Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Albany Reform Update

"Gov. Spitzer may replace MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow with another real estate mogul -- a financial backer of Democrats who once headed the nonprofit Citizens Budget Commission," The Daily News reports.

Dale Hemmerdinger is a leading candidate for the position, sources said. [...]

Hemmerdinger is the president of Atco Properties and Management, which owns and manages more than 2 million square feet of residential, commercial, industrial and retail space.

While he was chairman of the Citizens Budget Commission the group made recommendations on how to balance the MTA's budget, including higher fares for riders and more tolls and fees for motorists.

Hemmerdinger's wife has given $40,000 to Spitzer campaign committees since 2000, and the governor's wife hosted a Democratic Party fund-raiser at the Hemmerdingers' Central Park South penthouse in May.

An editorial in yesterday's New York Post weighs in on other Spitzer reforms underway:

Does Gov. Spitzer want to clean up Albany's well-earned reputation for political sleaze -- or just mock efforts to do that, including his own?

New Yorkers may find out later this year -- when the powers-that-be move to overhaul thoroughbred-horse racing in New York, perhaps selecting an operator for a slot-machine megaplex at Aqueduct and expanded gambling operations at Belmont.

The clear front-runner for the mechanical-gambling franchise appeared last week to be a company called Excelsior Racing Associates -- whose main investors include one Richard Fields -- a, let's say, generous donor to the gov.

Fields contributed some $200,000 to Spitzer's 2006 campaign through his various limited-liability companies -- the same kind of donations the gov says he wants to end through campaign-finance reforms, but which he continues to accept.

According to a report in yesterday's Albany Times Union, NYRA's directors have already agreed to a Spitzer plan where Excelsior "would get the rights to operate a video lottery terminal casino now earmarked for Belmont Park."

The Post editorial also touched on Spitzer's campaign-finance reform push:

Consider: The gov demands the elimination of LLC donations, which are exempt from the $5,000 donation cap on other corporations - and from which he personally benefited during his campaign (see above).

Meanwhile, he had his wife hosted a cocktail party at which the state Democratic Party eagerly accepted LLC donations of up to $94,200.

Earlier, Spitzer solicited re-election campaign funds from "bundlers" - megabucks put together by individual fund-raisers - with goals of up to $1 million.

In return, the bundlers get private access to the governor, including quarterly meetings with Spitzer and periodic conference-call updates from him and his staff.

The New York Sun's Jacob Gershman has more on this here.

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