2005-12-14 / Political Page

Spitzer–Suozzi Primary May Come From One Of AG’s Wall St. Targets

One of New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer’s high-profile investigations of Wall Street types could be the springboard for Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi to get into the Democratic primary for governor against frontrunner Spitzer.

This scenario emerged last Friday as Kenneth G. Langone, a former New York Stock Exchange executive who’s awaiting trial on charges brought by Spitzer, lambasted the attorney general and praised Suozzi. Langone’s comments were significant because he’s a billionaire co-founder of the Home Depot chain and presumably can raise millions for Suozzi from Spitzer’s enemies on Wall Street.

A report in Newsweek magazine last October claimed Langone could raise as much as $30 million for Suozzi.

Spitzer reacted forcefully, saying Langone’s charges were all lies and that Langone was responsible for delaying his trial, not Spitzer, as Langone claimed.

Langone’s problems with Spitzer arose over the huge compensation paid to former Stock Exchange President Richard Grasso and Langone’s alleged efforts to mislead people about it. Langone denies the charges.

Langone is loud in his praise for Suozzi because of the young pol’s successful efforts in turning around Nassau County, where Langone resides. If there’s any doubt about his fundraising abilities, the self-styled “conservative Republican” proved he had them by serving as finance chairman for one of Rudy Giuliani’s campaigns.

It appears that there could be some trouble ahead for Spitzer, nothing he won’t be able to handle, we’d say, but nonetheless enough to upset the notion that he has a totally clear path to winning the Democratic gubernatorial nomination unchallenged next year.

Since Spitzer announced earlier this year that he would be a candidate to succeed Governor George Pataki, he became a clear leader in the polls to win the election, and campaign cash flowed freely into his coffers. No challengers had emerged until Suozzi won re-election impressively in November; emboldening him to aim some challenging remarks at Spitzer and the Democratic primary.

On the other side of the aisle, the Republican state committee met on Monday to state a preference for a candidate from their party to challenge the Democratic choice. The outcome of that meeting will be covered elsewhere in this issue.

The ongoing trials and tribulations of Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro and whether she will run against United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton or become her party’s candidate for state attorney general are also covered in this issue.

PAY BOOSTS COMING? Mayor Michael Bloomberg may get to play Santa Claus this year for all elected city officials who have not received a pay increase since 1999, according to the scuttlebut around City Hall. He would be making up for lost time.

The mayor, under city law, initiates these pay increases by creating an advisory commission every four years to review pay levels for elected officials—the mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough presidents, district attorneys, and councilmembers. If the advisory panel recommends salary hikes, the city council must vote on them.

The mayor was supposed to create an advisory commission in 2003, but decided not to because of the budget situation that year. Reportedly, the mayor was asked to get the process rolling this year by several city officials and he has agreed to do so.

The current salaries are mayor, $195,000 (but Bloomberg takes only $1 a year); comptroller, $160,000; public advocate, $150,000; district attorneys, $150,000; borough presidents, $135,000, and councilmembers, $90,000.

In 1999, the pay increases ranged from $30,000 for the mayor down to $19,500 for councilmembers. Generally, the raises for the top echelon of officials have a trickle-down effect and deputy mayors, commissioners and managers also get salary boosts.

Of course, once the advisory commission is formed, it is free to recommend salary increases or not and the mayor and council may or may not accept the recommendations.

On another front, the mayor added his voice to those who are calling for a probe into how billions of 9/11 federal recovery aid dollars were spent.

Late last week, Congressmember Peter King (R–C, Long Island), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, appointed one of his committee members to conduct an investigation and hold public hearings on the matter. The initiative for the investigation was prompted by a series of articles in the New York Daily News.

MORE ABOUT MAYOR: Mayor Bloomberg followed up his appointment of Patti Harris as the first woman deputy mayor two weeks ago with the selection last week of Kevin Sheekey, a Democrat who did a great job running the mayor’s re-election campaign, as Deputy Mayor for Governmental Operations.

Sheekey was formerly an aide to the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and the late Congressmember James Scheuer. He then worked at Bloomberg LP, formerly the mayor’s Wall Street firm, as overseer of intergovernmental affairs.

Harris’ appointment puts her in line to be the first woman to serve as New York City’s de facto mayor—she’ll be running the city whenever the mayor is out of town. She got her start in government as a high school intern in then-Congressmember Ed Koch’s Manhattan office in 1973.

Harris, 50, also served at Bloomberg LP as corporate communications chief.

VALLONE BILL BECOMES LAW: A bill introduced by Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria), which increases penalties for anyone who fails to yield to an emergency vehicle, was signed into law by Mayor Bloomberg.

“While our emergency responder teams weave through traffic, people are left desperately waiting for help, and with every second of delay, tragedy inches closer,” Vallone said in explaining the reason he introduced the bill.

Under the new law, the present $150 fine and up to 15 days in jail will be increased for first offenders to a $300 fine and up to 30 days in jail. Second offenders now get a $300 fine and up to 45 days in jail; this will now increase to a $600 fine and 90 days in jail. Third offenders will now face fines of up to $900 and 180 days in jail instead of the present $450 fine and 90 days in jail.

“Before this bill, the fines were about the same as a parking ticket,” said Vallone. “That sends the absolute wrong message. People are dying waiting for help and people must move out of the way or go to jail.”

PADAVAN GETS AWARD FROM EDUCATORS: State Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose) was honored recently by the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) during its 41st Leadership Conference, “Leading for Success.”

Padavan received a Leadership In Government Award for his support of the city’s public schools and his dedication to education, according to CSA leaders. In receiving the honor, Padavan recapped this year’s near-record funding increases to the city school system amounting to $322 million, the legislation he helped to get passed which will bring stronger financial accountability and oversight to local school districts and the creation of the School Inspector General office.

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