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Thursday, September 06, 2007

Bruno Probes, Gets Probed

- Matt Hegarty reports in the Form that support in the State Assembly for Governor Spitzer's NYRA recommendation seems assured with an unqualified endorsement by Speaker Sheldon Silver.

"I support Gov. Spitzer's determination that, with strengthened oversight, a reinvigorated and reconstituted New York Racing Association is the best option for the future of the state's Thoroughbred racing franchise." [DRF]
Of course, the Republican controlled Senate is where the opposition will come from, and a committee meeting is scheduled for Sept 12. However, though Senator Bruno's initial reaction was skeptical, I found it interesting that he told Tom Precious, reporting for
“[NYRA] worked with a model that doesn’t work. So, I don’t want to be critical of the people who run NYRA because this goes back over the years.."

“I think they have done a lot of good things and they deserve recognition for that,....The question is what role does everybody play. I think NYRA has to play a role, and a major role, of what goes on.’’
As Precious notes, Bruno has spoken of others playing a role as well, and he also said in the interview, which took place on Sept 4:
“We’ve got some of the major players in the whole world taking an interest,’’ he said Sept. 4, noting that among them are Magna Entertainment, Churchill Downs, and Woodbine.
C'mon Joe, you can't be serious about Magna! Frankie's folly is wearing their failure on their sleeve these days, announcing their intent to sell two more racetracks yesterday.

In any event, reading today's state capitol report in the New York Times, one wonders how the legislators will ever get around to seriously addressing this issue before the end of the year. The atmosphere in Albany is so acrimonious that a date for legislators to return to Albany has not yet been set, slipping from September to October to “to be announced.” And once they do, there are obviously more pressing matters to be attended to first.

Some Senate Republicans are in town however to start their myriad of inquiries related to the governor. One such Committee (with a long name) is to question Inspector General Kristine Hamann today. Ms. Hamann, as you may recall, did quite a thorough job with her integrity report on the franchise bidders. But her investigation of the Troopergate affair? Er, not so much. In fact, she simply dropped it when she found that her direct supervisor, the secretary to the governor Richard Baum, was involved. Republicans want to know why she quietly suspended the probe rather than alerting Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, and transferring her all-important subpoena power to him. Neither the governor nor any of his aides were compelled by subpoena to testify. Some Republicans believe that Ms. Hamann had the authority to convey her authority to do so to Cuomo, and thus see the whole affair as a whitewash.

However, buried in the Times article - an indication of just how the pendulum has swung to the Albany GOP these days - is this little tidbit regarding another investigation:
Mr. Bruno has his own troubles. In another part of Albany on Thursday, the Temporary Commission on Lobbying will hold a public session; among the cases they are investigating are flights provided to Mr. Bruno by Jared E. Abbruzzese, a friend whose business interests have received state grants given at Mr. Bruno’s discretion.

Mr. Abbruzzese has also been a central figure in a continuing inquiry by the Federal Bureau of Investigation into Mr. Bruno’s outside business interests.
Abbruzzese, as you may recall, provided those flights to Bruno while he was a director of Friends of New York Racing, the organization which Ms. Hamman's integrity report concluded paved the way for its successor organization Empire Racing under the false pretense of being non-partisan, and after the formation of Empire as well. Abbruzzese has been said to be a driving force in the suspicious transformation of Friends to Empire, and, according to a report in the Albany Times Union last year, led the effort to raise $3 million to help fund the latter. The lobbying commission wants to know if Abbruzzese was attempting to use his friendship and tangled business relationships with the Senate Majority Leader to influence his views on the franchise. Er, what do you think? Seems pretty Evident to me.


Anonymous said...

I was always confounded by Joe Bruno's involvement with Empire. H e was apparently fooled by all of th e Spitzer attacks, and then the federal monitor business, and concluded that NYRA was a dead duck for the new franchise. And no less than the Dowager Queen of Saratoga and Bruno constituent Marylou Whitney was also fooled by the Empire pitch and lent her veddy prestigious name, for a while at least, before pulling out. I recall that Bruno's son was a lobbyist for MEC back when the franchise race was just taking shape; the continuously vitriolic public statements and actions of Empire spokeman Jeff whatshisname and some of it's members, Stronach included, finally signalled Joe that these guys were rank amateurs if not total political incompetents. And for Joe I can't see it's the money at this stage of his career- he was a very successful entrepreneur and isn't exactly pressed for cash. How about a bad handicapping day for one of NY's most astute politicians? How long will it be before we see a press conference called to announce that Joe, the Gov, and the Speaker have reached an agreement to "save" NY racing by reappointing NYRA as franchisee and are now heroes evermore? /S/ Green Mtn Punter

Alan Mann said...

Green Mtn - I don't know that Joe was ever really involved with Empire beyond his conncection to Abbruzzese. He never indicated any preference towards them, or any of the other groups. Perhaps he was just being careful. Abbruzzese's business dealings with Bruno were so extensive, that I can't imagine he and Tim Smith really thought that they would get away with this (unless they were thinking the same thing about Richard Fields).

Anonymous said...

Alan, I think it was more the fact that Sen Bruno was quite hostile to NYRA at the outset of the franchise renewal process, and certainly was not doing anything to help Excelsior with it's many Dem connections. He did make some encouraging statements about Capital Play at one point but those didn't last. I surmised that given his connections to Abruzzese, his son's previous work on behalf of Magna, and the many local Empire connections, i.e., key Empire players from his senatorial district, that behind the scenes he was pushing Empire. He seemed to shift back to NYRA early this year, until the brouhaha with Spitzer, and then saw another opening to keep Spitzer on the defensive with the Getnick & Getnick conflict. It's all been very entertaining watching ol Joe play the game of politics with the NY racing franchise as the "ball"; in the end, I am still convinced he will not let the feud with Spitzer interfere with doing the best he can for NY racing. It's also interesting to note how high profile the whole franchise issue has been in the NY media for the past couple of years, especially when the actual day-to-day sport of racing is totally ignored by the same media unless, of course, it involves controversy, or better yet, scandal. More than anything else, I think NY racing needs a highly creative marketing person to re-sell the sport in NY to former fans, and sell the sport to a new generation of fans. It can be done by telling fans the truth: NY racing is the best in North America, and has been for at least 100 years, and the talent to create such a campaign exists somewhere on Madison Avenue. As for the politics, we all anxiously await the next step by the legislature. /S/Green Mtn Punter