Not all NY Republicans are treated equally

Bernie Kerik took a plea deal which, for a long list of alleged crimes, seems like a sweetheart arrangement. Had he gone to trial on a host of corruption charges; he could have gotten over 60 years, but instead, he ended up with about 31 months in prison.

With time off for good behavior, the guy could do the time standing on his head. He did not have to plead guilty to the more serious corruption charges, including doing business with a mobbed-up firm. From what we know, the feds had the goods on Bernie and would not have had that tough a time putting the former commissioner of corrections in an institution like the ones he ran for a long time. Strange that he got off so lightly, don’t you think?

So, what up? Well, the man who rose from being Rudy Giuliani’s driver to New York City’s corrections commissioner to police commissioner and then to almost becoming the Homeland Security czar for the whole United States turns out to be a thug and a crook. Under then-Mayor Giuliani, he progressed through a series of jobs to become a valued associate of the former mayor in “Giuliani Associates,” where Rudy is said to have really soaked in the green. One can only wonder what Bernie the Thug’s duties were when he worked for Rudy. Well, keep on wondering because at a trial his responsibilities may have come out. This plea deal may just turn out to be a very good thing for Rudy, a man who still harbors pretensions of becoming president of the United States. Stranger things have happened. In the meantime, his name is on a lot of lips as a potential gubernatorial candidate in New York.

Contrast the case of Bernie the Thug to the one the feds are putting up against former New York state Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno for “theft of honest services.” In the Kerik case, the feds have the goods on a guy who did specific dirty things and yet, they let him slide. In the Bruno case, we have a guy who clearly used his connections to enrich himself but who may not have crossed the line that we call the law. In the Kerik case, the guy gets the sweetheart deal of all time and in the Bruno case, the feds seem hell-bent to get Bruno on whatever they can.

Some say Bruno quit as the Senate majority leader in order to get the feds to lose interest in his case. Nothing doing. One caller to a recent public radio show asked whether it was telling that a Republican administration (George W’s) brought the case against Bruno. The caller’s point was that Bruno, himself a Republican, must have done something really bad, and the president was well known to have, let us say, close relations with his Justice Department.

But remember — there are Republicans and there are Republicans. There are subsets within the Republican Party. In New York state, a fierce fight eventually broke out between Bruno and the man who had put him in place, then-Governor Pataki. Those two really got into it. The White House kept making it clear that in that fight the governor was their man. In the great intramural Republican war, Bruno was the man out, and Pataki was the man in. Team Bruno could do no right while Team Pataki could do no wrong.

If you buy into that logic, you might just gain some insight into why Bruno’s head is now on the chopping block to the extent that it is while Kerik is merely getting a slap on the wrist compared to what he might have gotten. Also, remember that like Giuliani, Pataki is said to be considering yet another run for the White House.

You see, Rudy Giuliani and George Pataki are still viable political commodities. Depending on how the chips fall, either might be president. If Bernie Kerik were to have a big political trial there would be a lot of witnesses. Questions might have been asked about Kerik’s relationship to Giuliani and there might have been substantial mud tossed Rudy’s way. This way, Kerik takes the plea, goes to jail and shuts up. Maybe in the future Rudy will be able to help the guy out. Maybe.

Of course, Bernie still may be an issue in any future campaign, but Rudy will simply say, “That’s all behind us now.”

Originally Published in the Legislative Gazette, 11-10-09

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