Dec 20, 2006

State Senate Majority Joe Bruno being Investigated by the FBI

Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, called a press conference this evening to confirm he is being investigated by the FBI, which has launched an inquiry into his business dealings through his consulting company, Capital Business Consultants. It's not yet clear, though, what the FBI is investigating. Yet.

The senator refused to discuss what, exactly, the FBI is looking into. He declined to say whether it has anything to do with Evident Technologies Inc. - the company to which he steered $500,000 via two state grants with no strings attached. Bruno has personal ties to several of Evident's directors, Jared Abbruzzese, one of the company's founders and a former co-chair, and Wayne Barr - both of whom share the senator's interest in horse racing.Abbruzzese is being investigated by the state Lobbying Commission for providing his plane to Bruno for several trips, including a fund-raiser and a tour of several Kentucky horse farms that Barr arranged.One thing you should disregard, though, is Bruno's claim that he is "not a target" of the investigation. Here's why:[Washington attorney Stanley M.] Brand said that distinctions in a federal criminal manual between a "target," someone the Justice Department has decided to seek charges against, and a "subject," someone under investigation who could be upgraded to a target, are largely meaningless in a practical sense. "You can't take these distinctions to the bank, because the Justice Department can change your status whenever it wants to," Brand said.

Brand was talking about Conrad Burns, and you can see how well that bit of verbal legerdemain worked out for old Burnsie. Same, too, with Bob Ney, who claimed he wasn't a "target" almost until he was indicted. He's now going to be sentenced to prison next month.

This story also gives me an opportunity to do something long overdue, which is to tell you about a new SoapBlox blog that's opened up shop right in my political neighborhood. The Albany Project is dedicated to shining a much-needed light on corrupt, obscurantist the New York state legislative apparatus (ranked as the worst out of all 50 by the Brennan Center). The site's already been following this story closely, and it'll be the place to go for continuous coverage of this potentially explosive news.