RSS Feed for this Blog

Friday, August 31, 2007

Down to the Wire

- 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.

"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]
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.

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.


Anonymous said...

Patrick Biancone is a CHEATER!

The above statement is now true even without any more news on the cobra venom allegations.

Biancone is going to serve two weeks, of course, AFTER the Saratoga meeting ends.

He'll be able to have a nice vacation before the bigger purse races at BEL and get himself ready for the KEE meet.

At least his punishment won't be served in the middle of December, but this is a complete farce.

Anonymous said...

So, what is the morning line on the franchise award? NYRA 1-1, odds on?; Excelsior 5-1; Empire 10-1; and Capital Play, 20-1. Of course, it won't be that simple- it sounds like it will be a franchise extension for NYRA, which leaves the permanent franchise to be awarded in 2008? 09?, but in any event to be dragged out to give the pols more time to receive campaign contributions in 2008. In any event, am headed to the Spa for Getaway Day on Monday so I'm goingto forget about the franchise politics and enjoy the last week-end of the 2007 Spa season! /S/Green Mtn Punter

Anonymous said...

Biancone gets Nownownow to the winner's circle of the With Anticipation.

He should be serving his suspension "NOWNOWNOW."

Anonymous said...

"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 Thursday.

From "Racetrack bidders' donations criticized, Group says contenders' aid to Spitzer stresses needed reforms" by Dan Osburn, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, August 31, 2007


1. No public input. At all.

2. One set of publicly conducted hearings, last April, where the only panelist asking reasonable questions was Gary Pretlow from the Assembly.

3. Floating concepts through leaks to the media.

4. The chief conducting the review, Richard Rifkin, publicly admits in early August the Governor has no plan.

5. Four million in background investigations that, according to Ben Liebman at Albany Law School, was terrible biased and didn't ask any questions relevant to integrity.

I didn't go to Princeton or Harvard. Maybe their graduates use a different definition of transparency.


Anonymous said...

It will be interesting to see how much of Governor Spitzer's recommendation evidences discussions between his office and the bidders

- conducted privately -

Not transparent.