- Just a few days to go until Governor Spitzer's scheduled Sept 4 announcement of his proposed plans for the NY franchise, and it's been mostly quiet of late. Capital Play mounted a last minute flurry with a public presentation in Saratoga last week; and a reader reported that they had women handing out fliers outside the track. Also last week, Empire Racing rose up from the dead like Glenn Close in the final scene of Fatal Attraction to issue one last desperate press release decrying the conflict of interest inherent in an endorsement for NYRA by a local Saratoga organization whose members include a NYRA trustee. And Jeff Perlee added "A few weeks of taxpayer-funded success in Saratoga can’t make up for decades of financial mismanagement, bankruptcy, and failure at the top.” Blah blah blah.
Otherwise, there's not been much to do but sit and wait for the ending.....or perhaps it will be just another beginning? Spitzer's plan of course will have to be signed off by
the state legislature Shelly Silver and Joe Bruno, and unless the governor actually awards the franchise to the latter, you can expect him to strike a skeptical pose no matter what is proposed. A Senate committee has scheduled a Sept 12 hearing to discuss the governor's plan.
Meanwhile, Common Cause/NY has released their findings as to how much money franchise bidders have directed towards politicians, and it's hardly a surprise that the four entities have spent over $2 million, split roughly 50/50 between lobbying activities and campaign contributions. Nor does it come as a shock that Spitzer was the main beneficiary, pocketing some $632,779 from various people and entities associated with the bidders.
Spitzer said the money wouldn't affect his decision.But despite his comment about cleaning up Albany and his advocacy of campaign reform (the issue which is at the heart of his feud with Sen Bruno), I didn't hear him say that he would return the money nor contribute it to a thoroughbred retirement farm. Indeed, in the world of NY politics, it's all perfectly legal. Barbara Bartoletti of the League of Women Voters said Spitzer had done no wrong under current campaign laws.
"We have been not only meticulous and fully transparent in what we have done, the record we have created, and we are weighing and balancing all of the factors and look forward to announcing the next step early next week," Spitzer said yesterday.
"The concerns they articulate about how we have to clean up Albany are essential to what I've spoken about for some time and I think when people see what we do with the NYRA franchise extension issue, they'll feel very comfortable that we've done our job," he said. [Journal News]
To show what a farce the laws are, Richard Fields of Excelsior skirted existing limits by using five limited liability corporations (LLCs) and six addresses to donate over $200,000 to the governor's campaign fund. (If he used all of his different website addresses, he could have contributed twice that much!)
Capital Play spent only around $66,000 because "we don't have to; our bid is better and returns more money to New York State for education," said spokesman Hank Sheinkopf. [Newsday] NYRA
NYRA spent $130,000 on contributions and $480,000 on lobbying; and Excelsior spent $467,000 on contributions and $105,000 on lobbying. And the largest spender of them all? Empire Racing, with a total of nearly $800,000, $260,000 for campaigns. Talk about good money after bad. However, given the massive deceit in which Empire and its predecessor Friends of New York engaged as detailed in the devastating report compiled for the Inspector General by Thacher Associates, if Tim Smith and his original investors walk away with only lighter wallets and their reputations still intact, I think they will have done pretty well.