Saturday, March 29, 2008

Anatomy Of A New York Newspaper Eating Crow

I'm sure you've all heard of the recent scandal in New York where the Governor (Eliot Spitzer, Democrat) was caught up in a call girl ring, but there was another scandal before that in which the Governor's political rival, State Senate majority leader Joe Bruno (Republican) found out that Governor Spitzer was using the State Police to spy on him:

"I've been in government 31 years and I've never experienced anything like this," said Bruno. "I was stunned to learn Governor Spitzer is using the fine men and women of the New York State Police to conduct surveillance on me," Bruno said. "This should send shivers up the spine of every New Yorker."


In the meantime, Bruno was also accused of abusing taxpayer funded transportation. Naturally Bruno was denying that.

A July 6 2007 excerpt from the NY Daily News editorial:

"Clear away the smoke being blown by Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno over his blatant abuse of taxpayer-funded transportation, and it all boils down to this: He wants to act like a jerk, live like a king - and not be held accountable for any of it."


Of course, the Governor and his aides hotly denied the accusation against him, but still it resulted in an investigation by the Albany DA, David Soares, whose investigation exonerated Spitzer.

The NY Daily News, being a pro-Democrat newspaper (though they didn't endorse Spitzer's candidacy for Governor), was overjoyed and immediately printed the following September 23rd 2007 editorial, titled "Anatomy Of A Smear":


The verdict is in. At last, the "Troopergate" so-called scandal is certified as a gigantic fraud perpetrated on the public by state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.

Having penetrated the intense smoke blown by Bruno, Albany District Attorney David Soares concluded in an authoritative, fact-based report that Gov. Spitzer committed no crimes, did not spy on the senator, did not conspire with aides to smear Bruno and, most important, did not engage in a coverup or lie about anything whatsoever.

Soares' retelling of the events that triggered no less than three investigations and Bruno's endlessly hyped accusations of wrongdoing lead to the conclusion that the only one who did wrong in this affair was Bruno. As the state Ethics Commission in effect concluded, the senator exploited absurdly lax rules to fly around the state on the taxpayers' dime to political events.

That was the true scandal, and those were the facts that Spitzer's aides provided to an enterprising reporter from the Albany Times Union. Caught red-handed misusing state police aircraft, Bruno turned the world on its head with charges that Spitzer had created a police state. State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo quickly found no criminality, but he fueled Bruno's smoke by issuing a report without questioning two key Spitzer aides.

But now Soares has nicely detailed the behind-the-scenes story, including the revealing fact that Spitzer ordered his aides not to refer to Bruno's use of aircraft to investigators. According to Soares, Spitzer correctly felt Bruno was operating within the overly porous rules then in effect. He also wanted to avoid a "distraction" in budget negotiations. So much for a get-Bruno plot directed from the top.

Despite the evidence, Bruno seems determined to beat this dead horse. He intimates with absolutely no justification that, maybe, Soares didn't get to the bottom of things. And he has pinned his hope of vindication on the last remaining probe, an inquiry by the Ethics Commission. He shouldn't hold his breath.

Having wasted everybody's time, he should cancel his half-million-dollar contract with a hit man lawyer. And then he should get down to the business of state government, perhaps explaining why on earth New Yorkers should keep his Republicans in charge of the state Senate. Does he have an agenda beyond ginning up unfounded investigations? Not so far as anyone can see right now.


Well.............not so fast.

Now, as it is turning out, Soares had engaged in a cover up, a whitewash. His investigation wasnt worth the paper it was printed on. And neither was the editorial printed by the NY Daily News.

It is being discovered that Spitzer DID have the State Police spy on Bruno, as well as ordered his aides to release a smear campaign, accusing Bruno of misusing public transportation, etc.

