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Every scandal begins with a lie. But the truth will come out. And then comes the fallout and the outrage.
Scandals have shaped America since its founding. From business and politics to sports and society, we look on aghast as corruption, deceit and ambition bring down heroes and celebrities, politicians and moguls. And when the dust finally settles, we’re left to wonder: how did this happen? Where did they trip up, and who is to blame? From the creators of American History Tellers, Business Wars and Tides of History comes American Scandal, where we take you deep into the heart of America’s dark side to look at what drives someone to break the rules and what happens when they’re caught. Hosted by Lindsay Graham.
Tue, 05 Nov 2019 10:00
In 2006, Eliot Spitzer is elected governor on a promise to tackle corruption in the most dysfunctional state capital in the country--Albany, NY. He is quickly challenged by one of the most powerful men in the state. Will the governor change Albany or will Albany change him?
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This episode contains some strong language. New York City, November 7, 2006. Its election night at the Sheraton Hotel, and inside the Grand Ballroom, the roar of the crowd is deafening. Democrats have just swept the state elections, sending Hillary Clinton back to the US Senate for her second term and Andrew Cuomo into the position of state attorney general. But tonight, it's the man who won the race for governor of New York State that people want to hear from. Just 47 years old, Elliott Spitzer is the Democratic Party's new golden boy. I wonder if a line has just been across this nation for people who value good values and judgment. But today was not a victory of one candidate or one party, but of all those irrepressible optimists who have hoped in dream of a resurgent New York. Aggressive, ambitious and charming. Spitzer has a gleaming resume as the tough attorney general who battled corruption on Wall Street. He's a hero to New York voters who put him into office with a whopping 69% of the vote. The Democratic National Committee is even eyeing him as a possible presidential candidate and Spitzer has done nothing to discourage them. But tonight, Spitzer is on a mission. Some might call it a crusade. New York State government has been declared the most dysfunctional in the country by the NYU Law Center. Or as one assemblyman put it more colorfully, it's a cesspool of corruption. Fraud, bribery, racketeering, larceny, burglary, and lapses of ethics are just a few of the charges that have driven more than a dozen politicians from office under a shadow of shame in the past ten years. But Elliott Spitzer has vowed to change all that. He will force the government to work for the people of New York again, just as it was intended to. Tonight marks a turning point for New York State and sounds a death now for business as usual in Albany. Change is finally arrived with the election of Elliott Spitzer, starting on day one, at least according to Elliott Spitzer. But tomorrow when we wake up, it will be time to seize the future, to start a new and to walk together towards a hopeful beginning for the state of New York. Meanwhile, Joe Bruno has been watching election returns from the tranquility of his 125 acre thoroughbred horse farm in upstate New York. Bruno is the Republican Senate Majority Leader, the state's most powerful Republican, and his mood is somber. Sure, he's won reelection to his seat, but this was no surprise. He's held his seat for 30 years, and election night these days amounts to nothing more than a rubber stamp. The Chamber of Bruno rules has also maintained a slim Republican majority, but this was no surprise either. The Republican Party has controlled the state Senate for two decades, but the landslide election of a Democratic governor is a bitter pill for Joe Bruno to swallow. Spitzer will be the first Democratic governor of the state in 12 years. It's some up where we stand right now because it is the story of the night. The Democrats have gained control of the House of Representatives. Bruno gets up from his leather client and clicks off the returns with a sigh. And Aid enters the room holding a phone. Senator Bruno, there's a reporter from the New York Post online. He wants to know if you want to make a comment about Spitzer's win. Not even the Post can print the comment I'd like to make. All right, I'll tell him no comment. Are you going to call the new governor? Sure, let's get it over with. Bruno has a bad feeling in his belly about Elliot Spitzer. He knows the type. Big talker who thinks he's going to muscle in and dictate how things are going to run in Albany. But that's not how Albany operates. Bruno fakes enthusiasm as he gets on the phone. Sir, it's him. Mr. Governor, elect. I guess congratulations are in order. Bruno's a former boxer, a Korean war vet. He survived plenty of fights with Democratic governors and so called ethics watchdogs. His Spitzer is spoiling for a fight. He'll give him one. But what Joe Bruno has no way of knowing is how bruised and bloody that fight will leave them both. Officially one hour until your favorite show premieres, time to get some snacks delivered through Instacart. Okay, let's get some popcorn, seltzer, chocolate covered almonds and wait. Did they release the whole season? Better cart some ice cream for the two part finale. When your day should be ending but a new season is starting, the world is your cart. Visit Instacart.com or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for a limited time, minimum order $10 additional terms apply. Lots of people don't know it, but autumn is an ideal time to plant. Shorter days and cooler nights create ideal conditions for the plants to get established. 