• More than a week after the Deutsch Bank blaze killed two firefighters, three FDNY honchos have been reassigned for failing to regularly inspect the building or come up with a plan to fight a fire there. [NYT]
Once upon a time, Charlie Rangel was the kind of entrenched political boss reformer Eliot Spitzer was trying to remove from the conversation. And once upon a time, Spitzer was the kind of steamrolling, prosecutorial, holier-than-thou Ivy Leaguer Rangel snidely termed "the smartest man in the world." Spitzer ditched Rangel's lieutenant-governor suggestion at last minute; Rangel dubbed Spitzer's plan to reduce health-care costs "disastrous." Now the two are about to step into a joint press conference to present a plan to protect health care for children. Strange bedfellows, indeed. What gives? According to a source close to Spitzer, making nice with Rangel is part of the embattled governor's plan to reach out to old foes and shore up his political backing. "The governor is now looking to places where he never used to for support," the source says. And Rangel sees Spitzer's problems as presenting an opportunity to get a deal he likes, a source close to Rangel says. "The governor is certainly in need of some friends right now," the source says. In exchange for political cover, Rangel is looking to pick up "chits," the Rangel source says. "There are a lot of projects in New York that Charlie cares about, and I'm sure the governor is taking that into account." —Geoffrey Gray
• One actual result of Troopergate (Brunogate? Spitzergate?): The State Ethics Commission passed a new rule preventing officials from using state aircraft unless the primary purpose of their trip is state business and requiring reimbursement for those parts that are not. [NYT]
And so it has finally happened: The U.S. Department of Transportation just announced it will give New York City a $354 million grant to implement a congestion-pricing system in the city. It's not quite the $500 million Mayor Bloomberg and Dan Doctoroff told everyone the city stood to receive, but it's a whole lot more than nothing, too. It's a big win for the mayor, except for one thing. The Feds will only pay out on that grant if the state legislature signs off by March of next year — which means that seventeen-member commission formed just after the (alleged) application deadline pass a plan before then, and the city council, too, must agree to it. Shelly Silver, we think, is going to have a whole lot more fun.
U.S. Offers New York Millions for Congestion Pricing [City Room/NYT]
Earlier:Daily Intel's coverage of congestion pricing
Embroiled in a dogfight with Joe Bruno over what he knew and when he knew it, Governor Spitzer is ramping up his press offensive in Albany, hoping to turn the tide on a story that hasn't looked good and won't seem to end. Late last week, the State Democratic Party hired the PR firm that successfully fought to block the Starrett City sale earlier this year to handle Spitzer's wartime press against Bruno and his fellow Republicans in the State Senate. Jonathan Rosen, a principal of the firm, BerlinRosen, says he spoke with Spitzer chief of staff Richard Baum several times last week before accepting the gig. Now, though, he's raring to go. "The Senate investigative hearings are like the legislative equivalent of O.J. Simpson's hunt for the real killer," he told us, taking his new talking points out for a spin. "They're over the top, they're overplaying their hand badly, and it's going to backfire." His new client is sure hoping so. —Geoffrey Gray
• Andrew Cuomo, getting a feel for this whole crusading-A.G. thing, is asking the legislature to grant his office broad jurisdiction and subpoena powers. Our new awesome conspiracy theory: He gets the state GOP to empower him by promising them Spitzer's head — and then subpoenas Bruno! [NYS]
• Juror Bloomberg is back at his day job — and he's brokered a deal with Albany that will require more developers in more neighborhoods to include low-income housing in their projects. Spitzer's likely to sign. [NYT]
Let's check up on the first crop of heads to have rolled out of Albany in the Spitzer scandal! When the news of the administration's vendetta against Joe Bruno broke, Spitzer quickly got rid of communications director Darren Dopp and state-police liaison William Howard, suspending Dopp and saying Howard would be "reassigned to a position outside of the governor's office." We'll take the second one first. Has Howard been reassigned? Well, yes, sort of. Turns out Howard was technically "on loan" to the administration to begin with. Today's Sun finds him comfortably spinning his wheels back at SUNY, where he enjoys a $175,900 salary as the director of something called the Center of Homeland Security Research, Training and Education. But things look bleaker for Dopp, who had no such sinecure to fall back on and has now retained a prominent lawyer. The Times, which is sympathetic to the ex-reporter and all but called him a fall guy in a recent profile, hands today's lede to Dopp's lawyer for a few choice words about Cuomo. The Post, however, begs to differ. The headline there is "Disgraced Spitzer Crony Lawyers Up." Odd: One would think the "Dopp wuz framed" narrative would appeal to them even more.
