Joseph Bruno, the Republican former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, was indicted by a federal grand jury today on eight counts of public corruption, reports the Times Union of Albany.
Bruno, who as the Senate leader had been a crucial and high-profile figure in New York politics for well over a decade, had been the subject of a three-year FBI investigation focused both on his personal and professional dealings.
The paper provides the details:
The investigation had dogged Bruno during the last two years of his political career as information surfaced publicly about the FBI’s deep foray into his real-estate dealings, investments, political decisions and his ownership and breeding of thoroughbred horses. Bruno’s ties to labor unions, and his secretive work as a private business consultant for an unknown number of private clients, including a Connecticut investment firm, were at the heart of the probe.
The investigation began three years ago, when FBI agents from a white-collar crime unit in Albany began examining a series of private jet flights provided to Bruno by people with whom he did business both politically and privately, a source close to the case said.
The chartered jet flights, in some cases worth thousands of dollars per hour, ferried Bruno to private vacations in South Florida, political fundraisers, government functions and at least once to Kentucky horse country.
Bruno will go before a judge at 1:30, and the US Attorney in the case, Andrew Baxter, has scheduled a press conference for 2:30.
Late Update: The Justice Department has put out a press release announcng the indictment. Here is its key passage:
The charges arise from Bruno’s alleged receipt of almost $3.2 million from five groups of individuals and related entities, either directly or through so-called consulting companies, between 1993 and 2006. While New York state legislators are part-time officials permitted to pursue other employment or business activities, the indictment alleges that Bruno improperly exploited his official position and concealed conflicts of interest, contrary to state ethics and reporting laws, with respect to his private “consulting” business.
According to the indictment, Bruno received approximately $2 million from two financial services firms. These payments were essentially fees relating to labor union benefit funds that invested or conducted brokerage transactions with the firms, ostensibly as a result of referrals by Bruno. The unions, whose benefit funds were solicited by Bruno, had frequent business before the New York State legislature and other state agencies, and Bruno took discretionary official actions benefitting the unions. The union officials solicited by Bruno were responsive to his “business” proposals because of his official position and his perceived ability to influence legislative or other state actions on behalf of their unions. In required financial disclosure statements, and in other contexts, Bruno concealed the fact that he enriched himself by exploiting relationships with unions that benefitted from his official actions. For example, rather than reporting that he was paid for soliciting union benefit funds, Bruno misleadingly reported most of his income as fees for “consulting.”
Bruno was also paid approximately $1.2 million in “consulting” fees by three individuals and a myriad of related entities. Some of those entities had interests before the New York State legislature and other state agencies, and several benefitted from official acts of Bruno. According to the indictment, Bruno did not perform legitimate work commensurate with these substantial “consulting fees”, which were, in essence, gifts from these individuals or related entities. Bruno failed to report these payments as gifts, as required under state ethics and reporting laws. Bruno also misrepresented to two of these “consulting” clients that he had received clearance from the Legislative Ethics Committee to receive payments from them when, in fact, Bruno had never sought ethics opinions relating to these particular outside activities.