjaority Leader Malcolm Smith is feeling right now.  And it just keeps piling on..

From the latest news reports, Smith has lost it all, even if the Democrats somehow regain control of NY’s Senate chamber.  The latest indictaes that even if the Democrats retake control, Smith will be ousted from any and all leadership positions.  Even the efforts of The One’s political team are sacraficing Smith in a counter-coup bid.  The problem with this is that if the Dems do regain control, then who will be elevated to the vaunted leadership positions?

That’s the question for the Democrats.  If not Smith, then who?  Carl Kruger and Tom Stachowski are two options, but the rumor mill, from many sources, seems to point to them flipping sides to join Espada and Monserratte.  But I would venture that if Smith is sacraficed, then these two would “remain in the fold,”   especially if they are offered the top two slots as President of the Senate and Majority Leader.  However, given their generally more conservative leanings, I doubt they will be acceptable to the City-crats.  Reuben Diaz sr could be the wild card in all this.  He’s stated that he won’t switch sides, but will he support a counter-coup  if Smith is involved?  Diaz was one of the “gang of four” who threatened Smith to back the GOP back in January.

Then there’s our accidnetal governor, David Patterson.  He’s losing ground at every turn.  The latest polls show him to be the least popular governor in the nation.  That’s pretty impressive given his predecessor’s antics, and the ancilliary hubub concerning former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.  Patterson is being put to the test here, and is failing each and every time.  Is it any wonder that AG Andrew Cuomo has not weighed in on this business?  Not really, as the weaker Patterson is, the easier his time to get the gubenatorial nomination will be.  Provided Patterson decides to run that is.

But it gets worse for the “reform agenda” Democrats.  NYPIRG, the NY Public Interest Group, a noted left leaning organization, has come out in favor of the GOP’s coup. “We believe, on first cut (the new rules) are another step in the right direction,” said NYPIRG Legislative Director Blair Horner.  Ouch.  That one goes straight to the Democratic agenda.

Oh for sure some have come out vocally against this move, beyond the politicians that is.  A few hundred gathered at the Capital to voice their displeasure.  A survey of those involved, from watching the news coverage, shows the usual lunatic leftist, and a fine selection of various special interest groups who stand to have thier own agendas side lined by the loss of their political allies.

I fully expect this to end by Friday.  I doubt any serious legal action will happen, more so as AG Cuomo seems to be trying very hard to stay out of teh fray.  Going so far as to ignore Smith’s “extortion and influence peddling” charges against Espada and Monserratte.  No matter what the DNC robocalls are encouraging those involved to report to Cuomo.

Ah, NY politics.  Gotta love it.

Some reading links:

Fred Dicker (NY Post)

NY Post Coverage

Capital News 9

Joe Bruno on the events

NY Politics, more of the same old same old

Well, it’s been an interesting 2009 so far here in the Empire State.  From the usual budget shenanigans, to the appointment of Kirsten Gillibrand to Joe Bruno’s “indictment” to David Patterson struggling for his political life.  And it’s only February!  So, where to start?

Oh, might as well go in order, so it’s the “budget” fiasco du jour.  Again, I’m somewhat wondering where to start.  Do I begin with Patterson’s “austerity plan,” or the back room dealings that have gone on between the all Democratic “leadership,”  or the ever worsening revenue shortfall predictions?  Feh.  Ok, let’s look at the budget revenue short falls.  What was once a $4billion short fall has grown to about $10billion.  Sure, it’s no where near California, but it’s still a huge change.  The whys of this all depend on who you talk or listen to.  It’s everything from the unstable stock market, to the lack of CEO bonuses (yes, that is an important revenue stream for NYS), to the middle and “upper” classes fleeing the state (due to property, income, business taxes, utility costs), to businesses fleeing the state, and everything in between.  So what does our Legislative “leaders” want to do?  Why exacerbate the problem of course by increasing taxes across the board, plus new fees and taxes.  What has been causing a steady decline in the state’s population over the past 30 years is the “remedy” Sheldon Silver and Malcolm Smith want to use to raise revenues.  The problem with this is that it’s a short term solution.  Yes, they can “close the gap” somewhat for a year, maybe two.  But beyond that, it will only serve to force more people, more businesses to relocate out of the State of NY, which then will worsen the already weakened revenue streams.  Even using the supposed cash forthcoming from the “stimulus bill,” it won’t actually solve anything.

