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]
If it took you two glances at the image to the left to realize what it's meant to look like, you've already donated a few seconds of your time to the cause of right-wing attack dog Roger Stone. He's the guy who is accused of making nasty phone calls to Eliot Spitzer's dad (remember how we punctured his alibi?). He's also been affiliated with dirty tricks for decades, from Nixon's Committee to Reelect the President (yes, that CREEP) to some maybe shady dealings with Roy Cohn and a couple of mobsters. Anyway, this time around, his efforts are pretty straightforward. The image you see here is the symbol for his new group, Citizens United Not Timid. CUNT, for short. Straightforward enough for you? "It's a simple joke," Roger Stone told The Weekly Standard. "It's not War and Peace. The truth is, we sat around for hours trying to come up with words for BITCH and just couldn't do it." The sole purpose of Stone's new group is to sell T-shirts with the above symbol from a Website. "The more people buy the T-shirts, the more people wear the T-shirts," he says. "The more people wear the T-shirts, the more people are educated." Hmm. And people complain that in this election, nobody's talking enough about education.
Citizens United Not Timid [Official Site]
Making Political Trouble [Weekly Standard]
"Legendary" GOP Strategist Launches Hillary Namecalling Effort [TPM]
Governor Spitzer lauded Kerry Kennedy during a speech his rival Andrew Cuomo was at, knowing that Kennedy and Cuomo went through a bitter divorce after she cheated on him. CNBC "Street Sweetie" Erin Burnett is catching heat at the network for the Men's Health story she wrote titled, "Eight Things That Would Impress Me," which made her look like, well, a girl who likes to be around money. New Jersey Net Jason Kidd's girlfriend, Hope Dworaczyk, is pregnant. Stars and publicists hate working with Men's Vogue because the magazine double-books covers. Jessica Seinfeld may or may not have plagiarized from a third cookbook. Cindy Adams claims a New Hampshire pollster told her before the primary that Hillary Clinton was gonna win by six points.
As thousands of European budget travelers swarmed the rainy city and prepared to gaze at the big crystal ball in Times Square, many New Yorkers had already moved on to 2008. Bill Clinton worried about Mayor Bloomberg’s buying his way into the presidential race: “He could spend $1 billion and hardly miss it,” said the former president.
Recently, we were watching John Waters's 1998 movie Pecker, which starred all kinds of great people like Martha Plimpton and Lily Taylor and Edward Furlong, before he got weird and started getting arrested and dating his manager. Anyway, as in all John Waters movies, there were about five really brilliantly funny parts in it, one of which was a game the characters played called "Shopping for Others," in which they'd go to the supermarket and sneak things into the shopping carts of fellow shoppers when they weren't looking. (Like a long phallic gourd in the cart of a mousy single woman or a stack of Depends for a smarmy dude in tight jeans, etc.) Anyway, we got to thinking: How about if, this year, we make New Year's resolutions for others? We've never made New Year's resolutions ourselves — it's weird, every year New Year's Eve rolls around, and we realize we're still kind of perfect! — but we've always felt we were missing out on that great American tradition. Not to mention, frankly, there are people that could use our assistance. So. To celebrate the great New Yorkers who make this blog possible and to help them continue their gloriousness into 2008, we've generously ginned up some resolutions for their benefit.
New Yorkers watching Will Smith walk through the ruins of an uninhabited Manhattan onscreen in I Am Legend knew just how he felt; it was a week for contemplating loneliness. Rudy Giuliani, indulging in fantasy population control of his own, envisaged a city in which he’d deported 400,000 illegal aliens. (“I would have had fewer problems,” he’s quoted as saying in a new book.)
Fifty-five-year-old Donna Karan's boy toy is 30-year-old model J.J. Biasucci. Ethan Hawke allegedly started dating "secret" girlfriend (his former nanny!) Ryan Shawhughes before he was divorced from Uma Thurman. Steve Martin played the banjo and read funny poems at the Cutting Room. Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin shared a happy dinner at BLT Fish. Eighty-eight-year-old Manhattan district attorney Robert Morgenthau may step down from his post, which would allow Governor Spitzer to appoint Cyrus Vance Jr. Michael Kors served mini-cheeseburgers at his store opening in Soho. Madonna kicked 25 yoga students out of a studio at the Reebok Sports Club on Columbus so she could practice by herself. Howard Stern is annoyed at Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner for bringing paparazzi to his Upper West Side block.
As the grim first anniversary of his governorship nears — with Albany as much of a mess as ever — Eliot Spitzer is backing up the steamroller, the Sun reports. According to the paper’s mysteriously high-placed source, the governor is shaking up his staff “at the urging of his wife and one of his closest friends.” The former is, of course, Silda Wall, while the latter is Lloyd Constantine, a mentor figure since Spitzer’s law-school days. Their advice, supposedly: Ditch chief of staff Richard Baum and chief political operative Ryan Toohey, both stained by the Troopergate, as a show of a “clean break” for the voters. Frankly, we had no idea the duo held such sway over Spitzer’s staffing choices; the recent Vanity Fair feature, for example, mentions the governor “turning more to seasoned advisers such as Constantine,” but Silda only rates a cameo as the girl that “made him smile.” If true, this is fairly huge: It means that the governor, like all beleaguered leaders, is getting all Circle of Trust on us — which amounts to a tacit recognition of failure. For his part, Spitzer has “yet to make a move.”
The Michael J. Fox Foundation hosted its annual fund-raising gala over the weekend, and our Jada Yuan was there with a camera. The night's theme was "A Groovy Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson's," though some of the participants opted not to dress the part. Governor Eliot Spitzer blamed decorum and said a spotted tie was as groovy as he could get. Whatever you say, your Excellency. You dress like you support medical marijuana. Watch the video for more wardrobe explanations from Donny Deutsche, Gavin DeGraw, and others.
Party Lines: Michael J. Fox Foundation
Thank God for leisurely winter weekends. It took us two days to absorb the two massive, competing Condé Nast profiles of Eliot Spitzer: one in Vanity Fair (8,577 words) and one in The New Yorker (11,938). Have we learned anything new, other than the fact that if David Margolick and Nick Paumgarten got together, they'd have a book the size of On the Road between them? Yes, in fact: Spitzer apparently likes The New Yorker better than Vanity Fair, and thus The New Yorker likes Spitzer more, too. As the genre of the political portrait edges closer to the celebrity profile, access becomes a measure of quality; whoever gets more wins. In this case, while VF’s Margolick gets a quickie with the Gov in a “utilitarian skyscraper” on Third Avenue, The New Yorker’s Paumgarten literally gets to fly with Spitzer in his turboprop built for eight, surveying the fiefdom below and pondering the vastness of the state. Is it any surprise that his profile is friendlier?
Not only did Brooke Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, allegedly steal $132 million from his mom's estate, but he also wanted to kill her dogs. The latest issue of Vanity Fair chronicles Governor Spitzer's "troubling, tantrum-filled" first year in office. A week after her kidney infection, Mary-Kate Olsen is back to partying around town. Tony Bennett is giving a "special performance" on behalf of Hillary Clinton in New Jersey in December. Jenna Jameson and Richie Rich are opening a bar together in Chinatown. Chelsea Clinton ate at Veritas with a "very handsome, dark, Indian male companion." David Mamet is a fan of the New York Post.
When we saw Eliot Spitzer last night at the Kids in Distressed Situations gala, we were relieved to see that in person, his hotness remains undiminished. We asked him what he thought of being a sex symbol, and (get this) we actually made him blush. Victory! "That's, uh, wow, maybe you should ask my wife that," Spitzer smiled. "It's news to me. But I will take it as a compliment." Laughing, Mrs. Spitzer grabbed his arm and crowed, "I agree! I agree!" [Ed. Note: Man, what a bitch.] Anyway, we thought we could throw him off with our flattery and blatant flirtation so we might get a real answer to our next question, which was, what does the governor really think of how Hillary handled the questions about her stance on Spitzer's driver's-license issue? She did, after all, stick up for him at first and later sort of slink away from her position. "I think she has been exactly right," he said. "We need a national agenda on immigration that will address these issues." Damn, a slick non-answer. Kind of like the ones Hillary gave when asked about him. In politics, does that make them best friends? —Shira LevineEarlier:Eliot Spitzer: Hot or Not?
"Coming after a summer of scandal and other stumbles, the long and ultimately futile battle over driver's licenses has left many people pondering the same simple question," Nicholas Confessore writes in his assessment of Eliot Spitzer's term in this morning's Times. "Does Eliot Spitzer have the judgment to succeed as governor?" He goes on to rehash the governor's missteps, quoting various muckety-mucks on how it will all play out. But through it all, he fails to address what to us is the most obvious and compelling question of all, the question that has been presenting itself, unbidden, in our minds for the past several months: Is Eliot Spitzer still hot? Like many others, we've long nursed a crush on ol' blue eyes — his steely jaw and growly, steamrollerly demeanor induced a certain frisson. But soon after he was elected governor, our love has faded: "I used to have a massive man crush on him," a friend of ours at Congressional Quarterly recently moaned. "But it was mostly based on his swashbuckling legal crusading for right and justice. Now whenever I see him, he looks sweaty and squirmy-ish. It's like if you put Captain America at a desk job. He no longer revs my (straight) engines of justice." It's manifested physically, too. Lately, Spitzer's male pattern baldness has become a shade more noticeable. His once-luminous skin has started looking a bit sallow. And could that be an extra inch on his waistline? Is it all finally getting to Eliot? Could he be going the way of gasp Al Gore? Like Shoeless Joe Jackson and Woody Allen, has scandal taken away the virility that power bestowed on him? We can only hope that, like Hugh Grant after being caught with Divine Brown, he'll be able to rise from the ashes.
