Trying to shift focus from a scandal gripping the state capital, Governor Eliot Spitzer was in Buffalo Tuesday to spotlight economic development. But, as NY1’s Josh Robin explains in the following repot, controversy is following the governor — and could be for weeks to come.
Eliot Spitzer came to blighted Buffalo hoping to talk about its problems, but the governor, instead, found himself fielding questions about troubles in his office.
Amid a scandal rocking Albany, the famously aggressive governor is playing defense. He insists he did not help drum up dirt on his political adversary, State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, before planting it in the newspaper.
"We are ready to stand for integrity in government,” said the governor.
The Democrat's aides did track down information to try to smear Bruno, according to a damning report by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The attorney general found the aides used the state police — including the acting superintendent — to depart from normal protocol by culling travel details about the Republican Senate majority leader.
It was under the pretense that a reporter was asking for it, when in fact no reporter had.
"Let me make it very clear, I did not, would not tolerate that activity,” said Spitzer. “I’m sure we have a close-knit office, I hope everybody works in a close-knit office, but trust me the one thing I do not track or worry about is what stories are being created, generate, in what requested have or have not come in. I’m running a state government of 190,000 people, a budget of $125 billion; we work on doing the people’s business.”
Monday, Spitzer suspended his longtime communications director, Darren Dopp, and reassigned another high-level aide involved in the plot. Republicans think others in the administration might have been involved — maybe the governor himself.
Focus is also shifting to Rich Baum, the secretary to the governor and a longtime aide. Baum received emails from Dopp outlining a strategy of how to tarnish Bruno.
Also potentially damaging, neither Dopp nor Baum accepted Cuomo's request for them to be interviewed, as others did. Instead, they offered statements of two paragraphs each notarized by David Nocenti, Spitzer's counsel.
Dopp says he regrets "any appearance of impropriety" in the scandal, while Baum denies directing the state police to maintain records on Bruno.
There is widespread expectation the State Senate will hold hearings into the controversy. Bruno put out a statement Tuesday saying as much.
"It is imperative that we move forward so that we can address the people's business," said Spitzer in a statement. “However, in order to do so, the air must be cleared and answers must be obtained to the serious questions raised by this still unfolding situation."
The State Legislature returns Thursday for a special session. It was supposed to be a vote on a commission to study congestion pricing in New York City. But the scandal just got bumped to the top of the agenda. Republican officials say they will also be meeting privately to strategize.
Plot To Discredit Bruno Emboldens State Republicans
Spitzer Disciplines Senior Aides For Plot To Discrdit Bruno