Embattled state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and his minions were punching back today after New York magazine published a lengthy profile in which Bruno basically says he steered union officials with business before the Legislature to a firm that hired him as a consultant. Bruno’s relationship with that firm is the focus of an active probe by the FBI. Bruno also rips Gov. Spitzer and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the quite entertaining and informative piece.
“New York magazine did a tremendous disservice to its readers and to Senator Bruno by shamefully and purposely taking out of context comments Senator Bruno made several months ago to its reporter that clearly were not intended to appear in print,” Bruno’s spokesman John McArdle told the New York Times in reaction to Geoffrey Gray’s Bruno profile.
While New York mag says it stands by the story, Bruno and his press secretary, Kris Thompson said they have audio recordings of Gray agreeing to keep certain things off the record.
The profile offers some other illuminating glimpses of Bruno, the political fighter, and Albany, the political cesspool:
Bruno on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: “The reason we have dysfunction in Albany is Speaker Shelly Silver. That’s why. He will not govern. His style is to do nothing, hold you hostage, make you grovel, then trade you for what he wants. He kills everything.”
And Shelly’s response? “Tell him that is governing.”
Here’s a great description of how Albany’s “Three Men in a Room” govern:
“Take a look around Albany. Take a look around Troy. Take a look at the airport. Do you think that airport would be there if I wasn’t the leader?” [Bruno] says. “You know how the airport got there? We’re trying to close the budget and Shelly wouldn’t close. So Pataki says, ‘What’s it take to close?’ Shelly says, ‘I need a library in Brooklyn.’ ‘How much?’ Shelly says, ‘$65 million.’ Pataki says, ‘Well, that’s all right.’ It was a $100 billion budget. So I said, ‘It’s not okay with me. I don’t have a single member in Brooklyn.’ ‘So what do you need?’ ‘I need $65 million for the airport.’ Pataki says, ‘Shelly, do you care?’ ‘No, I don’t care, as long as I get my library.’ Pataki says, ‘Good. Done.’ ”
And Bruno version of a dust-up with Gov. Spitzer (an account that a Spitzer spokeswoman disputes):
“Bruno has an arsenal of stories about what he sees as Spitzer’s looniness. His favorite is probably the one where the governor accused him of “abusing” Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith through a parliamentary maneuver. “You know,” he says he told Spitzer, “Malcolm Smith has his head so far up your ass he can’t even see straight.” Spitzer “really lost it,” Bruno recalls. “He said, ‘You have just insulted the governor of the State of New York! I’m calling the New York Times! Mr. Bruno, get out of my office!’ ”
Bruno says he just sat there for a moment, then jabbed. “I tell Malcolm every day what I just told you and he laughs like hell. Call Malcolm.”
“ ‘I’m calling the New York Times!’ ”
Bruno says he just kept hitting back. “ ‘You know what your problem is? You’re a spoiled brat, an arrogant kid that never got over the fact that when you don’t get what you want you have a tantrum.’ And you know what he does next? He runs out of his own office! I’m thinking, Jesus, where the hell is he going?” When Spitzer returned, the shouting continued. Then Spitzer left again. “Now I’m thinking, Jeez, there’s something wrong with this guy. He’s shouting, screaming until he’s purple. He’s 8 years old.” Spitzer returned for a final time. Bruno remembers his orders from Spitzer: “Get out of here!”
The profile also quotes Wayne Barrett and refers to his reporting on Bruno’s spending and fundraising habits, such as the $55,000-fundraiser at Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago estate that raised far less.