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Yet throughout American history, ward bosses and politicians have gathered in secret under the haze of cigar smoke. Unlike boss tweed of Tamini Hall, Huey Long and Big Bill Thompson, to make deals based on another rule. I scratch your back and you scratch mine. In the summer of 2004, the Brennan Center for Justice released a study on the most dysfunctional state legislatures in the country. It wasn't Illinois or Louisiana at the top of the list. The most dishonest state capital in America was Albany, New York. In the last 10 years, more than 30 current and former elected officials from the state of New York have been indicted, convicted, sanctioned or accused. Political corruption is hardly unique, but apparently Albany does it better than anyone else. What is it about the New York state capital that drowns even the most idealistic politicians in a cesspool of corruption? And is it possible for a politician to change the culture in Albany, or is it inevitable that the culture of Albany changes them? That's what we're exploring in this four part series, New York State of Crime. Three years after the Brennan study is published, Elliott Spitzer is the idealistic governor who has cleaned up financial corruption on Wall Street as the state's attorney general. He believes he can change the culture of Albany the same way. What he doesn't know when he walks onto his first day of the job is that the fight he's about to take on will end not just in failure, but in a political and very personal scandal. And pretty soon, the politicians who gleefully watch Spitzer fall will themselves be taken down. One by one, these men, and they are incidentally all men, who run Albany will fall like Domino's. Joe Bruno, Sheldon Silver, and Dean Skillos. This is episode one, three men in a room. It's New Year's Day 2007, Albany, New York. The weather is gray and gloomy, with freezing rain in the forecast. But in the state capital, the mood is anything but gloomy. It's an auguration day for the 54th governor of the state of New York, and people have shown up from across the state to show their support. The change so many New Yorkers have been promised has finally arrived. As the horns from a 12 piece orchestra play a stately fanfare, Elliott Spitzer makes his way down the majestic capital steps, company by his wife Silda, and their three daughters dressed in crisp reds and whites. At 1 p.m., it's time. Spitzer steps up to the podium and raises his right hand for the oath of office. The crowd tightens their scarves and blow on their hands to ward off the cold, but Spitzer wears only a suit jacket and tie. As if to say, a little weather can't diminish his machismo. His smile is so big, even the judge performing the rights can't help smiling back. Few would imagine that Spitzer's already had a long day. He was up at 5, for a morning jog in Washington Park, where he was joined by more than 100 fans. By 9 a.m., he had signed five executive orders, all aimed at ethics reform and combating New York's infamous corruption. Now, here he is, reciting the same words that so many greats who have come before him as governor of New York have said, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Nelson Rockefeller. Elliott Spitzer has been given a lot in his life. His father is one of New York City's most successful real estate developers, and Spitzer has had the best education money can buy, first Princeton, then Harvard. The kind of education that virtually guaranteed him a job at a prestigious law firm on track to a future partnership. But Spitzer chose a different road. He sees himself as a man of the people, and he's devoted his life to public service, specifically fighting crime, social injustice, and corruption. And he's good at it. To whom much is given, much is expected, his mother told him often, and he's adopted the adage. Now he's about to be given the keys to the highest political office in the state. Spitzer looks hopeful, determined, stepping up to the podium to give his much rehearsed inauguration day speech. Happy New Year, and thanks to all of you and trepid New Yorkers and friends for joining us on this gray but glorious January day. Clear eyed and confident, Spitzer speaks without notes. He talks of the illustrious history of the state, New York's former greatness. He mentions the word change several times, and then, at nine minutes in, he throws his first punch. Over the last decade, we have seen what can happen when our government stands still in the face of great challenge and inevitable change. In government that works for those who hold office, not those who put them there. Like Rip Van Winkle, the legendary character created by the New York author Washington Irving, New York has slept through much of the past decade while the rest of the world has passed us by. Sitting among the dignitaries in the audience, his Republican Senate Majority Leader, Joe Bruno. He's a first generation Italian American, and there's a swagger to his style. With his tan camel hair coat, red silk