The City of Troy, New York, "Where Henry Hudson Turned Around."

Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Unless you're Amish, you've heard about the Spitzer-Bruno feud. In a nutshell (an appropriate receptacle), two of Spitzer's top aides had the New York State Police monitor Bruno and gather information on the senator's travels. The information compiled was then released to embarrass the senator. The duo hoped to establish that Bruno was using State resources (limousines and helicopters) for political purposes, not for government business. The two Spitzerites did exactly what they tried to prove Bruno did: Misuse government resources. For Spitzer it resulted in a Super-Sized Crappy Meal with a heaping side of irony.

Bruno's use of state helicopters, while eye-opening, complied with the letter of the law. Bruno used state aircraft ten times in 2007. Each trip included at least some state business. Such mixed use is allowed. Attorney General Cuomo found no criminal wrongdoing by Spitzer's people. Some of the more recent stories can be found here and here. Cuomo's full report can be read here if you have Adobe Acrobat.

Without repeating the obvious, here's a few thoughts:

This story brings us full-circle. We're dealing with the use of government resources for political purposes. It a systemic problem in this state at the local, county and now, state level. This is no different than the use of government phones or e-mails for political purposes. No different than the allegations made by Colleen Regan. The only appreciable difference is the scope of the activities and the stage upon which they played out. The essence remains the same: The use of public resources for political purposes.

As for Spitzer himself, he's been taught a valuable lesson. We're not all Upstate rubes and there's something strangely satisfying to know that a Rensselaer County politician so deftly outmaneuvered a steamroller from the Big City.

If Spitzer is really smart, he'll take his lumps, break out the vasoline and welcome the probe, admitting full responsibility. Then, he'll move on. It's a big story for this area because of Joe. It will fade away just as quickly without any permanent harm.

What Spitzer seems not to understand, or more likely ignores, is that there exists institutional rivalries in this state that transcend party. The leaders of the institutions, namely Bruno and Silver, cannot be targeted the way an Attorney General may target a criminal defendant. The skills that make a successful District Attorney or Attorney General do not necessarily make for a successful governor. Spitzer better learn a few new skill sets. Silver and Bruno both have egos and member concerns that may be at odds with the governor's agenda. That's a fact of life Spitzer will have to live with or it's going to be a long four years.

The real winner hear is Cuomo. Joe gets a win as well, but it's minor. His time is almost over. Bruno should also shut his mouth soon. His constant whine has already grown tiresome and he's begun to overplay his hand. Bruno is one of the three most powerful men in the state. He also runs a private 'consulting' firm but won't reveal the identity of his clients. It remains difficult to take his righteous indignation too seriously.

Still, we cannot let that obscure the issues. Public officers and employees should not be using any government resources for political purposes. What should happen to those that do utilize city, county or state e-mails, phones, faxes or other resources for political purposes? Your opinions on the proper punishment are welcome.

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