Today was a session day.
I hated actually having to go walk the halls of the Capital.
Very little meaningful lobbying work got done in the building itself. And if the truth be told you could take all the meaningful debates and legislative action and get an entire legislative session done in a short afternoon. The rest of the time the legislature was busy passing resolutions recognizing some bullshit local group for some bullshit local accomplishment and when they finished that they would pass legislation named after someone. My all-time favorite was the Pay Pedro Act, which was a budget amendment that provided $32.7 million dollars to a health clinic in New Jersey run by former Senator, now convict, Pedro Empanada’s brother. That they actually called it the Pay Pedro Act was the height of arrogance, which no one bothered to investigate until Pedro’s brother was arrested in New Jersey for trying to pass counterfeit $2 bills which was classic Albany.
The real problem with being in the Capital on a session day was that you became the target of every legislator that wanted you to donate to their campaign account. Now it was a felony to ask for campaign donations while in the actual capital building but that didn’t stop these greedy electeds. They were blatant about the quid pro quo reality of passing legislation, everything was for sale. Had they set up a Turkish bazaar with curbside camel parking it would have appeared less corrupt.
I had barely skipped thru the security gate line by tipping the state trooper on duty, it was amazing what these law enforcement types would do for a $2 bill, the cheap bastards. Fortunately I had purchased over $5000 of $2 bills from Senator Empanada for $375 before he went to prison, it was a buyers’ market, and having $2 bills for tipping in this town was important. Most of the lobbyists tipped only a dollar, which was enough for the state troopers but was frowned upon by the coffee baristas at the coffee shop on the first floor.
When I was approached by some downstate Assemblywomen.
“Leathers can we talk for a minute about your clients bill to exempt truffle butter from sales tax?”
“Certainly Assemblywomen, how can I help you?”
“Well Leathers if the truth be told I’m not a big truffle butter fan. But I am having a fundraiser tomorrow night at the Fort Lemon Club can I count on you for a table?”
“Now Assemblywoman you know that the capital is not the place to talk fundraiser”
“And you know Leathers that it’s not the place to talk truffle butter tax exemption legislation either”
“I understand your point, I’ll see you at the Fort Lemon event”
“That’s great my staff will be in touch to collect payment or you can just drop your check at my office upstairs, and by the way feel free to provide me a sample of that truffle butter I like to be well informed before I vote on legislation”
Thank god she was an assemblywomen with no real power, it made it exceedingly unlikely that our conversation had been recorded. The last thing I needed at this point was to be drawn into Ping Pong’s RICO case.
As I continued along the corridor to the elevators I noticed a series of pieces of paper taped to the wall, the first piece was a flyer announcing a fundraiser for Senator Squabble. Squabble was the youngest member of the Senate, I think he was about 26 years old and acted like he was 16. It played well in his Senate district which had 37 colleges located within it, but he would have a short career unless the district aged along with him. At this point in time he was riding high, literally, as a new snow board manufacturer had just opened a factory in the district with over 100 new jobs and Squabble was taking full credit for the job growth, even though he had absolutely nothing to do with it. The deal had been financed by no interest state job fund loans arranged by Mclowey, who then wrote a book “Profiles in Snowboarding” and the factory had been built on land owned by Hibert with a small real estate title policy being written by Shady Washington’s mom. The flyer looked like it belonged on a college bulletin board and read:
“Join us at the Fort Lemon Club basement chill room for Senator Danny “Chillaxing” Squabble’s rave and fundraiser. We will be collecting coin at the door to support Dan’s chill lifestyle and to thank him for bringing rad boards to the hood. Minimum cover is $500. All those supporting tax free truffle butter need to be representing as we churn some butter in the private VIP rooms”
Well if nothing else you had to admire his low key approach to graft.
Just pass the last flyer and in the alcove for the elevators I bumped into Speaker Washington’s speechwriter, John Mchardle. John was an old Albany pro with a drinking problem. Being a drunk in Albany politics wasn’t a problem it was almost required, the problem was he was an exceedingly mean drunk with a penchant for urinating on everyone around him if they annoyed him. For a short Irishman he had an amazingly large bladder.
“What’s up John? How’s it hanging?”
“Oh it’s just fine Leathers, but thanks for asking”
Clearly John wasn’t drunk yet something important must be going on.
“What are you working on John?”
“Washington wants to give a speech at his fundraiser tonight, are you going?”
“Of course I am where and when?”
“No clue but probably at the Fort Lemon Club you want me to find out? Can I put you down for a couple of tables?”
“Sure, what’s the speech about?”
“Siler got to Shady last night and convinced him to link that tax exemption for truffle butter to the Dream Act”
“Are you serious? That will kill it in the Senate, fuck me!”
