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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Bruno's Semi-Vacation

- The noose tightened a bit more around the neck of New York's embattled Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. The Albany Times Union reported on Monday that a portion of Senator Bruno's previously reported trip to Florida with then Friends of New York Racing, and soon-to-be Empire principal Jared Abruzzese, was partially paid for by state-regulated campaign funds. Bruno originally categorized the trip as a "vacation," and, in fact, on Jan 18, he complained on an Albany radio talk show about not previously having "had a vacation in 35 years."

His staff, too, initially insisted the trip was private.

However, state law makes "the personal use of contributions received by a candidate or political committee" a crime "if such personal use is unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of a public office or party position."
The Times Union report follows the evolution of the statements by the Senator's spokespeople, from "It was a private trip, and we're not going to discuss anything he does in his private life that doesn't affect what he does as a public official," to, after the questions were raised, alluding to some fundraiser in Florida the following month for this Senator who hasn't had an election opponent in more than 10 years.

- It looks like NYRA may have taken a page from the Bush Administration in making payments to journalists. The Times Union reported that NYRA's bankruptcy filings include debts owed to several writers, some of whom were paid fifty bucks to appear on NYRA's broadcast to handicap. Two of the writers, Paul Moran of Newsday, owed $250, and Ed Fountaine of the Post, owed $200, said they send the money to charities involving retired jockeys or horses.

Also on the list is talk show host Paul Vandenburgh, whom NYRA claims was paid for a "remote" of his show at the track. Vandenburgh is ardently pro-NYRA on his radio show, according to reader Late Scratch. Vandenburgh said the $300 is his standard "talent fee" when his station does a live broadcast from the premises of a business.