Tuesday, January 23, 2007
45 People In A Room (Updated)
I will let Liz Benjamin Capitol Confidential...give you all the juicy details of the comptroller's interviews...........andy
That’s how many heads I counted presiding over the the first state comptroller intrview (Bill Mulrow) in the LOB’s Hearing Room B this morning.
By noon, the interviewers were way behind schedule. They had only made it through two would-be comptrollers: Mulrow and David Hancox, who is the only civil servant in the mix and already works at the OSC as a tax auditor.
You can pretty much gauge which candidates the lawmakers are taking seriously by the number of them in the room at any given moment. They were all on hand for Mulrow, and almost every one of them asked a question, which is why his interview took close to 90 minutes.
There were only 23 people up front for Hancox - a fact he wryly noted before beginning his opening statement, suggesting his interview would likely go a lot faster than Mulrow’s had.
(All three members of the independent screening panel stuck around to hear what Hancox had to say).
UPDATE: Here are links to the statements (as prepared for delivery) by Andrew Eristoff and Assemblyman Alexander “Pete” Grannis, D-Manhattan.
A number of questions directed at Mulrow had to do with whether he would be able to be a truly independent auditor, given the fact that he is a Democrat, as are all the other statewide electeds, and also a friend of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
Mulrow was unabashed about his political affiliation, saying: “I will be a Democrat until the day I die, and hopefully that’s a long time from now.” But he insisted he will look at the job from a “professional standpoint,” not a political one.
Sen. James Wright, R-Watertown, noted that voters have traditionally liked to see a member of the opposite party in the comptroller’s office to establish “checks and balances.” (Former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, had Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, for example; former Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, had Ned Regan, a Republican).
“How will you ensure independence from the executive branch?” Wright asked.
Mulrow replied that this was a “fair question,” but noted:
“The voters will have an opportunity, four years from now, to pick a successor…I can only ask you to overlook my Democratic registration if that isn’t as special to you as it is to me, but I will be as independent as possible, I can guarantee you that.”
When speaking to reporters after his interview was over, Mulrow played down his connection to Spitzer, calling himself “a 50-year-old guy who only met Eliot Spitzer a few years ago,” and adding:
“I am one of many people who did vote for the governor.”
Mulrow said he has not contributed to Spitzer’s campaigns and he bristled at the characterization that the governor is his “chief political supporter.”
He said he hasn’t talked to Spitzer about selecting a new comptroller, and has spoken to people close to the governor - including his top adviser/secretary Richard Baum - only about how the process works.
As for talk that he has hired lobbyist Patricia Lynch, a former top aide to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, whose members will have the last word on who the next comptroller will be, Mulrow insisted he has “employed nobody in this process,” adding: “I am Bill Mulrow, candidate, presenting my credentials to the committee.”
Mulrow said he would resign from Citigroup, where he is the director of Global Capital Markets, which he said would end his interest in Excelsior Racing Associates - one of several firms seeking the right to run the NYRA thoroughbred tracks.
He also said he would recuse himself from anything that has to do with the awarding of this franchise (the comptroller will eventually have to approve the contract), and put all his assets in a blind trust.
A man of considerable means, Mulrow highlighted that he believes in public service and thus is willing to take a considerable pay cut to do the job he unsuccessfully sought in 2002 (he lost a primary to Alan Hevesi), although he didn’t make it sound like his wife is thrilled with the idea.
Mulrow sort of glossed over regulatory trouble Gabelli Asset Management Company (GAMCO), where he managed two public funds, has had with the SEC, which Mulrow characterized as “concerns on private investments by the chairman, Mario Gabelli, in a part of the company that he controlled.”
“Nothing to do with the public company that I worked for; nothing to do with the investment performance or what I did on a daily basis,” Mulrow added.
The Politicker has more on this, noting that Spitzer returned $24,000 worth of contributions to Gabelli last year because the firm was the subject of inquiries by his office (then the AG) and the SEC.