From the March 24, 2008 editorial by the New York Post:

Disgraced ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer was up to his neck in his administration's dirty tricks aimed at discrediting State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.....Spitzer ordered senior aides to release potentially damning information, The New York Times reported. Spitzer has adamantly denied involvement....But, according to the DA's report, he even called former aide Darren Dopp at home to check on his progress in carrying out the orders. Dopp said he warned Spitzer that Bruno would be angry - but the then-governor dismissed the alert, getting so furious, he turned red and spit out the coffee he was drinking, according to the report. "He was spitting mad," Dopp reportedly said.


From the March 25 NY Post:

From the moment last July when State Editor Fred Dicker broke the story that the State Police - at the direction of then-Gov. Spitzer's office - began detailed surveillance of Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, one question has remained: What did Spitzer know - and when did he know it? Now, comes a front-page NY Times report confirming nearly every exclusive broken by The Post's Albany bureau. That puts the lie to the whitewash report issued last September by Albany DA David Soares......... Attorney General Andrew Cuomo certainly came close to the real story. His bombshell report concluded that key Spitzer aides had the State Police cook up documents implicating Bruno. Cuomo also concluded that Team Spitzer then lured a credulous newspaper, The Albany Times-Union, into using the documents to smear Bruno. In contrast to Soares, Cuomo managed to find all this out, even though Dopp and Baum refused to answer any of his questions.


Note that part again:
key Spitzer aides had the State Police cook up documents implicating Bruno. Cuomo also concluded that Team Spitzer then lured a credulous newspaper, The Albany Times-Union, into using the documents to smear Bruno


Here is the NY Times report:

An excerpt:

Former Gov. Eliot Spitzer was deeply involved in his administration’s efforts last year to discredit the State Senate majority leader, Joseph L. Bruno, holding detailed discussions with senior aides, ordering damaging information about Mr. Bruno released, and calling an aide at home repeatedly to check on the progress, according to several people with direct knowledge of the investigation.

The governor has previously said he was not personally involved in the effort, suggesting only that he was vaguely aware that his aides had responded to a reporter’s inquiry about Mr. Bruno’s travels on state aircraft.

But testimony and other information gathered by the Albany County district attorney, P. David Soares, indicate that the governor’s participation was extensive and reflected Mr. Spitzer’s intense desire to damage Mr. Bruno, the people with knowledge of the case said.


-snip

The effort to tarnish Mr. Bruno was the first major blunder of Mr. Spitzer’s first term. A report by the attorney general, Andrew M. Cuomo, on July 23 said that the Spitzer administration had improperly used the State Police to assemble records on Mr. Bruno’s flights. Mr. Spitzer apologized, placed Mr. Dopp on indefinite unpaid leave, and said he would not tolerate such behavior.

But according to the people with knowledge of the investigation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the inquiry is not over, Mr. Dopp described a meeting he had with Mr. Spitzer just before releasing the records assembled on Mr. Bruno to a reporter from The Times Union of Albany.

Around June 25 or June 26, Mr. Dopp told prosecutors, he first met with Richard Baum, the governor’s chief of staff, who told Mr. Dopp that the governor wanted the records on Mr. Bruno released to the media. “Eliot wants you to release the records,” Mr. Baum told him.

But Mr. Dopp, mindful of the political war that would erupt between the governor’s office and Mr. Bruno, hesitated and decided to check with the governor.

He told the governor that Mr. Bruno would be furious, according to people familiar with his account. Mr. Spitzer responded with expletives about Mr. Bruno and belligerently dismissed the warning.

The governor was so angry, Mr. Dopp recalled, that he turned red and spit out coffee he was sipping as he directed him to release the records immediately. “As he was saying it, he was spitting a little bit,” Mr. Dopp said. “He was spitting mad.”


And here is todays, March 29th editorial from the NY Post:

What is obvious, of course, is that Soares sought to whitewash the affair all along.

That's why he never had Spitzer testify under oath.

That's why he rushed out with a report in September claiming everything was hunky-dory with the gov and his people.

That's why, to this day, he is declining to pursue criminal charges - for perjury, suborning perjury, obstruction of justice, issuing false statements or anything else - in this affair.

