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Monday, February 08, 2010

Target Du Jour (Updated)

A source said by NY Magazine's Daily Intel blog to be "close to the Paterson camp" said that, while the (possibly) imminent NY Times story will contain new revelations of marital infidelity on the part of the governor, "the piece is PG-13, not XXX." And he added:

"Not to say it won't be problematic, but the Aqueduct situation? That's potentially criminal.
Whoa, those are pretty strong words. Whether or not the governor deprived the public of his honest services in this particular case is impossible to say, and just maybe inappropriate to ponder in print. Still, it seems to me that the reader, I think it was jk, who predicted that a guilty verdict in the Bruno trial would augur caution and discretion on the part of the Aqueduct deciders, was decidedly wrong!

In fact, I also saw today where Senator Malcolm Smith, who, just two months ago, told the NY Times "I have no interest in working in that business," (a quote which has apparently since been scrubbed from the article online), on Monday refused to rule out a job at the Big A with AEG.
“No one ever rules out anything. If someone were to say to me, ‘will you rule out running for president, Malcolm,’ I wouldn’t rule that out." [Capitol Confidential]
Nice going there Malcolm; smart move to attract even a small slice of the focus away from the embattled governor. Unless he was just trying to help his good buddy out. Does anyone want to take my bet that he ends up working there? I didn't think so. (One of his pals won't be there anymore though.)

[UPDATE: AEG partner Jeffrey Levine says: "We can unequivocally state that Sen. Smith nor any government official involved in this process will ever be employed by Aqueduct Entertainment Group or any of its partners, investors or affiliates," Levine said. [Albany Times Union]

The Times report is not yet in draft form according to the Daily Intel post; and the reporters are supposed to interview the governor on Tuesday (he met with the editorial board on Monday).

It's interesting, this whole thing all sounded rather familiar to me. So I did a search of the LATG archives, and sure enough, found a post that Elizabeth Benjamin wrote on March 27, 2008, just a couple of weeks after the Times broke the story that led to Paterson's ascension to governor, entitled Times Strikes Fear In Albany's Heart.
State lawmakers and competitive Capitol reporters alike have noted with some trepidation how unusually crowded The New York Times' Albany bureau is this week, and are all abuzz about what big story the Gray Lady might break next.
The assumption, of course, is that the target du jour is Spitzer's replacement, Gov. David Paterson, who has revealed much about his personal life since his swearing in on March 17, but nevertheless remains the subject of considerable speculation. [Daily Politics]
But I don't recall any such "big story" on the subject emerging afterwards. And sure enough, the same reporters that Ms. Benjamin mentioned then, Nicholas Confessore, Danny Hakim, and Serge F. Kovaleski, are also reportedly working on this one.

So, if the story is, again referring to the Daily Intel post, an "in-depth profile of the governor focused on his personal character," then it's altogether possible that it's just old news which wasn't fit to print then, but I guess is now that the governor is really the target du jour. While I defended the governor up and down against what I saw as an aggressive media during and after the Caroline Kennedy affair, in this case, he brought it upon himself. Still, the press seems to take a particular delight in going after this guy, doesn't it? Fred Dicker's piece in the Post on Monday was particularly vicious, though consider the source.
The Times's internal standards, it's worth noting, require the kind of tight sourcing that would make allegations like those in Dicker's piece, particularly anonymous ones, about personal behavior hard to get into print. "We do not inquire pointlessly into someone's personal life," the guidelines state. And in the wake of the flap over a story reporting that John McCain's staff suspected he was having an affair, the paper is likely to be wary of anything that could be interpreted as innuendo. [Politico]
So perhaps the rumored story will, again, not come to pass. Whatever happens, I still maintain that the governor is basically an honest and decent man who has done a credible job under impossible economic and political conditions, and who is on the right side, in my view, on issues such as the Rockefeller drug laws, gay marriage, and reproductive rights. Why he stumbled so horribly on what should have been a relatively straightforward decision is really hard to say.


Anonymous said...

I believe the Post's accusations to be very relevant.

Agree, you should not pointlessly dig into a public figures personal life, but the essence of this story as reported is that the Governor is letting his personal life effect his work habits and decision making, according to his top aids, which to me seems a credible story.

Whatever he does in private, after business hours, is not relevant.

But according the sources he is completely disappearing at times and nightclubbing in public, very different story especially considering his admitted history.

El Angelo said...

Paterson's a decent man but a moron, and has zero leadership skills. Those are his biggest flaws.

Anonymous said...

Everyone is presuming this to be some sort of scandal attached to his personal life. But anyone closely following the Aqueduct bidding process will have a strong sense by now that Governor Paterson's likely fall from grace will come as a result of this very foolish set of decisions. There was never any question, in the minds of right thinking people, that the winner of the Aqueduct bid - whoever they were - would be subjected to intense public and political scrutiny. Unfortunately David Paterson has let himself down badly here, and it would not surprise me one bit to see some of the shady characters who were until very recently still associated with bidders like AEG having had a far greater impact behind the scenes than the public is currently aware. This taint will be impossible for the Governor to shake off, and it is impossible for journalists who take public transparency and accountability seriously to ignore.

steve in nc said...

