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The Penitent

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Hevesi advisers like to point out that other state officials have served while under indictment—State Senator Manfred Ohrenstein served for three years after being indicted for misusing government funds (the charges were eventually dropped). Hevesi could follow suit. “If I’m indicted, I’m already smeared,” Hevesi told one aide. “I might as well fight.”

For Hevesi, more bad news is on the way. The attorney general’s office will determine the amount that Hevesi must reimburse the state. “It’ll be a big number,” says one Hevesi aide. Perhaps more than $200,000, according to one source. That, though, isn’t a lethal blow. It’s an indictment that hands Spitzer the political card he needs. Even one staunch Hevesi supporter has said, “There would be general public perception that he can’t be comptroller while under indictment.”

Publicly, Hevesi isn’t talking about an exit strategy. For the record, Hevesi says his resolve is firm. He intends, as he likes to say, to do the business he was elected to do. But even Silver is said to believe that “anybody has to be ready for a fight … until the day he resigns.”

At home in Forest Hills some evenings, before Andy and his father switch on the TV, the mood bounces up and down. Hevesi had asked the nursing home to keep the newspapers away from Carol, but it wasn’t possible to keep the scandal from her. Andy and Hevesi talk about how she feels guilty, when her mind is clear, which isn’t all the time. They talk strategy too. About how to best fight schoolyard bullies. And then occasionally, the fight seems quixotic, and less attractive. Andy senses his father’s brain turning over the possibilities. “If this goes badly and there are scenarios that aren’t good … ” Andy knows. But Andy’s the sunny one. Particularly with his dad, he does it on purpose. “There’s life after this,” Andy reminds him. “Whether in politics or not.” He’s going to have a great next couple of years. Andy ticks off opportunities. Running a company, being president of a college. “You’ve got managerial skills,” Andy says. Hevesi led a fight to recover Swiss-banking money for Holocaust victims. There might be a Jewish organization he can run.

“I can’t believe I have to be thinking about this” is Hevesi’s first gloomy reaction. “My whole life, I’ve been going in one direction,” he says. “And now I may have to change.” Hevesi loves being state comptroller, and Andy knows this new twist is difficult. His dad has been a public servant his entire professional life. He once turned down an offer to head a real-estate firm; he couldn’t see the excitement. He’s hardly poor. Between salary and pensions, he earns $300,000 a year, but Andy, for one, wouldn’t mind seeing him make some real money.

And so, as the evening wears on and Andy continues to talk about life after politics, Hevesi contemplates the possibilities. He turns analytical, which is his training, his strength. He considers other prospects, other futures. Then Hevesi tells his loving son, “You’re right. This could work out.”


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