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Joseph L. Bruno

Member of the New York Senate
from the 41st district
In office
Preceded by Douglas Hudson
Succeeded by Jay Rolison

Member of the New York Senate
from the 43rd district
In office
1983 – July 18, 2008
Preceded by Ronald Stafford
Succeeded by Roy McDonald

In office
March 17, 2008 – June 24, 2008
Preceded by David Paterson
Succeeded by Dean Skelos

Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
In office
November 25, 1994 – June 24, 2008
Preceded by Ralph J. Marino
Succeeded by Dean Skelos

Born April 8, 1929 (1929-04-08) (age 80)
Glens Falls, New York
Nationality American
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Barbara Frasier (deceased)
Children Joseph, Susan, Kenneth, and Catherine
Residence Brunswick, New York
Alma mater Skidmore College

Joseph L. Bruno (born April 8, 1929) is an American businessman, Republican politician, and convicted felon. He was the Temporary President of the New York State Senate and its majority leader. Most recently he also served as Lieutenant Governor of New York (Acting).

On June 23, 2008, Bruno announced that he would not seek reelection to the State Senate in 2008. On June 24, 2008, Bruno stepped down from the positions of Senate Majority Leader and "temporary president of the senate", but remained a State Senator. On July 18, 2008, Bruno resigned from the New York State Senate. He represented the 43rd New York State Senate District.

On January 23, 2009, Bruno was indicted on eight counts of corruption, including mail and wire fraud.[1]

On December 7, 2009, Bruno was convicted of two counts of mail and wire fraud. He was acquitted of five felonies, and the jury hung on the last count.[2]


Personal life

Bruno was born in Glens Falls, New York, and graduated from St. Mary's Academy. He has a B.A. degree in Business Administration from Skidmore College and served in the Korean War as an infantry Sergeant. Bruno served as president of the New York State Jaycees and in 1964 was named by them as one of the five "Outstanding Young Men of the State."[3]

Bruno and his wife Barbara Frasier are parents of four children: Joseph, Susan, Kenneth and Catherine. Senator Bruno lives in Brunswick in Rensselaer County, New York.[citation needed]

There is at least one building named for Bruno in each of the fourteen towns and two cities that comprise Rensselaer County, New York. In addition, the Tri-City ValleyCats -- a short-season minor-league affiliate of the Houston Astros -- play in Joseph L. Bruno Stadium situated on the Troy-North Greenbush border.[citation needed]

Political career

In 1966, Bruno was on the campaign staff of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and from 1969 to 1974 he served as Special Assistant to Speaker of the Assembly Perry B. Duryea. From 1968 to 1969, he was President of the New York State Association of Young Republicans. He also served as Chairman of the Rensselaer County Republican Committee from 1974 to 1977.

Bruno was first elected to the New York State Senate in 1976 from a district composed of the counties of Rensselaer and Saratoga. He was first elected Temporary President of the New York State Senate on November 25, 1994, ousting the incumbent Ralph J. Marino, and was re-elected to that position in 1995, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Bruno, along with Governor George Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was instrumental in returning the death penalty to New York State in 1995.[citation needed] The New York Court of Appeals (the highest state court in New York) later found the law to be unconstitutional because it gave jurors deadlocked between life without parole and execution no choice but to give eligibility for parole after 25 years; the Court of Appeals feared that jurors faced with this choice would unfairly lean toward a death sentence.[citation needed] In the 10 years after the law was passed, New York's crime rate plummeted without ever seeing an execution, perhaps weakening public support for the death penalty.[citation needed] Silver let the law die in 2005 without much debate.[citation needed]

According to an editorial in The Buffalo News, Bruno forced a bill through the Senate on June 27, 1995 that would have forced girls under 16 to get consent from both parents for an abortion. The bill never passed the New York State Assembly.[2]

In 2005, Bruno proposed research into high speed rail development in New York State as part of a plan to boost Upstate New York's economy.[3]

As the Temporary President of the Senate, Bruno was Chairman of the Rules Committee and an ex officio member of all Senate standing committees and statutory commissions.

A minor league baseball stadium in Troy, New York, the Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, is named after the Senator.

