Bruno to BizLab: ‘We gotta get government off our backs’

Former state Senate majority leader tells businessmen to fight back
Former state Sen. Joe Bruno talks about his book at BizLab on State Street in Schenectady on Tuesday.
Former state Sen. Joe Bruno talks about his book at BizLab on State Street in Schenectady on Tuesday.

Joe Bruno gave his thoughts on why he was investigated by the feds before trying to answer an even bigger question: How did Donald Trump become our president? 

The former state Senate majority leader, who was acquitted of fraud charges in 2014 after a nearly nine-year investigation, was speaking Tuesday night to a crowd of about 75 at the New York BizLab on State Street.

“I know Donald Trump as well as I know anybody in this room,” said Bruno, 88. “I played golf with him several times, he did things, fundraisers for us. Never in a million years did I think he’d be president of the United States.” 

“I don’t think you’re alone,” interjected Rick D’Errico, the BizLab’s managing director, who moderated the discussion. 

Bruno continued, “But he’s there, why? People were tired of the established government, big government, suffocating government, big brotherism, big sisterism — and they’re right. They’re right. Stand up, all of you. When you believe in it, join alliances, join federations, join others and fight for what you believe in, OK? And you’ll be happier with yourself and you’ll prosper.

“We gotta get government off our backs.”

D’Errico interjected again, interrupting the silence, “That should be an applause line right there.”

The crowd, consisting of many local business owners, applauded warmly. 

On the topic of the investigation, Bruno pointed to the part-time definition of his old job in the state Legislature — a job that’s grown with the rest of government. 

“With a part-time job, the feds can come in and they can indict almost anybody they want to,” he said, “because every time you vote in a democracy, in a part-time legislature, you are in some infraction of a law, almost always.” 

The Korean War veteran voted to help Korean War veterans.

“Conflict,” he said.

The senior citizen voted for tax breaks for seniors.

“Conflict,” he said.

“The whole system could be considered corrupt, because in a part-time legislature, you’re voting, in many times, in your own best interest,” he said. “Our founding fathers wanted farmers to come into Albany. They wanted professors to stop teaching and come in for two months, do their thing and go back home. That was what we were founded on, and we’ve grown. Government’s grown and grown and grown.”

Bruno was elected to the state Senate in 1977, serving the last 14 years as majority leader before stepping down in 2008. On Tuesday he signed copies of his book, “Keep Swinging: A Memoir of Politics and Justice,” which came with the $30 price of admission, and acknowledged his guests aspirations.  

“You’re startups, you’re growing companies — you want to emulate Tony here, who started pretty much in a company with two or three people — he now employs approaching 100,” he said, looking at Tony Civitella, the CEO of the Transfinder bus-routing software company in Schenectady who is also president of the BizLab. “You want to grow your businesses, you want to prosper.”

He said the Capital Region’s economic success has come not just from “super computer companies” like Global Foundries and General Electric, but small businesses like theirs that account for the majority of new jobs created in New York. 

“That’s the success story that you want to focus on, that you don’t have to be GE, but you find a niche,” he said.

Bruno, a former salesman who professed to being the first businessman elected to the state Senate, also encouraged them not to underestimate the power of good people skills.

“They call it charisma — political charisma. I think that’s kind of a wasted word myself,” he said. “It’s being friendly, it’s having a positive attitude, it’s being upbeat, it’s never give up — it’s keep swinging.

“You can’t score a knockout if you don’t swing,” he said. 

One of the first questions came from Dan DeMarco, who runs, a crowd-sourcing site, out of the BizLab. He said he knew a filmmaker who “thinks your life is a movie and wants to know if anyone has bought the rights to it.”

 Bruno said, “No, we still retain the rights,” before revealing that “somebody formerly from CNN is talking about doing a documentary.”

DeMarco asked him who would star in such a film.

“I really thought I would play myself,” Bruno said to laughs, “but George Clooney, I think.”

Categories: -News-, Schenectady County

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