Pay-to-Play Scheme in NY Senate Seat Pick?

27 Jan
Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand (right) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a lunch meeting with New York Governor David Paterson at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City.

Senator-designate Kirsten Gillibrand (right) and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a lunch meeting with New York Governor David Paterson at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. Photo: Getty Images


Ever since Caroline Kennedy mysteriously withdrew her name from consideration for Hillary Clinton’s former U.S. Senate seat last Wednesday night, and Governor David Paterson’s surprise pick of Kirsten Gilibrand on Friday, many have wondered aloud: who the heck is Kirsten Gillibrand, and why did a Democratic governor choose a relatively unknown upstate Blue Dog whose positions on key issues is more Republican than Democrat? 

Well, that’s a very good question to ask. Why did Paterson pick Gillibrand, when it seemed Kennedy was the obvious choice? And why did the Governor turn so nasty towards Caroline after she withdrew from the race? Why would he authorize one of his PR flacks (who, it turns out, is a former Bush White House staffer!) to “anonymously” kneecap Kennedy, spreading damaging stories to the press about Caroline’s supposed tax issues, nanny issues, and marital issues (stories Paterson now admits were totally false)?

The answer may not be in anything that Caroline did to piss off the Governor. It was what she didn’t do.

Here’s the REAL crux of the Paterson/Kennedy/Gillibrand senate seat story that the mainstream media won’t touch with a 10-foot pole…apparently becaue they’re all too busy flapping their lips about Blago and his really great hair:

Senate appointee Kirsten Gillibrand’ s former law firm is Boies, Schiller & Flexner.

David Boies, the senior partner at the firm, contributed $25,000 to Gov. Paterson’s campaign committee on December 23, 2008, while the governor was considering Gillibrand’s candidacy.

Boies’ son Chris, also a partner in the firm, contributed another $25,000 on the same day.

Source: The Village Voice (Jan. 22, 2009)

OK, go back and read that again. The timing of these campaign contributions reeks. Dec. 23, in the heat of the Senate seat competition?

Not TOO obvious, eh?

But wait…it gets better. Much, MUCH better. Read on.


This isn’t the first time Gov. Paterson’s engaged in a bit of pay for play and been called out. Less than two months after taking office, he had another little “issue” with a new hire in his press office, as reported by the New York Daily News’ Elizabeth Benjamin (who has been hot on the Governor’s heels over those nasty rumors he authorized his paid PR flack Judy Smith to leak “anonymously” about Caroline Kennedy).

Also, more info from the New York Times here on an “interesting” $3 million fundraiser Paterson held in December, while the senate seat contest was still hot. Check the guest list very, very carefully…

Then see this Village Voice article from Jan. 27, 2009 about the Paterson-Gillibrand-D’Amato connection, which reports that D’Amato gave Paterson a stunning $500k at a holiday party last year during the heat of the senate seat competition. That’s certainly enough money to buy D’Amato prime placement in the front row of Paterson’s press conference announcing Gillibrand as his senate pick…and perhaps it bought um….other things as well. (cough)

Here’s an excerpt from the Voice‘s investigative report which unravels the fascinating relationship between Gillibrand and D’Amato (it’s all in the family, baby!), and how the two came to be so strangely close to Governor Paterson:

“D’Amato wound up in the camera frame throughout the hour and a half press conference by design. Governor David Paterson’s staff kept the dignitaries in a holding room and walked them onto the stage in a prearranged order, positioning D’Amato at center stage, where his presence was a not-so-subtle advertisement of his influence with both the governor and the state’s new senator, a potential boon to Park Strategies, his multi-million dollar Washington and Albany lobbying business.

Gillibrand’s first job was as an intern for two summers in D’Amato’s senate office, and her father, Doug Rutnik, was so close to D’Amato that, while still married to Gillibrand’s mother, he covertly double-dated with the then single senator, squiring a D’Amato press aide on a two-week Caribbean tryst to celebrate the senator’s re-election in 1992…

…Because Rutnik’s ties to D’Amato, George Pataki, and the former GOP senate majority leader Joe Bruno are Albany legend, it was hardly a surprise that Gillibrand wanted D’Amato there. What no one could quite figure out is why Paterson did.

A Voice review, however, of two campaign finance committees–Paterson’s and the New York State Democratic Committee, which Paterson controls–reveals that D’Amato may be Paterson’s largest single fundraiser.

