Does Joe Bruno feel the noose tightening around his neck?As Governor Eliot Spitzer continues to die the death of a thousand cuts in the ongoing investigation of Statetroopergate or whatever the hell we're calling it, an interesting facet to the examination of the use of state planes for political purposes by the Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Graftsville) - the thing that got the governor into trouble in the first place - emerged yesterday.

Attorney General Cuomo relied on a phantom ethics opinion to exonerate the Senate majority leader, Joseph Bruno, of charges that he misused state aircraft.

In absolving the Republican state Senate majority leader of any wrongdoing, a report issued last month by the attorney general's office cited what it described as an "opinion" issued by the New York State Ethics Commission in 1995.

The opinion cited by the report does not exist in writing and never did. No formal opinion on the use of state aircraft has ever been issued by the ethics commission.

What's that about? Another sign that the Spitzer people, who are probably furious with the fact that no one gives a shit how many Nascar races the governor shows up to when they can spend their time screaming about his lack of ethics, are finally starting to punch back? Did Cuomo clear Bruno in an attempt to make Spitzer look bad, burnishing Cuomo's reputation as a fearless, even-handed investigator? Is Joe Bruno a slimy crook who misused state aircraft and got a pass because there were larger forces at play? It's hard to say, but, you know, it's Albany: Would anyone be surprised if the answer to all three questions were yes?

Bruno is clearly starting to overplay his hand. It's not hard to hear the desperation in this:

"He doesn't appear to have the temperament to govern, to negotiate in good faith, to compromise," Bruno said. Referring to Spitzer's now infamous steamroller he added, "most people would be kidding. He meant it."

Bruno has questioned whether Spitzer belongs in politics, and he has come to a conclusion.

"No," he said. "I don't think he does. He probably would have been great in real estate, where some people handle themselves differently than others. But real estate, you know, you're a hard driver, you drive a hard bargain for some people. That's probably where he belongs."

Oooh, poor Joe Bruno, victim. And it's not even the first time! Growing up, he was attacked by rich people - and the filthy Irish!

"We were discriminated against because we were the poorest people in town, immigrants, called every name in the book. Irish were at one end, we were at the other. And it was kid's stuff then, but it was very hurtful. In Catholic school, they discriminated. If you were from a wealthy family, you got treated differently than from a poor family, and that's kind of sad."

Mark this on your calendars as the day the momentum shifted back in the governor's direction. And shed a little tear for Joe Bruno, please. The poor fellow has been beset by assailants his whole life: First by wealthy Catholics, then by a rich Jew, and pretty soon, God willing, by the federal government, which is currently investigating his incredibly shady horse farm shenanigans. State politics is essentially a boring topic, but at this rate, we think we could find a lasting love for the subject.

Steamroller Joe [City Hall News]
Cuomo Cites Phantom Policy [NYS]