Albany D.A. Sees No Evil by Spitzer or Anyone Else but Hevesi Was a Felon;
GOP Attacks Whitewash as Scandal Limps Along.
NEW YORK, NY — September 26, 2007 –
Day 1- Everything Changes
Day 269 -In Unexpected Ways
The melodramatic farce, Bruno v. Spitzer et al., continues its slow procession through the slime of Albany. People are losing interest in the semi-scandal, a situation which is usually better news for the accused than for the accuser.
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“Troopergate”, as it has
imaginatively been titled, is a textbook case of much ado about
relatively little, but not nothing. You may have noticed that it
supplanted "Choppergate" as the name for the kerfuffle (or contretemps,
if you prefer French to Gaelic).
Choppergate suggests the misuse of
the state plane and helicopter, Troopergate deals with the alleged
misuse of state troopers to investigate the alleged misuse of the plane.
The most recent nuggest is an article on p5 of today’s Sun by Jacob Gershman. Its straightforward headline is Republicans Fin Flaws In Scandal Report.
The lede: Senate Republicans are calling to what they say is a blatant
inconsistency in a report clearing the Spitzer administration of any
wrongdoing in the state police scandal, issued by the Albany County
district attorney, David Soares." The Sun story includes considerable
detail about the matter, which conspiracy buffs are invited to examine
by clicking here.
We proceed to examine what has
happened so far, and report on a public opinion poll on the matter,
conducted at Siena. Read on, and become an expert yourself.
It is by now generally known that
the governor’s men used state troopers to track the majority leader’s
use of a state plane. The public believes, by a 3-1 margin, that the
governor himself was in on the plot, although he denies it. Spitzer may
have concocted the plan, consented to it, or been blindsided by
overeager staff members. We ask what difference does it make? If
Spitzer did not want Bruno to use the plane, he could have grounded
him, just as Pataki did when the two men fell out in 2006 over horse racing issues.
If Spitzer wanted to document Bruno’s primarily partisan purpose in
flying from Albany to New York City to attend political meetings, while
adding some public business as a figleaf, he had every right to do so.
Nonetheless, Spitzer booted
Assistant Deputy Secretary for Homeland Security William F. Howard out
of the executive chamber and suspended Communications Director Darren
Dopp on July 23. Something must have been wrong for him to take his
nearest and dearest press officer and throw him to the wolves, at least
temporarily. The governor publicly apologized on July 29 for his
failure to oversee what was going on in his office.
Yet now the Albany County District
Attorney, David Soares, who in late December found Comptroller Alan
Hevesi guilty of a felony for misusing a state car and drive, declares
that there is absolutely nothing wrong with all the machinations and
concealment about the scrutiny of the plane. He gave Spitzer and his
staff a clean bill of health, while Spitzer himself had apologized for his oversight, which some felt was an understatement…
We do not know which is worse: the
inquisitor before whom everyone is guilty, like Savonarola or
Torquemada, or the Three Monkeys, see, hear and speak no evil, before
whom everyone is innocent. Probably Soares, who was the Working
Families Party candidate for DA against the Democratic organization,
represnts both worlds.
Soares received substantial campaign contributions from George Soros, the billionaire sponsor of moveon.com.
He received the money on the basis of a commitment not to prosecute
minor drug offenders, although sometimes state law required it. Soares
has lost credibility because of the double standard he takes with
different state-wide public officials. His conduct in these cases makes
his political ambition another casualty of Troopergate, nee Choppergate.
We have consistently maintained
that whatever the governor and his staff did or failed to do, their
behavior did not amount to impeachable or criminal misconduct. The
whole affair is a political sideshow, in which Bruno successfully
transformed himself from crooked manipulator to a victimized senior
citizen. People are not distressed when the crafty old guy trumps the
arrogant young pup who appears not to respect anyone.
To call the 78-year-old majority
leader a "senile, sad sack of s—", and to say it to a Republican
senator, no less, is not the smartest thing in the world to do. He says
he didn’t say it, and he may not have said it. But Marie Antoinette
said in her biopic that she never said "Let them eat cake." Nonetheless
she was guillotined in 1793. Sometimes reputation trumps accuracy.
Today, in the United States, we play with safer tools than they used in
But enough is enough of this
controversy. Bruno’s hired lawyers (at our expense) will do their best
to catch the governor in a perjury trap. Whether they succeed will
depend on what story he gives and whom he can get to back it up. But he
doesn’t have to be convicted, or even indicted, for the Republican plot
to succeed. Spitzer just has to be credibly denounced as a liar in the
eyes of the public, which is the larger jury in the case. He may, of
course, be shown to have told the truth, the whole truth and nothing
but the truth.. That is not likely, since it is harder to prove a
negative. But unless he can be shown to have lied, he will retain the
plausible deniability (Rule 911) which public officials and others have
so long relied upon in times of stress.
We predict that this affair will
die down as more and more people become bored with it, unless new
evidence is discovered. The principal effect of Trooperchoppergate so
far has been to diminish the reputations of the combatants on both
sides, and as an unintended consequence to give a small lift to
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who is said to prefer the Water Level
route to Albany when he does not travel by car. By keeping his feet on
the ground, Silver has saved himself considerable angst. Note how so
far the speaker has avoided the controversy.
We link here to articles
from state newspapers about the Albany DA’s recent hasty and incomplete
report. We were suspicious of Soares’ judgment because of his apparent
overreaction to the Hevesi case, based on the evidence made public at
the time. His absolution to the accused in Trooperchoppergate renews
the suspicion of partiality.
