brunobust.jpgEven while targeted in the Troopergate scandal, State Senate leader Joseph Bruno was living in high style. The New York Sun is reporting that Bruno enjoyed a 3,500 square foot, two-story penthouse suite at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers, just weeks before the legislature selected the hotel chain to construct a luxury hotel in Albany.

On November 30, the nine-member board of the Albany Convention Center Authority, which includes a member appointed by Mr. Bruno, voted to begin negotiations with Starwood Hotels and Resorts, of which Sheraton is a subsidiary, as operator of a 400-room hotel to be built in downtown Albany near the senate leader's district.

The board's decision to begin negotiations with Starwood rather than four other hotel operators came on the recommendation of a special authority task force led by the owner of Jack's Oyster House in Albany. Mr. Bruno regularly dines at the upscale restaurant, which provides him a private back table, at the expense of his campaign account.

The duplex suite in question normally runs guests about $5,000- 10,000/night (but who really pays rack rate, right?) and Bruno reports he/the state GOP paid only $900-1,000/night. The hotel's manager said the chain's VIP club manager upgraded Bruno, a frequent customer, "That night, he probably was the top dog."

The generous discounts Sheraton gave Bruno for the 45th-floor suite were not reported to the elections board as an in-kind campaign contribution, as might be required. On the other side of the aisle, Caesars Entertainment company gave Assembly leader Sheldon Silver a heavily discounted suite in a Las Vegas hotel in 2004 - while the company was lobbying to open gaming operations in NY. Ceasars paid a $25,000 fine while not admitting guilt of any wrongdoing.

Recently the executive director of the Public Integrity Commission received a $15,000 a year raise, and thus pushed off his career transition to become a lobbyist. Bruno criticized the raise in the middle of an investigation looking at Gov. Spitzer's investigation of his use of state aircraft. On the other hand, maybe the executive director of the Public Integrity Commission could use another raise...

Bruno's Bust, by thelexiphane at flickr