David Paterson and Kirsten Gillibrand: New Senator, New Scandal

The Governor's pick is genuine machine-made royalty

At her introduction by the governor on Friday, Gillibrand praised her grandmother as her inspiration. But her first real lessons came as a summer intern in D'Amato's old Senate office, where, for a dozen years, he ran the finest school in tiptoeing around prosecutors and scandal. D'Amato shamelessly stood front and center at Paterson's press conference. The governor had no problem with this. Before the session started, an aide was overheard saying they needed to get Malcolm Smith, the Democrats' new Senate majority leader, into the camera frame. But no one dared dislodge D'Amato, who recently threw a fundraiser for Paterson so that his own lobbying clients could show the accidental governor their love.

Midway through the 90-minute event, BlackBerrys buzzed with news that Joe Bruno, Smith's Republican predecessor as Senate leader, had been indicted on federal charges. For years, Bruno ruled as one of the state's most powerful figures, all the while keeping his business affairs as murky as possible, including the real estate deal he held with Gillibrand's father. The indictments charge Bruno with secretly pocketing $3.2 million from clients seeking his legislative favor.

Bruno quickly rushed before the cameras to thunder that he'd broken no law. Everything was by the book, he said. He didn't bother denying the secret fortune he'd amassed from those who hired him. The clearest thought on this dismal affair came later that afternoon from Susan Lerner, exasperated leader of the good government group Common Cause. "The only meaningful ethics and corruption oversight in New York State," she said, "is being carried out by federal agents and United States Attorneys."

Soul of an old machine: Gillibrand, with accidental governor Paterson
UPI Photo/John Angelillo/Newscom
Soul of an old machine: Gillibrand, with accidental governor Paterson

Even for Albany, it was a stunning day. Enough misbehavior was packed into a single 24-hour time frame to provide Albany's great author, William (no relation) Kennedy, with the stuff of an entire book. In Roscoe, his novel based on Corning and his henchmen, Kennedy offered this musing from a rascal lucky enough to win state political office: "This is a great job for a man with misguided ambition." It could be the motto over the Capitol steps.


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