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Mario Cuomo Not So Sure This Congestion-Pricing Thing Is Happening

Mario Cuomo, like Mayor Bloomberg, knows presidential-bid scrutiny. But he knows Albany even better. And the former governor doesn't see congestion pricing coming out of the legislative swamp by the end of March — when lawmakers must adopt a commission-sponsored plan to keep the city from losing $354 million in pledged federal transit aid. “I'm not ruling it out, but I'm not ruling it in,” Cuomo told us (there's that hedging we remember from the presidential-run talk). After hearing Eliot Spitzer talk up an ambitious budget proposal to the developer-heavy Association for a Better New York, the former governor noted that Mayor Bloomberg's air-quality cause seemed conspicuously absent from his successor's weighty wish list. “He has a complicated and very impressive agenda,” Cuomo tells us, “and if congestion pricing were on it, we'd have heard about it.” To be fair, Spitzer's slideshow did include an endorsement of the MTA's five-year capital plan, which relies on upwards of $4 billion from bonds that congestion-pricing fees would support. But Albany can always find ways to borrow more money — that's something Cuomo knows, too. —Alec Appelbaum

Is Joe Bruno Shaking in His Wingtips Today?

Though we haven't been hearing about it as much lately, it turns out the heat is not off Joe Bruno. The FBI has been investigating the State Senate majority leader's outside business interests for nearly two years now, and today we learn that they've widened their inquiry. Several subpoenas were issued to pension funds linked to unions in Bruno's Albany-area district last week. Six local unions have many millions invested with a Connecticut firm, Wright Investors' Service, which employs Bruno for services that they have yet to explain to authorities. The connections were revealed in December by the Times, after which Bruno and the firm quickly severed their relationship. But the FBI's inquiry into union records show that Bruno is far from being off the hook. The Daily News' Elizabeth Benjamin also reports that the probe is going to weaken the union's traditional support of the powerful state senator. Despite public support for Bruno, one labor leader told Benjamin, "The conventional strategy of many building trades and public sector unions is about to end… They've made their bets on Bruno, but it's all unraveling." As the State Senate heads into a battle for control this fall, this could mean big things. Bruno and the state GOP were also banking on a Giuliani national candidacy to rally New York's Republican base to the voting booths in November. Even though Governor Spitzer has been muzzling himself lately, we're betting that these days behind his hand, he's chucking quietly. Investigation into Bruno Broadens [NYT] Albany unions support Joe Bruno despite chill of FBI subpoenas [NYDN]

New York City Would Prefer Bloomberg in Albany Over Washington

Governor Bloomberg
Wow, the dramatic turn in the contest between giant personalities Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has done the unthinkable: It's knocked Bloomberg out of the presidential primary coverage! What a relief! Except now he's snuck into political reports in another way: in the results of a Quinnipiac poll. Turns out a whopping 70 percent of New York City residents think that Bloomberg would be a good governor. That's compared to the 52 percent who think he'd make a good president. Not that he can't run for both; current governor Eliot Spitzer's term runs out in 2010. But we already know this idea is on his mind. Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute, makes a very good point (with two potential meanings) in her analysis: “Historical note: A couple of 20th Century New York governors have become President. No New York City mayor has.” New Yorkers Like Bloomberg for Governor [NYO] Related: Noncandidate Bloomberg Just Happens to Have Better Ideas Than the Real Candidates

Is the State Senate Now Overstepping Its Own Authority?

Eliot Spitzer
If you think the State Senate has backed off the Spitzer-Bruno dogfight ever since Roger Stone made an unbelievable idiot out of himself (and spoiled Frost/Nixon for the rest of us), you're sorely mistaken. Judging from the few recent developments, we suspect the Albany Republicans are just getting started. Senators are expected to vote today to subpoena State Police superintendent Preston Felton, a figure central to the accusations against Spitzer (which, for those of us who prefer not to litter our brains with such trivia, involve the gov's using state troopers to spy on Joe Bruno's use of state helicopters). No acting NYS top cop has ever been subpoenaed before. Once they're done with Felton, the GOP panel is planning to give the same treatment to Richard Baum and Darren Dopp, the two former Spitzer aides who refused to testify under oath earlier.

Pills, Pols, and Oprah

• Eight percent of the city's sexually active teens report using the pill, as opposed to 18 percent nationwide, a city Health Department survey finds, with girls from the South Bronx nearly twice as likely as the nation's average to have unprotected sex. [1010wins]

Fall in to the Gap

• The New York region has the nation's widest gap between rich and poor, new Census figures show, with the richest fifth of Manhattanites earning $351,333 a year to the poorest fifth's $8,855. We expect the revolution imminently. [NYT]

Three Punished for Deutsche Deaths

• 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]

Spitzer's New Pal: Charlie Rangel

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

Joe Bruno, Eliot Spitzer Ruin It for Everybody

• 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]

Feds to City: Decongest!

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

Spitzer Brings in PR-Fight Reinforcements

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

Sheriff Andy?

• 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]

All the Governor's Men: Where Are They Now?

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]

Eliot Spitzer Has Reached Acceptance

• 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]

All Eliot's Investigations

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?

What Can Brown Do for You?

• Try following this: Spitzer's office said no to a Republican proposal to grant Andrew Cuomo special-prosecutor powers so that Cuomo could better stick it to Spitzer. Yeah. [NYDN]

Eliot's Troubles: Don't Worry, Uncle Shelly Will Make It All Better

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]

Privileged Spitzer

• 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]

Taking Pleasure in a Self-Righteous Prick's Misfortune

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]