scarf, and his full head of thick gray hair, he looks more like a mulberry street ward bus than an Albany power broker. Next to him is the assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, who wears a black wool coat and a black hat. Or, into Russian immigrants, Silver is a Democrat from Manhattan's lower east side, and like most professional men from his neighborhood, he dresses conservatively. Informally known as Shelley and Joe, they are the two most powerful men in state government after the government. They have been adversaries for more than 20 years. Although the old saying about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer was not lost on either of them, in reality they are neither friends nor enemies. They are simply two men with immense power, who have had no choice but to recognize and respect the power the other holds. Both come from working class routes. Both rose to power and prominence through sheer determination and will. Both have heard more than a few inaugural speeches in their 30 years of governance together. But never have they heard one like this, and Bruno doesn't like it. He turns to Silver, scowling. He's talking about us. Silver isn't exactly pleased either, but in typical fashion he's inscrutable and stare straight ahead. He's just puffing his chest up Joe. They're all like this at first. The man's been governor for less than 10 minutes and already he's thrown us under the bus. So we'll take the subway. Easy for you to say your side is on the upswing. He's not after your seat. And to think I actually used to like the guy. He sent me a Christmas card this year for Christ's sake. I wouldn't wait by the mailbox next Christmas. Joe Bruno isn't much on patience and he's pissed. Before the election, Spitzer swore they would run New York together. Said Bruno's problems would be with Silver, not him. What Bruno understood that to mean was that they had a pact. Bruno would allow Spitzer to govern and Spitzer would allow Bruno to keep his majority. Quid Pro Quo, you scratch my back. I'll scratch yours. That's how it works in Albany. But then, before he even took office, Spitzer pulled a fast one. He appointed a Republican state senator Michael Balboni to head up the office of Homeland Security, leaving his seat vacant. Balboni, that guy wouldn't have even run if Bruno hadn't convinced him. And now his seat is open. A seat traditionally held by a Republican. But with this new wave of Democrats, there's no guarantee it will stay that way when the special election comes around. Bruno knows in his gut that Spitzer purposely appointed a Republican senator to vacate a seat so he could get another Democrat into the Senate. This is not politics as usual. This is a personal affront. Spitzer is clearly gunning for him. And if he thinks he's going to put a Democrat in that seat, he's got another thing coming. That's his territory. This is about survival. And what Spitzer has failed to grasp is that he can't get anything done without Bruno's help. There are three keys to this kingdom. And he and Silver hold two of them. On day one, everything changes. Was one of Spitzer's catchier campaign slogans. And he's ready to make it come true. He has an ambitious agenda he intends to accomplish. And he's going to start with something big. Ethics reform. He wants to send a clear message to the voters and to lawmakers. He did not come to Albany to play. Discovener means business. But while Shelley and Joe might play along at first, each of them holds near absolute power over their chambers. And rule like strict, no nonsense headmasters. They tell their respective parties how to vote on legislation and who to back for what. They're not about to give up all that power, not without a fight. They wheel their power the old fashioned way with money. Namely a giant chunk of taxpayer cash in the amount of $200 million written right into the budget under a line called Community Projects Fund, also known as Member Items. Member Items sounds a lot better than pork, which is essentially what it is. Dulled out in secret, Bruno and Silver can spread the money around anyway they see fit. The faster a legislator waxes tail, the bigger the allocation. Fail to do what leadership asks and you may not be invited back to Albany at all. But within the first two weeks of January, Governor Spitzer announces a new plan for how the Member Items will be distributed in an Ethics reform bill. And it will no longer be in secret. Now, each dollar amount will be listed as a line item in the budget with the name of the recipient available for the public to see and must be approved by the Governor. It's all part of his plan to make Albany more transparent. Joe Bruno actually pledges his support of the Ethics reform, as long as the reforms are announced as a joint effort. He knows how to play this game. He can look like he's playing by the rules. Sheldon Silver agrees and says he'll be happy to make the announcement himself. He knows a good press hop when he sees one. The three of them appear together, smiling for reporters. The Governor, the Assembly Speaker and the State Senate Majority Leader. Usually, it's these three power positions behind closed doors. Today, they're publicly pledging mutual respect, cooperation, and transparents. It's a bleak winter day toward the end of January. Elliott Spitzer is preparing for an important press conference and tells his aide to get Republican Minority Leader James to disco on the phone. At the moment, to disco is in his car, driving to a meeting. Yes, Governor. Senator, I need you at a press conference today. 