August 22, 2007: |
Dear Aunt Millie,
You won't believe how much fun the New York State political scene has been this Summer! I know you love the hustle and bustle of North Dakota, and Uncle Ira says he wouldn't move back to stick-in-the-mud New York if its pols paid HIM, but when you hear about all the scandalous wing dings and revitalizing jim jams, you may start packing the pick-up.
The capital city of Albany here in upstate New York has been bubbling harder than a still with a bumper crop of corn. Governor Eliot Spitzer (D.) and state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R.) are fussing and feuding. A few months back, the Spitzer camp accused Joe Bruno of misusing state aircraft to travel to fund raisers and Bruno accused Eliot Spitzer of misusing state troopers to spy on his travels. Turns out neither pol did anything criminal. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo investigated and found nothing illegal. However, he did discover a passel of improper. Several of Spitzer's top aides, including William Howard, the governor's deputy Homeland Security Guy, did sic the state troopers on Bruno. And Spitzer's office relayed the resulting reports to a local newspaper, the Albany Times Union, in response to a FOIL request that moved faster than a speeding bullet. Which is darn strange because as you know, public servants around Albany don't cotton much to freedom of information. Remember when Uncle Ira tried to find out which developer was behind the eminent domain land grab of the farm?
Anyway, Cuomo didn't question Spitzer or his aides directly about whether the governor was involved in the plan to embarrass Bruno. But Spitzer believes in reform as strongly as any pol this side of the pearly gates. He publicly denied knowing of his aides' actions and sent the high-handed boys to the woodshed. William Howard was moved to a different Homeland Security Guy position. Communications director Darren Dopp (some call him Fall Guy) got 30 days unpaid leave. Dopp's days of dining on corn husks are about to expire, but whether he'll feast on fatted calf in the state house isn't known. As for Fly Boy Joe Bruno, while his self serving trips on taxpayer fueled aircraft buzzed the ethical line, Cuomo declared them legal because they included state business quik stops. A separate FBI investigation into some of Bruno's taxpayer fueled business deals grinds on. Inexorably, like the mill of God? Or sluggishly, like a worn down hoochie coochie gal? Only time will tell.
On the local lawman front, Albany County District Attorney David Soares, a reformer endorsed by Eliot Spitzer when Spitzer was state attorney general, is set to release his own report on what's called “Troopergate”. Soares will reportedly* say Spitzer's aides did nothing illegal. More probes are probing. Republicans in the Republican controlled Senate go for the Senate Investigations Committee. Democrats want the State Ethics Commission to do the do. The Ethics Commission will soon be rolled into a new agency, with the head honcho and majority of board members appointed by Governor Eliot Spitzer.
Incidentally, you know how Uncle Ira always says that if New York pols had their druthers, they'd be just like foreign dictators? Well, not all Empire State pols hate our freedom. Republican State Senator Thomas Libous of the 52nd Senate District (which includes Binghamton in Broome County) is acting like JFK and Ronald Reagan did when they went to Berlin (in Germany not Rensselaer County) and stood up to the Commies. In early August, Senator Libous denounced “the bullying and outright intimidation” of the Spitzer administration.** I know I know. I can hear Uncle Ira now. Folks around the 52nd say Tom Libous and his entrenched machine rely mightily on bullying and intimidation. Some of the stories would curl your hair. But my guess is those stories come from malcontents bitter about being excluded from the annual Libous Steak Roast. That legendary meat and greet feast for contributors to, and supporters of, all things Libous. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word in reply to the question “where's the beef?”
Speaking of questions, Governor Spitzer refuses to answer any more about Troopergate. (Though he is willing to testify before the State Ethics Commission.) Instead, he wants to concentrate on serving the people economic development, affordable housing, and revitalization. Or what Uncle Ira calls “the usual grub”. Spitzer is really dishing it upstate. (Remember how he compared upstate to Appalachia when campaigning as governor?) Included on the statewide menu are $106 million in grants, loans and tax credits from the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal (DHCR) and its co-contractor, the Housing Trust Fund Corporation. Aka “the Corporation”. The DHCR and the Corporation funnel state and federal taxpayer funds into local development hands. The federal green comes via various programs of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Governor Spitzer hopes the DHCR infusions will serve as seed money to leverage more taxpayer investments, as well as ones from voluntary investors. Ten million dollars in seeds will go to the City of Albany South End Revitalization Plan. Albany's South End, a primarily low income neighborhood, has been heavily victimized by mortgage and housing frauds involving single family homes and multifamily properties. HUD was hit big time, as were several major subprime lenders. Not all the info has emerged on the properties involved. A wave of frauds took place over the last 5 or 6 years. During that time Eliot Spitzer was state attorney general. I sure hope Governor Spitzer keeps a sharper eye on the South End. So no fraudsters creep in and get seeded and revitalized. Like Uncle Ira says, ain't nothing more persistent than chicken thieves who've gotten used to easy pickins.
One last thing about Troopergate: Roger Stone, a Republican political consultant who goes all the way back to Nixon and who's been working for the New York State Senate Republicans, allegedly called Eliot Spitzer's Dad and left some dirtymouth messages on the old man's voice mail. Saying, among other things, that Dad, a real estate magnate, would be hauled before the Senate Investigations Committee to testify about the cash he contributed to his son's campaign for AG back in '98. Stone claims the calls were a setup done with tech trickery. On August 22nd, the Republicans fired Stone. Democrats are demanding an investigation. More fussing! More feuding! And they call us hillbillies...
Your loving niece,
Carola Von Hoffmannstahl-Solomonoff
Sources include but by no means are limited to:
Mortgage fraud hotline set up as city receives funding for housing project, Ryan Peters, Capital News 9, 08/13/07 www.capitalnews9.com
Spitzer Announces $106 Million in Grants, Loans and Tax Credits to Revitalize Communities and Increase Affordable Housing Statewide, New York State Division of Housing & Community Renewal, 08/07
Report Of Investigation Into The Alleged Misuse of New York State Aircraft And The Resources Of The New York State Police, State of New York Office Of The Attorney General, 07/23/07
*That D.A. Soares was set to exonerate Spitzer's aides was reported in the 08/21/07 Albany Times Union . Soares subsequently denied the report that his report was set in stone.
**“Spitzer's staff faces fallout,” James M. Odato, Albany Times Union, 08/05/07
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