The New York Post published an article on Sunday about the AEG scandal, with the headline Sheldon Silver on hot seat over racino bid as e-mails track money to political committee. But don't expect to find much of anything qualifying as actual news here. I have no interest nor stake in defending the New York Assembly Speaker. But this seems like little more than a hatchet job, and I think that should be pointed out.
The article refers to "a bombshell series of e-mails and transcripts obtained by The Post from the state inspector general through a Freedom of Information Law request." However, they could have saved some time and effort by simply reading the Inspector General's report on the sordid affair that was released in October, 2010. Two of the key emails cited in the article are directly from the report; and others reveal little that is new.
“Rumor has it Shelly and the gov don’t like us for Aqueduct. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it,” according to a July 8, 2009, e-mail from AEG lobbyist Fred Polsinelli to Sheinkopf, a longtime political operative and Silver friend.But the fact that Silver favored AEG's rivals, and that AEG officials were aware of that fact, is a prominent theme throughout the report. Worse yet, the Post cites as its "smoking gun" this:
A month before AEG was chosen the winner, Silver asked [AEG consultant Hank] Sheinkopf for “campaign dough,” according to a Dec. 14, 2009, e-mail from Sheinkopf to Roman.Not only does that appear in the IG report, it does so in a completely different context; in fact, in the sense of more or less exonerating Silver from any wrongdoing in that aspect of the investigation:
Although Sheinkopf opined that Silver secretly favored SL Green, the Inspector General found no evidence that Sheinkopf gained any information or leverage due to his purported connections with Silver. In fact, in response to a query from AEG members as to whether he had spoken with the Speaker recently, Sheinkopf replied on December 14, 2009, “No. He did however ask me for campaign dough today.”Well, a politician asking for campaign dough is no more uncommon than a politician asking to get laid. It didn't raise any red flags in the IG report, and shouldn't do so here, except for a newspaper with an agenda to get Sheldon Silver. There is one revelation about some AEG principals discussing attending a $2,000-a-head golf outing of which Silver was the honorary chairman (apparently the subject of the article headline), and an email from our old buddy Karl O'Farrell to the effect that "They don't want the check to come from AEG." But the quote is out of context and comes from a guy with some serious credibility issues.
This brings me back however to Hank Sheinkopf, the much-respected consultant/strategist who worked on the Clinton/Gore media team in 1996, has a long list of mostly Democratic clients, and who is regularly quoted by newspaper and TV reporters for his political expertise. As I've mentioned before, it absolutely boggles the mind that this guy's career has apparently been totally unaffected by the fact that he repeatedly pled the Fifth Amendment when questioned for the AEG report by Inspector General Joseph Fisch. (He is currently the senior strategist for NYC mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.) Sheinkopf played a key role in the affair according to the report, obtaining a key State Senate analysis on the bidders and passing it along to AEG. On more than one occasion, Fisch observes that Sheinkopf "invoked the Fifth Amendment and refused to answer questions on the grounds that the answers might criminally implicate him, when questioned concerning his role in procuring and disseminating the memoranda."
Yet this guy just goes on his merry way, and none of the reporters who rely on his expertise have ever seemed to ask him about it. Until now.
“I have no obligation to be intimidated by him under any circumstances. I’m not a state employee,” Sheinkopf told The Post last week. “It’s none of his f--king business, how’s that?’Seriously, dude? Here was a chance to perhaps clear the air (not that anyone seems to care anyway) on a totally legitimate question, and that's the best he can do, to answer with profanity? That's just pitiful. And dumb. Anyone who thinks Sheinkopf has something criminal to hide only believes that more so after reading that.
- From the archives: The Inspector General's report on the AEG bidding (10/25/2010)
- It's happy-happy time in the world of New York racing as the Saratoga meet opens on Friday. So leave it to Jim Odato of the Albany Times-Union, in a distinctly Drape-ian type move, to take this particular opportunity to regurgitate the ol' 'racing is dying' meme. Now, to be fair, the facts are the facts - the numbers over the last few years are bad, and there's no doubt that many tracks are staying in existence solely due to slots. Plus, Odato does make an effort to present more optimistic and opposing views, and quotes NYTHA president Rick Violette saying in response: "Our fan base has been dying off? They've been saying that forever.....It's like saying too many sick people are dying in the hospital."
It's more the timing of the article that stinks. And in addition, here's yet another example of a reporter distorting facts and ignoring context to make his point. Odato writes:
But despite a top-notch field and good weather, this year's Belmont Stakes drew one of the smallest audiences in years, down 44.6 percent from the year before. On-track betting fell 22.3 percent, while off-track "handle" dropped 5.8 percent.Of course, he doesn't mention the fact that the prior year, there was a horse going for the Triple Crown.....until the day before the race of course, but still, a lot of people had come to town and had made plans to go. There were also the new security measures which surely didn't help attendance. And if a reporter is going to write on a topic about which he does not know much, he should make damn sure he gets his facts straight. Del Mar hardly has a "roughly 109-day schedule." Can't imagine where he got that random number from. Maybe from the NY Post? (Though that statement will be more accurate next year when Del Mar takes over some of Hollywood Park's dates.)