10 AM, Ethics reform. It's 8 AM, Governor. I'm in the car. I'm on my way to a meeting. I can't cancel now. What's more important than Ethics reform? That's when to disco shares the real reason he's not available. All due respect, Governor, you completely cut me out of all the key meetings. Why do you need me now? Spitzer explodes. I've done more in three weeks than any Governor has done in the history of the state, and I'm having enough trouble with the other goddamn legislative leaders. Just do what you're told. Or what? Listen, I'm a fucking steamroller. And I'll roll over you and anybody else who gets my way. He hung up on me. Jesus Christ. While serving as the Attorney General, Spitzer's outbursts were legendary. He was the sheriff of Wall Street, and his strong prosecutorial style was effective. He won a lot. But staffers would often joke about his temper. When his face reddened, and his voice started to rise, they'd call him Irwin. Their name for Spitzer's evil twin. Throwing his temper around was part of Spitzer's strength. It worked to take down financial titans and mob bosses. Why wouldn't he use the same tactics in Albany? But part of the plan is getting support from Republicans, like the minority leader James to disco. Except Spitzer's urging sound a lot more like a threat. The Republicans are vulnerable, and he's told several of them to get on board, or he'll bring powerhouse Democrats into their districts in the next election cycle to run against them. But to disco's not biting, he's a seasoned lawmaker who knows how to get publicity, and he leaks Spitzer's comments to reporters. But Spitzer likes the tough guy image. He doesn't care how many legislatures get their feelings hurt. He's got goals. He's on a mission, and nothing's gonna stop him. Not yet. Broom, brum, brum. Oh, beep, beep, boom. All right. Ready? Ready. Okay, when you watch the next one with the one raised, don't b***** it up. Watch it with us. Tune in the fast and loose sidecasts hosted by the Kid Miro and me, Michelle Beatle. He is funny, and I will be there. And she also knows what she's talking about. We go live on every race Sunday. That is right. Download the app and follow us at AMP Presents F1 on AMP. What if your family was the victim of a home invasion, or you woke up in the morgue, or you were seriously injured miles from help? What would you do? This is actually happening. Ask our listeners this very question, while we bring you captivating real life stories of trauma and perseverance. This is actually happening brings listeners extraordinary true stories from the people who lived them. You'll hear stories about conflict, turmoil, or threats that dramatically alter the course of someone's life. Each episode is an exploration of the human spirit, and how survivors manage to overcome hardship and move on with their lives. Even thriving afterward. The new season of this is actually happening is available ad free only with Wondry Plus. And if this new season isn't enough, you can listen to more than 120 exclusive episodes available only to Wondry Plus subscribers. Join Wondry Plus on Apple Podcasts or on the Wondry app. The first big clash between Bruno and Spitzer comes in February. When Spitzer appointed Republican Assemblyman Michael Balboni to head of Homeland Security, his seat went vacant. And now a special election is called to fill it. One more Democrat in the Senate is one more vote for Spitzer's agenda, so Bruno is ready for the fight. Spitzer has been muscling in on his territory ever since he came to Albany, playing let's make a deal with Republicans in vulnerable districts urging them to cross the aisle. Democrats are on the upswing, and the Senate holds just a slim four seat Republican majority. To Bruno, Spitzer's maneuver is a direct attack, and when Joe Bruno is attacked, he attacks back. It's what he learned as a boy who was bullied in school in the 30s in Glen Falls, New York. He even learned to box to defend himself. He may not be able to get Elliot Spitzer into a ring, but he can still throw a political punch. To fill Balboni's seat, Bruno backs the Nassau County Republican County clerk, Maureen Ocon. Spitzer endorses the Democrat Craig Johnson. Between the two parties, they spend more than $5 million. It's the most expensive legislative race in state history, and because it's a special election, the whole campaign is only one month long. When the fight is over, and the votes are counted, Democrat Craig Johnson is declared the winner. The Republican majority in Albany is down to just two. I'm a steamroller, Spitzer thinks. Hell yeah. But for Joe Bruno, it's a humiliating defeat. Spitzer's next move to get his new budget approved, and to make Albany more transparent, is to destroy the holy Trinity of Albany. He plans to dismantle the longstanding political tradition in Albany, known as Three Men in a Room. Three men in a room dates back almost 75 years to Governor Thomas Dewey, who made all important decisions about the budget by inviting the assembly speaker and the Senate majority leader into his office, locking the door and deciding how the money was to be divvied up. For 75 years, the most important decisions affecting the lives of millions of New York citizens have been made in complete secrecy, with no input from the rest of the democratically