Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Post Script

Sometimes it’s better not knowing who is behind the curtain pulling the levers and turning the knobs that control the grand visions that suddenly appear in the Capital Region’s sky line. Sometime knowing about the machinations that make government work can be disheartening. After all, society desperately wants to believe there’s an honest and powerful wizard out there altruistically looking out for the public good; instilling a feeling of pride in job well done.

That’s why the public tends to look the other way when they get a peak behind the curtain. In fact, they’ll look the other way during the first, second and even third time the curtain is parted. Only when the screen is thrust open and the man behind is dragged into the light will they finally admit there’s something screwy with the whole process.

Take for instance Joe Bruno, the debonair Republican state Senate majority leader, who always exuded the type of moxy usually reserved for old-school gangsters. Hollywood Joe carried himself like a power broker that didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and would do anything short of selling his own grandmother to get a deal done. There was simply nothing about him that suggested he operated under the law or by the book. In short, it would take a lot of wishful thinking to consider Bruno as a politician on the up-and-up.

Instead, Bruno’s constituents sort of looked at him like the guy who would drive an unmarked box truck into an impoverished neighborhood around the holidays and start unloading brand new color TVs at 10 cents on the dollar. Certainly, no one is under the illusion that the sets are legit, that the shady cigar-toting salesman is selling them as a charity or that some great miscarriage of justice hasn’t occurred somewhere beyond the city limits. At the end of the day, the ghetto will glow with the radiance of a thousand network colors thanks to that shady cigar-toting salesman. And he’ll be welcomed back with open arms each time they hear that dull growl from the box truck.

This is Joe Bruno at his quintessence: If the taxpayers are going to get robbed, I’m going to slice a cut for myself and then I’m going to get a share for my people. And for the more than two centuries that have lead up to this very moment, this is exactly how politics are conducted in New York or any state for that matter. Quid pro quo; you help me, I help you, we help them.

If the electorate really cared, they would have dispatched of guy like Bruno years ago. Take for instance the scandal that enveloped him in 2004. After littering the state government with his entire extended family, Bruno brashly secured a lavish office for his brother at the newly restored Van Raalte Mill in Saratoga Springs. The office cost taxpayers more than $50,000 a year and was aimed at easing poor Robert Bruno’s 50-mile commute to his six-figure job at the state Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services Albany from Glens Falls. Hollywood Joe ran unopposed that year, just like every election since 1996, and the scandal barley left a blemish on Bruno’s career. Ironically, he won tens of thousands of votes that year on a platform to reform Albany, just one month after the scandal broke.

Even the opposition party supported Bruno during his heyday. He was in the process of mounting his fifth consecutive unopposed election in 2006, when pesky Rensselaer attorney Brian Premo decided he wanted to give voters a choice. Premo, a Republican-turned-Democrat, petitioned for a chance to take a crack at Bruno, but was summarily tossed out on his ass by the senatorial district’s Democratic leadership. The idea was to not offend the powerful leader so that the pork carcasses would continue to arrive unabated.

Premo took the issue to state Supreme Court, but met rare bi-partisan resistance. Democratic leaders lead the charge against the prospective challenger, and they used a sharp-tipped rapier handed to them by the GOP. Ironically, this micro-battle was occurring at a time when the national Democrats were bitterly fighting to regain seats in the U.S. Congress; most notably in the Capital Region, the seat of Republican U.S. Rep. John Sweeney.

In the end, the 2006 election could have been the high watermark of Bruno’s career in politics and the point at which the tide began to sweep back out to sea. Divisions had been forming in the state GOP for some time, and Bruno happened to be on the one that didn’t have the U.S. Attorney’s Office on its side.

There was no mystery about then Gov. George Pataki’s presidential aspirations or that he quietly played doorman to the Bush Administration whenever he could to get in the better graces of the neoconservative cabal. Sweeney, who was a strident Pataki-ally, had plenty of clout with national party prior to his fall from grace. And as that fall grew more precipitous during the 2006 election, Joe Bruno sat on the sidelines watching; clearly not willing to sacrifice an ounce of his political capital to rescue Pataki’s federal connection.

