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Monday, February 12, 2007

Spitzer Disses Fields; Excelsior Too?

- Steven Crist, writing in the Form over the weekend of the situation in New York, recounts the pitched battle last week between Gov Spitzer and an Assembly controlled by his own party over the appointment of a new comptroller to replace Alan Hevesi. The Assembly defied Spitzer and reneged on an agreement by which the new comptroller was to be one of up to five nominees selected by three former comptrollers. But when that panel failed to select an Assemblymen, Speaker Sheldon Silver led the chamber in a revolt and picked one of their own in Thomas DiNapoli, who has no experience whatsoever related to being the fiscal watchdog of the state. This outraged the Governor, who has started to call out Democratic Assemblymen who bucked him by name.

In an absolutely inspirational piece of journalism, the New York Post cornered DiNapoli, asked him "five Economics 101" questions, and gave him a grade of F, declaring that: He's clueless.

Crist's point is this:

..As Spitzer continues to emphasize rather than retreat from his zealous stance as a uniquely principled reformer, it will grow ever more difficult for Spitzer to accept the recommendation of the previous administration to award the franchise to a group that includes at least two close Spitzer associates and contributors.

Excelsior Racing Associates, which won the nonbinding bidding contest conducted by an advisory panel last year, is financed in part by Richard Fields, a casino developer who provided Spitzer with the use of a campaign airplane and excessive campaign contributions, some of which eventually had to be returned. Another partner in the venture is Bill Mulrow, a close friend of Spitzer's and one of the candidates the governor wanted to see get Hevesi's old job. [Daily Racing Form, reg req]
As if to boost that contention, the New York Sun reports today that an unnamed Spitzer official has given an icy cold shoulder to Fields.
"Time will tell whether Fields means anything to us. I think you're going to find out pretty quick the answer is no," the official told The New York Sun. "He was a means to get from point A to point B at one point during the campaign. And later on, he wanted to be helpful in a campaign context."

Said the official: "I am positive we won't be talking about Fields in three months or six weeks."
The reporter adds, referring to Excelsior and a proposed Indian casino in the Catskills, that the comments do not bode well for Mr. Fields, who is depending on support from the administration on two major business ventures with millions of dollars at stake.

I suppose you could take the cynical approach, and believe that Spitzer is merely emphasizing that he is not beholden to Fields as a prelude to awarding the franchise to Excelsior anyway. But Spitzer certainly seems sincere about changing the playbook in Albany.

Now, reader Late Scratch tells us from the Albany region that local TV news is reporting that a rumored deal is close at hand for NY to extend the NYRA franchise in exchange for their dropping the land claim. Nothing official on this potential bombshell, so we'll hold off until we hear some more. But, given the political entanglements of both Excelsior and Empire, as well as the way that the state has seemed to back off from any ultimate judicial resolution of the land issue in the past, I can't say that I'd be surprised if this was true. And how ironic would it be if it is considering that the last deal that extended NYRA's franchise is the basis for the state's claim that the ownership of the land reverts to the state once NYRA ceases to exist. So we'd be going full circle in a way that can only happen in New York.

1 Comment:

Green Mtn Punter said...

Alan, all very interesting in re the franchise. On the other hand, Spitzer and his advisors could just as easily think that's he's immunized against attack because the Pataki Administration recommended Excelsior, a sort of get out of jail free card. I don't think Spitzer is going to want to let down too many of his affluent campaign supporters or otherwise he's going to find himself a one termer, great reformer or not. I, too, had heard the story about NYRA getting a franchise extension as a way to dodge the land claim issue. And to take it one step further: NYRA then subcontracts the VLT's to Excelsior and everybody's happy? That way the Spitzer Admin could escape direct culpability for the Excelsior award. It's going to be some creative deal like this that only the Albany politicians could love, don't you think?