Friday, July 27, 2007


NYS Governor Eliot Spitzer has gotten embroiled in a scandal that may cripple, if not take down his administration. In a previous article, I cited the NY Post's PAGE SIX gossip column, regarding NYS Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno's accusation of "pay to play" press coverage by the Albany Times Union, which included this interesting tidbit:

The liberal-oriented paper has whacked Bruno for years, and the pol claims it's
because he's a Republican. On Sunday, the Times Union had a story alleging he
improperly used a state- owned helicopter to fly to Manhattan for
politically-connected events - a claim Bruno denies.

It turned out that Sen. Bruno attended official business, as well as political functions, on all of his closely-documented trips, which makes them acceptable under state law. While investigating Sen, Bruno, it came to light that his NY State Trooper security detail was instructed to document his movements in greater detail than any other state official they are assigned to escort. In fact, he had been singled out for this treatment at the behest of the acting superintendent of the State Police.

Spitzer's administration first tried to blame this extra "documentation" of Sen. Bruno by saying that Conservative Party leader Michael Long had requested the probe, after Bruno showed up at a fundraiser with an "intimidating" state police escort. This excuse didn't last much more than a day or so, after Mr. Long vehemently denied it. Then the news broke that two of Gov. Spitzer's "inner circle," Chief of Staff Richard Baum and Communications Director Darren Dopp were behind the State Police "surveillance."

Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigated, and issued a report, which basically said that "no laws had been broken," to paraphrase, while criticizing the conduct of the two aides. All the while, Gov. Spitzer has denied knowledge of this arrangement, or any involvement in it. Some find this claim hard to believe, including NY Post State Capitol chief Fred U. Dicker, who challenged Spitzer at a press conference today.

Baum and Dopp refused to testify under oath about whether the Governor was "in the loop," instead submitting sworn statements too late for inclusion in the AG's report, though others did, according to the NY Post:

The refusal of Baum and Dopp to answer questions was in sharp contrast to
Spitzer's insistence Monday that his administration had cooperated fully with
Cuomo's probe.

William Howard, deputy secretary to the governor for security matters, and
Preston Felton, the acting State Police superintendent both agreed to be
questioned under oath, and a source told The Post that they were asked by
investigators whether Spitzer was aware of the plot.

They responded that they had not discussed it with him. The governor
insisted on Monday that he had no knowledge of the campaign to get Bruno.

In his bombshell report, Cuomo found that Baum, Dopp and Felton were
involved in a scheme to create and publicize Bruno's detailed travel records in
an effort to prove he was using state aircraft for political purposes.

Lerner said that neither Baum nor Dopp gave a reason for their refusal to
cooperate, although he said they did agree to submit sworn statements to Cuomo's
office. But Baum and Dopp gave their written statements on Sunday at the 11th
hour - the day before Cuomo's report was released. They asked to have their
statements included in the report, but Cuomo's aides refused, a source said.

In the wake of Cuomo's findings, neither Baum nor Felton was punished, but
Dopp has been suspended without pay for at least 30 days and Howard has been

That was 2 days ago. Since then, Sen Bruno has called for "multiple investigations" of Gov. Spitzer, and the state Ethics Commission has started a "preliminary investigation," to see if this is worth investigating. Quotes from both stories from the Post:

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno yesterday called for multiple
investigations into the role of Gov. Spitzer and his top aides in an
unprecedented dirty-tricks campaign.

"A lot of people in authority think there was criminality in the executive
branch," said Bruno, who accused Spitzer's aides of using their power to "spy
and track and attempt to really destroy what apparently the Governor's Office
considers a political rival."

"I want to know how much the governor knew . . . This is not going to go
away, not going to get swept under a rug," he continued.

Regarding the state Ethics Commission:

...[T]he state Ethics Commission has subpoena power, which in this case
Cuomo didn't. That means the Ethics Commission could compel Dopp and Secretary
to the Gov. Rich Baum or even Spitzer to testify on the matter.

Ethics Commission spokesman Walter Ayres said the letter refers to what he
termed a "preliminary investigation." It involves a review of all that Cuomo
produced, and could lead to the commission's own interviews and documents
searches. Spitzer's office, however, considers it a routine "review" of Cuomo's

"The Ethics Commission has requested the attorney general and the inspector
general to provide their files for the Commission's review," state Ethics
Commission spokesman Walter Ayres said late Thursday in a written statement.
"The Commission has made no determination as to whether to investigate these

I think they will, and you can quote me on that.

I want to remind everyone that I have been following this story since it's inception, and this story is still breaking. Gov. Spitzer came to power wanting to "change everything," and maybe he has, by exposing the corruption in his own administration, and it's media partners. (While I was writing this, ABC's local NY news cited the Governor's supporters calling this a "political witch hunt," in the final line of their report on his combative press conference today.)

"Systemic corruption" is a term that's thrown around often, but this scandal is an insight into the relationship of an unregulated media colluding with a "police state" minded political (read as criminal) bureaucracy, in order to eliminate a common political opponent. That is "systemic corruption." Spitzer's ties to the Albany Times Union go back to his days as NYS AG, so this behavior fits a pattern.

Imagine that Pres. Bush had Sen. Harry Reid's movements documented on a minute to minute basis by his security personnell. What if Karl Rove leaked potentially damaging, but ultimately false assertions about Sen. Reid, based on those documents, to the Washington Times? What if AG Gonzalez investigated it, and said "no laws were broken," but Rove, or other key players never testified under oath?

...I digress into fantasy, but so does Gov. Spitzer. While he apparently thinks that he has to deny any knowledge of this, he should come clean about it, if no laws were broken... it might help people believe in him as a reformer of corruption. OOOPS, I'm back in Fantasyland!

Many people predicted Eliot Spitzer's "coronation" as Governor long before his election, myself among them. This story has legs, and may end Eliot Spitzer's political career. It all depends on what he knew, and when he knew it. I predict that we're gonna find out both of those things, and it ain't gonna be good for Gov. Spitzer. Pardon my slang.

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