- New York's Senate Republicans have hired a special counsel to help in their investigation of the Spitzer Administration, and the Governor in particular, in their Senate investigation of the Choppergate/Troopergate scandal. Joseph diGenova is a Republican D.C. insider, a former U.S. attorney in the Reagan Administration, and an outspoken critic of the Scooter Libby indictment. Oh man. He bills at $450/hour, and will be paid $500,000, including expenses, for his services through March, 2008. Are we really still going to be talking about this then? (And will the franchise issue be settled at that time?)
And, though a Bruno spokesperson told Newsday that diGenova will be paid from the Senate's maintenance and operations budget, he didn't specify that it's actually taxpayer money allocated to the Senate for outside consulting [NY Times]. A Democratic on the Committee contends that since his party was not consulted, the hiring constitutes a partisan undertaking that the state is constitutionally barred from paying. [Albany Times Union]
What is it with politicians, especially Republicans from my view (though I'm sure the other party is [occasionally] guilty as well), that they can't leave well enough alone? Here you had genuine sympathy for poor Joe Bruno, picked on so unfairly as he was by the bully Governor and his men. Even I was thinking 'Ol' Joe, he's not so bad, he has a nice smile, and he'll fight for the interests of our downtrodden industry.' Whatsmore, Spitzer was embarrassed and humbled, and the Republicans, if they were really interested in governing, were in position to take advantage of a chief executive who likely would not have been as brash and cocky as before.
Instead, they're taking this way too far, devoting virtually all of their time and energy into an endeavor which is destined to make them look just as petty and vindictive as they accuse the governor of being.
Bruno said that 70 percent of New Yorkers believe Spitzer should publicly testify under oath. [Rochester Democrat and Chronicle] And you know what? I don't disagree. However, as even Bruno's boy, the New York Post acknowledged in an editorial:
..while about 80 percent of voters believe the scandal is important, just 12 percent said getting to the bottom of it should eclipse other state business.Like the racing franchise. The Republicans have accused the governor of paying scant attention to the issue, but instead of conducting meaningful business aimed at overhauling the structure of the industry in the state, they're spending taxpayer money to conduct a personal vendetta against the governor.
There were already two (supposedly) non-partisan investigations underway (now one, more in a minute), but the Republicans don't trust either. I don't blame them for being skeptical of the State Ethics Commission, since it's about to be folded into a new panel of which Spitzer will pick a majority.
Now, just this afternoon, Albany DA David Soares released the results of his investigation (for which Spitzer did submit to questioning, though not under oath), the only one that could have resulted in criminal charges. Not only did Soares declare that there was no illegal conduct, but he concluded:
“To the contrary, we found that the Governor, his staff, and the New York State Police were acting within their authority in compiling and releasing documents to the media concerning the use of state aircraft.” [NY Times]His report seems to be at odds even with Andrew Cuomo's, which led to the suspension of two of Spitzer's aides. The GOP will no doubt point out that Soares is a Democrat, but he's the guy that brought down Alan Hevesi. Sen. Winner, the chairman of the investigating committee, told the Times that "clearly we disagree" and that the investigation will go on. The Republicans' insistence on pressing on now may begin to appear even more shrill.
"This is not anything to be taken lightly," said Bruno. "This is the abuse of power of the highest office of this state." But this whole affair was precipitated by Bruno's dubious use of state aircraft to fly to political fund-raisers. And though he made them legal by scheduling "at least one legislative meeting on each of the ten trips," it seems to me that he was abusing the power of the second highest office in the state. It's time to stop this nonsense and get back to work.