As a top aide to Gov. Eliot Spitzer accused of political dirty tricks resigned to take a private sector job, the Democratic governor and rival Republican leader Joseph Bruno made it clear the conflict that has gridlocked state government since July will continue.
On Tuesday, Spitzer lumped Bruno in with the "rabid right" while Bruno accused Spitzer of acting in an "almost dictatorial way." Both comments came moments after emotional ceremonies to honor firefighters and police officers who recently lost their lives in the line of duty.
"The Senate is going to get to the truth ... of alleged abuse of power by the highest office in this state," Bruno told reporters.
He said "time will tell" if his Senate investigations committee will subpoena the governor to testify in the case involving two Spitzer aides who used state police to compile information about Bruno's use of state aircraft and a state police driver on days he mixed public and political business.
Last month, Albany County District Attorney P. David Soares found no crime and that there was no evidence of a plot behind gathering the data provided to a newspaper under the state Freedom of Information Law. In July, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said no crime was committed, but the aides acted improperly in a plan intended to discredit Bruno, the state Senate majority leader.
"What they would like to have everyone forget is they enlisted the state police for the first time in the history of anyone's memory ... (to) ask the state police to track a person in office of the opposition party," Bruno said. "To what purpose? To destroy him. To destroy him. Not just to discredit him. That's what the governor has to stand up and account for."
"Those who want to pursue frivolous and wasteful efforts, they do it at the expense of the public, at the expense of the state," Spitzer told reporters. "I am governing."
"The facts are now clear," Spitzer said. "The more ink, more wasted time is just going to drag it out. You know, the Senate should could come back and tend to the business of the state of New York."
Spitzer also criticized Bruno for opposing Spitzer's plan to make it easier for illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses. Spitzer said the effort will make the streets safer for traffic, track more immigrants and aid in anti-terrorism efforts while helping immigrants prosper.
"The rabid right that wants to pile on and demagogue the issue will not carry the day," Spitzer said. "Those who understand the issue know this is good for security. Those who have ignored the issue of immigration for 20 years and now want to come back and say, `Oh my goodness, look at the problem that is out there,' they are the people who have created this."
Bruno, who is trying to hold a narrow Republican majority in the Senate in an increasingly Democratic state, said that "the great majority of people of this state think you should not condone people who break the law. And when you say `illegal immigrants,' it means they are not obeying the law."
The conflict has cast doubt on a planned Oct. 22 special legislative session. Spitzer has dozens of appointees waiting to be confirmed by the Senate, including the chairman of the State University of New York board, which is delaying the search for a new chancellor. Bruno wants Assembly and Spitzer support for hundreds of millions of dollars in capital spending and for a senior citizen property tax break.
Spitzer also called on the Senate Republicans to "keep their word" on a deal to reduce the cost of public construction announced in the spring, but not yet voted on by the Senate.
The flare-ups came as longtime Spitzer Communications Director Darren Dopp, one of the aides accused of orchestrating the political plot, was hired at an Albany lobbying firm. Dopp, 48, will be a communications consultant and partner at Patricia Lynch Associates, a government relations firm run by the former top aide to Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
"After he was exonerated he felt that the time was right," said Terence Kindlon, Dopp's attorney, referring to Soares' report. "He is a very nice guy who has worked very hard for 20 years in state government, and the unwarranted criticism that he was taking was really having a negative impact on his family."
On Friday the Senate investigations committee subpoenaed Dopp and Secretary to the Gov. Richard Baum in its probe. Soon after, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver told the New York Daily News that Spitzer should consider appointing a powerful Moreland Act commission to investigate the case and issue its own subpoenas, possibly to lawmakers.
Messages left for Dopp at home and at the Lynch firm were not immediately returned.
Dopp's new position will not involve any lobbying at the firm, which could have violated rules Spitzer pushed to limit the ability of former Albany insiders to influence legislation.
Dopp will be paid more than the $175,000 he was paid in the Spitzer administration, Kindlon said.
"A lot of money," Bruno told reporters. "I wonder what he's going to do to earn that."