elected legislative body. Spitzer is about to change that. Located on the third floor of the Capitol building, an impressive architectural achievement modeled after the City Hall of Paris, is the Governor's enormous wood paneled office. It's a room that commands respect, with an aura of history that is palpable. And it's to this room that Spitzer calls assembly speaker Shell and Silver, and Senate majority leader Joe Bruno, for a chat. Even for a couple of old politicos like Silver and Bruno, the office can't help but inspire a kind of reverence. They sink into the well worn leather club chairs across from the Governor's imposing Mahogany desk, and wait for Spitzer to tell them why they're there. This is a show of respect, gentlemen, and to let you know the days of Three Men in a Room are over. Bruno Cox's head looks spits from the eye. And what exactly are you proposing instead, Governor? I'm not proposing anything. What I'm doing is expanding the room. From now on, the Lieutenant Governor will be part of budget negotiations or any other important legislation under discussion, along with the minority leaders from both chambers. I think that will give us a healthy core. Governor, with all to respect, that's just too many cooks in the kitchen. I'll also be inviting the press. We need transparency, and we need some healthy debate. I'm sure you would both agree to that, right? Debates are fine for naming bridges or building a playground, but this is a $120 billion budget. It's a thousand pages long. We'll be here the next Christmas. This is enough for discussion. It's my room, my rules. Next time we meet, it will be in the open. And I'll see you then, Senator and Mr. Speaker. Sheldon Silver had stayed mom through the meeting, but inside he's seething. He's not someone accustomed to being ordered around. This is Albany. You don't come into office swinging and barking orders, not even if you're the governor. You show respect to those who came before. There is a way to do things. But Silver is notoriously controlled. It's hard to know what's going on inside him, and this isn't necessarily the hill he's going to die on. Speak softly and carry a big stick as his motto. And Silver isn't going to use that stick today. The hot headed Bruno, on the other hand, says screw the stick. Joe carries a baseball bat. Bruno is, I rate. Who does this guy think he is? Nobody is going to push Joe Bruno around and certainly not some entitled Princeton punk from Manhattan. On March 20, Spitzer opens the doors and breaks the sanctity of three men in a room. The lieutenant governor is there. The minority leaders are there. And the press to capture it all. Bruno sits on one side of the table. Spitzer sits at the head. On the other side, Silver sits unreadable and stone faces always. Arms crossed. The tension is thick. No one is quite sure how to act. Not the press, not the senators. Not even Spitzer. Bruno makes a few verbal jabs and Spitzer volleys back. Reporters look at each other in confusion. Finally, the meeting is adjourned. The ostensible reason for the meeting was to discuss the budget. But at the end, the budget is no closer to being done. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Spitzer has promised the voters it will pass on time on April 1st. He's got 11 days. One day later, in the red room of the executive chambers with the press looking on, Spitzer tries again. The governor has presented his budget. Bruno has countered with a version of his own. And now it's time to hammer out the details. And this time, Spitzer has four other legislators on his side. They tell Bruno and friendly, but concerned, toms, that his budget won't work. Spitzer is confident it's just a matter of time until Bruno has to come around. Except, they don't have a lot of time. And Bruno knows it. Bruno complains there's no water in the room. Spitzer calls it part of his negotiating tactics. No one's sure if he's serious. Bruno wrinkles up his face, looking sad. The press feels sorry for him. Shouldn't the governor give this man some water, one reporter wonders? The water bit is actually part of Bruno's tactics. It's called stalling and he's very good at it. This is the time to dig in and get what he wants. If the budget is late, oh well. It will look worse for Spitzer than it does for Bruno. He's savvy and he's a survivor. Something Spitzer will soon be learning. Spitzer's starting to feel his steamroller sputter. He's ready to negotiate with Bruno, but he doesn't have a whole lot of chit stored up or favors to call in. And if this budget doesn't pass on time, press will have a field day with him. His promises to change everything on day one to get big things done will be mocked. His approval ratings will tumble. And that's not something he can afford after just four months in the governor's chair. On March 31st, Spitzer staff stays up all night, bartering budget items with Bruno. At 4.45 in the morning, his budget director realizes it's impossible to get everything Spitzer wants. Bruno's camp is just not giving in. He emails his boss. We better start lowering expectations. Spitzer realizes he needs to act now if he stands a prayer of getting any of his agenda through on deadline. One minute after receiving the email, Spitzer emails back and tells the team to compromise. And then he calls Bruno and Silver and the two minority leaders to meet 11 a.m. in secret behind closed doors. So it's five men in a room. But