Barrett: My Favorite Nugget from Last Night's Debate
My favorite nugget from last night's mayoral debate was Mike Bloomberg's smug smile as he pronounced Joe Bruno a better majority leader of the state senate than Pedro Espada. Democrat Bill Thompson had already picked the-sometime Democrat Espada as the better of the two.
By 3:12 a.m., the Post called it Thompson's "worst moment," describing Bruno as "the steady Republican" without mentioning his current eight-count felony indictment. Espada was acquitted the only time he's been charged with a crime. He is no doubt the rankest form of small-time hustler; Bruno, on the other hand, helped criminalize Albany.
Apparently, the mayor didn't once feel so appalled by Pedro...
The logs of Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey, Bloomberg's top political aide, reveal that Espada came to Gracie Mansion on November 12, 2008, shortly after he was elected to the senate. First, he is listed as meeting in the parlor with Sheekey and Michelle Goldstein, who runs the city's lobbying office in Albany. Then, from 5 to 5:30, the entry says: "mrb and senator elect pedro espada (gracie)."
Espada and Dan Squadron were the only two state senators who appeared in Sheekey's logs after the election, which, of course, delivered the majority to the Democrats for the first time in decades. The mayor endorsed Squadron, so Sheekey's November 21 meeting with him is easily understood (no mrb entry). The out-of-the-way-of-the-media Gracie meeting with Espada suggests quite a different agenda, especially considering the mayor's pivotal support role with GOP senate leaders.
It's a touch ironic, now that the Post and the mayor have endorsed Joe Bruno again, that the Albany Times Union reports today that his defense lawyers are fighting in pre-trial motions to prevent the government from detailing the criminal histories of five witnesses they are calling. The witnesses either made payments to Bruno's private consulting firm or invested union pension funds in companies for whom Bruno secretly worked and are all either in prison or facing bribery and racketeering charges. Not even Pedro can boast of hanging out with such a group of skells.
Bloomberg got most heated last night over the $650,000 in campaign contributions that Thompson has taken from people doing business with his office, accusing Thompson, as he does in his commercials, of selling his office. Turnstile Bruno would have considered $650,000 a bad night. In fact, the irony is that no one proves better than Bloomberg himself that the only way anyone could get the attention of the longtime GOP senate leader was to wave a large donation in his face. Mike became the senate majority's largest single donor, shipping millions of his own dollars to Bruno just to get him to do the right thing by the city.
It's almost as bizarre as the endorsement press conference Bloomberg held recently with Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. It was the first time the mayor ever said what his mailers and TV had been saying for weeks -- that he was "somewhat disturbed" that Thompson was "taking campaign donations from people who do business with the city." Standing next to him as he accused Thompson of taking legal but possibly unethical contributions was Markowitz, who pled guilty in the 80s to taking illegal ones. A few days later, the New York City Campaign Finance Board released a list of donations from people doing business with the city and the borough president who took the most was Markowitz, even though he has virtually no opponent.