Bruno insists none of his consulting clients got special favors. “Guess what?” he says. “Some of the people I introduced them to lost. My biggest account invested over $120 million. They lost the whole thing. Why? Poor performance.”
It’s a curious argument. “It’s not the outcome of any outside transaction that’s the problem per se,” Haven says. “It’s the inference that doing business with Joe Bruno the consultant might help you with Joe Bruno the majority leader. It’s a variant of pay-to-play.”
When Spitzer came into office in January 2007, “most thinking people thought we were going bye-bye,” says Bruno. How could the Republicans win back any seats with their leader under investigation by the Feds for moonlighting as a consultant? Yet only one Republican senator spoke out against him. They remained loyal. Plus, many thought Spitzer was an obnoxious bully who could self-destruct. “He is our greatest ally,” Bruno says.
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!”
Spitzer’s spokeswoman, Christine Anderson, says Bruno’s recollection is “totally false, and with each retelling his story becomes more embellished.”
While there is no evidence to connect Spitzer to the FBI’s investigation, Bruno is convinced Spitzer is behind it. “Who do you think had the most to gain if I was removed or slowed down?” Bruno says. “I told the FBI: ‘I’ve got a lot of political enemies that would love to get at me, you gotta understand.’ They said, ‘We do, but we have an inquiry from someone with a lot of credibility, and we can’t ignore it.’ ”
Bruno pauses here. “Who do you think has ‘a lot of credibility’? The attorney general, maybe.”
Says Spitzer’s spokeswoman: “There is no truth to this story whatsoever.”
That’s not to say that Spitzer isn’t out to get him. “The way legislative bodies around the world have worked is that in one room you’re trying to collaborate, and in the other room you’re trying to fuck the guy,” says another source close to Spitzer. “You’re collaborating in your governmental duties, and you’re trying to fuck ’em wearing your political hat. And anyone who knows Eliot Spitzer knows he’s going to be political. So if Joe feels hoodwinked by that, he’s dumber than I think he is.”
Others have tried to save the relationship. D’Amato tried to make a powwow at his birthday party. Bloomberg tried to get them together on the golf course. Didn’t happen. “Eliot’s a tennis player,” Bloomberg notes. “Joe is not.” Bloomberg finds the deadlock nonsensical. “I’ve tried to explain it’s in both their interests that they both survive. Eliot doesn’t see it that way.”
The way Spitzer sees it, his survival rests with ousting Bruno. His destiny, even. “You’ve got a governor who came into office on the wings of angels,” says the Spitzer source. “He was the man. And his first year was defined by a scandal and an error. What he wants in years two, three, and four are results. He will not stand for this obstructionist Senate majority leader getting in the way of his results.”
When Bobbie’s condition worsened, Spitzer called. He came for the funeral. Bruno was worried that if he gave her eulogy he might cry, and how could he cry in front of all these people? But he changed his mind and did the eulogy anyway, and he was funny and sweet and he told the old stories about Glens Falls and people who were there said they laughed and cried at the same time.