State Senator Diane Savino is not pleased with yesterday’s New York Times column about one of her colleagues in the breakaway Democratic conference–especially a quote in the story from a senator in the rival Democratic group.
The column, by Michael Powell, examined Albany’s pay-to-play culture, taking special note of State Senator Jeff Klein’s sponsorship of new legislation that would increase the security tax stamp placed on packs of cigarettes–and benefit one of his major campaign donors. But Ms. Savino argued it was an overblown insinuation without criminal wrongdoing implied.
“I think people should take a step back and stop pretending to be outraged because it’s absolute nonsense,” Ms. Savino told Politicker at a Hurricane Sandy press conference in Coney Island. “You can take any issue and you can find a way to twist it to make it seem like something nefarious. In every one of these articles you see is a caveat there: ‘There’s nothing illegal about this.’ Well if that’s the case, why are you writing it?”
She further alleged that these sorts of stories just undermine the public’s trust in government.
“That doesn’t lend anything to the conversation. You, know, it’s this kind of political, gotcha stuff that in my opinion is contributing to the continuing lack of faith in government by voters,” she added. “People don’t believe in government. Why don’t they believe in government? Because this is the kind of stuff that gets fed to them every day.”
The piece also quoted State Senator Liz Krueger, who said the bill’s backers had “bought” the legislation though campaign contributions to Mr. Klein and others. But Ms. Savino contended that Ms. Krueger, who is outspoken on various good-government matters, is herself backed by wealthy special interests.
“You know, if you look at her fund-raising it’s not like little old ladies who care about good government are contributing to her,” said Ms. Savino. “She raises money from some of the biggest one percenters on the East Side of Manhattan. So I think people should take a step back and stop looking to shoot arrows at each other. It’s absurd.”
“Senator Klein and Senator Krueger together were co-chairs of the Senate Democratic Campaign committee aggressively raising money from interest groups to make sure that we could elect Democratic candidates to the New York State Senate,” she continued. “So she didn’t seem to mind Senator Klein’s prowess when it came to fund-raising when it suited her purposes.”
Reached for a response, both Ms. Krueger and Mr. Powell rebuked Ms. Savino’s broadsides.
“The Times article speaks for itself, and it tells a pretty straightforward story about a bill designed to direct millions in revenue to a tobacco wholesaler who just happened to contribute upward of $40,000 to Senator Klein,” Andrew Goldston, a spokesman for Ms. Krueger, told Politicker. “It’s really unfortunate that Senator Savino can’t tell the difference between Jeff Klein-style pay-to-play and the kind of fundraising that honest politicians do, but I guess extreme cynicism is an occupational hazard.”
“If all we wrote about was the illegality in Albany without looking at all the shades of moral and ethical murk that encompass it, we wouldn’t be doing our jobs as journalists,” Mr. Powell said. “If a politician does hack work, the politician can’t really complain.”