Gov. Spitzer has a serious credibility problem permeating the core of his administration, beyond the looming "dirty tricks" scandal. This problem stems from the attitude he instills in his appointees, and how "hands on" he manages their bullying tactics. I will relate three stories that illustrate either a lack of control over his administration, or direct control over shameful tactics, and policies.
The same day that Spitzer flipped on his license plan for illegals, he killed a proposed tax on internet sales in NYS, that would have gone into effect just in time for Christmas shopping season. The interesting thing was that it hadn't been publicly "proposed" anywhere, until they announced it's cancellation. Spitzer now claims that he just found out about the tax, and cancelled it. The NY Post has two Op-eds that are worth excerpting. First, from "The Grinch & the Gov."
Alice in Wonderland has nothing on Eliot in Albany: The latest Spitzer administration trip down the rabbit hole comes courtesy of state Budget Director Paul Francis.
Francis is the putative author of the Grinch tax - a bizarre proposal intended to impose new Internet-shopping taxes just in time for the Christmas rush.
Even the astonishingly tone-deaf Gov. Spitzer seems to have recognized the PR disaster lurking in that little gem, for it died a swift death shortly after news of it leaked to The New York Sun.
But the Grinch tax wasn't a tax at all, complains Francis: "It's only a tax increase to the person who is paying."
Could he possibly believe that?
Does Spitzer believe that?
Or maybe Spitzer wasn't in on the scheme. Francis also told the newspaper that the Grinch tax was so secret the governor wasn't even told about it.
Now, this is the same governor who says he wasn't apprised of the plot to sic the State Police on Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno - so, we suppose, anything's possible.
If so, though, it's a little unsettling to learn that the state budget director - in the final analysis, an unelected numbers-cruncher - feels free to hit New Yorkers with new taxes without telling the boss.
Or anybody else, so it seems.
The second explores wider tax policy, and another Spitzer appointee. It's titled "The Tax Man Grabbeth":
Gov. Spitzer's Grinch Tax, floated and withdrawn in a trice last week, raised some disconcerting questions:
* Just who is making policy at the state tax department?
* What other mischievous schemes are overzealous underlings in his adminstration plotting for New Yorkers?
* What does the Grinch Tax have in common with the Yankees' Derek Jeter?
The answer to that last question may well be one Robert Plattner - an Albany lawyer and a deputy commissioner at Spitzer's Department of Taxation and Finance who apparently has dedicated himself to scooping up every last penny Albany thinks it has coming...
...Plattner may not be the fellow who ginned up the Grinch Tax, or who actually put the arm on Jeter - but it's pretty clear that he's a key intellectual force behind a super-charged collection policy.
According to the publication State Tax Notes, Plattner announced that Albany would launch a tax "compliance campaign," with "increased enforcement."
He said the state was considering "a more expansive approach" for both corporate-income and sales taxes.
Indeed, it turns out that Plattner - the author of several New York tax handbooks - has long boosted a dubious interpretation of "use tax" laws, like the one at the heart of the Grinch Tax.
He knew he was pushing the envelope: "One strategy," he said - in an item from 2003 posted at taxanalysts.com - is "extending" states' use-tax authority "to the outer boundary of existing constitutional limitations." (Translation: Really never give a sucker an even break - ever!)
Plattner went on to call for stretching the "definition of 'independent sales representatives' " to include Web sites that direct shoppers to online retailers, like Amazon.com. Those retailers would then have to collect taxes.
Which is just how the Grinch Tax would've worked.
I think I can safely say that Gov. Spitzer supported this idea, which would have hit every NY'er shopping online, at a time when everyone is trying to stretch their personal budgets. The "lack of knowledge of it" excuse smacks of clear deceit, after reading the second excerpt. Apparently, he prefers an air of ignorance to embracing unpopular policies his own people came up with. This goes to an old Rush quote, "Democrats can't be who they are, and get elected." They always run for cover when their agenda is exposed.
There is also Spitzer's problem with temperment, which has bled down into his administration to an amazing degree. This is not a good thing, and is a huge factor in his current situation. Spitzer's people treat any opposition harshly, as shown in this article, 'Eliot's Bully' Made Threat: Insider:
A top aide to Gov. Spitzer involved in the Dirty Tricks Scandal angrily threatened to "professionally kill" a top utility executive for opposing the governor's energy policies, sources have told The Post.
Spitzer Policy Director Peter Pope said he was "going to kill" Gavin Donohue, the head of the Independent Power Producers of New York, an association of private energy companies, in a bitter clash early last summer over the governor's efforts to block the construction of nuclear-power plants and more than two "clean coal" plants in the state, the sources said.
"He was really threatening Gavin. It was unbelievable. It was shocking," said one of the state's best-known lobbyists.
"Pope was screaming and threatening to get him fired with his bosses and jabbing his finger in Donohue's face," added another source, who claimed Pope had also threatened several lobbyists over policy disagreements.
"He was yelling at Gavin, 'You're working against us! You're trying to hurt us! You have to pressure [Senate Majority Leader Joseph] Bruno to get with us on this!'
"When Gavin tried to explain why he opposed the governor's plan, Pope said he didn't want to know about the substance of the issue. He just wanted to close down [pass] the governor's bill," the source continued.
"I have never been treated so unprofessionally in my whole life," he told associates.
Donohue kept detailed, written notes of the clash, one associate said. Contacted by The Post, Donohue said he'd had "intense negotiations" with Pope. But when asked whether he had been threatened, he responded, "I have no comment."
Again, who is the man pulling this guy Peter Pope's strings? Gov. "Steamroller" Spitzer. It's tough to keep up with all of the negative stories coming out, since he came out with his illegal license plan. As I mentioned in several posts and comments, the greater attention he brought to himself did little to distract people from his underlying serious flaws and scandals. Rather, it has brought on more scrutiny.
A parting gift, from PAGE SIX:
Give Us Pataki!
November 18, 2007 -- EVEN in the staunchly Democratic bastion of the West Village, there's no love for Eliot Spitzer. Former Gov. George Pataki, who's now with environmental consulting firm Pataki-Cahill, was celebrating wife Libby's birthday at the Waverly Inn last week when he was greeted by admirers. Pataki, leaving the restaurant with his former economic-development chief Charles Gargano and a crowd of family friends, was approached by a man on the street who started shouting, "Bring Pataki back, Spitzer sucks." A spy laughed, "This went on for like 15 minutes."
To quote Cindy Adams: "Only in New York, kiddies. Only in New York."
PS: I still dislike PaTAXi more than Spitzer, for now. He was supposed to be a Republican, not a sellout.