Summer being a glacially slow news cycle in Albany, the big story has been “Troopergate.” Did our Governor sink to Nixonian depths of political dirty tricks in this, his rookie season? According to the District Attorney investigating the matter, no:
ALBANY — Albany County District Attorney David Soares said Thursday he has found no laws were broken in the Troopergate affair that has consumed the Capitol for much of the summer.
“This office found no illegal conduct,” stated an e-mail from Soares’ spokeswoman, Heather Orth, late in the afternoon. A similar message was left on her telephone answering machine.
“To the contrary, we found that the governor, his staff, and the New York State Police were acting within their authority in compiling and releasing documents to the media concerning the use of state aircraft.”
Attorney General Andrew Cuomo earlier this summer also concluded that no laws were broken in Troopergate. Soares has not said if he agrees with Cuomo’s finding that Spitzer aides acted improperly but not illegally.
In a nutshell, the problem started when the Albany Times Union reported that Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R-Brunswick) had used State Police helicopters to travel to New York City to attend fundraisers and had used State Police act as drivers also. This was a potential big deal because New York had recently convicted its just-re-elected Comptroller, Alan Hevesi, for using state employees to drive his wife around.
Bruno was cleared because he had also conducted state business — an hour here, a couple hours there — while on his political missions.
So one would hope that this is the end of Troopergate, but no.
The findings also come a day after the Senate Investigations Committee said it had hired a former Reagan-era federal prosecutor, Joseph diGenova, to help with their Troopergate probe. DiGenova, who investigated former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry as well as the Teamsters, will be paid up to $500,000 for his work.
Additionally, the State Ethics Commission, which has contacted some of the Troopergate players but issued no report, ceases to exist at the end of this week, thanks to a change in state law. It will merge with the Temporary State Commission on Lobbying to form a new Commission on Public Integrity.
While the new commission has yet to be fully appointed, staff members from the ethics and lobbying bodies will remain in place and conceivably could continue that investigation.
Well, why might it be important to continue this? I think, simply, it is a case of “HEY, FREE MUD!”