You may or may not be aware of the legal troubles facing Joe Bruno, who once was the most powerful Gopper in Albany. (Capital News 9 2/12/09)
It appears former Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno will stand trial this fall on federal corruption charges. A U.S. District Court judge has set a trial date of Nov. 2.
Bruno was indicted last month on eight counts of fraud. The US Attorney's Office said he took advantage of his position to collect millions of dollars from private consulting firms in exchange for his influence and support.
You may not know that he is strongly tied to Sen. Kirsten "Gun Nut" Gillibrand. From TPM Muckraker 1/27/09:
What's the connection? It turns out that, though Bruno and Gillibrand are from different parties, that indictment could end up bringing some unwanted publicity to New York's new senator. That's because, though it's remained largely under the press's radar, a business deal between Bruno and Gillibrand's father, Doug Rutnik, was a partial focus of the federal probe that culminated with Friday's indictment.
Let's back up:
By most accounts, Rutnik, a well-connected Albany Republican lobbyist and power-broker, has been the prime architect and fund-raiser for Gillibrand's political career.
Rutnik is tight with just about every powerful Republican in the state, including former governor George Pataki, and former senator Al D'Amato -- in whose office Gillibrand got her start as an intern, before running for Congress as a Democrat.
Rutnik is also close with Bruno. In fact, as the Albany Times-Union (via Nexis) has reported, in the 1990s, Rutnik and another lobbyist, James Featherstonhaugh, bought hundreds of acres of isolated swampland in New York's Rensselaer County, which they planned to develop. Bruno and his brother ultimately invested in the venture, known as the First Grafton Corporation.
Tom Robbins of the Village Voice wrote an excellent expose back in January on Ms. Gillbrand's father's political machine.
Kirsten Gillibrand has all of two years in elective office. Like Kennedy, she also hails from Democratic royalty. In her case, it's the Albany branch, where self-service precedes public service. Her father is a veteran political fixer and lobbyist. His connections stem from his fabulous mother-in-law, Polly Noonan, longtime "confidante" and presumed mistress to one of the most corrupt mayors in state history. Erastus Corning 2nd ruled Albany for more than 40 years, most of the time enhancing his family's fortunes while dodging grand juries. In 1972, when the state investigation commission looked at how graft and cost-plus contracts had inflated city expenses hundreds of times over, it called Corning's Albany "the worst-run county in America."
"Rastus" Corning loved Douglas Rutnik, Gillibrand's dad, so much that when the mayor died in 1983, he left him a politician's most sentimental and precious assets: his insurance company and his shotgun. "There's no question I was like a substitute son for him," Rutnik told Paul Grondahl, Corning's biographer. The shotgun was from the hours the two spent together shooting small birds. The insurance firm was the result of a lifetime of favor collection: Its clients included all the saloon owners, contractors, and manufacturers who understood that the way to thrive in Albany was to buy your coverage from Corning. When Corning helped Nelson Rockefeller build the capitol's vast South Mall, every tradesman made sure the mayor's firm wrote his insurance. Corning's own wife and children were so outraged when he left the company to Rutnik and the Noonans that they sued to win it back. They lost.
The substitute son embraced the surrogate father's lessons: His law firm became the faithful instrument of the city's political leaders, rising to the occasion for electoral challenges, foreclosures, and any needed influence-peddling. Democrat or Republican, he did not discriminate. He grew close to the GOP's rising star, Alfonse D'Amato, and even closer to D'Amato's tough-talking aide, Zenia Mucha. After D'Amato successfully steered George Pataki into the governor's mansion, Mucha went along as part of the deal. She and Rutnik bought a lovely home together in Colonie, the Albany suburb.
His lobbying clients quickly prospered: Defense giant Lockheed Martin won a $50 million state contract, and another $95 million deal from the MTA. Morgan Stanley paid $10,000 a month for his wisdom on state bond sales. Altria—née Philip Morris—kept him on a $100,000-a-year retainer to help ward off curbs on its cancer-spawning business.
Gillibrand isn't just a bloodthirsty, warmongering gun nut. She is part of a corrupt political machine.