Friday, January 23, 2009

Former NYS Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno is indicted


Joe Bruno (right) and his lawyer, William Dreyer, enter the federal courthouse in Albany, where Bruno was indicted today on eight counts.

by Ken

Ooh, that Rod Blagojevich! Here we New Yorkers are, thinking that when it comes to the most dysfunctional state government in an actual functioning U.S. state, we're sitting pretty. Now, thanks to that damned Governor Blago, we have to scramble.

Okay, take this, Illinois! It was hardly unexpected, but today former State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno was indicted on eight counts of corrupt dealings. Here's how the Albany Times Union's online report starts:
Bruno indicted
Grand jurors accuse Bruno of trading power for money

Last updated: 2:56 p.m., Friday, January 23, 2009

ALBANY -- A federal grand jury today indicted former state Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno on felony charges alleging he used his position to extract $3.2 million in private consulting fees from clients who sought to purchase his influence.

An 8-count indictment handed up today charges the 79-year-old Republican with corruption charges that carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Bruno pleaded not guilty at his arraignment in U.S. District Court in Albany and was released without bail.

In a 35-page indictment filed at noon, grand jurors asked Bruno to forfeit much of his fortune and assets for his alleged crimes.

Bruno, who reigned for years as one of the most powerful lawmakers in New York, is charged with using his office to deprive the public of the honest services of government.

The indictment marks the culmination of a three-year FBI investigation into the shadowy public and private dealings of the Brunswick politician who rose through the ranks of state government and became arguably the Capital Region's most iconic political leader.

Bruno retired from his state Senate seat in July after 32 years in legislative service. He is now a lobbyist, chief executive of friend Kay Stafford's Latham company, CMA Consulting.

The indictment lays out Bruno's alleged deceptions, such as not disclosing his dealings to ethics authorities. It describes "schemes" involving use of his public office to do business with labor unions, who he steered to Wright Investors Service, a Connecticut firm that paid him nearly $1.4 million from 1994 to 2006, and McGinn, Smith & Co., an Albany investment firm that paid Bruno $632,116 from 1993 to 2005. The firms ended up receiving investment advisory fees or brokerage fees paid by the union benefit funds.

Etc. etc. etc.

On New York political matters I turn to The Albany Project. Here's what Phillip Anderson has had to say so far:
Reading The Bruno Indictment

I'm reading through the indictment filed by the feds against Joe Bruno. It's 35 pages long and describes corruption going back to 1993 - before he even became Majority Leader. All the familiar names are there -- Abbruzzese, McGinn, Wright Investor's Service as well as most of the major unions in the state. The indictment seems to be pretty exhaustive and the numbers cited are simply enormous. Let's just say that it's easy to understand why Uncle Joe was so adamant about not releasing a list of his sham "consulting" firm's clients. These entities were paying him fabulous sums of money and he was going to great lengths to hide these payments, all described in detail in the indictment itself.

It's interesting reading, to say the least. I've uploaded the PDF here, so you can take a look as well.

Happy hunting.

Of course Bruno hasn't been tried yet, but we're looking at a pretty damning indictment. I guess I won't be surprised if it turns out that he was indeed a crook, but I have to say -- and I know this is going to sound preposterous, even embarrassing -- I have kind of a soft spot for the guy.

Maybe it has something to do with the bozos I mentally bracket him with. Like when I think of NYS Senate majority leaders, I think of the great Earl Brydges (1966-72, succeeding the last Democratic majority leader, Sen. Joseph Zaretzki, whose entire tenure was limited to part of 1965, as I wrote about here awhile ago), Warren Anderson (1973-88 -- and weren't those 16 years chock full of fun and good government?), and Ralph Marino (1989-94). Wow, what a bunch! Maybe I'm the only one who thought so, but Bruno actually seemed to evolve in office, and to sort of sometimes think about issues, and even grow with regard to some.

Plus, during the years when Senator Bruno, Republican Gov. George Pataki, and Democratic Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver were the famous "three men in a room" who basically were the state government, it was hard not to feel that Bruno was the most reasonable and reachable. Again, I'm speaking comparatively, but still.

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