Dirty Politics in Albany

Rick Moran
As political scandals go, the matter involving two of Governor Elliot Spitzer's top aides in crafting a plan to smear state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno doesn't rate very highly on the political dirt-o-meter. No laws were apparently broken. And while one of the aides Darren Dopp, has been suspended indefinitely by the governor it is unclear at this point if anyone is actually going to lose their jobs over the scandal.

But for a man swept into the governor's office promising reform and the highest ethical standards, there is no doubt that Governor Spitzer has been royally embarassed.

The plan to smear Mr. Bruno was elegantly conceived but horribly botched in practice. Mr. Dopp and another aide Richard Baum, used the state police to investigate the travel habits of Mr. Bruno (falsely claiming to the cops that they were following up on a Freedom of Information request from an Albany newspaper) and then planted a story with the press that Bruno was under investigation for his use of helicopters for political chores.

Something didn't seem quite right to the New York Post and after a short investigation, they broke the story. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo looked into the matter and determined that nothing illegal had occurred but recommended disciplinary action against Dopp and several other aides.

Now it turns out that since the AG didn't have subpoena power to compel anyone to testify under oath, both Baum and Dopp simply gave one page statements to the AG on Sunday about their role in the affair:
According to documents and interviews, Mr. Dopp and Mr. Baum never subjected themselves to questions under oath from investigators in Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office.

Instead, on Sunday, the day before the report was released, they submitted two-paragraph statements sworn before the governor’s legal counsel that minimized their role.

On Tuesday, Mr. Spitzer again said that he had been misled by his staff and that he knew nothing about the true nature of the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno until last Thursday. The question of Mr. Spitzer’s knowledge of those efforts — which the attorney general found involved a concocted story and abuse of the State Police — hangs over the case.

Republicans in the Legislature are demanding further investigation of the matter. Though they applauded the attorney general’s efforts, they said his report left a number of questions unanswered, chiefly whether the governor and Mr. Baum had knowledge of the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno.
What did Spitzer know and when did he know it? A grand jury may be interested in that question. But even if Spitzer's protestations of innocence turn out to be true (and not many believe him at this point) the damage to his reputation as a man who was holding himself and his administration to the highest ethical standards has been severe.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky
As political scandals go, the matter involving two of Governor Elliot Spitzer's top aides in crafting a plan to smear state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno doesn't rate very highly on the political dirt-o-meter. No laws were apparently broken. And while one of the aides Darren Dopp, has been suspended indefinitely by the governor it is unclear at this point if anyone is actually going to lose their jobs over the scandal.

But for a man swept into the governor's office promising reform and the highest ethical standards, there is no doubt that Governor Spitzer has been royally embarassed.

The plan to smear Mr. Bruno was elegantly conceived but horribly botched in practice. Mr. Dopp and another aide Richard Baum, used the state police to investigate the travel habits of Mr. Bruno (falsely claiming to the cops that they were following up on a Freedom of Information request from an Albany newspaper) and then planted a story with the press that Bruno was under investigation for his use of helicopters for political chores.

Something didn't seem quite right to the New York Post and after a short investigation, they broke the story. Attorney General Andrew Cuomo looked into the matter and determined that nothing illegal had occurred but recommended disciplinary action against Dopp and several other aides.

Now it turns out that since the AG didn't have subpoena power to compel anyone to testify under oath, both Baum and Dopp simply gave one page statements to the AG on Sunday about their role in the affair:
According to documents and interviews, Mr. Dopp and Mr. Baum never subjected themselves to questions under oath from investigators in Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo’s office.

Instead, on Sunday, the day before the report was released, they submitted two-paragraph statements sworn before the governor’s legal counsel that minimized their role.

On Tuesday, Mr. Spitzer again said that he had been misled by his staff and that he knew nothing about the true nature of the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno until last Thursday. The question of Mr. Spitzer’s knowledge of those efforts — which the attorney general found involved a concocted story and abuse of the State Police — hangs over the case.

Republicans in the Legislature are demanding further investigation of the matter. Though they applauded the attorney general’s efforts, they said his report left a number of questions unanswered, chiefly whether the governor and Mr. Baum had knowledge of the effort to discredit Mr. Bruno.
What did Spitzer know and when did he know it? A grand jury may be interested in that question. But even if Spitzer's protestations of innocence turn out to be true (and not many believe him at this point) the damage to his reputation as a man who was holding himself and his administration to the highest ethical standards has been severe.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky