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October 29, 2006 - November 4, 2006

5:05 PM


Hevesi Adding Much-Needed Cash to Coffers

Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has ordered Alan Hevesi to pay the state another $90,000, bringing the chauffeur-scandal grand total up to $172,000. Just to put this into perspective, from April to June 2006, the state gathered $187 billion in tax revenue.

For $172,000 you can buy a very nice home in Buffalo. For $187 billion, you can dip every structure in Buffalo in solid gold, send every child in the next seven generations to Swarthmore, provide each family in Erie County with a lifetime supply of foie gras, and hire the cast of Friends to perform every episode of every season in the town square, where it now rains diamonds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (except Christmas, when it rains frankincense).

Hevesi Repays State Additional $90,000 for Use Of Driver [AP]
State Tax Revenue Surges Despite Slowing Economy [Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government]

4:02 PM

Spot Check 

Rick Santorum, a Hillary-Loving Hepcat

D.C. is nothing but a staged wrestling match, says Santorum.Courtesy Rick Santorum for U.S. Senate

When you think of Pennsylvania Republican Senator Rick Santorum, the phrase "ideologically flexible good-time Charlie" doesn't immediately spring to mind. More like "fundamentalist jihadist who compared homosexuality to bestiality and said women should stay in the home."

In 2004, when the Christian right helped Republicans coalesce a permanent death lock on power in Washington, few were sitting prettier than the Ricker, who got busy encouraging Congress to intervene in the Terri Schiavo case and recently compared the Iraq war to the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Some pointed out the irony of an avowed values warrior exemplifying the fight against terror by citing a movie that's basically nine hours of hugging hobbits. But getting those secret coded subtexts they plug into Hollywood movies nowadays isn't so easy for guy who doesn't encounter much culture beyond the passages from Revelations he puts his kids to sleep with every night.

Having searched high and lowbrow, Rick Santorum has finally found a cultural allusion he can work with. Less than a week before the election, with every poll showing him far behind challenger Bob Casey, Santorum has rolled out a clever riff on the popular professional-wrestling craze. In the ad, wrestlers who represent the rancorous climate in Washington go at it in the squared circle, while Santorum lists all the tone-defying bipartisan legislation he's sponsored with friends of moral relativism like Joe Lieberman, Barbara Boxer, and — wait for it — "even" Hillary Clinton.

The pair sponsored a bill censoring violent video games, a sop to the right Clinton loves to trumpet. If this was your introduction to Santorum, he'd seem like a pretty decent fella, youthful and with it, just the kind of moderating tone we need in D.C. and not the kind of loon whose major issue of 2005 was airlifting burritos to Terri Schiavo's hospital room.

Clinton Burnishes Hawkish Image [MSNBC]
Watch the ad.

1:20 PM

Attack of the Day 

The Republican Party's Weak End

The State Republican Party has released this parody DVD cover "Weekend at Al's," riffing on the 1989 frat-boy classic Weekend at Bernie's , in which Andrew McCarthy and Jonathan Silverman in the waning stages of youthful appeal play junior execs who have to elude assassins by propping up their dead boss. Here Eliot Spitzer and assembly leader Sheldon Silver are grinning under Alan Hevesi's weighty corpse. Fun with Photoshop aside, fantasizing about a rival politician's murder seems a little untoward.

Expect the Democrats to roll out a Being There parody, in which Chris Callaghan, upon entering the comptroller's office for the first time asks, "Is there a TV upstairs? I like to watch." Or better yet, how about a spoof of the Republican Party's chances on November 7 that's just like the motorway pileup scene in Godard's Week End?

Weekend at Alan's [Empire Zone]

10:41 AM


Free Gayle Sweeney!

John Sweeney staffs his personal Château d'IfCourtsey John Sweeney for Congress

The eagle eyes at Capitol Confidential have spotted a gap in the wall of defense Representative John Sweeney (R-20) has erected around his domestic-abuse scandal. Apparently, Gayle (or is it Gaia?) Sweeney was wearing the same sweater in an ad that aired yesterday and a press conference held the same morning. No competent Republicans operative would ever leave such a detail amiss, especially this close to an election. The casual observer can only assume that the costuming miscue was the slapdash work of one of Sweeney's local yokel staffers.

We have another theory. Gayle Sweeney is a hostage — kept on a limited diet, rarely allowed to change clothes or even leave her walk-in-closet jail except for press events or fund-raisers where she's posited as the perfect political wife, forced to wave and smile like a child-rearing, cookie-baking seal. (She's not a big talker when it comes to the issues — that's John's business — but don't get her started on that thyroid condition. She'll munch your ear off). Watch the ad again, notice the glassy eyes, the pinched tone, the mechanic fealty psychologists who study Stockholm Syndrome call "capture bonding." You can almost see Sweeney standing outside the shot holding a piece of buttered bread and whispering, "Look at Daddy and say the words."

Why do you think John McCain has been to the Twentieth District to stump for Sweeney? Those aren't campaign appearances, they're secret recon missions. Here's text of the statement John McCain originally wrote on behalf of Sweeney for Congress before party higher-ups got ahold of it.

"John Sweeney is the worst. I hate him. He's an incompetent beef-necked baboon, everything wrong with the party and politics as a whole. I hoped campaign-finance reform would do away with hacks like that, but, ya know, I'm just one guy fighting a hard fight. I was only helicoptering in for these events with John because it's election time and, ya know, 'McCain, always the good solider' blah blah blah. And then I met Gayle and I saw something I hadn't seen for, well, decades. It was that look I used to see on guys' faces back during my POW days, that look of someone whose been subsisting for years on nothing but ants and sandal leather, the inhuman glare of a person who can't distinguish captor from protector. I saw that in Gayle's eyes. I saw a little of a self I thought I'd left behind years ago wading in her shallow pools of disaffection. I knew I needed to help, for her sake and mine."

Of course, the only words that made it through the RNC censors were "John Sweeney" and "protector." It's a sad fact of politics. Once a prisoner, always a prisoner. The jailer may wear a different face and yesterday's bamboo cage may be today's plush corner office on Capitol Hill, but John McCain deserves our admiration nonetheless.

Gayle Goes on the Air [Capitol Confidential]
Sweeney Docu-Drama Production a No-Show [NYDN]
Sweeney Campaign Touts Influence [Albany Times Union]

9:45 AM


It's Gut-Check Time

  • Bill and Hillary share/step on each other's best lines in a beautiful toe-crushing ballet. [NYDN]
  • Reynolds was in on Republican "damage control" talks days before he rolled out his "I could have done more, and for that, I am sorry" shtick. [NYDN]
  • Hevesi will still probably make the finish line in first place. [NY1]
  • Or will he … (Du-rama!) [NYS]
  • Spitzer: I'm no Reagan. [Rochester Democrat & Chronicle]
  • Hillary Clinton. For decades she would arise each morning, look in the mirror, and repeat with conviction, "Honey, you are fun." Now, she finally is. [NYT]
  • Jeffrey Deskovic, once a victim of Jeanine Pirro's whim, is now formally a free man. First words: "Got any Cuomo literature I can pass out around town?" [Journal News]
  • Getting crushed in 2004 presidential run liberated Lieberman to become bland cow-towing centrist he is today. [NYT]
  • A Menendez loss may cause Corzine to rethink the Springsteen candidacy he once scoffed at. [NYT]
  • New York will rep large in Democratic House of Reps. [NYS]
4:30 PM

Lovable Losers 

Callaghan Brings in the Too Big Guns

John McCain has broken his excruciating silence on the Hevesi scandal and come out in favor of Republican Christopher Callaghan.

Like all Americans, the people of New York want and deserve integrity in their government, and that's why I'm endorsing Chris Callaghan for State Comptroller. Chris Callaghan has the integrity, the honesty and the decades of experience to restore faith in the Comptroller's Office, and I know that he will make an outstanding fiscal watchdog for the people of New York State. Chris Callaghan is the right man for this job, and I'm looking forward to encouraging New Yorkers to support his candidacy. Chris Callaghan is going to make a great comptroller.

And really, who better to judge the work of the Saratoga Country treasurer than a senator from Arizona?

Read the full release.

3:50 PM


Madonna for Hillary

Madonna in March, when she still didn't care who was president.Photograph by Patrick McMullan

Madonna took a break from battling Malawian laws to offer a somewhat half-hearted endorsement of Hillary '08. "I wouldn't mind if Hillary Clinton was president, yeah," she told the Times of London. Madonna has lots of talents — dancing, staying on top of new trends, reforming pesky adoption restrictions. One of her lesser-known talents is for savvy political endorsements. This "sure, Hillary, whatever" stuff won't be hard to take back if a McCain victory seems eminent. She's come a long way since the 1988's "Fuck Dukakis" tour.

Madonna Tackles Her Critics Head On [Times of London]

2:45 PM

Spot Check 

It's Morning in Comptrollerville

Chris Callaghan has a new ad attacking Alan Hevesi, but it's a retread of one that ran last week in which an image of Hevesi waving bye-bye was juxtaposed over a black car rolling down the interstate. It ended on the wonderfully incongruous catchphrase "Callaghan: trust, integrity, comptroller." (One of these nouns is doing its own thing.)

A warning before viewing the new and improved version: When the black backdrop used to represent the moral dark ages of the Hevesi years gives way to the sky-blue backdrop of promise and hope that represents the dawn of the integritastic Callaghan age, you may get a little farklempt. It's powerful stuff.

2:00 PM


Is Betsy the New Al?

Betsy Gotbaum advocates publicly.Photograph by Patrick McMullan

Can we now expect a parade of pols coming out post-Hevesi to reimburse the state or city for every time they sent an aide out to get them a latte? Walk through Albany or pass through City Hall and listen for the sounds of elected officials rifling for receipts in dusty desk drawers.

Public advocate Betsy Gotbaum is the latest officeholder to utter the phrase, "Jeeves, what exactly did I pay you for that bird-watching excursion we took last spring?" Gotbaum (who astonishingly looks like all the Osbournes rolled into one person) wrote the city a $1,900 check three days ago to pay a driver for trips outside of Manhattan between 2002 and 2005.

1,900 big ones. Ouch. We're getting dangerously close to Ethics Commission inquiries for any assistant county clerk who left the office lights on over the weekend.

O'Dumb'eter: Betsy's Car $$ [NYP]

1:08 PM

Attack of the Day 

Everyone's Talking in the Twentieth District

All these negative ads in the Twentieth District require some serious press conferences. Even John Sweeney's wife, Gayle, has a press statement she found time to write in between shooting commercials.

Gayle Sweeney:

My husband's opponent has a hired gun that feels the need to embarrass me and slander my marriage. Because of that I must respond to the unfair and unwarranted attacks on my personal life. The evening in question was a very difficult time for our family. Real life has real problems. Like every family, we have personal challenges we must overcome. Anyone who believes life is not complicated just doesn't [breaks off]. The pressure of a yearlong public scrutiny reached its breaking point, and so had I. I did not need to be protected from John. At no time has John hurt me or done anything other than try to protect me. There were never any injuries to me. Neither John nor I are perfect, but we love each other deeply. The incident report that has been given to the press is untrue. The real incident report has nothing in it like the salacious words in the concocted document. I don't know if it is possible, but I give my permission for the state police to release the real report for all to see.

U.S. representative John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, given at a press conference outside the home of one of his aides

There was no domestic violence, and like my wife, I would call on the state police to release the original report. My opponent has no shame. She has shown that throughout this campaign. In her desire for power, she has tried to ruin my marriage and slander my family … And you know I've been very open in the last year, especially about my family, whether it was my son or my own health problems — more so than I needed to be. I will say today, this is the last time I'm going talk about my family in the context of politics.

Statement released by Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand:

It is Mr. Sweeney's word versus that of numerous sources and trusted local news organizations across our region. In five days voters will get to decide which they trust. Multiple sources have made it clear that police responded to a domestic-violence incident reported from Mr. Sweeney's home in December. This is about John Sweeney's behavior, his history of lies, his arrogance and bullying.

Complete Statements From Gayle Sweeney, John Sweeney and Kirsten Gillibrand on Wednesday [PostStar]

10:45 AM

Spot Check 

Now It's Gayle Sweeney's Turn to Fight

Gayle Sweeney hits the air a day after several newspapers reported her 911 call of December 2005, in which she told a dispatcher her husband, Republican congressman John Sweeney, was knocking her around. The ad, apparently recorded yesterday morning, smartly refers to a different 911 call Mrs. Sweeney made this year when her husband was having health problems. Sweeney suffered from painful headaches and spikes in his blood pressure due to inflamed blood vessels in his brain.

The inflammation occurred when the four-term incumbent attempted to DVR three shows at once, thus causing him to make the difficult choice between Monday Night Football or WWE Raw on ESPN2 or the World's Strongest Man quarter-finals on Fox.

9:00 AM


So Much Badness, So Little Time Till Election Day

  • Congressman Sweeney half-admits domestic-violence incident. [NYDN]
  • It's all around town that Sweeney mistreated his wife. [NYDN]
  • Hevesi gave no-bid contracts to his old employees. [NYP]
  • Callaghan finds yet another Hevesi gripe. [Newsday]
  • Hillary confirms Kerry is a doofus. [Albany Times Union]
  • Andrew Cuomo's sketchy record running HUD. [NYT]
  • Christopher Callaghan: unprepared, intrepid, comptroller. [NYT]
  • Spitzer wants to shower money on the schools, Faso wants to bathe them in cold reality. [NYT]
  • It's all about the ladies in New Jersey Senate race. [Newark Star Ledger]
5:10 PM


Al's Allies

If Alan Hevesi goes down, liberal groups are hoping it happens after the election. These endorsements were released today, just as Callaghan campaigned, somewhat ballsily, with his wife in front of Hevesi's office.

NARAL Pro-Choice New York backed Hevesi thusly:

"An historic analysis produced during his first term in office demonstrated that wider access to emergency contraception could save the state almost half a billion dollars in health care costs by decreasing the number of unintended pregnancies and abortions. This study, now cited across the nation, created a groundswell of support for legislation improving access to this pregnancy prevention method."

And the Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-rights organization, went after Callaghan:

"Christopher Callaghan has attacked Comptroller Hevesi on several occasions for his office's recognition that marriages between same-sex couples performed in Canada must be treated the same as any other marriage when it comes to NYS retirement benefits and obligations."

Callaghan Gets on the Bus [Spin Cycle]

2:01 PM

Survey Says 

Even the Pollsters Are Getting Feisty

That come-hither smile won't carry Election Day.Courtesy Ned Lamont for Senate

A new Quinnipiac University poll out on the Connecticut Senate race shows Ned Lamont gaining slightly on Joe Lieberman. Lamont is down 49-37, a bump of five points from an October 20 poll. Republican Alan Schlesinger has 8 percent, putting him contention for third with Ralph Ferrucci, the Green Party candidate.

Lieberman's little dip comes from a small migration of independents, whose support for him dropped from 58 to 51. But that's to be expected, independents being capricious and untrustworthy by nature.

The poll's findings are delivered in the dry, authoritative tone we've come to expect from such reports. That is, until this little blast of 'tude at the very end: "If Lamont has an October surprise, he'd better check the calendar."

Jesus, anonymous poll tabulator — who pissed in your Cheerios? Stick with the statistical cleavage analysis and leave the snarky punch lines to the professionals.

Qunnipiac University Poll

1:50 PM


Kerry Continues to Disappoint

Republicans are hoping John Kerry will serve them up another juicy election victory they probably don't deserve. It's hard to imagine his "botched" line about staying in school and out of Iraq directing voters away from the issues that affect their lives. In fact, if it does, then we know we have plenty of homegrown idiots to worry about, never mind the ones protecting our freedom overseas.

And yet, few can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory like the junior senator from Massachusetts. How poetic it would be.

Here's what Kerry said that got the White House all tweaky with anticipatory glee:

"You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework, and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq."

And what he intended to say:

"Do you know where you end up if you don't study, if you aren't smart, if you're intellectually lazy? You end up getting us stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush."

And now here's his even muddier non-apology from yesterday: "I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and his broken policy."

In conclusion, Democrats needn't be concerned. In fact, they should be elated. If they could convince 59 million people to vote for this guy in 2004, America is obviously ready for a Democratic tidal wave.

Watch the video. [WP]

12:47 PM


Everyone's a Passenger in New York Politics

At a Hevesi-related press conference last week,
Pataki calls on his favorite reporter, Kettle.Photograph by Richard Drew/AP

Alan Hevesi's driver travails are pretty standard in state politics, argue Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins in this week's Village Voice. Just look at the Patakis!

George Pataki's wife, Libby, employed a driver and a personal valet without declaring it on personal financial forms, a violation of ethics rules. The valet in question occasionally drove the couple from the governor's mansion in Albany to their Hudson River home, 100 miles away. The piece also details concerns about the chairman of the New York State Ethics Commission, Paul Shechtman, who has been accused of fixing state parole-board decisions.

So who will keep Hevesi company in the garage of shame? None other than Jeanine Pirro, who is accused in today's Post of paying a county-provided driver $150,000 in overtime over two years. (In addition to his $100,000 annual salary, making the driver one of the highest-paid county employees in Westchester.)

It doesn't really get Hevesi off the hook in any way, and Jeanine Pirro isn't the best person to have your character lumped in with, but misery loves company.

Reading this and thinking of Libby, Al, Carol, and Bill — our own little New York–politics Loud Family — now we know why Mayor Bloomberg isn't married. You assumed he was gay? Nope, just smart.

A Hevesi Heresy [VV]
Pirro's Driver Had 150G Meal Ticket [NYP]

11:46 AM


Sweeney Dodges Accusations of Wife Sparring

Rep. John Sweeney

A week ago, we dissected an ad featuring GOP representative John Sweeney and his wife and his fight to retain the Twentieth District. The Sweeneys didn't seem like they were connecting, at least not rising to the challenge of the ad's theme — that the couple had been besieged by attacks and harassment from scurrilous opponent Kirsten Gillibrand "and her liberal allies," who had "intimidated my wife and smeared my children with anonymous phone calls, negative fliers, and lies."

We hoped their odd disengagement was just an example of a natural fact of politics: When unpracticed small-time politicians attempt the heart-yanking gimmickry their big-stage counterparts wield so smoothly, they often look pretty silly. Not everyone can be Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan. John Sweeney is certainly more the assistant-sales-manager type than the grandiose image manipulator. But in a sense, this makes him more human and, in turn, more sympathetic.

But our sympathy well has run dry. Sadly, it wasn't just bad acting that gave the Sweeneys that look of gauzy disaffection. Apparently, Sweeney's winning frat-guy aura isn't just a piece in his semiotic CV; it's who he is right down to the steak-brained core. The Albany Times Union is reporting that last December Gaia M. Sweeney called 911 to report her husband was "knocking her around" during an argument.

The story includes the police dispatcher's report:

"Female caller stating her husband is knocking her around the house. Then she stated 'Here it comes, are you ready?' and disconnected the call. Upon call-back, the husband stated no problem … asked the wife if she wanted to talk. Wife (caller) then got on the phone and stated that she's fine and that she's drunk. Caller sounded intoxicated. She advised that she was endangered for a moment, but everything is fine.''

The trooper at the scene wrote, "Complainant stated that she and husband got into verbal argument that turned a little physical by her being grabbed by the neck and pushed around the house. Suspect [Sweeney] had scratches on face. Both parties refused medical attention. Complainant removed to friend's house for the evening … refused any type of prosicution (sic) arrest.''

The Sweeney campaign calls the release of the report "political propaganda." Kirsten Gillibrand didn't comment because she was out trick-or-treating.

Congressman's Wife Called Police [Albany Times Union]

9:45 AM


The End in Sight

  • Hevesi legal team floors it. [NYT]
  • Spitzer and Bloomberg lend little guys a lift. [NYDN]
  • To prove competence, Callaghan campaign includes candidate doing complex math problems. [Newsday]
  • Schumer and Bloomberg, deputies of Wall Street. [amNY]
  • A Ned Lamont pre-postmortem [NYT]
  • "Liberated" Joe Lieberman. [NYT]
  • More bread in the state bread box, differences on how to bake it. [Albany Times Union]
  • Hillary wants a cabinet-level nukes guy. For all those decades when we almost blew up the world, we never had this? [NYP]
  • In dead heat, Kean and Menendez go into super double overdrive. [Newark Star Ledger]
6:30 PM

Spot Check 

Voting: More Fun Than Mall Madness!

You think it's about shopping, but then it's about voting!

Thanks to the Internet, we can all see this very strange ad encouraging women to vote from the Eleanor Roosevelt Legacy Committee. The last woman in the booth seems to actually select a candidate at that moment, an act almost never seen in nature but very possible in this ad, where voting is an accessory removed from the world of meaning and context.

"Change Stuff," the tagline demands. A citizen might ask, "What?" Either the ad's creator, Jimmy Siegel, didn't get the memo that the slacker-apathy meme went out years ago or he was concerned that a smaller female brain capacity might be exhausted by the inclusion of any issue-oriented content.

Either way, ladies, consider yourself condescended to. That Gwen Stefani could have a hand in this really is troubling. She's been for girl power since 1996.

Voting Is Cool [Capitol Confidential]

3:39 PM

The State Politic 

Fly Me to the White House

Tony Bennett refuses to age another year
without campaigning for Hillary. Photograph by Patrick McMullan

So that's where all her campaign dollars are going: A suburban Albany voter reports he just received a robo-call urging him to reelect Senator Hillary Clinton from … Tony Bennett! At least the swingin' son of Astoria is an improvement over HRC's previous soundtrack: the entertainment at her Tavern on the Green birthday party–million-dollar fund-raiser last week, an earnest alt-rock quartet called the Fray, best known for providing background music to ER and Grey's Anatomy.

Chris Smith

1:35 PM


Once a Comptroller, Always a Comptroller

Comptroller Alan Hevesi may not have much pull with Democratic-party superstars, but what matters more — the condescending head tappings of pampered higher-ups or the respect and support of your colleagues in the 'trolling trenches? Alan Hevesi has been endorsed by a former state comptroller and the current New York City comptroller Bill Thompson. You have to admire anyone who'll bring his ailing friend a metaphorical bowl of soup, and their dismissals of Callaghan are damning, if partisan. But Thompson's endorsement isn't entirely selfless or partisan, as he stands a good chance of being tapped by Eliot Spitzer to replace Hevesi, who will likely resign if elected.

H. Carl McCall, former New York State Comptroller:

"I've been comptroller; I know what the job takes. Chris Callaghan does not have what it takes. I know Comptroller Hevesi can do the job because he has already done the job. And his opponent, Chris Callaghan, is not qualified. There's simply no choice. I'm voting for Alan Hevesi."

William C. Thomson Jr., New York City Comptroller:

"As city comptroller, I understand the importance of the office of state comptroller. Chris Callaghan is simply not up to the job. He's not qualified to manage New York's $140 billion pension fund. Comptroller Hevesi's record as both New York City comptroller and state comptroller is something to be proud of. I am voting for Alan Hevesi."

Talk Turns to Thompson as Hevesi Falters [NYS]

12:51 PM


Bill Clinton Manages to Be Unhelpful

Bill Clinton. The more he loves, the more he emotes, the more pain he brings upon himself and those he loves. He's the Otis Redding of not knowing when to put his mouth away.

At an Andrew Cuomo fund-raiser yesterday, the former president called his wife's upstate branch the "de facto governor's office" for economic development in place of the no-account Pataki. This isn't quite as bad as losing your cool during a wits-matching battle with a Fox News anchor who's a trillionth as smart as you are, but it did open Clinton up to a pretty decent bow shot from the Pataki office.

"The Clintons moved here to capitalize on lower taxes, a better economy, and an open Senate seat," said David Catalfamo, the governor's spokesman. "When they actually do anything to improve the economy of upstate New York, it will be news."

Is there some island golf resort Hillary can ship Bill off to until about January 2009?

Bill Clinton's Rare Jab at Pataki Gives Republicans a Rare Opening to Criticize the Clintons [NYT]

11:37 AM

Lovable Losers 

Faso Lifts Up Their Hearts

John Faso inspires a crowd in Brooklyn.Photograph by Jon Dolan

The Brownstone Republicans don't meet in a brownstone. They meet in the mauve-beige first-floor community room of Cadman Towers, one of the finest structures built under Mitchell-Lama.

There were about 60 people assembled at last night's candidate forum: ten or so low-level journos and a gaggle of party loyalists who have the passing familiarity of early-bird-special regulars. Even in what is, by all accounts, a grim hour for New York Republicans, the collegiality inside this safe space trumped the dispiriting political climate outside.

The evening's premier guest, gubernatorial candidate John Faso, arrived promptly at 6:30 and almost immediately launched into the one thing all local Republicans can speak about with unmitigated glee: Alan Hevesi and Eliot Spitzer's refusal to accept Christopher Callaghan as the inevitable best man for the job.

"In essence, what he's saying to the voters is 'Don't vote in the race for comptroller,'" Faso said. "'Don't vote in that race.' And what they want — and this is the dirty little secret — is they want Mr. Hevesi to be elected so Spitzer and Shelley Sliver can pick who the next comptroller is." Then he outlined his tax-cutting plan and transitioned into the line that endears him most deeply to this crowd. "The essential difference between myself and Eliot Spitzer is he believes in the power of government to ordain human behavior. I am very skeptical of the power of government to ordain human behavior."

It's an unmentioned irony that if government wasn't in the business of ordaining public life to some extent, massive middle-income housing blocks like this one wouldn't exist and the Brownstone Republicans might be squeezing into one of their members' own homes.

But there were stranger things to wonder about last night. Like how can a politician whose entire platform is based on cutting taxes to stimulate investment have raised but one-tenth the money of his liberal, Democrat opponent? Why hasn't the national party stepped in to spend New Yorkers' contributions on a New York race? Why haven't state officials been more supportive of their standard bearer? ("Pataki stabbed him in the back," noted an elderly man to harrumphing approval.)

"It's a big money game," said Faso.

And yet political events aren't about political realities. A woman at the back of the room whom Faso called on by name offered a comment-question about the irrefutable success of the Bush tax cuts. A room of Democrat activists at the height of Clinton's popularity wouldn't have shown the kind of spirited approval these people did for Bush at the nadir of his popularity and power. Of course, no small amount of that against-the-odds enthusiasm extends to their troubled candidate for governor. Sort of.

A man at the front asked Faso if he'd be interested in running in a special election for what will soon be Alan Hevesi's old job. After a polite briefing on the procedural impossibility of such an occurrence, Faso, more a straight-talk guy than a hope-and-dreams hawker, stepped back and looked into the middle distance where embattled pols see possibilities no one else can: "Every day I wake up and I tell myself, 'I can win. I can win. I can win.'"

The place went bananas (in an understated blue-blazer way, of course). And for one brief moment, the basement of this Soviet-style housing project became the epicenter of promise for a tax-slashing, free-spending, investment-soaked tomorrow that will lift all boats in a monsoon of trickle-down manna. It's the weirdest irony, and the only one everyone there could savor.

9:45 AM


Trail Fever

  • Hevesi takes money from the dogs he's supposed to be watching. [NYDN]
  • Al's security team doubles up on state paychecks. [NYP]
  • National Republicans throw resources at Callaghan. Hevesi acknowledges he might lose. [Newsday]
  • Hillary shunned him, but Lieberman proves he's a mature adult, and an expedient politician, by endorsing her. [NYDN]
  • Rangel calls Cheney a "son of a bitch." Cheney's office responds, "The vice-president is, in point of fact, the spawn of a jackal." [NYP]
  • Bloomberg lives out every boy's dream by spending an afternoon standing around a train station with Joe Lieberman. [NYS]
  • Giuliani, McCain, and Mitt Romney (a.k.a. the Supremes) head to Detroit to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidate. [amNY]
  • Mario Cuomo's last big win. [NYT]
  • Terrible budget equals lies. [Newsday]
  • Joe Bruno promises he'll deploy total-jerk strategy against Spitzer if Eliot doesn't stop stumping for Democratic Senate candidates. [NYP]
5:53 PM

Spot Check 

Death and Taxes

The punch line of John Faso's new ad — "you can bank on the fact that Eliot Spitzer will raise your taxes, I will cut them" — is a little inside baseball. It riffs on Spitzer's own ad promising to cut taxes, which ends with Spitzer saying, "and you can take that to the bank." It isn't a phrase emblazoned on the minds of most New Yorkers, but it probably seems pretty universal if all you've been doing for the last three months is staying up nights watching Spitzer ads, reading of Spitzer doings, and occasionally scaring your attendants by yelling, "Damn that Spitzer! Damn his eternal soul!"

Excellent tax-cutting music though. Is this what Grover Norquist hears whenever he hits send on an e-press release from the Club for Growth?

5:25 PM

Attack of the Day 

Et Tu, Schumer?

Schumer has no problem with criminals — he just doesn't like Alan Hevesi.Photograph by Patrick McMullan

In the annals of Alan Hevesi, before there was cargate/chauffeurgate/Carolgate (can we call a pundit quorum and approve a Gate for this?), there was Schumer Would Shoot Bush-gate. It was an early sign that perhaps our mild-mannered state comptroller was turning into a kind of maverick bad dude.

On June 1, Hevesi told an audience at a Queens College graduation ceremony that Senator Charles Schumer would "put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it." Hevesi apologized several hours later to Schumer and to President George W. Bush, but the murmurings of "that bitch crazy" had already begun. Five months of really bad decision-making later, Hevesi is en route to the glue factory of scandal-hobbled pols.

Today Schumer joined fellow Democrats in ushering His Hevness into the sweet hereafter. The senator packed metaphorical heat with his thoughts on Hevesi's troubles: "What's happened with Alan Hevesi is a true tragedy," Schumer said. "I served with him in the Assembly, and he's a very bright guy. What he's done now is very, very wrong. You can't just say it's a mistake and flick it away."

Official Apologizes for Saying Bush Should Be Shot Between Eyes [WNBC]
Chuck on Alan [Capitol Confidential]

3:55 PM


Tricks and Treats

If all politics are local, the Democrats don't know about it. In an effort to gain the majority in Congress, Democrats have struggled to tie local elections to national issues, such the Iraq war, health care, and, when applicable, the Foley scandal. Republican candidates have tried to highlight their achievements in bringing pork spending back home.

No election has seen this tension like the race for Tom Reynolds's seat in the 26th District. The incumbent Republican's numbers plummeted a month ago when he was implicated in the Foley scandal, and they shot up when the White House tapped him as point man on millions of dollars in federal blizzard relief. The money arrived two weeks after the blizzard itself and just as Reynolds was testifying in the Foley investigation in front of the House Ethics Committee.

Reynolds's relief was all part of Karl Rove's plan to keep control of Congress, or at least abate a Democratic tidal wave, according to a story in Sunday's Los Angeles Times that described Rove's plan to politicize federal spending. Seems the one thing small-government-at-all-costs Republicans believe government is good for is the electing of small-government-at-all-costs Republicans. Gotta admire the consistency.

In other tilting-the-playing-field news, the hearings are over, but findings from the Foley investigation won't be released until December. The Saddam verdict will be handed down … this weekend. Or maybe not till after the election, depending on which court official you hear from.

Expect Osama bin Laden to call the White House any day now with directions to his cave.

GOP At A Loss? Karl Rove Has an 11th-Hour Plan to Win [LAT]
Ethics Report on Foley Not Expected Before Elections [WP]
Saddam Verdict Is Expected on Nov. 5 [AP]
Saddam Verdict May Be Delayed — Prosecutor [Reuters]

2:02 PM


Clinton Repays a Debt, Rocks Out

The Clintons wave at fans who can't afford to rock.Photograph by Getty Images

Bill Clinton spent his 60th-birthday weekend raking in cash from wrung-dry super donors and getting fêted by massive rock acts from both ends of the quality spectrum — from the world-historically awesome (the Rolling Stones, who rocked the Beacon last night at private concert) to the mind-sweepingly terrible (Sarah McLachlan, who serenaded Clinton at his gala b-day get-together Saturday night). That Bill Clinton really is a whore: He'll get down with anybody, be they devil-sympathizing sixties rock gods or an adult-contemporary medusa.

But today, he'll enjoy an afternoon in the aesthetic sweet spot, basking in the super melodic median between rock and roll and easy listening. Clinton is upstate campaigning for John Hall, singer-songwriter, activist, and candidate for the congressional seat in the Nineteenth District, who with his nice-guy hippie band, the Orleans, wrote AM radio chestnuts "Still the One" and "Dance With Me." It isn't too far-fetched to imagine the young Clintons sharing an Arkansas evening back in the seventies with a John Hall tune on the transistor. We all know the Clintons have endured a few stressful moments over the years, but a room with a warm John Hall melody wafting through the air is a nest of forgiveness and sweet lovin', hand-holding and eye-locking and gentle hip-swaying.

Bill Clinton might owe John Hall a little favor these 30-odd years later, and today at 3:15 he'll be at Colonial Terrace, 119 Oregon Road in Cortlandt Manor, New York, to pay him back.

Hall's day is doubly excellent as he also pulled down the endorsement of the local paper, the Journal News, adding to his Times endorsement. The positive press may be positioning Hall to become the first member of the House of Representatives who has an eight-track of Neil Young's On the Beach that smells like resin.

Stifled Stones Fans Freakin' At The Beacon [NYDN]
Bubba's Sweet 60 [NYP]
Our Choice For 19th Congressional District [Journal News]

12:00 PM


How Was Your Weekend, Al?

Alan Hevesi concentrates on the sucking sound his career makes.Photograph by Keith Bedford/AP

Extreme Hevesization continued throughout the weekend. Last Friday, three new commercials were unveiled starring the scandal-marred state bookkeeper, one tying him to Eliot Spitzer, one tying him to Andrew Cuomo, and one straight-up attack from his foe Chris Callaghan, who now trails him by only twelve points. Hevesi countered with his own ads that ignored the scandal and questioned Callaghan's competence while accusing his energized opponent of planning to raise taxes.

While Hevesi was trying to get up off the mat, his driver scandal deepened and widened. On Saturday, the AP reported that Hevesi had a larger security detail than Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. Seven people on Hevesi's staff are listed as "confidential aides," providing security and transportation for the comptroller and others in his office. Hevesi has both a driver and a bodyguard at any given time. (The Post estimates the salary of Hevesi's driver detail to be nearly half a million dollars). Taxpayers have also been footing the bill for one of Hevesi's aides to chase around a girl who would never date him. Jack Chartier, Hevesi's chief of staff, used a state car to chauffeur actress Peggy Lipton — co-star of sixties TV series "The Mod Squad," — on shopping excursions, salon trips, and chemotherapy appointments. He also helped Lipton move but denied state employees were involved.

But the most damning (and probably flimsiest) Hevesi story to surface is "Page Six"'s revelation that Hevesi may have a relationship with Queens City Councilwoman Melinda Katz, a longtime political protégé. Hevesi, who employed a driver to transport his ailing wife, denies the allegation.

Amid all this, Democrats have had to figure out ways to distance themselves from Hevesi without hurting the ticket as a whole. Hevesi has been uninvited to the Democrat Election Day party. Hillary Clinton broke her silence over the weekend and said Hevesi "did something very wrong, and there is a process in place to deal with that." Andrew Cuomo was harsher, issuing a statement saying Hevesi had "gravely compromised his ability to do his job." Eliot Spitzer, who un-endorsed Hevesi last week, has been tactically quiet, complimenting Governor Pataki's "wise" decision to ask former Martha Stewart sleuth David Kelley to investigate the matter.

With Election Day a week away, there's no chance Hevesi will be removed from the ballot. But this morning, the Post reported that Hevesi will quit rather than let George Pataki pick his successor. If Hevesi is removed by the state senate, the governor picks a new (presumably Republican) comptroller. But if he resigns, the choice falls to the Democrat-dominated Assembly.

Related, a source close to Hevesi claims he forgot to turn his clock back an hour Saturday night and was inadvertently subjected to Tim Russert, when all he wanted was The McLaughlin Group.

Hevesi Attack Ads: "Who's Chris Callaghan?" [Spin Cycle]
Capitalizing Callaghan Shifts Into Overdrive [Newsday]
Hevesi's Security Detail Twice As Large As Spitzer's [AP]
Alan Overdrive [NYP]
Aide's 'Squad' Car Ride [NYDN]
Hevesi Smooches Up Pol Pal [NYP]
Thanks to Hevesi, Democrats Face Political Tightrope [NYS]
Pataki Picks Ex-Prosecutor to Weigh In on Hevesi Case [NYT]
Hevesi: I'd Quit Over Ax [NYP]

10:37 AM

In the Magazine 

GOP Believes in Pelosi Monster

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Gives you the shivers, right?Illustration by Darrow

Nancy Pelosi may inspire enough fear to keep the House Republican.

Eliot Spitzer and David Paterson are not just running mates, they're pals!

New Yorkers' votes may not be "deciders," but there are other ways to affect the midterm elections.

But in case you were worried, a new poll shows the GOP can expect a good trouncing here.

City dwellers are so used to bad produce that Andrew Young's comments don't seem offensive.

9:45 AM


Baggers and Banquets

  • Times likes Lamont (again). [NYT]
  • Pinko Post endorses liberal Democrat for Gov. [NYP]
  • Happy Birthday, Mr. President. [NYDN]
  • Bill Clinton magic fingers on Cuomo. [NYDN]
  • Pirro hangs in the wind. [Newsday]
  • In leap of faith, religious leader endorses Pirro without meeting her. [NYT]
  • Callaghan's "Taxless Express" takes it to the street. [Newsday]
  • Meet Team Spitzer. [NYT]
  • Jersey gay-marriage debate recalls rich history of American bigotry. [NYT]
  • Obama outloots Hillary. [NYP]
  • Jagger endorses a Clinton. [NYDN]
  • In one upstate race, an island of decency amid a sea of filth. [Times Union]
  • Democrat Jack Davis more Republican than Republican Tom Reynolds. [Buffalo News]
  • Lieberman says if he wins, Democrats will hug him. [NYDN]
  • Election Day also zombie flick. [Rochester Democrat & Chronicle]