still. Seven hours later, they emerge the chess game is over. A budget approved ready to send to the legislature. Governor Spitzer then issues what is called a message of necessity and removes the three day review period for the public and the 207 legislators. Instead, he drops the budget in their laps and tells them it's approved rubber stamp it just the way businesses always been done in this city. And the legislators as always vote how their leaders tell them. Only one day late, the budget has officially passed. But Spitzer has officially crossed his own line. After his Herculian effort to pass the budget, Spitzer is feeling good. He managed to get several important items of his agenda into the budget. Hard one battle and an incredible accomplishment given Bruno stubbornness. Sure, he had to compromise on a few things here. Give up a few others there. But in his mind, he's made tangible progress toward his goals and for the people of New York. So he surprised to find that his approval numbers have in fact gone down. The public knows the budget was hammered out in secret and then crammed down the legislators throats with orders to vote it through. It reeks of business as usual. And it's not what they had signed up for with Spitzer. Where were the open rational debates? Where is the new transparency? Bruno takes the opportunity to throw a political sucker punch. He goes on a conservative radio show called Spitzer a rich, overgrown, spoiled brat. The punch hits the governor exactly where intended. The next morning, he calls Bruno seething mad, demands he comes to his office. Bruno refuses. He has other plans. Spitzer tells him if he doesn't come to his office immediately, he'll knock him out. Bruno ends the conversation. Go fuck yourself. In just three short months, this is what it's come to. The governor and Senate majority leader of New York snarling at each other, hurling profanities and digging in. They're from opposite parties, from opposite side to the tracks, but they both love a fight. The battle between Spitzer and Bruno is just getting started and neither will back down until one of them's gone. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery. And lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico, did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener, follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Spitzer came to Albany to change not just the budget process, but to enact real campaign finance reform too. Reducing the role of money in politics was popular with the public and could curb the influence of special interests. Spitzer sees a winning issue, and in June, two months after the budget standoff, he vows he will negotiate with the door open. No more three men in a room, or five. No more secret negotiations. The process will be out in the open for everyone to see. Spitzer sets up a meeting in the office that once belonged to Teddy Roosevelt, and then he assigns everyone's seat to the conference table. Spitzer sits at the head, silver crosses his arms, making it clear he sees the session as a waste of time. Bruno is even more annoyed than silver, are they really going to talk about campaign finance reform? Again, everybody already knows where he stands. Joe Bruno has never met a campaign donor he didn't like, or a donation he wasn't happy to accept. He glares at Spitzer. If someone wants to give me a million dollars because they like what we do, that's fine. Bruno grew up poor, in a family of eight. His father shoveled coal. He needs campaign contributions. Spitzer meanwhile grew up in a home with ten bedrooms in New York City. Bruno doesn't have the deep pockets of Spitzer's father, who had financed most of his son's campaign when he ran for Attorney General. Besides, as long as the name of the donor and the dollar amount are devolved, what's the problem? He also believed the beneficiary of the donation should be given a wide birth when it comes to spending that money. For Bruno, that sometimes means using campaign funds for landscaping on his horse farm as part of his entertainment expenses. It was already known that he paid for a $1,300 pool cover out of donor money. But how can you entertain with leaves and your pool? So far, no one has questioned him. Bruno was the boss. Until now. On June 21st, the final day of the legislative session, Spitzer threatens to hold up a spending bill he knows is important to Bruno if he doesn't give in on campaign finance reform. That's all Bruno needs to move to his endgame. He adjourns the Senate and shuts down the legislature. No deal. See you next year. Bruno calls a press conference and announces the legislative session that began with promise and achievement ended with a whimper. Spitzer is furious. He doesn't whimper. He roars. But so does Bruno. The next round between these two men will not be legislative warfare. It'll be very, very personal. In late May, a month before the legislative session ended, Spitzer senior advisor receives an intriguing email from communications director Darren Dopp. Dopp has a bit of the boy next door quality, earnest, soft spoken. But he's also very, very smart. And Dopp would walk on fire for Governor Spitzer. In the email he writes, records exist going way back of Bruno using state aircraft for use outside of his official duties. Several days later, Dopp sends another email on the heels of a story in the local Times Union about Bruno's business dealings that are under