This does not mean that Alan Hevesi
should escape responsibility for his much greater alleged offenses
involving the steering of lucrative state business to Hank Morris, his
close friend and political manager. If those charges are true, they
dwarf Wifegate. BTW, one problem with multiple prosecutions and
lawsuits is that you can’t talk to your old friends, who may be
co-conspirators, because each of you may be deposed on what you told
each other. If you give sufficiently different versions of your
conversations, the perjury trap is ready to be sprung, even if you were
not talking about illegal acts. .That is the way they got Scooter
Liddy, even though it was not a crime that he was convicted of lying
When they are sued or prosecuted,
people tend to fix their attention on legal matters. A new phrase, to
"lawyer up" has entered the language through the tabloids. It means to
hire counsel, You avoid talking because you have engaged what is called
a mouthpiece, who may be more likely than you are to say what should be
said to enhance your position, rather that what is true or relevant to
the facts in your case.
The old State Ethics Commission
went out of business Friday, and the new one, appointed by Governor
Spitzer, now has responsibility for investigating matters of this sort.
The new ethics commissioners have impeccable resumes and pedigrees, but
so do Justice Alito and Chief Justice Roberts. No injustices will be
committed by fools or dunces in this administration, although learning
and scholarship may take second place to loyalty and harmony when it
comes to making sensitive ethical judgments involving someone who
appointed you to the public office you now hold.
The bottom line in this imbroglio
is Rule 30-T: The truth lies somewhere in between. There are those who
make a Federal case (figuratively) out of it, and there are others who
would whitewash the entire matter. To make a credible evaluation of
what happened, where, and why, and to determine what was said or hinted
at in private offices, could be beyond the time and energy of
investigators whom we assume have additional responsibilities. The
Executive Mansion is not the only building in the state where dark
deeds are done and denied. The deeds may not, in fact, have been as
dark as they were first discerned and described.
In any event, the flap has taken
attention away from Senate Leader Bruno’s possible indictment for
outrageous behavior, including receiving hundreds of thousands of
dollars for personal consulting services (he had no office other than
his home) for businessmen who received substantial pork from the State
Senate. If the allegations that were leaked to the press, in violation
of another set of ethical standards, are correct, and if they can be
proven, we are talking real jail time, which is not a cheering prospect
for a 78-year-old tribune of the people. The case is said to be under
constriction at the U.S, Department of Justice. We are told that both
the Northern and Eastern districts of New York State have been
We believed that, as long as Judge
Alberto Gonzales was Attorney General of the United States, Bruno was
relatively safe from prosecution, because the AG’s consent is needed to
allow local US attorney to make important Federal cases. Judge Michael
B. Mukasey, whose nomination by President Bush for Attorney General has
gone to the Senate, is honest, competent and respectful of the law. He
is as highly regarded as Judge Gonzales (Texas Supreme Court) was
We do not doubt that if a decision
involving the Bruno case came before Mukasey, he would decide it on the
merits. That could be bad news for the defense. Of course, one never
knows what a jury of upstaters will decide, but no rational person
would enjoy the embarrassment and expense of a public trial, with a
prison term in the offing if convicted.
We have urged the parties to start
transacting state business, and relax their efforts to disgrace or
imprison each other. The irony is this is that Spitzer, as State
Attorney General, pioneered in criminalizing commercial behavior of
which he disapproved, and securing enormous settlements from
corporations who did not want to follow the path of Arthur Anderson,
and their managers who sought to avoid indictment and trial.
Meanwhile, the vast challenge of
reforming state government has largely been ignored, witness The Wicks
Law, on which agreement had been announced before partisan warfare
erupted, has not been modified, while construction costs increase at 1
percent a month. The development of Hudson River Park and Brooklyn
Bridge Park is languishing for lack of appropriations to complete the
job. The entire reform agenda has been pushed back a year and whatever
momentum was brought to Albany in the Spitzer sweep of 2006 has been
thoroughly dissipated. Advantage, lobbyists whose clients profit from
the status quo
We again call for the combatants to
return their attention to public business. The legislature had hoped to
resume its work in September, but that month is fast passing into
history. Now October 22 is bruited about as the possible date for a
return to Albany. Unless agreements are reached by the Three Men in a
Room, there will be no point in paying the senators and assembly
members their per diem to sit around Albany. Of course, they are
interested in getting their pay raises adopted.
Under Pataki, the Three Men in a
Room despised each other. Under Spitzer, they humiliate each other, and
litigate in the hope of rendering their rival hors de combat. The only
rationale for this behavior is that it sets the stage for Armageddon in
2008 over control of the Senate. We predict that, whoever wins the
Senate, the squabbling will resume.
made the point four centuries ago. "The fault, dear Brutus, is not in
our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings." Cassius told his
co-conspirator, Brutus. He was right.
By the way, as long as we are in
ancient Rome, Julius Caesar proclaimed himself dictator of the Roman
Empire in 49 B.C., but did not hold the official title of Emperor,
which did not exist at the time. Two readers called this historical
nugget to our attention. Octavian, who had defeated Marc Antony and
conquered Egypt, was given the title Augustus by the Roman Senate in 27
B.C. and earned his place on the calendar.
The two summer months are the only
ones named for mortals, although four are named for gods, (Jan, Mar,
May and June), four for numbers (Sep through Dec), and two for
festivals (Feb and Apr). Note that July and August are equal in length
(31 days), not exceeded by any other month, and that July comes first.
Originally the calendar began in March, around Pesach or Easter, when
plants bloomed and babies were born. That is why September, derived
from seven, is in fact the ninth month.
Since you have read so far, you deserved diversion.
Peruse The New York Civic archive online.