By Anna Merlan
By Albert Samaha
By Tessa Stuart
By Anna Merlan
By Roy Edroso
By Carolyn Hughes
By Chuck Strouse
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7. Spitzer isn't transcending personal and political ties in the war on Hevesi; he's bowing to them. He's actually closer to the commission majority that ruled against Hevesi than he is to the comptroller. That's one reason he's so enthusiastically embraced its findings.
Carl Loewenson, who was Spitzer's sole appointee on the commission, was the fourth vote for the report and the only one not handpicked by Pataki (Hevesi's appointee didn't vote). Shechtman, who worked with Spitzer for years in the Manhattan district attorney's office, and Loewenson recused themselves in August when the commission voted on the propriety of Spitzer's service on the board of a family trust overseen by the attorney general's office. Shechtman, who didn't vote because of his close ties to Spitzer, has told people that he declined Pataki's offer to reappoint him to another term at the commission in deference to Spitzer. Sources say that Loewenson, who used to be a prosecutor under Rudy Giuliani, and Shechtman were the leading voices within the commission pushing for Hevesi's head.
Tom Suozzi, the Democrat running against Spitzer who filed the unsuccessful complaint against him, criticized Robert Giuffra for voting to clear Spitzer. Suozzi said Giuffra went to Princeton with Spitzer, lived two floors below him in a building owned by Spitzer's father, and gave $1,500 to his campaign. A commission spokesman responded that Giuffra had disclosed these ties to the commission and that the five "agreed unanimously" that he didn't have to abstain. That meant Shechtman and Loewenson participated in the decision to allow Giuffra to cast the decisive third vote needed for a commission majority, a cozy contradiction suggesting just how Spitzer-friendly the commission is. Indeed, the Spitzer assistant who submitted the trust issue to the commission for quick resolution was Richard Rifkin, the commission's former executive director who left to become a top Spitzer deputy.
Hevesi is the only elected official and, by far, the most prominent state official of any type ever nailed by the commission. It took no action when Pataki's parole board chair was named an unindicted co-conspirator by a federal judge, or when a top state police official took the Fifth Amendment in the parole-selling probe, or when prosecutors announced that their probe of Pataki's scandal-scarred economic czar fell short of criminal charges.
As disturbed as the commission was by Hevesi's self-serving use of state resources, it also did nothing about the $800,000 in architectural contracts awarded to Pataki's in-law and next-door neighbor, which investigators said were a result of "favoritism." Neither did it act on Pataki's failure to disclose in commission filings the costly maid and schlepping services the state GOP was providing his family, or the hiring of the maid's son in a state job, or even the various, sometimes state-connected, consulting sine-cures secured for the governor's wife.
8. Singling out Hevesi on the basis of commonplace car abuse would be a hypocritical high. Senate Majority Leader Bruno, for example, has been ducking and weaving every time his own family's usage of state drivers or cars has come up. Of course, much of the family might belong in state cars because, at one point, four of them were on the state payroll.
His brother Robert quit his $127,500-a-year state drug job when it was revealed that he paid $54,400 to rent office space near his home from the local Republican chairman, and tried to spend $245,000 to fix up a treatment center owned by his next-door neighbor and aide. Bruno's son Ken was, until recently, making $50,000 a month to lobby the senator's aides and colleagues, claiming he never directly lobbied his own dad. Miraculously, the senator wound up again and again agreeing with his son's clients, opposing the West Side stadium, for example, precisely what Ken's Madison Square Garden craved.
When Bruno's 20-year-old granddaughter ran off this August with a man she met through the Internet, he thanked "the quick action of the state police" for finding her in Times Square, attributing her disappearance to anorexia. The state police don't ordinarily lead missing-person searches in midtown, but the illnesses of the family members of some state officials are apparently more equal than those of others. Bruno, who may soon be rounding up the Hevesi votes from other senators whose families have taken a spin or two with state drivers, has done extended interviews denouncing the comptroller's conduct, unrestrained by the fact that he has yet to hear the trial evidence against him.
As justified as Bruno understandably believes the police assistance provided his sick granddaughter was, he's apparently unmoved by Mrs. Hevesi's spinal crack, three back surgeries, open-heart surgery, hiatal hernia, gallbladder surgery, and months in a psychiatric hospital, or by what her husband has described as "the constant fear" he and his children have experienced rushing to the hospital "dozens and dozens of times" because of emergencies involving her.
But the double standard set by any Hevesi removal attempt extends far beyond Bruno and the senate. Spitzer's replacement as attorney general, Andrew Cuomo, who pointedly never endorsed Hevesi, doesn't like to talk about the 29 flights his mother took in a single year on the state helicopters and the plane dubbed "Air Cuomo." Even after it was exposed in his father's final campaign in July 1994, it took Mario Cuomo another year to repay the state $29,000, and the flights went back as far as Hevesi's delayed driver reimbursements. As often as Pataki railed against the flights when he beat Cuomo, he wound up with a more expensive and widely exploited fleet. In Andrew Cuomo's final year as housing secretary in Washington, 25 of his 46 official trips were to New York, where he was already plotting a gubernatorial campaign.