Nothing to add on these politics. But I did want to say, Alan, that this was really fine work spelling it out for us.

jk said...

I did believe the Bruno conviction would be a warning shot to the Albany pols working on the slots deal. Obviously this was not the case. What is happening now was unavoidable because each bidder had their claws into Silver, Smith or Patterson. There would have been legitimate cries of foul no matter who was chosen.

Anonymous said...

This almost seems like a set up, not that there is any excuse.

Flake's camp approaches Patterson dangling an endorsement in exchange for selecting AEG, knowing fully well that it will blow up in the Governor's face while not effecting the bid once signed and sealed.

The Gov fell for it hook line and sinker, which tells me enough about his judgement that I could never support him in the polling place.

SaratogaSpa said...

Great reporting as usual Alan...but who knows if Paterson is really a honest and decent man. What do we really know about our Politicians and Celebrities??
Didn't most people think Tiger Woods, Letterman, or Sen. Edwards were basically honest and decent men?

jk said...

Defending Elko
posted by Jerry Skurnik
Tue, 02/09/2010 - 4:21pm

As someone with an interest in politics and gambling, I’ve closely following the media coverage of the proposed “racino” at Aqueduct Race Track.

Since I was not privy to the negotiations, I have no opinion on which bidder was the most qualified but I do have an opinion about an unfair attack on one the best towns and nicest casinos in Nevada.

Anonymous said...

Clearly AEG has the support of the Queens Community:

Community supports Racino decision
Tuesday, February 9, 2010 2:42 PM EST

There may be a steady stream of complaints assailing Governor David Paterson’s decision to award the Aqueduct Racino franchise to Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG) – but back home in Ozone Park – there are many smiling faces.

“We’re not unhappy that AEG got the contract,” declared Betty Braton, chair of Community Board 10 (CB10), the unpaid citizens’ council that advises government on matters affecting the community.

Braton, a long-time resident and member of the board, was careful to distinguish between her official position and personal feelings. “Every bidder made a presentation, which we reviewed, but did not vote on,” she told The Courier. “It’s a state, not a city matter, so it’s beyond our charter. We just advised our state elected officials.”

Nevertheless, at a CB10 meeting on Thursday, February 4, at which AEG representatives made a report, a number of hand-lettered “Thank You” signs were in evidence

Privately, Braton was plain-spoken about her personal opinions. “A lot of what’s going on now sounds like ‘sour grapes,’” she said. Paterson himself echoed the sentiment in a recent radio interview, saying, “A number of people who lose cry foul, and they think they can get some resonance.”

After the interview, the Governor’s chief counsel, Peter Kiernan admitted that the selection was the result of “a political process.” Kiernan said that the decision was “not governed by procurement law.” “You have the three political leaders that have to make the decision,” he said.

“All of the proposals were different in size and scope. It made comparison difficult,” Braton said. “Every one of these groups had their obligatory minority member, their army of lobbyists and their own little problems.”

Braton conceded that there was a feeling among many that “anybody but Delaware North” should be selected, after “the fiasco of last year” when the Buffalo-based firm substantially outbid others on the up-front payment – and then couldn’t come up with the money.

“We stopped saying it during the process, but people felt we’d be in business already if it weren’t for them – some were mad they were even allowed back.”

The next on her unofficial loser list was Penn National Gaming, the high-cash bidder this time, whose plan included little more than a gaming facility. Official statements from the company have contained the strongest language objecting to the selection – unpersuasive as far as Braton was concerned.

“I don’t care for the term ‘slots-in-a-box’ but their offer was less ambitious,” she said. “It was very aggressive financially, but it meant less jobs and less [non-gambling] economic activity for our community.”

Among the other three bidders, Braton said she and many others were more sanguine. “The [Florida-based] Peebles group made a solid proposal – more ambitious proposal than Penn National – but that aspect was down the road.”

Bratton said that board members “liked the proposal” of Manhattan developer SL Green, partnered with Hard Rock Entertainment. “I would not have been bent out of shape if they got it,” she said, but thought they were “too locked-in to the ‘Hard Rock CafĂ©’ image.”

“Their drawing, with a giant guitar [logo at the entrance to the facility] was more suited to Times Square than the neighborhood,” she said, admitting that residents closest to the site liked the idea the least.

Which left AEG. “One of the things we liked is that they were not only New York-based, they are Queens-based. It was a big plus,” Braton said. “It’s a solid proposal with more jobs and community benefits.”


“They have a track record around here. Look, we’re from around here. We know [Flake, Senator Malcolm Smith and other parties involved] and we’re okay with them.”

“It time to get moving.”

Anonymous said...

Gov. Paterson and his wife are "swingers." POW...I didn't see this coming.

Anonymous said...

Just a complete cesspool and nothing more.