The 2006 election also was the unofficial coronation of Eliot Spitzer, the so-called “Sheriff of Wall Street” and ardent government reformer, who seemed to target Bruno as an epitome of the corrupt brand of politics that had plagued Albany for centuries. Spitzer very quickly moved to expose some of the senator’s indiscretions in an apparent attempt to discredit his chief opponent to reform. Less than a year later, Spitzer was gone.

Why dig into all this old history as Bruno walks away in shame? Well, because a man of Bruno’s power and political savvy doesn’t suddenly lose both overnight to a very convoluted federal corruption scandal that could potentially implicate any number of state legislators who regularly throw their influence around in questionable ways. Not unless there was a bi-partisan commando team parachuting in to take him down.

In the aftermath of Tuesday’s bombshell verdict –one that hardly came as a surprise to any political pundit –there was nary a state legislator to chime in on Bruno’s demise or the fate of his legacy. His colleagues in the Republican caucus were quiet, as were their Democratic counterparts. There wasn’t a peep from Gov. David Paterson’s office, even though he served more than two decades with Bruno in the senate. All of them stood quietly, as the jury slowly and methodically hung Bruno with the miles of rope he left behind amid his political legacy.

What does all this mean for New York and its brand of politics? Most likely, nothing at all, even though the hollow cries for reform are ringing loudly throughout the land right now. Sure, there will be talk about reform, just like there always is when a well-known politician is unceremoniously slain like a charging bull by the matador. There will be more like Bruno to rise and fall like the sun and moon. The cycle will continue because it’s the bitter nature of politics itself: maintaining the three-way balance between self-interest, special interest and the public’s interest.


Anonymous Beer Me said...

Go take a look at the Nanoburgh blog. There's a good scam there on how to pick Bruno's pocket, a few pennies at a time.

Hows that Guiness beer commenrcial go?


1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since Boxcar Joe Bruno loves to have his name on everything - lets name a new NYS ethics bill after Bruno.

I misssed alot of the news on the trial - did anyone mention that NIMO (National Grid) was "asked" to put ther large machinery on Joe's property so he could use it for free improvements for his 'estate' ? Where else did he learn to 'drive' the big rigs - like the photo ops at Globalfoundries ?

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An exceptional piece of writing!!!

Not taking anything away from your complement on the Saratoga blog, your current reflection on this topic was a sincerely a pleasure to read.

You still wear the crown.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Ben lives on said...

If he didn't steal it for us someone else would have stole it for themselves which is shown by the VLT grab.

1.The man didn't beat his wife.
2.He kept is dick in is pants or if he didn't at least he was discreet.
3.He loved this area and his constituents.
That makes him better than 90% of his colleagues.

1:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm troubled just thinking about how other parts of our wonderful country think about New York.

Oh, most of them think of skyscrapers in Manhattan at the mention of New York.

But we know it's Albany where our skeletons are stacking up in the closets.




Who's next?

Who did I forget?

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


you forgot:

Alan Hevasi

Roger Green

Diane Gordon

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voting now taking place on:

is change, or not, the Bruno sign at the Saratoga State Park.

7:09 PM  
Blogger Faulkner said...

re: anonymous 1:42,

I know exactly what you mean. The good people of Illinois are really unfamiliar with pay to play dirty politics. And in Rhode Island we wouldn't know an honest politician if he came recommended by Gandhi. At least your state still has an economy. Rhode Island leads the pack in corruption... but we get none of the benefits. WTF!

5:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All this talk about Joe, makes me a bit nostalgic for ole Doc Farone. I can still remember my father taking me over to the Old County Courthose to see theold man sitting outside having his lunch served by the guards. "He was a good and bad man" my Dad would say, but I realized later, that an era had come to an end.
Today, who can handle the truth?

6:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nanoburgh blog?

what is that?

10:48 AM  
Anonymous What was Ronnie wearing? said...

I hear it was a rocking good time at the dems meeting this morning.

Did anyone attend and like to comment?

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I haven't heard what he was wearing (but I'm dying to know!), your boy Kim supposedly went after Tigue pretty good after the meeting.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, I hope that's the end of the list.
Very embarrassing for NYS.

2:01 PM  
Blogger Ben lives on said...

Vote on a run poll if Ron Kim should be arrested after the Democratic committee meeting at

6:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the Dems meeting, someone disguised as a suicide bomber showed up, but the Dems realized it was John Tighe and kicked him out.

6:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fact that Larry Bulman asked Bernstein to leave a political meeting is not only bad form, I believe according to the first amendment, illegal.

The Dems should ask Bulman for his resignation if they have a ounce of class left.

Even though there is no love
lost between Bernstein and I, I am with him on this one. Journalists should NEVER be asked to leave a meeting especially when it comes from a group of people whose battle cry has the words, 'open government' in it.

This is an issue that should concern EVERYONE no matter what political party you are affiliated with.

Citizen Nancy

8:32 AM  
Anonymous Ready and Willing! said...

What about the way the Turkmeister runs the city party? Just ask Mrs Zlotnick. She'll tell you. And she's supposed to have a voice. As are all of us supposed to have a voice.

Who will step up to publicly take the lead to fight these idiots, head on? Now, there are obviously many, many of us who agree on this. We know that.

But is it their threats of intimidation and revenge that hold us back? Please: who will take up this challenge?

I am not connected enough to be that individual. But I will certainly lend my support in any way I am capable.


8:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ghost(s) of past commissioners says:

Staying on topic (imagine that?) Joe Bruno rented space from Republican boss J T Roohan for years, on Broadway. And as mentioned, was willing to rent space for his bro at The Mill (owned by guess who? J T Roohan Jr), golfed regularly with JTR, and had JTR on the Board with one of his connected ventures.

Off topic: Betor will be the new FD chief. For Betor or worse? Time will tell. Word has it he likes to work the numbers, increase staff, add a new station, and be vocal enough to scare the bejezzuz out of gullible taxpayers.
Just in time for the new year.

10:45 AM  
Anonymous Tatiana Zarnowski said...

Nancy: The Republican meetings are never open to the press. The city Democratic Committee meetings are, but that's by their choice. I'm no expert, just a humble Gazette reporter, but I'm pretty sure political party meetings don't have to be public.

Of course, it sounds like Bernstein was told beforehand he could go, in which case he has every right to feel slighted that they changed their minds in the middle of the meeting and singled him out in front of everybody. I'd be pissed too if it were me.

10:57 AM  
Anonymous No Truth to the Rumors that I am the Smartest Guy in the World and Have a Harem of Rich Babes said...

Friend: I shall lead you to the promised land. Lend me your support, financial and otherwise.

1:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many of those DFC idealists who first proclaimed themselves progressives are now acting (in spite of their lackluster) in much the same way as those whom they initially chastised as bullying Cretan politicians. Successfully finding themselves on the wining side of that November, they rejoiced their mandate, but quickly forgot their realm. The voters this time around spoke loudly to end the chaos. It is time for the Democratic Party to reassemble and provide a respectable discussion between a winning party and one who is supposed to be in opposition, remembering that nothing is truly lost in the long game -- through consensus.

The politician who forgets his/her constituency is forgotten.

3:16 PM  
Anonymous Sons of Anarchy said...

We will take Zlotnik on under our cloak to ride with us. She is hot and will do well as a mama. She will service the club with respect. In January the city will be ours for the taking. Stay Tuned!

3:34 PM  
Anonymous City hall Filly said...

Let us all know that John Tighe is a pudding head. His lack of intelligence and his borderline criminal behavior is not any kind of hope for the democrats. His very presence and representation is bad for all democrats whether they are dem united or dfc. He is a boil on the democratic way of life and should be treated as such.

3:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since their political godfather, Uncle Joe Bruno, has been convicted of corruption in office, it's time for all the Republicans to resign from office.

Mayor Scott Johnson, Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins, Public Works Commissioner Skip Scirocco, Public Safety Commissioner elect Richard Wirth. They can all step down now. So can Accounts Commissioner John Franck (he pretends to be a Dem, but he endorsed Bruno for re-election).

If we want to quickly get rid of the Bruno stench, everybody associated with him should do the honorable thing and resign.

5:52 PM  
Anonymous dirty harry said...

no worries. It will be done....

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK 5:52 Moron, and the City and County residents as part of your cleansing idea, should return all Bruno benefits.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Sons of Anarchy said...

Samcro to Saratoga is a good thing! City Hall Filly can join our stable with Mary Z. We have the bikes and the fire power to make a sudden impact on this town. The only thing stopping us now is a place to hang. Any ideas for a clubhouse? The best idea given will receive protection immediately.

P.S. We need women! Not the screwy kind associated with this Vanguard jerk! Real smokin' hot tough broads like the 2 mentioned here!

4:08 AM  
Anonymous Looking hi and lo for the key to my gun rack said...

Suggestions :

The Alley?


That love shack the other bikers keep out in the Greenfield woods?

The empty horse stables at the race track?

Behind the bushes that Wyatt and Bronner used to hide in with their video camera?

The hot tub at the Y?

Skip's dog cemetary behind the PBA gun range?

The house on Greenfield Ave that the lady who looks like the Joker and her fat Guido want to tear down?

The new Rec Center?

The Terrace, after we tie up Gerard?

Val's front porch?

The Adelphi after Vanguard buys it which will have the added benefit of hot babes crawling around?

Tighe's house. If Tighe has a house? If not, his tent?

Your call, just let us all know.

9:39 AM  
Anonymous Nobody Messes with Samcro said...

The location will work downtown only! Where is the Terrace? Is it close to broadway? We will need to respond quickly! We are all about quick response.
The Adelpi would be intersting. Stomping Vanguard on his own turf is our style. Sons of Anarchy

4:01 AM  
Anonymous dirty harry said...

My comment referred to anonymous 3:16, NOT 5:52..whole different meaning.

11:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hail to the Chief said:

Drinks will be on the Betors at the Starting Gate on the day he gets promoted.
Word has it that there will be a big drunk that day at the bar he owns.
Didn't know that the Chief-to-be owned a bar? Check it out.
Let's hope enough firemen are sober in case there is a fire somewhere in town.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Grew up in Dublin third generation said...

I have checked out his bar. Fireman or not the pizza is awful and the place is a dive. Don't waste your money. Supposedly his wife prides herself as using the same recipe as her grandma for pizza sauce. The sauce back in those days was awful as well.

3:37 AM  
Anonymous Just wondering said...

So do we have a POLICE COVERUP or not going on? Some respectable journalist (sorry Bernstein) needs to call up the SSPD and ask if a complaint was filed against Ron Kim and if so what it the status of it.

9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

US attorney says Bruno will have to do hard time in jail!

Read it and weep, Ratpublicans!

Scott Johnson, you're next!

4:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe Bruno and Kim will be in the same cell!

4:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

brien,brien,brien. where you buyin your candy from nowadays.

12:31 PM  
Anonymous Aghaaghabee said...

If only Shit were Brains! This Burg would be a Rest Stop for UFO's
and Renown across the entire Universe!

I quote: "This town needs a Enema!"

Any English Speakers amongst you
Urchins? Who the Fug can stand such
diarrea of the Mind, which reigns
Supreme here if only you all didn't
lap it up before the stink rises!

Any creatures surrounding a backbone it the immediate vicinity?

Public Discourse Here Sucks the Big One! You'll be better once some of you can sport hair on your ass!

9:09 PM  

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