David Patterson I think sees this, but is somewhat handcuffed by his party and politics.  He’s been quite vocal about wanting to avoid any “tax increases,” but that applies solely for income taxes.  He’s quite happy to raise taxes on products that are non-politically correct, or maybe nebulous to try and collect (Internet sales).  Patterson has even gone so far as to actually suggest budget cuts, and in very politicized programs.  But he’ll never get it past his “colleagues” in the Legislature and Senate.  Still, it’s better than I could have expected.

However, despite some very public “forward steps,” there has been a bit of a backslide.  To whit, the return to the smoke filled back room deals that characterized many a budget process of the past.  This was supposed to be the “new era” of “open and accountable government” in New York.  Well, that went out the door when Silver, Smith, and Patterson all met behind closed doors, with not even the minority leadership present.  This is a departure from the recent past, where at least the minority party leadership was present.  I’d lay odds that they won’t ever disclose any “member items” either when the time comes, but I doubt anyone would bet against it.

So this is what passes for leadership here in NY.  Lovely isn’t it?  We have David Patterson, the well intentioned, but still accidental governor, Sheldon Silver, the Manhattan Citycrat, beholden to several special interest groups as our Assembly “Leader,” and Malcolm Smith, another Citycrat, with the charisma of a wet paper towel.  The Republican side isn’t much better, at least state wide.  Dean Skelos?  A capable administrator, but that’s as far as it goes, and as far as he ever should have gotten.  Jim Tedisco could be something, but he’s too much of a fighting bull dog to really take the reigns (more on Tedisco below).  This doesn’t even cover the nitwits and whackjobs that comprise the majority of our Congressional delegation.

Speaking of the morass that is Congress, Patterson shocked many a pundit with his appointment of Rep.Kirsten Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.  With names like Andrew Cuomo and Caroline Kennedy being bandied around, “Gilly” was a long shot to most pundits and commentators.  More so, as other names mentioned had greater “party appeal,” and “fit the national agenda” of the Democrats.  But Patterson, to his credit, went against the grain, and nominated a moderate upstate Democrat to the seat.  How moderate is Gillibrand exactly?  Well, her appointment ticked off several Citycrats who sit in Congress, to the point of where they boycotted her nomination press conference.  Even Chucklehead Schumer looked a bit queasy, but he’s a power player, so he showed and spoke.  A quick note from Gillibrand’s nomination press conference.  Tom DiNapoli (State Comptroller) needs to shut his yap.  He nearly killed the whole event with his prattling.  He just doesn’t know when he’s gone over the edge, and someone needs to gag him before he does.

So, with Gillibrand leaving Congress for the Senate, there will be a special election to fill her seat on March 31st.  The parties have had their individual shake down sessions to determine the candidates.  On the Democratic side, we have Scott Murphy, a “venture capitalist” (with a mediocre at best track record) from Glens Falls.  On the Republican side, Assembly minority leader Jim Tedisco grabbed the nomination.  I haven’t read how Murphy got his nomination, the Democrat’s process was rather arcane, though some sort of weighted format was used.  Tedisco got the GOP nod by securing the support of the Saratoga and Rennselear County GOP parties, the two largest in the district.  By doing so, with the weighted romat used by the GOP, he out gained former minority leader, and gubernatorial candidate John Faso.  FWIW, I was hoping for Faso to get the nod, and take the seat.  It’s not that I don’t like Tedisco, I just thought the State was better served by having him remain Assembly minority leader, and having Faso go to Washington where his personal strengths would be best used.

This all has put Patterson in a difficult political position.  He’s getting plenty of flak from his own party as well as the GOP.  He’s getting beat in Quinnipiac polls in a theoretical primary against Andrew Cuomo, and is neck and neck in a theoretical match up against Rudy Guilliani.  Patterson is getting gruff from Silver and Smith, as well as loud mouth nimrods like Carolyn Maloney (over Gillibrand’s appointment).  Jim Tedisco has been hot on his heels over being excluded from the budget process, and even Dean Skelos has been seen on TV deriding the secretive nature of the triumvirate.  But he’s put the Democrat’s in the position of possibly losing a Congressional seat (the 20th), and perhaps even one of NY’s Senate seats to the GOP.  Tedisco can (and should) win the 20th, which had been held by Gillibrand.  As much appeal as Gillibrand has held in the 20th, I don;t think she can win State wide, between the growling of the NYC contingent, and the persistent rumor that Rep.Peter King (R-LI) will run for the seat.  If King does run, he should beat Gillibrand by a solid, but not spectacular margin in 2010.  He’s well liked in the City, and will have enough Upstate appeal to win.

Meanwhile, the allegations surrounding former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno have taken another twist.  The US Attorney has gotten an indictment on several charges against Bruno.  It is the “culmination”  of all the Spitzer inspired “investigations” when Bruno and Spitzer were at loggerheads.  At best these charges are tenuous.  At worst the spurious.  Even money says that 2/3 of the charges will be dropped, and Bruno gets acquitted of the rest.  If he doesn’t, then I hope the US Attorney turns his attention to all the other members of the NYS Senate and Assembly, as they are all equally guilty of exactly the same “charges.”  But I doubt this will happen, as the charges themselves are so nebulous as to be night impossible to get a conviction on.

Trooper-Gate information released

http://www.dailygazette.com/news/2008/aug/06/0806_troopergate/

http://capitalnews9.com/content/top_stories/121504/more-details-gleaned-from-troopergate-papers/Default.aspx

http://www.nypost.com/seven/08062008/postopinion/editorials/soares_troopergate_swill_123282.htm

http://timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=709537&category=&BCCode=&newsdate=8/6/2008

http://wnyt.com/article/stories/S534883.shtml?cat=10114

http://www.nypost.com/seven/08062008/news/regionalnews/papers_bare_soares_lovefest_with_spitzer_123249.htm

For a couple of guys who promised to “clean up Albany,” both ex-Governor Eliot Spitzer and Albany County DA David Soares fell far short of the mark.  The 8500+ pages of interviews, emails, and other documents from Soares’ “investigation” of the Trooper-gate scandal show exactly how Soares and his office bent over backwards to assist and white wash what Spitzer and his top aides did.  How this is supposed to be “better” than what previously went on in Albany is lost on me.

Spitzer is likely to be facing charges from this, not from the DA, who may also face ethics charges, but from the Public Integrity Commission, which has already charged several former Spitzer aides in the scandal.  The Commission has already taken copies of those documents to review for further charges.  The real intersting bits are from former SP Superintendent Preston Felton (who apparently was pissed off about the leak), and the internal emails about making statements “perjury proof,” and that there was a concerted effort to damage Bruno through potentially illegal means.

Of course, according to Eliot Spitzer, laws are for little people, those with out power.  He certainly acted that way.  Laws applied to others, not him.  If one bothers to look, one can see that this was a clear trend, and attitude, dating back to his assistant DA days in NYC.  He thought he was immune to any sort of legal action.  He was the “Sheriff of Wall Street” after all.

Soares is just a chump.  He tried to distract attention away from local issues, from the Spitzer scandal to local crime issues, through his Steroid investigation, which garnered him a lot of national, and even international attention.  He wants the limelight, to be a news figure, but not actually do the job he was elected to do.  He needed the support of the ex-Governor to maintain his position, thorugh political and fund raising contacts, so he bent over for Spitzer to help try and diffuse and white wash the Trooper-gate scandal.

Spitzer’s inaugural address had the line “On day one, everything changes.”  He was right, just not in the way he intended.  His fiefdom was destroyed in a little over four days.  His opponents sailed off into the sunset, holding thier heads up high.  He’s still slinking off, avoiding everyone.

Can you tell it’s an election year?

Well, the politial hoopla never seems to end, does it?

On the national scene, we have the NYT showing again how biased it really is, rejecting a counter point Op-Ed by John McCain to one published by the Times from Barack Obama.  It’s not the rejection itself that’s a problem, we should expect this sort of nonsense, but the rationale as to why it was rejected.  “It (McCain’s piece) should ‘mirror’ Barack Obama’s.”  Eh?  “Mirror Barack Obama’s?”  Essentially, what the Times was asking of McCain, was to effectively parrot Obama’s Iraq position, and the position they endorse.  Ideological hegemony, NYT style.

Then there’s Obama’s “Triumph of the Will” speach in Germany.  Does no one else see the similarities between Obama’s speaches and Hitler’s Nuremburg rallies?  No, I’m not comparing Obama to Adolf, that’s just absurd.  But it that sort of personal charisma, and people swooning because he sounds good that should worry people.  There’s sound and fury, but no subatance people.  It scares me to see how eailly swayed and at time guillible the American people are.