federal investigation. In this one, he says, think a travel story will fit nicely in the mix. He orders a superintendent of police to look into several trips Bruno made to New York City in May 2007. They're interested in Bruno's use of state aircraft and police escorts and details of all the stops he made on each trip. There's a problem though. State troopers don't keep records on every stop made by a politician along the way. Just the broad strokes that a trip had occurred. No problem, Dopp tells him. Just have them create anything missing from memory. He receives the report and finds at least three occasions where it's claimed Bruno used state aircraft for personal business. A corruption story like this could bring a heap of trouble to Bruno's doorstep. Maybe even shut him down for good, something Spitzer has wanted to see since his first month in office. So Dopp's surprise when he approaches Spitzer with his findings at the end of May, and Spitzer tells him to leave it alone. Spitzer says, since they don't have Bruno's detailed schedule, they don't really know what he was doing. To Dopp doesn't make sense. It's not like Joe Bruno wasn't suspected of using state helicopters in the past. During the Patekki administration, Bruno used helicopters like a Fortune 500 CEO. He used them for political fundraising and personal business. He might make a call here or there related to government matters, but usually he was fundraising or meeting with private clients, the kind that paid him thousands of dollars to consult or union officials to solicit pension investments. Bruno flew to New York City several times to meet with Jared Abruzese. Abruzese and Bruno shared a love of thoroughbred horses and horse racing. The relationship was a lucrative one for Bruno. Abruzese paid him $440,000 of the course of two years. And once, when Governor George Patekki denied him a helicopter, Abruzese paid for a private chartered plane to get Bruno home. So suspicious were the trips. Patekki eventually restricted Bruno's access to state owned planes and choppers. But still, Spitzer doesn't want to go there. Legislators are still in session. He doesn't want people distracted. He has an agenda he needs to get through. But then comes the end of the legislative session. And things look different to Spitzer. Bruno ended the legislative session with Spitzer empty handed. He hadn't accomplished his agenda. And all thanks to Bruno. Spitzer is sitting at his desk, drinking coffee, reading through a stack of papers with a scowl on his face when Dop comes in. Boss, you okay with the release of these plane records? Spitzer doesn't look up. Yeah, do it. Are you sure? Bruno is going to be furious. Dop sees that the governor's face is starting to turn red. He's pissed. Clearly, Spitzer has had enough of Bruno. Now he unleashes a stream of expletives that ends by telling Dop that Bruno can shove it up his ass with a red hot poker. According to Dop, the governor was literally spitting mad. There was coffee coming out of the corners of his mouth. Later, Dop will say the governor made it clear he wanted him to take the information about Bruno public. Spitzer later said that he gave no such order. But whether or not that meeting took place, what happens next is more certain. Dop heads back to his office and calls a reporter. Hey, it's Dop. I have a tip for you. Is this on the record? You're going to need to put in a foil request. Foil stands for Freedom of Information Law. And before the government can release records, a request for specific information must be submitted and then approved. I'll get the request in. You can't tell me anything? But it didn't come from me. Okay. It involves the use of state transportation for personal use at $7,200 a ride. Go ahead. Put in the request. On June 27, the reporter files a request asking for the records on several Albany politicians, including Spitzer. A day later, he receives the trip records for Bruno. On July 1, the Times Union publishes a story with the headline, state flies Bruno to fundraisers, taxpayers finance trips of Senate Majority Leader to NYC political events. The copy is worse. Three times this year, Senate Majority Leader Joseph El Bruno used taxpayer funded state aircraft to fly to political fundraisers in Manhattan, while certifying he was on official state business, according to documents obtained by the Times Union. That morning, Spitzer sends an email to DOP. Haven't seen paper yet. How does it look? DOP responds, got a C to believe. Spitzer is pleased. At last, Bruno is on the ropes. The public doesn't like their officials to be jetting around like a corporate CEO. This could be a career ender. What they don't know is that Bruno never goes down without fight. And for this one, the gloves are off. From Wondry, this is episode 1 of 5 of New York State of Crime for American scandal. On the next episode, Governor Spitzer finds himself in the center of one of the biggest political scandals Albany has seen. And Senator Bruno has troubles of his own. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. And while in most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, sound design, and executive produced by me Lindsey Graham for Airship. Additional production assistance by Derek Barons. This episode is written by Michael Byrne. Our consultant is longtime Albany journalist Jay Joknovits. Executive producers are Stephanie Jenns, Marshal Louis, and her nonlopes for Wondry.