D’Amato hosted a $1,000-a-plate dinner for Paterson at the Coyote Grill in Island Park on November 2, and Paterson went to the Christmas party sponsored by D’Amato’s firm on December 10, and most of the $581,400 in contributions connected to D’Amato that the Voice has identified were given to Paterson’s committees near those two dates.”


Now, let’s do the math, shall we?

More than $500,000 from the December holiday party, and at least $15,000 from the Coyote Grill fundraiser in November (based on an invitation list of 15 persons at $1,000 a plate), that’s a pretty good chunk of change, wouldn’t you say? And all of it raised by Uncle Al. No wonder he’s the governor’s new BFF!

While the $50,000 in contributions to Paterson from Gillibrand’s very close friends and former law partners on Dec. 23rd is not a huge amount in NY politics and is unlikely to buy anyone a state job, let alone a U.S. senate seat, more than half a million dollars from D’Amato should be enough to get *anybody’s* attention focused on Uncle Al’s longtime BFF Kirsten Gilibrand.

It certainly got Gov. Paterson’s attention. 

Hey, ya know, it may be cold and flu season in New York, but those figures are nothing to sneeze at. 

And these are just the suspicious contributions we know about. There may be even more yet to be revealed. But adding up the estimated $15,000 from D’Amato’s November fundraiser, plus the whopping $500,000 from D’Amato’s December fundraiser (both lowball estimates, by the way), plus the $50,000 given by Gillibrand’s former law partners David and Chris Boies on Dec. 23 — puts a ballpark figure of nearly $600,000 in Paterson’s war chest.

Add to THAT all the smaller contributions from individuals and businesses raised by D’Amato for Patterson prior to those two fall fundraisers mentioned above (detailed here in the Voice’s excellent investigative piece), you’re looking at a Grand Total of well over a million dollars.



That being the case, wouldn’t this make Paterson look guilty of doing the exact same thing that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is currently being accused of? And favor-trading more blatantly than Blago would have ever dared? (Which is really sayin’ something, as Blago is anything but subtle!)

I can hear that phone call now:

PATERSON: “I’ve got this thing and it’s bleepin’ GOLDEN! I’m not just gonna give that bleepin’ senate seat away for nuthin’!”

At a press conference last month, noting that Blagojevich has been under investigation for years for pay-to-play corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald expressed his amazement that the activity would continue. “You might have thought in that environment, pay-to-play would have slowed down. The opposite happened. It sped up,” he said.

Apparently, no one warned Paterson to be careful since the heat was on. Or perhaps Paterson was warned and chose to arrogantly assume that he was ten feet tall and bulletproof. So far, Paterson seems to be. No one has even dared to raise a pay-to-play question regarding his senate pick…until now. So we’ll go ahead and ask a few questions:

Is it conceivable that Gov. Paterson got miffed at Caroline Kennedy because she was not willing to give him “anything but appreciation” for that Senate seat?

Could it be that Kennedy was too smart (and principled) to grease the Governor’s eager palms and potentially get herself embroiled in an explosive political corruption case? And did the Governor get pissed off because Caroline wisely stood her ground, held on to her integrity, and turned the other cheek?


From our initial investigation, we can find no evidence of any campaign contributions given to Paterson by Kennedy or anyone connected with her.

Caroline is well-known for her avoidance of making financial contributions to New York Dems in local races, and this New York Daily News article from December 25, 2008 (curiously published just two days after friends of Gillibrand gave the Guv $50,000) flat-out states that Kennedy’s unwillingness to “play the game” may cost her the senate seat:

Caroline Kennedy‘s supporters say she could raise tons of money as a senator, but when it comes to writing checks to New York Democrats, she’s been largely AWOL.

This decade, other than a $1,000 donation to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Camelot heiress has not financially supported any Democrat seeking city or state office in New York, records reveal.

Some say Kennedy, who is worth at least $100 million, missed an opportunity to curry favor among Democratic pols to establish herself as a serious political player as she lobbies Gov. Paterson for Hillary Clinton’s Senate seat.


Starting to see what’s really going on here? Gillibrand was willing to pay-to-play (with a little help from her “sugar daddy” D’Amato) and Kennedy was not. A million-dollar payoff to the Guv’s campaign fund was cash she just wasn’t willing to pony, Macaroni.