“Relax Leathers, you know how the game is played, just get Hibert to buy in with a roll back on the Safe Act. Turn truffle butter into the big ugly”
“Yea good idea John, by the way had you heard that Richard was telling everyone that you were in Ravi’s McLaren sucking his cock when he got arrested?”
I could see the anger building all that was need now was some alcohol and tonight’s fundraiser for Washington could turn into a pissfest for Richard.
As I boarded the elevator to watch the session in the Assembly I saw Oscar Hibert with the large well-dressed gentleman from the Grove last night. The elevator doors closed and it was the 3 of us and Casey Sailer in the elevator.
“Leathers, I’d like to thank you for sending me those four new clients that I’m not lobbying for”
He actually winked at me, the kid was a complete fucking idiot. I looked at Sailer but he was oblivious as he was underlining his copy of Proust.
“I’d also like to introduce you to my newest client, Lev Bakuma, who is paying me $100000 a month NOT to lobby for a medical marijuana license, we’re going up to see Daddy about making sure I don’t lobby for any other groups that want one of those licenses, Lev is a Jew you know”
At this point Casey dropped his highlighter and my cellphone rang, the number calling was listed as “Cleaning Inspection Agency”.
“I’m a little busy Alex”
“I know, tell that fucking idiot Oscar, that I will be at his father’s fundraiser tonight so he can stop calling me”
“I have to run Leathers that’s God on the other line he needs my advice on amending the Ten Commandments”
Oscar stopped picking his nose long enough to make it clear he had overheard.
“I’m sure you knew Leathers but Daddy is having a big fundraiser tonight at the Fort Lemon Club, if he hasn’t already collected your donation I can take it now in cash”
“No that’s fine Oscar I never discuss fundraisers in the Capital and especially not in an elevator with a member of the press present”
“You are mistaken Leathers, Lev isn’t with the media he’s part of Mazel Tov the Israeli mob”
Sailer cleared his throat and closed his copy of Proust.
“That should be he is a part of Mazel Tov. You need the “a” to be grammatically correct”
At that point the elevator doors opened and Sailer walked out.
“You want I should stick that little schmendrake in a pickle barrel for you Mr. little hose?”
“I don’t think they have Jewish pickles in the cafeteria here do they Leathers?”
I left the elevator convinced that Oscar may have been the dumbest person in the building. And since this was the state capital that was quite the accomplishment.
As I walked into the Assembly the local Assemblyman was reading a proclamation recognizing the local lacrosse team for making the sectionals for the 10th straight year. Of course no one mentioned that every team in the section made sectionals and every member of every team got a participation trophy, such was the world of youth sports.
“And so it is with great pleasure that I hereby proclaim that the Albany High School Barking Dogs lacrosse team is recognized for its outstanding accomplishments . . .”
As I scanned the chambers I only saw 5 or 6 members present and they were all on their phones, probably dialing for dollars, trying to raise donations for their reelection campaigns.
“. . . And whereas the following players have contributed their time and energy . . .”
Senator Squabble saw me and started over. What was a senator doing in the Assembly chambers?
“. . . Rickey “porn star” Savage, Blaine ”the blind man” Benner, Matt “fat” Fisher, Liam “twiggy” Dollard, Kevin “kosher” Carmody and C.J. “leaky bucket” Alessandrini”
Squabble stopped in front of me and extended his fist to bump knuckles.
“Yo Leathers brah, am I gonna be swapping digits with yur bitches tonight”
“What I got ta spell it out for you dude, I need your peeps to bring me some lucre if you want your truffle butter sales tax exemption to pass”
“Really Senator in chambers you are going to hit me up on a pay for play?”
“Chill dude I’m a senator and this is the assembly none of my shit can be clocked here it’s all good”
“I look forward to your support senator”
“You drop the dollahs and I’ll make the senate hollah”
What the fuck was this world coming to?
Finally I saw Sam Casey at Munro’s desk, I walked over and sat down.
“I hate this place Sam”
“Me too Leathers but what’s the alternative?”
“Dejardin thinks anonymous donations will solve the problem”
“Solves one problem but causes another”
“No donations at all, how will these politicians pay their personal expenses?”
“With their own money?”
“Now that may be the funniest thing I’ve ever heard you say Leathers, their own money”
Sam fell down laughing which disturbed the Assemblyman at the next desk he looked up and said.
“Do you gentleman mind I am very busy calling my donors for my birthday party fundraiser this evening, you can just throw a couple of hundred dollar bills in my desk and I’ll see you at the Fort Lemon Club tonight”
As Cadillac Curtis used to say campaign donations are just the price of admission to the sport of politics.