Albany Poser: What Happened to Howard? [NYS]
Suspended Spitzer Assistant Is Blameless, His Lawyer Says [NYT]
Disgraced Spitzer Crony Lawyers Up [NYP]
• The Albany County D.A., P. David Soares, announced yesterday that he will review Cuomo's findings regarding use of state police by the governor's office. Spitzer, sounding more Zen by the minute: "I welcome it, I accept it." [amNY]
Today's Times presents the worst-case scenario for our troubled governor: multiple, separate, concurrent, resource-draining, agenda-stalling investigations. After Attorney General Andrew Cuomo lit the fuse last week, who else may step up to take a crack at Spitzer — for what we must remind you, perhaps a bit defensively, was not a crime, not even a misdemeanor, but simply a kind of unpunishable unpleasantness — and how?
The loop in which our governor found himself last week — caught out for unethical behavior in the name of restoring ethics — refuses to unfasten. From the Post today comes the word that Spitzer has been cleverly silencing his aides by designating them "special counsels," which means their communications are now privileged. (While his previous maneuvering smacked of Nixon, this one scans positively Clintonian.) And the state hasn't even really leaned into the guy yet: Today's Sun reports that the Inspector General's office has yet to use its subpoena power on the administration. Meantime, while the guv took to the Times op-ed page yesterday to apologize (so that's why he was accidentally dialing up Gail Collins), Shelly Silver has managed to recast himself as a kind but stern paternal figure. First the Assembly speaker defended Spitzer from angry journalists ("let's not get sidetracked by what is becoming a sideshow"); now he's dispensing tough-love advice through the Daily News. "It has been too much of a battle," Shelly complained to the tabloid before adding: "He'll be a better governor." Little Eliot, one hopes, has learned his lesson — which, judging from the congestion-pricing debacle and now this, is to remember who's his daddy.
It's Time To Stop Fighting With All Guns Blazing, Eliot [NYDN]
Inspector General Failed to Use Subpoena Power in Spitzer Probe [NYS]
• While A.G. Andrew Cuomo was investigating him, Eliot Spitzer gagged two aides by quickly designating them "special counsels" — which bestowed lawyer-client privilege on their internal chats. Clever, and ever so slightly nauseating. [NYP]
This Spitzer mess is making at least one group of people — well, another group of people, after State Senate Republicans — very happy. Financiers are predictably cackling, especially those who have gone through what a lawyer for tycoon Richard Strong calls "the Eliot process." (As A.G., Spitzer made Strong fork over $60 million and accept a lifetime ban from Wall Street for improper trading.) It's a testament to the lasting effects of the process, however, that the Times fails to get any of the big fish to slander the guv on or even off the record. Instead, we get "a senior banker" quipping that "it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy" and "an executive" intoning "what goes around comes around." Bo-ring! We want more color: Hank Greenberg yelling "Who's the fraud now?!" or Dick Grasso doing a little revenge dance. Of course, as a reader of The Wall Street Journal's Law Blog — which coins the term "Spitzerfreude" — sagely notes, "This relatively small scandal certainly doesn't mean that Grasso and Greenberg are not thieves." True, that.
