David Paterson Takedown By the Times Getting More Disappointing By the Minute

Is he toast or not? The suspense is killing us!
Is he toast or not? The suspense is killing us!

All the news unfit to print out of Albany today is about David Paterson, supposedly the target of a Timesbomb about to drop. One wag up there told me that if there was a Pulitzer for buzz, the Times has already won it -- and we're only a month into the year.

The scuttlebutt suggests a very un-Timesian probe of Paterson's pulsating personal life.

The danger for the Times -- which supposedly has exclusive access to the ex-girlfriend of David "DJ" Johnson, Paterson's constant companion -- is that it will be delayed so long it gets scooped. Paterson has already gone public on himself once, revealing a cocaine and philandering past, and won acclaim for it. Another confession could be just what the pollster ordered.

Others say that the Times piece is rooted in documents, including his campaign committee's finance reports, which are allegedly rife with subsidies for every personal excess. That's a way of life in the capitol. Heck, Joe Bruno's committee paid for pool equipment at his house outside Albany because, he claimed, he held campaign meetings with his legs dangling in the chlorine. That didn't even make the laundry list of abuses at his recent federal trial. There are restaurants in Albany that won't let you eat unless you can bill it to a campaign committee.

Of course, it requires no new grand revelation to understand why Paterson should resign, which is what is being bandied about in these frantic, pre-publication, moments. Just the story of the Aqueduct contract is enough. The prize is one of the biggest contracts in state history, involving video lottery slots at the racetrack.

Paterson put the fix in for a guy he met with a couple of days later, seeking an endorsement, then lied about it so many times and in so many different ways he sounded like he was circling the track. The same day he discussed an endorsement with the vendor he vetoed an ethics bill because he was too pure to sign it. Can the Times scoop top that?

With all the focus on Paterson, Andrew Cuomo is getting almost no attention. He deserves some.

Paterson's ethics veto is supposed to be up for an override vote. But the Senate Republicans have apparently decided not to override, leading to the very real possibility that the state will get no ethics reform, even at a moment when the trial of their recent leader Bruno has laid the capitol cesspool bare. Cuomo has sat this one out, though this is precisely the kind of issue an attorney general should speak out on, and one that his predecessors did speak out about when their soap boxes were not nearly as attention-grabbing as his is now.

A Cuomo spokesman told me that he "thinks that the current leadership is in an unfortunate position," meaning, presumably, that Democratic Senate Chairman John Sampson and Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver were forced, for some unstated reason, to go for a bill that is a very limited reform. But that the bill they passed (and Paterson vetoed) "is far from perfect," but "a step in the right direction." The spokesman said that, as far as Cuomo is concerned, "it is unacceptable to have made no progress this year."

I cited part of this quote in an op-ed I wrote for the Daily News on Sunday, but his is in full context here. What's strange about this statement is that it is literally the first and only statement Cuomo has made on this subject. It took me a week of asking to get it. Cuomo could affect this dynamic; he is the state's most powerful Democrat a year before he officially dons the title.

Why did he say something when it might be too late to matter? And why, even now, isn't he shouting it from the podium?


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