Friday, June 27, 2008

Bruno's legacy not a good one

From the 30 June 2008 Greater Niagara Newspapers

By Bob Confer

Eliot Spitzer was stupid enough to get involved with a prostitute and dumb enough to get caught. But, even so, one cannot deny that he is still a man possessed of great intellect. As our Attorney General he accomplished a great deal in his efforts to squash corruption. Before the tables turned he attempted the same in Albany, using all resources at his disposal (such as the New York State police) to bring down Senator Joe Bruno, a man he knew wasn’t on the up-and-up.

It didn’t work. The only man capable of taking Joe Bruno out of office was….Joe Bruno.

Last week, supposedly on his own terms (sans FBI pressure?), Bruno, one of the Three Men in a Room, finally left the room. The man who spent 32 years in the State Capitol announced that he would not seek re-election in November and was stepping down from his leadership post.

As it tends to happen with any retirement, accolades have been pouring in from friends and foes alike. Are their memories really that short? For the past 13 years as leader of the Senate he has been one of the three primary caretakers of the State and under his watch it – and, as matter of fact, he – has suffered.

Since everything that happens in Albany must go through Joe Bruno’s office, it can be said that he had direct control over state spending and even local spending (unfunded mandates) and, therefore, the health of our economy. Every state budget of the last 13 years was significantly larger than that of the previous year. When this is looked at in total, it’s almost unbelievable. Back In 1995 when Bruno took the throne, state spending was “only” $61.9 billion. In the current fiscal year state spending will exceed $121 billion. So, state spending nearly doubled while Bruno led the Senate!

Because of the debilitating taxation necessary to fund such spending, businesses have left in droves, taking our residents with them. In 1998 NYS was the fifth most-expensive state in which to do business, in 2007 we ranked second. In the 90’s, the net migration for New York was a loss of 1.9 million residents. It has been no better since the turn of the century: Two years ago, in just one year alone, we lost 124,000 New Yorkers.

Bruno and his Senate brethren have always placed the blame for these trends on the shoulders of the “liberal assembly.” That excuse exemplifies Bruno’s complete lack of responsibility and meaningful leadership because no bill, no budget can be passed without the support of both houses. And, don’t forget that up until 2006 Bruno always had a Republican governor as the third wheel. The demise of New York is a result of the collective efforts of Spitzer, Silver, Pataki and Bruno. He’s as guilty as the others and so are all of the Senators who obeyed his every order.

Bruno’s guilt extends beyond the halls of the Capitol. He has been under investigation by the FBI for over three years, the feds very critical of his moonlighting as a representative of Wright Investor Services, a company that controls pension funds for countless government workers employed in NY. The investigation into this conflict of interest and the expected outcome no doubt forced his unexpected retirement, even though he says it had nothing to do with it. That’s hard to believe when on the very day that he announced his desire to ride off into the sunset the FBI took 30 boxes of materials from his office.

To top it off, his sudden departure was a slap in the face to the Republican Party that supported him through the decades. This is the GOP’s most important election year in memory, they holding a very slim 32-30 advantage over the Democrats in the Senate. It has been said for months now that they might lose that edge come November and, thusly, control of the house that they’ve held since 1965. Bruno’s exit makes that almost certain as the party must scramble to address not only leadership issues but filling his Senate seat as well.

So, this is the legacy that Joe Bruno leaves, one that smacks of failure and corruption. It’s almost fitting that he chose to leave in 2008, a year fraught with controversy so intense that when historians look back on this era they will remember the man who tried to ruin him (Spitzer) and not the man who did (Bruno).

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