Indeed, were Spitzer not gone from office, Soares might never have produced even the soft-pedaling, incomplete findings he released yesterday.

Soares would never have gone after his old ally - even to the limited extent he did in this report - were Spitzer still in a position to hurt him.

So much for backbone.

Soares' behavior has been a travesty.


Of course, the New York Daily News has had little, if anything, to say about their gullibility, being taken in way back last summer by the Soares cover up (Nor has the Albany Times-Union said anything, at least that I know of, about being used by the Governors office to help spread the smear of Joe Bruno).

For the New York Daily News, here's a bunch of recipes for eating crow:

http://www.crowbusters.com/recipes.htm

UPDATE:

#################################################

A Press Release by Joe Bruno:

FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Friday, March 28, 2008
http://www.senate.state.ny.us

STATEMENT BY SENATE MAJORITY LEADER JOSEPH L. BRUNO

The report released today by the Albany County District Attorney’s
Office confirms what I have been saying all along, that former Governor
Eliot Spitzer lied to the people of this State about his direct knowledge
and involvement in the Troopergate scandal; that he was obsessed with
conducting a political “hit job” to damage me personally and politically;
and that the administration enlisted favored members of the news media,
principally the Albany Times Union to carry out their plot.

The report represents a turnaround from the District Attorney’s
report issued last September that cleared the Governor of any wrongdoing.
That report was done after a so-called “investigation” in which the DA did
not place anyone under oath and was clearly issued as cover for
then-Governor Spitzer and his administration.

I feel it was a serious mistake not to present this information to a
grand jury and proceed with a prosecution, as there is clearly evidence of
criminal conduct.

I urge Governor Paterson to take appropriate action against those
involved in the plot and cover-up, and who should not continue to represent
him and the Executive Chamber.

This scandal was a blatant abuse of government power. This time it
was aimed at me. However, these abuses should present a concern to all New
Yorkers. It also illustrates the importance of having checks and balances
in State government and avoiding one-party rule and power.

While we will continue to move forward with measures to address some
of the legislative issues raised by this scandal, this report sheds more
light on a sad and disgraceful chapter in New York State history and on a
Governor who clearly had his priorities wrong and, as I said so often,
lacked the temperament to govern.

UPDATE 2:

A March 27 article by Michael Aronson, NY Daily News columnist and editorial board member:

"Spitzer's latest lies are just par for a very long course"

It surprised me little that Eliot Spitzer misled his family and constituents about his use of prostitutes - or, as we now learn, that he hid his involvement in the Troopergate scandal.

I've known for 10 years that Spitzer's a liar. And one with a white-hot temper, as well.


-snip

Over the years, I had dealings with Spitzer but I was always mindful of his lack of candor.

In late 2004, as Spitzer was preparing to kick off his run for governor, I checked the old 1994 promissory note. And sure enough, the loan from Dad was reaching the end of its 10-year term, so I called to find out if he had fully repaid his father.

After anger for my questioning, at first he said he had. When I pressed for proof, he didn't have any. A few days later, hecalled to say that to take the matter off the table he just sold more than $4million in municipal bonds to fully repay his father. At tax time in 2005, just to be sure, I asked for proof of his big bond sale. An aide faxed me Spitzer's tax returns.

I didn't believe him until I was holding the proof. It was needed because his word was worthless.




Where was this skepticism back in September?

UPDATE 3:

New, March 30 article from the New York Post, with the following graphic:

D.A. 'COVER-UP': RIPPED ON SPITZER-PROBE FLIP

Flip-flopping Albany District Attorney David Soares was blasted yesterday for "a second cover-up" because his new report on the Dirty Tricks Scandal left many key questions unanswered.

Soares, whose first report on Sept. 21 falsely found that then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer wasn't part of the plot to use the State Police against Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, conceded in the second report that not only was Spitzer involved, but that the DA may have sought Spitzer's removal from office if the disgraced ex-governor hadn't resigned March 12 in the wake of a high-priced-hooker scandal.

-snip

More of that article here.

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