Friday, July 06, 2007

Spitzer, Bruno well past settling differences



This is what an all-out war looks like at the state Capitol.Democratic Gov. Eliot Spitzer's continued offensive against Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno has intensified past the point where a truce or a handshake could restore the usual ways of doing business.Spitzer's aides say they were asked by state police about a request from Bruno to use a state helicopter for trips to New York City - and that they replied that the troopers should do so, but log their travels.Such records are not generated for other state officials - such as, say, the governor. From what we can tell so far, Bruno used the resources to attend a couple of big GOP fundraisers in the city, and mixed the trips with what was arguably legislative business.Then came the fireworks.After the contents of the records were published by the Times Union in Albany, the governor's office sent documents to the attorney general and the local district attorney to investigate Bruno's use of these resources. This raised the ghost of last year's take-down of Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who was prosecuted and forced to resign for misusing state cars and staff.Now Spitzer's antagonists are arming and firing back. The governor took the aircraft on a trip to Monroe County, where he addressed a Democratic fundraiser, they said, and his lieutenant governor, David Paterson, was taken to Washington, where he met with party chief Howard Dean.In the GOP counter-narrative, Spitzer performed dirty tricks against a partisan foe."I was stunned to learn that Governor Spitzer is using the fine men and women of the New York State Police to conduct surveillance on me," Bruno declared. "This type of dangerous abuse of power is despicable, possibly illegal and undermines our democratic form of government."Spitzer spokesman Darren Dopp disputes the claim of "surveillance" - insisting that state troopers merely logged where they went and when.But from the start of his tenure, Spitzer, 48, has given every impression of seeking to take down the 78-year-old Bruno - with a kind of pugnaciousness that Albany veterans say they have never seen before. The governor's actions carry a risk, too: that voters will decide the Senate should stay Republican, if only to check his powerful ambitions.Stridency has long been a Spitzer trademark. As state attorney general, he caused shock waves only a few years back by charging with wrongdoing such powerful, wealthy men as Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, legendary chief of the insurance firm American International Group Inc., and Richard Grasso, head of the New York Stock Exchange.Shortly after becoming governor, Spitzer tweaked the accepted turf divisions by campaigning for Craig Johnson (D-Port Washington) in what had been a Republican Senate seat, reducing Bruno's thin majority. He slammed Bruno's (ultimately successful) effort to restore billions in state health funding in the state budget as a reckless bid to serve special interests. Spitzer condemned GOP senators for defying his campaign finance proposals.On one of his trips to New York, Bruno met with business leaders at the firm C.V. Starr & Co. - which Greenberg has run since being forced to retire from AIG in 2005.Neither man's spokesman would say yesterday whether Greenberg and Bruno met - or whether their common pursuer, Spitzer, was discussed.But one can guess

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