In the State of NY, some things just aren’t going away.  Remember Trooper-Gate?  Well, four Spitzer appointees are under charge from the Public Integrity Commission.  Two have already cut deals, while former Pressman Darren Dopp, and former State Police Suprintendent Felton Spencer are fighting the charges (sort of).  It may be a matter of time before criminal charges are filed against Dopp, and possibly others in their role in the use of State Police for political puroses, then leaking confidential information to the press.  Of course, the shiftless Times-Union will not even face a whiff of charges over thier role in this.  Typical.

These charges come on the heels of Joe Bruno’s retirement from the NYS Senate to take a private sector job.  Joe walked away first from re-election, then from the Senate entirely.  The fact was he was burned out from the politics, and the personal vendettas and vitriol thrown at him, compounded by the death of his wife.  But even once he had sailed off inot the sunset, he still can’t escape the Spitzer dirty tricks scandal. 

On an even more local level, Mike Conners (Albany Co. Comptroller), released a scathing report on the financial practices of the Albany County DA’s office.  The focus revolved around the petty cash fund of the DA’s office, and the lax practices involving it.  Naturally David Soares (Albany County DA) was upset at some of the accustaions.  But Soares is already in trouble, from his lack of attention to local criminal investigations, preferring the national spotlight, and his bungling of the Spitzer Trooper-gate scandal.  If an even mediocre challenger to his post arose, he’d be bounced from office.

NY State Police to be Investigated (Small Update)

The fall out from Eliot Spitzer’s brief term as Governor continues unabated.  The latest, as reported by Fred Dicker and the NY Post (HERE), is that Governor David Patterson has asked AG Andrew Cuomo to begin an investigation into the NY State Police, and their involvement not only in Spitzer’s call girl fetish, and the Joe Bruno scandal, but into several other political shennanigans as well. 

According to Dicker (HERE), the AG will be looking into “a rogue element with in the force,” that was used, and acted for “political purposes,” not only by Spitzer, but George Pataki before him.  This “hatchet squad” was supposedly run by Pataki’s former SP Guard Detail commander (and Spitzer friend) Daniel Wiesse.  This group with in the State Police gather information on anyone deemed “dangerous” or was an “enemy” of certain powerful people (John Sweeney).  They would apparently harass, and otherwise make difficulties for those so targeted. 

While it’s been no secret that the State Police have made things diificult for people who make their lives miserable, this is above and beyond that, if proven true.  Now, for all this to be true, it would require a lot of effort, not only at implementing such a scheme, but controlling information regarding it.  It’s Nixonian over tones, with more than a touch of J.Edgar Hoover, seems almost implausible.  Add to this the time frame for how long this has been going on, and it boggles the mind.

I have no doubt that some individuals have acted in a political manner regarding information leaks (show me a government agency on any level where this doesn’t happen), and have certainly taken personal grudges too far.  But this?  This I think is a bit too much, but makes not only for a good story and press, but excites the imagination of many people, more so in an election year.  Next I’m sure the story will involve Black Helicopters, Alien Abductions (Is Dennis Kucinich coming to town?), and the ever popular New World Order.  I’m sure we can work in Majestic 12, the Bildeburgers, and the Council on Foreign Relations as well.

This is not to absolve, or mitigate, or even trivialize what has happened.  But in any and every organization, there are those who will abuse their positions for personal gain (and it does not have to monetary).  But this “Star Chamber” type scheme I personally find to be a bit over the top.  I highly doubt it was ever as well organized as it’s being made out.  Instead, I expect that a few key players, such as Daniel Wiesse, will be the only ones who were full involved.  Others will have been brought in for “one off” type efforts, especially if the “recruit” already had a grudge against the target.  But I don’t believe that there will be this mass conspiracy and rogue operation as has been implied.

This hasn’t hit anywhere else as yet, just at the NY Post, so take it for what it’s worth ATM.  But expect this one to hit the National News circuit real soon.

UPDATE:

The Schenectady Gazette has picked up the story HERE

The only thing from the Albany Times-Union is an entry in their Capitol Confidential blog covering Sheldon Silver’s response to Patterson’s request to the Attorney General.  I doubt we’ll see much else from the T-U, as both Rex Smith and Jerry Odato will probably be subpoenaed if not directly investigated as a part of this.

Time for a Special Prosecutor

The depth of the morass that is Eliot Spitzer’s “dirty tricks” scandal keeps getting deeper and deeper.  With reports from various sources (legitimate and not so legitimate) indicating a wider “conspiracy” than just Spitzer’s operatives, and rumors running rife, I think it is now time for AG Andrew Cuomo to appoint a Special Prosecutor, with full powers, to properly, and independently investigate this mess.