Spitzer’s Woes Are Enjoyed on Wall Street [NYT]
Spitzer Schadenfreude [Law Blog/WSJ]
• The newest chapter in the fast-developing Spitzer scandal: The State Ethics Commission, which definitely has subpoena power, has joined the State Senate in requesting the documents from the Bruno investigation. Not looking good. [amNY]
The latest news from Albany finds the principals in the Spitzer-Bruno-Cuomo battle defining and refining their positions. Last night, the governor finally abandoned what New York's Steve Fishman called his "silly business-as-usual tactic" and deigned to hand-feed his side of the story to the Daily News. New York's Hometown Paper reports today that Joe Bruno's constant requests to use state aircraft were well known in Albany even before Day One; they became "almost a punch line" after Spitzer inauguration, when, the governor says, people would "just roll their eyes." Still, Spitzer didn't know his own top aides were scheming to expose Bruno, he told the News — and even if he did, the State Senate doesn't have subpoena power over the executive branch anyway. You may notice that these three statements clash with each other slightly, but, hey, he's new at this weaseling-out-of-tight-spots thing. He'll get better.
• With the Spitzer camp circling the wagons, it's Joe Bruno's hour, and he's taking full advantage of it: The State Senate leader called for multiple investigations into the administration, vowing, "This is not going to go away." [NYP]
Governor Spitzer finally abandoned his silly business-as-usual tactic today, giving up the “I’m going to get back to doing the people’s business” that invariably means something is amiss. The Republican-led State Senate had suggested that it might act like a real legislative body, one with oversight responsibilities and subpoena powers, and investigate whether the governor knew that a top aide was tracking Senate leader Joe Bruno’s use of state vehicles. And Spitzer finally broke his silence on the burgeoning scandal to warn the senator that, in effect, the senators shouldn't punch above their weight. Never one to be outlawyered, the governor has apparently been reading up on the state constitution, and he charged in a statement that New York's Senate does not have the constitutional authority to investigate the executive branch. In other words, he seemed to say that he won't cooperate with any investigation and will instead invoke an Empire State version executive privilege. Whether the potential drama of a constitutional showdown will, in fact, entice the Republican Senate remains to be seen.
The main takeaway from the first days of what now promises to be a long, hard slog for the governor is how strangely unprepared the Spitzer machine seems for dealing with an internal crisis. This is, of course, ironic on several levels: As the crusading A.G., Spitzer has thrown many a Wall Street firm into the same kind of cooperation-pledging, aide-dismissing, ass-covering tizzy his administration appears to be experiencing right now. Today’s Post and Times point out that, despite the governor’s claim of full cooperation with Cuomo, two of his top aides — including his chief of staff — refused to talk to the attorney general's investigators. That such a Nixonian disconnect between Team Spitz's statements and actions should surface so fast is just plain embarrassing; worse, the question the two staffers appeared to be unwilling to answer concerns the degree of Spitzer’s involvement with the unpleasantness at hand (the use of state police to spy on Joe Bruno).
• The Spitzer mess is getting, well, messier. Turns out two of guv’s closest aides, including his chief of staff (who still has his job), stonewalled Cuomo’s probe, which doesn’t quite jibe with Spitzer’s claims of full cooperation. [NYP]
• Police-shooting victim Sean Bell’s fiancée and two friends have sued the NYPD for wrongful death, civil-rights violations, false arrest, and emotional distress; the suit names all five officers who were on the scene, including two who were cleared of wrongdoing. [Reuters]
• Because more than 24 hours have passed without any agonizing over Bloomberg’s presidential plans and how they might affect the race, you’ll be happy to know he’s registered the domain mike2008.com (while continuing to maintain full deniability). [NYDN]
• Shocker: The new MTA budget will call for subway fare and toll increases. We don’t know by how much yet, but they want to raise the revenue by 6.5 percent; do your own worst-case-scenario math. [NYT]
• And the city’s cab drivers are finalizing citywide strike plans for September, over those pesky GPS tracking systems the city wants to install in every cab. We think we’ll just stay home. [amNY]