Therefore, Gillibrand got the gig. It ain’t rocket science, folks. Just politics as usual.

Only difference this time is that the Governor of Illinois is being impeached for even suggesting (although not completing) such a transaction, while Paterson (who apparently did complete the transaction) is skating away like Tonya Harding. The local New York and national media plugs their ears and hums a tune, refusing to investigate any suggestion of Blago-type graft and corruption happening here. They hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil.

Thanks to the Kansas City Star for pointing out an issue that both the New York Post and New York Times heartily agree on — that NY governor David Paterson is now officially Worse than Blagojevich after the media circus that surrounded his naming a replacement for the Senate seat left vacant by Hillary Clinton. But still, that’s as far as the media is prepared to go. None dare call it corruption.

Hmmm…wonder if anyone has been tapping Paterson’s phone during this senate contest? They were certainly listening to Gov. Spitzer’s calls in an effort to catch him in a liason with a high-priced hooker. Seems to me the authorities might have wanted to keep an eye/ear on Gov. Paterson during this selection process, especially in light of the Blago scandal. Under those circumstances, a case could easily be made for probable cause.

So WHERE ARE THE PATERSON TAPES? And where’s the investigation? Where’s the outrage? Where’s the IMPEACHMENT?


11 Responses to “Pay-to-Play Scheme in NY Senate Seat Pick?”

  1. Editor January 28, 2009 at 1:42 am #

    If you are outraged by this, please help us by doing three things:

    1) Write to CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, The New York Times…any and every editor you can think of in the MSM and ask them why they’re not investigating.

    2) If you live in NYS, please contact your elected representatives in Albany and forward a link to this story. Ask them straight up why they are not considering articles of IMPEACHMENT against Paterson.

    3) If you are a member of Democratic Underground, please kick and recommend this thread to help us get the word out. Many influential Democrats and media types read DU religiously.×4925925

  2. Habeus Corpus January 28, 2009 at 1:47 am #

    Two days before Caroline dropped out, I came across a similar story twice, once on Drudge and the other on Politico. The story states that the New York Post “has reported that Governor Paterson has already made up his mind that Caroline Kennedy is his pick. ”

    The sources of the story were supposedly the “dissapointed contenders” and some other unamed sources who are supposedly close to Paterson. However, one scenario that was passed onto the Post was I believe from rep. carolyn Maloney who said that Paterson has cut a deal with Kennedy confidant Mayor Bloomberg which stipulates that if he picks Kennedy, he will in return get campaign money and help for his election bid which right now is looking increasingly doomed.

    After reading this the only thing i could think of, “have we really forgotten about the blagojevich scandal already?” And also, “Did no one else learn a lesson from it?”

    The incompetence and corruption of Governor David Paterson is increasingly overwhelming.

    Impeach that bastard now! Or force him to resign!

  3. Impeach Paterson January 28, 2009 at 2:22 am #

    This article from Politico last week is implying the same thing, from the lips of Rep. Pete king, a republican, but he’s at least raising the same question you are:


    Rep. Pete King, the quote-machine Long Island Republican who is mulling a ’10 Senate run, tells us he wants Gov. David Paterson to “come clean” about the Gillibrand selection process to dispel questions about pay-to-play and the stunning withdrawal of Caroline Kennedy.

    “There is a crisis of confidence, there is a cloud over this appointment,” said King, whose opposition to stringent gun control, illegal immigration and round two of the bank bailout track closely to the new New York senator’s right-of-center views.

    “I’m calling on the governor to produce a timeline on the decision—who he met—what was the basis for his decision to suddenly pull her out of nowhere…It puts a cloud over her appointment. He’s got to fully disclose everything that went into this, any influences, who spoke on her behalf.”

    Asked if he was claiming the possibility of Rod Blagojevich pay-to-play scandal lurking, he replied, “I’m not saying anything illegal was done.”

    A more likely scenario, he added, was that Paterson was attracted to Gillibrand’s funding network and the business connections of her father, Democratic lobbyist Douglas Rutnik.

    “If don’t know if there’s any pay-to-play connotation, but if she has contacts who can raise money for [Paterson] that should be out there… If her access to money trumps experience, he should tell us.”

  4. Rose January 28, 2009 at 2:49 am #

    If you want to read a good story on Gillibrand, the NY Observer revealed her true colors. She’s no rube from upstate. She’s a cold, calculating political princess who will stop at nothing to get what she wants.