The latest, coming mainly from the NY Post and Daily News, has not only Albany County DA David Soares being complicit in a cover up (that went south once Spitzer got caught in the prostitution sting), but that Albany Times Union Editor Rex Smith and reporter Jerry Odato were also complicit in fostering and aiding in the dirty tricks.  This could be, if even 1/10th of what is rampant rumor is true, it could be very damaging to a lot of folks and institutions here in the Albany area.

Even if neither accusation is proved to be true, they still need to be thoroughly investigated.  It has become obvious that the Albany County District Attorney’s office has been compromised in this, and needs to be taken off the case.  The State’s “Public Integrity Commission” also is so compromised as to be a potential “co-conspirator” in a cover up.  Nor can the Senate’s Investigations Committee handle this, as the specter of political pay-back (no matter how well deserved), will taint any and all efforts they make.  The only answer is to get a Special Prosecutor in to wade through it all, and produce a full and comprehensive report on the matter.

It is in the best interests of the State to do this.  As anyone who has watched Albany politics for any length of time knows, stuff like this usually ends up as “back page news,” if it gets reported beyond the initial scandal at all.  This one is worse, in that a major, and previously well respected newspaper, the Times-Union, has been implicated in this scandal.  We need a proper, and full accounting of what transpired, who was involved, to what degree, and when.  We know that Albany politics is dysfunctional, and this is an opportunity to do a little house cleaning, and get rid of some people with more ambition than integrity, and to restore some degree of “trust” in institutions such as the DA’s office, and the local press.

Felton Retires (resigns)

State Police Superintendent Preston Felton is “retiring” from his position, and “retiring” effective April 4th.  Some seem surprised by this, I am not.  Felton has had a mixed record while executing his duties as Interim Superintendent.

Felton is leaving after 22 years as a State Trooper.  Up until his appointment as Superintendent, his record had been solid.  A career Trooper, he came up through the ranks, and got where he did on his record as a Trooper.  But, in recent years, he had become very political, and at times acted as a political operative for Spitzer and other allied politicians.

Felton, while acting as Superintendent, did some things to improve the lot of the rank and file Troopers.  They got better equipment, ranging from body armor to hand guns, and made sure that those who shot at, or killed Troopers were fully prosecuted.  He made sure that the people of the State of New York knew who each and every Trooper who fell in the line of duty were.  He put what the Troopers go through on the front page, and made sure it got the right attention.

However, there was another side to Felton.  One where he curried political favor (perhaps for his own ambitions), and potentially abused his position, and dishonored the State Police as a whole.  Felton will be inextricably linked to Eliot Spitzer and his scandals.

First there was “Trooper-gate,” where according to the State Attorney General (Andrew Cuomo, Democrat), Felton acted in co-operation with Spitzer and his aides to leak information to the press about Joe Bruno.  While not charged, the investigation into this affair is still on going between the Senate Investigations Committee and the Albany County DA.  Felton is still facing possible charges stemming from this.

Then came “Hooker-gate.”  Felton was, and is, a Spitzer partisan.  He owed his ascension to the Superintendent’s post to Spitzer, and had a working relationship with him from Spitzer’s time as AG.  But with Spitzer’s illicit and illegal affairs, the too often unasked question is “where was Spitzer’s State Police guard detail?”  Either the detail was incompetent in allowing Spitzer to give them the slip, or they were party to Spitzer’s illegal activities.  Either way, Felton had to know, and did nothing about it. 

One last note, and this is more rumor than substantiated fact.  It may be the Fleton was involved with, if not the source, of the release of a complaint and incident report on former Congressman John Sweeney, conerning a domestic dispute call.  And internal investigation by the State Police ended with Sweeney being ousted, and Spitzer’s ascension to the throne…errrr…Governorship.  This one got “dead letter filed,” but may come to light again as the investigation into Trooper-gate continues.

So, in light of all this, I am unsurprised that Felton is leaving.  He was facing a potential scandal of his own, one which would have cut the State Police to the core.  In one last act of trying to protect the State Police, Felton is giving it up.  As he will be out of his position by the time everything comes to the fore, it will minimize the impact on the rank and file officers of the State Police.  While Felton is not out of the woods yet, he won’t be bringing down the entire organization with him.  And that’s a good thing for the State of New York.