NY Gov. Eliot Spitzer didn't make any New Year's resolutions to improve his performance, apparently. After a disastrous first year in office, with perhaps the greatest and swiftest decline in the history of polling, he sounded concilliatory in his latest "State of the State" speech. A closer look at what he's actually doing reveals a different picture. Since I've been out of circulation for a while, I've got quite a bit of Spitzer news to relate. This column deals with the Spygate scandal (No, not the Patriots' Spygate), and the three ongoing probes into this sordid mess.
We still don't know if Spitzer instructed his top aides to have the State Police "keep tabs" on his biggest political rival, (Republican) Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno. The cenrtal figure, former communications director Darren Dopp, faces fines and censure from the newly-created state Public Integrity Commission, and is still under investigation by the Albany DA, David Soares. After his resignation, he was hired by Spitzer-connected lobbyist Patricia Lynch. He is claiming "executive privilege" in the Senate's investigation, and his lawyer is invoking "lawyer/client privilege" for his former lawyer, in the state P.I.C. probe.
The Spitzer administration also has some explaining to do regarding another central figure in the scandal, William Howard. He was demoted from his post as a senior homeland security advisor, and State Police liason, to a secondary post at homeland security, after the scandal. A few weeks ago, however, Howard was promoted to chief of staff of the Homeland Security Office. This came at the same time that Spitzer granted the head of the Public Integrity Commission, Herbert Teitelbaum, a $15,000 raise. Yes, that's the same, newly-created P.I.C. that is investigating the scandal; and for good measure, Mr. Teitelbaum got a two and a half week vacation, after just six months on the job.
The commission has been criticized by it's predecessor's chairman, David Grandeau, as well as several good-government groups, including the state League of Women Voters and Common Cause/New York. Albany DA Soares has also been said to have aided in covering up Spitzer's legal exposure, after being forced to "reopen" the investigation. Senate Republicans charge in a legal brief regarding Spitzer's fight against their subpoenas that Soares "conducted no grand-jury probe, spoke to no one under oath and received only documents that were voluntarily turned over to him." Unfortunately, it looks like the Senate probe is the only one with the intent of finding out what the Governor knew, and when he knew it.
Please read all of the links to the NY Post's excellent reporting on this, because there are more details than I could cover here. Stay tuned for what he's been doing in his new budget (taxing internet sales, and illegal drugs!), and the continuation of his administration's bullying tactics, in following posts. I've broken this update into parts, to keep each post shorter. Search "Spitzer" on the NY Post website (link here) for my source stories, if you can't wait, though I'm starting work on Pt. II as soon as I get this posted.