Next week will mark the return of the legislature to Albany for a special session.
It will also mark the expiration of a missed fund-raising opportunity for Eliot Spitzer.
According to a regular contributor and fund-raiser for Mr. Spitzer, the governor originally planned to spend the out-of-session months starting in late June making a push for new donations with appearances across the country, but abandoned those plans because of the Troopergate scandal.
“When the legislature is out of session, the governor can command more of the limelight,” this fund-raiser said. “The governor’s rating always goes up when the legislature is out of session. He has the stage to himself. Obviously, that hasn’t happened here.”
That may be an understatement.
In May, Mr. Spitzer attended fund-raisers in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and earlier this month, he was at an event in Texas. But for most of the time in between, Mr. Spitzer was in New York playing defense in front of editorial boards and local reporters, explaining his role (or non-role, as the case may be) in directing state police to track State Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s use of state aircraft and then leaking it to the press.
A July 23 report from the attorney general’s office found two of Mr. Spitzer’s aides responsible. One was immediately suspended and has since joined a lobbying firm. The other was demoted.
“I don’t think this is what a lot of people expected,” said the Spitzer fund-raiser. “And even if there was going to be contention, I don’t think this is the contention narrative” they wanted.
One of Mr. Spitzer’s aides, speaking on background, disputed the notion that Troopergate had derailed the governor’s fund-raising schedule. The aide said that summer fund-raising was always going to be difficult, with many regular contributors out of the city, and that the donor events weren’t tied to the legislative calendar. The aide also said that the plan all along was for Mr. Spitzer to spend the time between sessions focusing on local initiatives.
Whatever the reason for the fund-raising slowdown, it seems to have taken a toll on the governor’s finances. Though Mr. Spitzer still has a comfortable amount of money in his campaign war chest, the amount has been greatly diminished, most notably by his costly ad battles over health care policy with the powerful (and well-funded) 1199 SEIU union, but also by the campaign staff he still employs.
Mr. Spitzer came into this year with $3,692,033.66 in his reelection account after a landslide win in November. According to the latest figures from the State Board of Elections in July, he was down to $1,478,572.95 in the same account. (Mr. Spitzer also has $32,894.56 on hand in his federal PAC, which he said is used to help selected congressional candidates.)
But the news hasn’t all been bad. On Sept. 20, the Albany County district attorney cleared Mr. Spitzer of any wrongdoing in the matter of the troopers and Joe Bruno. And now, according to the fund-raiser, Mr. Spitzer’s financial operation is going to be looking to make up for lost time as best they can.
“They’re making a big push,” the fund-raiser said. “They want big numbers for their January filing, to show strength at the beginning of session and that their political team is in a good place.”
Allyson Giard, a fund-raiser on the staff of Mr. Spitzer’s campaign committee, e-mailed the following comment on the situation: “The governor’s fund-raising continues to be robust: it speaks to his ability to raise money under self-imposed limits, and it operates within the constraints imposed by a schedule that makes governing—not fund-raising—a priority.”