Pataki's Post-Election Payday

Governor Cashes in Himself, and Hands Us Big Overdue Bill

The governor's interest in the Essex farm came after Florida officials did an April tour of the citrus grove and neighboring wetlands, agreeing to move first on the wetland acquisition, but making that purchase contingent on getting the Pataki parcel as well. Essex town supervisor Jackson said he understands that "it will be next year before the actual closing takes place," precisely when the Florida deal is expected to conclude. Richard Hayden, who brought Libby Pataki into the deal, also employs her as a consultant to a medical technology company he's started in New York, paying her $285,000 since November 1998.

Pataki has not just been busy personally since Election Day. Though he repeatedly claimed that the budget for the current fiscal year, ending in March, was balanced, the administration announced on November 21 that it was implementing immediate 5 percent cuts across the board in state agencies. The MTA board—whose majority is appointed by the governor—announced subway, suburban train, and toll increases, though Pataki the candidate was insisting just a few weeks ago that he hoped they could be averted.

The Pataki family triples its investment in a Florida citrus grove and moves to buy an upstate dairy farm.
photo: Holly Northrop
The Pataki family triples its investment in a Florida citrus grove and moves to buy an upstate dairy farm.

With the governor offering little hope of state assistance, or authorization to tax commuters, the Bloomberg administration and the City Council just adopted the largest property tax boost in modern history, precisely what Pataki's opponents, Carl McCall and Tom Golisano, were saying was the consequence of his state fiscal practices.

Upstate in Binghamton, the governor announced with great fanfare back in July that he had managed to save the jobs of 2000 IBM workers by inducing Endicott Interconnect Technologies to buy a plant IBM was closing. The state threw at least $5 million in grants into the pot to facilitate the deal. But on November 14—a week after the election and two weeks after the takeover was completed—200 workers were immediately laid off, mostly in management and engineering. The Binghamton Press & Sun concluded that "the decision to eliminate these jobs wasn't made since operations began" and asked, "Why the charade?" The answer, it said, is obvious: "Politics. The company leaders obviously didn't want to give Governor George E. Pataki a black eye before the election."

It's not just the governor who perpetrated one election-year deception after another, concealing even his personal business transactions. The New York Times stockpiled its extraordinary exposé about the state's dumping of mentally ill patients in outrageous out-of-state facilities until after the governor it endorsed was re-elected, almost as disturbing a scandal as the one it unveiled. The Bush administration waited to savage our forests and our air—in two separate orders—until it got its Senate majority. It's one thing for politicians to play games with the faint memories of voters, it's another for the media to do so. Both now schedule what voters are allowed to know around electoral exigencies, not democratic demands.

Research assistance: Sandy Amos, Yi Chen, Will St. John, Clementine Wallace

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