New York: Bruno's Overreach and Collapsing Subways

by: Matt Stoller

Thu Aug 09, 2007 at 23:26


( - promoted by Matt Stoller)

What's been going on for weeks in New York state is part of the standard conservative 'kill them in the crib' strategy of destroying progressive icons and politicians.  In this case, the target is rising progressive star Eliot Spitzer.  Spitzer is considered especially dangerous to the right-wing, because he's a real populist who has taken on Wall Street in extremely high profile cases.  He was so effective that a few years ago, the corrupt US Chamber of Commerce declared a 'war on Spitzerism' to reign in state attorney general officers that sought to aggressively enforce the law against corporate elites.  The scandal that's taking place now, while ostensibly caused by Spitzer's mistakes, has more to do with these established enemies of populism combined with a peculiar set of incentives for local politicians and insider journalists in New York to pile on an anti-Spitzer frenzy.

Anyway, what happened today is that the Republicans themselves in the state Senate publicly investigated the behavior of the Spitzer administration, even though nonpartisan agencies with more credibility are already looking into what happened.  There is no reason for state Senate leader Joe Bruno to be doing this except vengeance and the desire to drag out a scandal and prevent an investigation of Bruno's own corruption, as Rochester Turning notes (though perhaps Bruno just loves the attention, having preened around on national TV for days now).

Meanwhile, New Yorkers and leaders in the state are beginning to ask the government to, well, get back to work.  Stuart Appelbaum, of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, is asking the state Senate to pass paid family leave and expand access to health care instead of engaging in these investigations.  Both policies are Spitzer priorities.  Spitzer himself is actually still governing, working to review and fix New York City's subway system that broke down simply due to thunderstorms.  As the Cunning Realist put it, the 'Bloomberg is off the rose'.  Having progressives govern makes a difference; years of Giuliani and Bloomberg in the Mayoral seat has of course led to decaying infrastructure, because cross-dressers or not, they are Republicans and Republicans cannot govern. 

Many of us have become jaded by a lack of accountability by our politicians at the top, and so the notion that 'getting something done' should take precedence over grandstanding investigations sounds like spin.  But in this case, it's not.  Every day, I get an email from Michael Caputo of NYFacts.net bashing Eliot Spitzer, and Caputo is a former aide to George H.W. Bush, well-established in right-wing orbits, and obviously directing a smear campaign. 

This is really a collection of insiders, press people, angry coddled legislators, Joe Bruno and right-wingers trying to destroy Eliot Spitzer's capacity to govern New York.  They tried it with Deval Patrick in Massachusetts and Jon Corzine in New Jersey, and they'll try it with every progressive who takes on a political machine.  In some ways, this is exactly what the right did in impeaching Bill Clinton, using Clinton's sloppiness and mistakes to try to overturn a popular electoral result.  Destroying progressives is what the right does well, and it's in fact the only thing the right does well.  This time, it's not going to work, since there are already investigations going on that are not grounded in Republican partisanship, the scandal has been on every paper in the state for weeks, and yet Spitzer is still pretty popular. 

More than that, the public is paying attention and isn't falling for it.  They are seeing, with the collapse of infrastructure in Minnesota and New York City, that people in government actually do have stuff to do.

Matt Stoller :: New York: Bruno's Overreach and Collapsing Subways

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After Pataki, Bruno, Giuliani, Bloomberg, (0.00 / 0)
it's a wonder New York State is still standing!  And, no wonder that Spitzer was elected. 

But, that Democrats allow themselves to be neutered and sidetracked by relatively irrelevant issues, and Republicans remain unhampered after looting nations and killing thousands upon thousands, boggles the mind. 


As it hapens, Mr. Spitzer can improve the maintenance at (4.00 / 1)
a key part of NYC's infrstructure right now. He can sign a bill passed by both the Democratic Assembly and the GOP Senate to pay the NYC Housing Authority for housing poor people at the same rate it pays private landlords. In NYC, NYCHA has been systematically starved of operating funds by Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Pataki and Mr. Bush. Signing this bill would begin to correct a serious underfunding problem faced by NYCHA. The Working Families Party, housing advocates, members of the assembly have all called for enactment of this legislation, yet the Governor has not yet acted. (Indeed there's a press event at City Hall on this Friday AM)

In many ways, the election of Mr. Spitzer has seemed to be part of the solution to the block on progressive political programs in Albany. We'll find out what much Mr. Spitzer intends: a veto of the bill will be a clear sign of business as usual.

Those interested in a medium-term systematic approach to funding bridge and highway maintenance might look at this Progressive States post


Huh? (0.00 / 0)

What's been going on for weeks in New York state is part of the standard conservative 'kill them in the crib' strategy of destroying progressive icons and politicians.  In this case, the target is rising progressive star Eliot Spitzer.  Spitzer is considered especially dangerous to the right-wing, because he's a real populist who has taken on Wall Street in extremely high profile cases.

What the hell are you talking about?  For starters, there IS no right wing in New York.  Just the fact that you are hyperventilating about the "right wing" is a tip-off that you don't know what's been going on in state politics for the past few years!

Please go actually read some New York bloggers on the subject instead of trying to make NY politics a bully pulpit for partisanship. (You show up at The Albany Project, but don't seem to actually read it...)


ny politics (0.00 / 0)
I do actually know the state pretty well.

[ Parent ]
Right-wing doesn't need to be based in NYS (0.00 / 0)
These groups DO work in NYS... in electoral politics, where I've spent some time. What Matt's referring to doesn't need to be specifically based in NYS. The Chamber of Commerce is a national organiation that has a stake in what kind of legislation goes down statewide, especially in New York State, where overregulation could kill a lot of their interests.  Other national anti-tax, anti-regulation groups often get involved like Nat'l Assoc. of Manufacturers. Most of these groups all have statewide chapters, and they are part of right-wing infrastructure that have vested interests in taking Spitzer and his policies down.

I was born and raised in the Buffalo suburbs and went to undergrad at U of R, volunteered on two statewides (Spitzer '02 and Clinton '00) and several county leg races. Most recently spent a week with Massa in the Southern Tier leading up to the election. I've seen my share of anti-Dem mailings and phone calls in the state from groups like those.


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[ Parent ]
Not Sure This Analysis Is Right (0.00 / 0)
Matt - There is no doubt Joe Bruno and the NY Repubs are using this to beat up Spitzer and stop his agenda.  However, as a strong Spitzer supporter, I have to say he and his aides really messed up here.  It was very naive of Spitzer's aides to think they could use the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to dig up dirt on Joe Bruno and not be discovered.  I have no problem with hardball politics but you have to be smart about it which they weren't.

I think overall this is tempest in teapot and will blow over.  People seem to be tiring of it already.  The good news for Spitzer is it happened in the summer when a lot of people are taking time off.  However, it will no doubt slow down his agenda.


Bingo. (0.00 / 0)
Excellent post, exactly right. I did a follow-up on the Daily Gotham, here, which also links to a piece we did last year about a prior attempt to swiftboat Eliot Spitzer.

All of this has happened before. Nothing new under the sun when it comes to Bruno & Co.


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