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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Albany Politics: An Unethical Three-Ring Circus

Week's political turmoil reveals the three-ring circus that is Albany
The New York Daily News by Elizabeth Benjamin - January 24, 2009

Only in Albany could the selection of a new U.S. senator turn into a two-month free-for-all. Only in Albany could a once-powerful lawmaker get indicted for stealing $3 million, hold a table-pounding press conference calling the charges "sleight-of-hand," and hardly bat an eye. And only in Albany could all this happen on the same day. Reporters were in a tizzy. Should we go to the press conference where ex-Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno is indicted or the one in which he accuses the U.S. attorney of a politically-motivated "fishing expedition"? Or should we race over to Gov. Paterson's announcement that — finally, after 53 days — little-known upstate Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand will fill former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton's high heels? For us, it's an embarrassment of riches. For the public, it was just another day of madness in Albany. A day that's enough to make us wonder why we voted for these people. Things haven't been this wacky at the state Capitol since, well, since March. Sure, it seems like a lifetime has passed since then. But it really was just 10 months ago that New York's former governor, Eliot Spitzer, was forced out of office for frolicking with high-priced, tattooed call girl Ashley Dupre. Less than 24 hours after he was sworn in to replace Spitzer, former Lt. Gov. Paterson was standing in the Capitol's Red Room, his shell-shocked wife by his side, fielding questions about their respective infidelities. Only in Albany.

Later came the two-month leadership stalemate in which a trio of renegade Democrats — known either as the Gang of Three or the Three Amigos — held up their party's historic takeover of the state Senate for the first time in more than four decades. Why? So they could get the committee chairmanships they wanted. Of course, those little posts come with five-figure stipends that come right out of our tax dollars. Top this off with the high-profile meltdown of Caroline Kennedy's noncampaign for Clinton's seat and Paterson's love-her/love-her-not routine that climaxed in a he-said, she-said mudsling fest between the Kennedy camp and the Paterson administration. Is anything getting done while all this is going on? No. What is happening while these political sideshows are playing out? The state's multibillion dollar budget deficit continues to grow and grow and grow and.... Yup. That's Albany.

Here's a Related New York Post article

By ANDY SOLTIS, AP - January 24, 2009

Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, one of the state's three most powerful officials for more than a dozen years, was indicted yesterday for allegedly taking $3 million in bogus consulting fees and other scams - including selling a "worthless" racehorse for $80,000 to a fat-cat friend. The upstate Republican's schemes to use his public position to enrich himself began even before he landed the Senate's top post on Thanksgiving Day 1994, and they eventually involved 16 labor unions and more than a dozen companies, the eight-count indictment alleged. The 79-year-old former boxer - who quit the Senate last year as the probe was drawing to a close - pleaded not guilty and declared he was the victim of a "politicized" probe and a "fishing expedition that smells really, really bad."

His indictment had been expected for months. It capped a three-year investigation that began with an FBI probe of flights Bruno took on private jets to Florida vacation spots and a Kentucky horse farm thanks to businessmen. The probe mushroomed into wide-ranging inquiry into Bruno's network of wealthy friends, business contacts and a suspicious consulting firm he ran out of his home. According to the 35-page indictment handed up in Albany, Bruno signed an agreement in March 1994 to steer business to Wright Investors' Service, a Milford, Conn.-based adviser to trade unions. The agreement allegedly said Wright would pay Bruno a fee for each union he got to hire the firm. Bruno contacted 16 union benefit funds, the indictment said.

Eleven unions, ranging from Teamsters to corrections officers, agreed to let Wright manage their assets, according to the indictment. In return, Wright allegedly paid Bruno more than $1.3 million over 12 years. But he allegedly concealed the money in a bogus consulting firm, Business Consultants Inc., and by getting Wright's parent company to hire him as a consultant. Bruno was also paid $632,000 over 11 years by an Albany banking and brokerage firm, McGinn, Smith & Co., which received fees for handling trades of union assets. He allegedly misled the firm by saying he cleared the work with the Legislative Ethics Committee.

Bruno created Capital Business Consultants LLC to receive those fees, even though it "did not perform any function," the indictment said. In fact, Bruno never did any "legitimate work," it said. Bruno also received more than $1 million in gifts from three pals doing business with the state, the indictment said. He again hid the money as consulting fees and, in one 2005 case, sold a "virtually worthless" horse from his Mountain View Farm outside Troy to Albany-area millionaire Jared Abbruzzese. None of the companies, unions or other individuals cited in the indictment was accused of wrongdoing. "If Mr. Bruno engaged in illegal activities, Wright was not aware of them," the firm said.

Bruno faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each of the counts. "Bruno exploited his office by concealing the nature and source of substantial payments that he received from parties that benefited from his official actions and the resulting conflicts of interest," acting US Attorney Andrew Baxter said. But Bruno said federal prosecutors don't have a case. "After being hounded for three years, I am being indicted on a prosecutorial sleight of hand because, after years of effort, they cannot find one example of criminal activity or illegal intent," said Bruno, who represented his Rensselaer County district for 32 years. "I'm going to fight this and I'm going to win."


Anonymous said...

Let the New York State blood bath begin! Joe Bruno probably knows a boatload of dirt on Silver, Kaye and Lippman. So, Joe, you shouldn't take a federal indictment lying down. Start talking, Joe, wouldn't you love to see a little mud on the faces of Shelly, Judy and Jonathan?!

Come on, Joe. Share with us common folk how the others on the public dime got their rewards.

Yes, the feds were painfully slow in finally getting an indictment, but it happened!! And that is great news. And I hear that there are more indictments to come around the state. Next target: the 9th Judicial District. And Manhattan has a little surprise, too!!

See me smiling, Joe. You too could be smiling soon. Let the blood flow, Joe!

Anonymous said...

The reporter is upset that the Caroline Idol was knocked to the ground. Why doesn't the reporter start reporting all the corruption revealed on this blog? The corrupt depend on the NY media.

Anonymous said...

One of the most powerful ways to change the corruption throughout OCA is through legislative action. There's got to be a few state hacks who either have axes to grind or want the free press to advance their own position. Either way it's a win/win. We need to hit the bastards from all directions

Anonymous said...

Albany and the part time elected ones are dysfunctional, get rid of them and save the money. Caroline Kennedy is irrelevant and was gamed.

Anonymous said...

Can anyone blog a brief laymans job description for New York Chief Judge? How can a CJ effect overall integrity of 'the judicial product' and experience?

Anonymous said...

How about one big spotlight on the Albany people!?!? God knows those dirty rats need to scatter a bit and do some real work for the people of NY!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone asked what the real connection between John Feerick and Joe Bruno is?????? Well worth looking into......

Anonymous said...

when will Sleldon Silver's day come, will he be next to fall in the changing of the guard or does he have a very good Rabbi?

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