A Special Albany Welcome for Mulrow

Eliot Spitzer may want an Albany outsider as comptroller, but to judge by the hearings so far, the private sector candidates aren’t going to have an easy time of it.

Bill Mulrow used his opening remarks this morning to try to pre-empt some criticism of his business background, saying he would resign from all companies and groups he currently works with, put his assets in a blind trust and recuse himself from deals he had been associated with should he be selected as comptroller.

But Senator George Maziarz charged right into a tough line of inquiry about Mulrow’s private sector background by asking, pointedly, whether he has ever “been in charge of any funds that have come under scrutiny,” or whether he was “involved in the management of any funds that have come under scrutiny.”

“Fair question,” Mulrow said. “The simple answer is no.”

He went on to give the not-so-simple answer.

“I’ve worked for some very large companies,” Murlow said. “Citigroup, for instance, has had some regulatory concerns in Japan. Gabelli has had some regulatory concerns on private investments by the chairman, Mario Gabelli, in a part of the company that he controlled. Nothing to do with the public company that I worked for; nothing to do with the investment performance or what I did on a daily basis.”

As I understand it, the particular funds that came under scrutiny were never under the direct management of Mulrow, and his individual conduct is not in question. But Maziarz was asking about problems that the company had, as opposed to the troubles that Mario Gabelli got into personally.

In addition to Gabelli’s private problems, Gabelli Asset Management Company had two funds that ran into regulatory issues with the SEC.

The two trusts Mulrow worked on at Gabelli, something he declined to elaborate on during the 2002 comptroller race, were the The Gabelli Global Utility and Income Trust, and Gabelli Global Gold and Natural Resources Trust. Neither of those were the ones that had problems.

But last year, Eliot Spitzer returned $24,000 in contributions to Mario Gabelli because the firm was the subject of inquiries by the AG’s office and the SEC. This may be splitting hairs, but Spitzer gave the money back because of an issue involving the company, not Gabelli himself.

I could quite easily be missing something here, but it seems that the simple answer to Maziarz’s original question might more accurately have been a “yes, but” than a “no.”

Also worth noting: Maziarz’s senate district includes Monroe County, whose former Democratic County Chairman, Assemblyman Joe Morelle, is a comptroller candidate.

– Azi Paybarah