After a Rough Start, Spitzer Rethinks His Ways [NYT]
Today's Post ran an exclusive story titled "Spitz Vows to Push for Gay Marriages." Our immediate reaction, of course, was, "Oh, those gays will be so thrilled! We always knew Spitzer was a Big Gay Marriage Advocate." The Post would have you believe that once Spitz gets a Democrat-controlled State Senate, he'll push hard for it. But if you read further into the article, the story gets a little sketchier. "Two other witnesses, including an elected government official, said they couldn't recall Spitzer's exact language," writes Post Frederic Dicker (you'll recall Dicker was the one who so desperately wanted to hear Bloomberg say he'd run for governor). Apparently some guests said Spitzer just referenced the State Assembly's passage of a gay-marriage act and was greeted with applause. So maybe, despite the headline, Spitzer's not a Big Gay Marriage Advocate. For him to reveal himself as such would be a risky move for him now, especially after he's lost so much political capital in recent months. Other blogs would try to make a "coming out of the closet" pun here, but not us. We just picked the gayest picture of Spitzer we could find and left it at that.
Spitz Vows to Push for Gay Marriages [NYP]
When Eliot Spitzer announced this morning that he was dropping his driver's-licenses-for-illegal-immigrants proposal, you would think that Hillary Clinton heaved a sigh of relief. After all, now no one would have an excuse to try and pin down her stance on the issue, like they did so excruciatingly in the October 3 Democratic debate. See, Hillary supported Spitzer, and his "efforts," she has tried to clarify, but if she were president, she'd make it so that all of that was unnecessary. Of course she caught tremendous flack for being too political and not giving a precise answer about the topic, which amounted to her first serious stumble of the campaign. (Clinton wouldn't sell out her friend and ally Spitzer by undermining his plan but also couldn't come out strongly in favor of it, knowing full well it was a giant target for Republican terror rhetoric.) But now it's over, right? Wrong. Just yesterday, as Spitzer began spreading the news that he was dropping his case, over in San Francisco, Mayor Gavin Newsom was helping to pass very similar legislation. The West Coast city will begin issuing I.D.'s to everyone, including those in the U.S. illegally, so that people can better open bank accounts, get insurance, and access law enforcement. Gavin Newsom, of course, is a pal and California co-chair of Hillary's campaign. So if Republican critics (and Democrat opponents) want to keep tearing at her for her flimsy position on the issue, well, they have another excuse. Man, Hillary's the last person in this campaign who we thought would get in trouble because of all her friends.
S.F. supervisors approve ID cards for residents [San Francisco Chronicle]
Hey, look, a novelty column in the Daily News, written as if the columnist were inside my head. Michael Goodwin’s the author. Don’t like the look on him. He’s probably 80 by now. These things always come with a photo of the author from 30 years ago. I’ve seen Mort Zuckerman in real life. Please.
I see what he’s going for there. “Reporters write vicious lies about me, then parrot them to the gullible public and ask what they think. The polls just say what the reporters want them to say.” Well, yeah. Except I wouldn’t have phrased it like this. I actually know things about polling methodology and rating bias and the 95 percent confidence level and the like. I went to Princeton and Harvard. This banner ad — can I make it stop moving?
Eliot Spitzer said last night, in his cranky-principled fashion, that today he will announce his intention to drop all plans to grant licenses to illegal immigrants. In an interview with the Times, the governor cited the massive opposition to the plan, which has snowballed since he first announced the idea in September and which has lately been affecting not only his favorability ratings, but also Hillary Clinton's, after the senator was asked about it in a debate and was, well, not un-positive, saying that although the plan made "a lot of sense" she did not specifically support it. Spitzer said that it was not these things that stopped him from proceeding, but that he expected the plan would ultimately be blocked by clerks or the DMV. “I am not willing to fight to the bitter end on something that will not ultimately be implemented,” he told the Times
In the interview, the governor sounded disappointed but resigned. He acknowledged that he would be criticized for changing course on the issue for the second time in three weeks. (“You think so?” he said facetiously when a reporter suggested as much.)
Rosie O'Donnell burst into tears after Bill Clinton called her and apologized for being unfaithful to his wife. The guy who won the marathon said he did so by refraining from sex and eating pasta. Katie Holmes said her marathon run was "hard, but good." (She also wore a velvet Hermès gown to a Museum of the Moving Image event honoring her husband.) Damien Hirst installed a bunch of dead sheep carcasses in formaldehyde tanks at Lever House. Ousted Citigroup chief Chuck Prince didn't say hi to Sandy Weill at the Four Seasons. Annie Lennox gave a bunch of fans the finger. Governor Spitzer, Governor Corzine, and Nora Ephron went on a triple date to Cafe Boulud.
As one of the many controversy-spurning agenda items Eliot Spitzer has to deal with, we hear some progress being made in the ongoing discussions with Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno over Bruno's pet issue: the future of the New York horse-racing industry. One source involved in the private talks tells us that the tentative plan is to split up control of each of New York's three horse-racing tracks: Saratoga, Belmont, and Aqueduct. The New York Racing Association (which faces an expiration date at the end of this year) will get to keep control of the track in Saratoga, and thus stay alive. This would help the Spitzer administration avoid a potentially lengthy lawsuit.
For the morning after the New York State elections, how about a nice little comparison of headlines and ledes?
From today's New York Times:
New York Democrats Say License Issue Had Little Effect
Democrats declared yesterday that Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants had not proved to be the electoral boon Republicans had hoped for in local elections