BEHIND THE NEWS: Introduction and indictment

January 23, 2009 12:59:03 PM PST
It's purely coincidental that Kristen Gillibrand's entrance to statewide politics (and a nice one it is, getting appointed to fill Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate seat) comes just minutes before the man who was New York State's most powerful Republican was indicted.

Both represent big shifts in power. Yes, I know, Joe Bruno, the former majority leader of the State Senate, isn't in power anymore. He resigned in July - oops, I mean he retired - with a flock of federal investigations hanging over his head. Now, Bruno -- whose alleged wrongdoing was also the focus of Eliot Spitzer's over-aggressive investigation -- is accused of using his public position to steer contracts and grants to businesses that, in turn, paid him more than $3 million in "consulting fees" and other compensation between 1993 and 2006.

The eight-count indictment claims Bruno used his position for "personal compensation and enrichment." One example, according to the indictment, was Bruno's soliciting officials from several labor unions to hire an investment firm, that paid Bruno $1.3 million.

Bruno has continually shown a "come and get me 'cause you got nothin on me" attitude about these federal corruption investigations.

Now, he'll have to defend himself against the corruption that so many had claimed for years.

We'll have the latest tonight at 11 on the Bruno indictments.

We'll also introduce you to Kristen Gillibrand (Keer-sten Jilla-brand) - the upstate Congresswoman who is now filling the shoes of Hillary Clinton. Or at least her seat.

She's a conservative Democrat who supports the extension of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, is against gun control, was the only New York Democrat to support the war funding bill in May, 2007, and supported the Bush-Cheney bill to give immunity to telecommunications companies that spied on U.S. citizens. Gillibrand describes her voting record as "one of the most conservative" in New York State.

Even Mayor Bloomberg, who has some political egg on his face after pushing the failed and embarrassing campaign to get Caroline Kennedy appointed, gave her only a half-thumb up. He is a big gun control advocate and doesn't much like her support by the National Rifle Assn.

But Gillibrand is a good fundraiser, and that will help Gov. Paterson, who appointed her, when he faces his first election for the job he was appointed to, next year.

We'll have the latest on the appointment, tonight at 11.

We'll also have the latest on the Obama Administration's first few days in office; he's certainly hit the ground full speech ahead. And we'll have the new developments in his attempts to pass a stimulus package -- made even more urgent by the news from California, where unemployment has now hit 9.3%.

And Tappy Phillips has the story tonight of a local gas station where the price of gas is still at last summer's level. Why? Turns out, the owner is in a spitting match with Exxon. We're not sure who he's hurting besides himself, but the prices make his gas station the most expensive in America.

And one more item - spotted by only two people I know of -- sharp-eyed Eyewitness News viewer Martin W. Schwartz and ABC News anchor Charlie Gibson. An error in Barack Obama's Inaugural speech, and why his minions didn't catch this is puzzling.

Here's what Pres. Obama said on Tuesday: "Forty-four Americans have now taken the Presidential oath."

Oops. Gong.

Only 43 Americans have done that.

But wait, you say, Obama is the 44th President.

Yes. But one President held the office twice, in non-consecutive terms. Grover Cleveland was President number 22 and President number 24.

Would that this be the biggest mistake Mr. Obama makes during his term.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's weekend AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join us tonight at 11, right after 20/20.

BILL RITTER


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