He’s been former Sen. Joseph L. Bruno for more than six months, so his indictment by a federal grand jury on eight counts of public corruption means a lot less now than it would have a year or two ago, when he was still one of the most powerful men in New York state.
But it still means enough, to Bruno — who could go to jail — and to others who think that a job in state government is a license to live the high life at taxpayers’ expense, accept lavish gifts from people who do business with the state, and take care of your friends.
Bruno was good at those sorts of things, but there was often a sense that he knew enough about the state’s weak ethics laws — laws which, perhaps not coincidentally, he did his best to keep weak — to avoid breaking any.
But according to Friday’s indictments, Bruno not only broke numerous state laws, but federal ones as well, in accepting payments — many of which he failed to disclose — from several companies that either did business with the state or with its employees.
Bruno was a popular politician in these parts because he was so good at bringing home the bacon when somebody asked — whether it was a local government, hospital or community college. To wit, he’s probably had more buildings, or building wings, named after him than any living person in the area.
But an honor is one thing, and money another. Bruno allegedly took both, and the money wasn’t chump change: a total of nearly $3.2 million. And even if there isn’t a formal arrangement — and in his most lucrative dealings there appeared to be — just taking money violates state law.
The U.S. attorney’s office took three years to produce these indictments. One can only speculate on why it took so long — a Republican in the White House? — and how the delay may have altered the course of New York state politics. (“Troopergate,” in mid-2007, surely marked the beginning of Eliot Spitzer’s downfall.) But even though Bruno is out of state politics, it appears that justice will finally be done.