    Check out some of the dirty tricks she’s pulled in previous election contests. Anyone surprised she’d pull a Tonya Harding and kneecap Caroline Kennedy? Or try to buy herself a Senate Seat?

  5. NY Pol January 28, 2009 at 3:13 am #

    Here’s a link to Gillibrand’s former law firm’s website openly touting her for the senate seat:

  6. molly January 28, 2009 at 3:12 pm #

    Gillibrand is evidently a Clinton/Rahm Emmanuel pick. The Clintons are to the Democratic Party as the bushes are to the Republican. Neither family is loyal to their parties. The Clintons are so afraid that a Kennedy will run for President. Am I the only one who noticed that when elder bush and bill clinton were walking to the inagural …Bill was talking to elder like he was his long lost friend. Hillary walked two steps behind looking kind of miffed.The bushes and clintons have more in common than most politicians.

  7. molly January 28, 2009 at 3:15 pm #

    Oh…I read mohawknationnews out of Canada. Patterson is very nasty to NY Native Americans. No progressive. Could someone post the email addresses of the major networks? I would be glad to pass the thought on that Patterson is dirty and Ms. Kennedy should be the NY Senator.

  8. Editor January 29, 2009 at 1:33 am #

    Anyone who wants to get active in helping us expose this corruption is encouraged to email the media and pressure them to investigate.

    Here are some email addys of key reporters in the NY print media:

    That’s just a short list, please feel free to drop a line to any other reporters or columnists you think might be interested.

    As for the tv networks, nearly all of them have a “news tips” contact form on their websites (they generally do not provide direct email addresses for reporters, so we can’t post them here, unfortunately). Here are a few to get you started: (click the “contact us” link at bottom of main page),2933,77538,00.html

    And anyone else you can think of! Contact your local tv stations and talk radio live call-in shows as well. Help us spread the word!

  9. NY Pol January 29, 2009 at 9:11 am #

    The last paragraph in that Village Voice story is quite a stunner!

    “While no one has acknowledged that D’Amato lobbied Paterson to select Gillibrand (and many of these contributions precede any indication that Paterson had a senate vacancy to fill), Paterson also had to deal with major donors unconnected to D’Amato that favored Gillibrand. David and Chris Boies, Gillibrand’s former law partners and the biggest backers of her political career, gave $75,000 to Paterson, with $50,000 donated in the middle of the senate process. Businessman Bernard Schwartz and one of his employees have given $58,900 to Paterson, including $10,000 to the state committee as late as January 9. Schwartz hosted two fundraisers for Gillibrand at his house for her congressional races, one featuring Mario Cuomo as a guest speaker, and is said to have pushed Paterson to appoint her. His press office refused to answer Voice questions about any efforts he might have made on Gillibrand’s behalf.”

    No comment, eh? Sounds like some folks are getting nervous.

    I noticed a thread was posted today about how D’Amato “sabotaged Caroline Kennedy’s Senate Bid” — and guess what? The board moderators killed it in less than an hour. It’s VANISHED!

    Keep the heat on `em, people. The truth WILL come out!

  10. A Lecturer in Political History January 29, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    Caroline wouldn’t play ball? How ridiculous! She could raise a million dollars with a mailer. She wouldn’t even have to show up.

    Who do you think you are kidding?

    Caroline, you know, ummmm, like, you know, screwed herself. She was a crummy prospect for the seat who would have only ensured that a GOP candidate won in 2010.

    You want a New York Kennedy so badly? Go with RFK, Junior–at least he can put a sentence together…like, ummmmmmm… know?

  11. Kathy February 3, 2009 at 1:05 am #

    To the Editor: What happened here and can it be reversed? I cannot believe that people can be so hurtful and yet Caroline, probably will never attempt to hold another office. I live here in Illinois and couldn’t wait for “the Blago” thing to get over with…BUT YET, Paterson should watch his step, because it could happen to him!! He only got his current spot because of Spitzer, if that did not happen he would not of had any fame. He was probably jealous of Caroline, but he was stupid, because of all her power (President Obama, Uncle Teddy, NY connections, money and fame). Now, when he goes to run in 2010 (if he makes it), doors will be slammed in his face, because everyone will remember how he “crapped” on Caroline KENNEDY. I really wanted Caroline in office even though I live in a differnt state. But time will tell-she just might change her mind!!

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