Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dean Skelos' party for new GOP state senators and fatcat lobbyists reeked of Albany sleaze

Poised to take control of the state Senate with a razor-thin majority, GOP leader Dean Skelos has gotten a jump on schooling his new members in how business is done in Albany: sleazily.

On Tuesday, Skelos held an orientation program for the seven freshmen who will be joining his ranks. The day included tutorials on constituent service as well as on navigating the Senate's various legislative and public relations processes.

Then came a reception in an ornate Senate conference room. There was wine, beer, soda, cheese and other foods whose tasty aromas drifted out into the hallway. Inside, the smell was pungently unappealing.

A member of the Daily News Editorial Board gained entree, and, lo and behold, he discovered that the purpose of the affair was to introduce newly elected senators to lobbyists who will be knocking on their doors with requests for action in one hand and contributions in the other.

Hey, Dean, couldn't the unseemly schmoozing have waited until the session begins in January, when - if the past is any guide - members and lobbyists will be hobnobbing at fund-raisers practically every night?

Worse, Skelos seems to have pulled the names of invitees straight from his campaign donor list. At least some of the lobbyists received their invites via Senate GOP campaign finance director Judy Crane.

The result was that representatives of wealthy and powerful interests - such as the tobacco industry, big businesses, thoroughbred racing, HMOs and doctors - got face time with Skelos' freshmen pols.

The News identified four of them in the room: Jack Martins, Nassau County; Lee Zeldin, Suffolk County; Greg Ball, Putnam County and Patricia Ritchie, St. Lawrence County.

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