Bruno has dominated politics in the County, as well as the state, experiencing only two major defeats; when Democratic Judge Patrick McGrath won re-election as County Court Judge by 69 percent in 2003, and when East Greenbush Town Justice Bob Jacon defeated District Attorney Patricia DeAngelis for an additional County Judgeship that was created by the State Senate specifically for DeAngelis in 2005.

Opposing President George W. Bush's War in Iraq, in February 2005, Bruno stated that America, instead of battling insurgents in Iraq, should declare victory and "get the troops out of there."[4]


2007-2008 legislative session

At the start of the 2007-2008 session, it appeared the highly popular incoming Governor Eliot Spitzer would be able to enact an ambitious reform agenda over the opposition of a weakened Bruno. However, the 2007 state budget was deemed by many as similar to the budgets approved during the Pataki years, which some dubbed a victory for Bruno.

Entering 2007, Bruno's hold on Senate control appeared more tenuous than in prior years, as the Republicans lost the seat formerly held by Nicholas Spano, failed to regain a Republican-leaning seat in Syracuse and—with a caucus diminished to 33 members—had to defend the open seat of Michael Balboni in Nassau County; the latter seat was lost to Democrat Craig Johnson, Nassau County Legislator in a February 6, 2007 special election.[5] The electoral reverses and the ongoing FBI investigation led some Republicans to suggest Bruno might step down as Majority Leader.[6] There were also rumors some Republican senators might cross the aisle to throw control of the Senate to the Democrats.[5]

In April 2007, Bruno also appeared to hold veto power over two other Spitzer initiatives: gay marriage[7] and campaign finance reform[8]. Bruno challenged Spitzer to restore the state's death penalty law.[9] Bruno also criticized the Governor's plan to issue driver licenses to illegal immigrants, claiming it was aimed at stuffing the ballot box with Democratic voters.[10]

Bruno's position became more tenuous in February 2008 after the special election loss of the heavily Republican 48th District in Watertown, which had formerly been held by Sen. James W. Wright. This loss diminished the Republican Senate majority to a single seat, and press speculation centered on whether the remaining GOP senate caucus would cause Bruno to step down.[11]

Police surveillance controversy

On July 23, 2007, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo admonished Governor Eliot Spitzer's administration for ordering the State Police to track Bruno's travel records, particularly his use of a state helicopter.[12] At the direction of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno.[13] The governor's staff had stated they were responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA or FOIL) request from The Times-Union of Albany in late June.[12][14] On May 23, Spitzer's Communications Director Darren Dopp wrote Rich Baum, a senior Spitzer adviser, that "records exist going way back"[15] about Bruno's use of state aircraft, and that "Also, I think there is a new and different way to proceed re media. Will explain tomorrow."[14] Dopp later wrote another e-mail to Baum after a story ran in the Times-Union about a federal grand jury investigation of Bruno's investments in thoroughbred racing horses, and wrote: "Think travel story would fit nicely in the mix."[14][15]

A 57-page report issued by the Attorney General's office[16] concluded that Spitzer aides attempted to create negative media coverage concerning Bruno's travel before any FOIA request was made.[17] The investigation looked into both Bruno's travel and the senate leader's allegation that Spitzer used State Police to spy on him.[18] Cuomo concluded that "These e-mails show that persons in the governor's office did not merely produce records under a FOIL request, but were instead engaged in planning and producing media coverage concerning Senator Bruno's travel on state aircraft before any FOIL request was made."[15][19] It noted that the Times-Union's initial FOIL request didn't even ask for the records involving Bruno that the paper was later given by aides to Spitzer.[20] The Times-Union's requests sought documents on use of state aircraft by seven officials, including Spitzer, Bruno and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson, yet Spitzer’s office released only Bruno's itinerary.[21] The Spitzer administration and the State Police provided far more details about Bruno than about other officials to the Times-Union, including records to reply to a request under the state’s Freedom of Information laws, though no such request had even been made.[22] The report noted that the state acted outside the laws in what it released, such as documents that resembled official state travel records, “which they were not" according to Ellen Nachtigall Biben, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, who contributed to the report.[21] The report stated that the Times-Union request came after the story about Bruno’s travels was published, and was "not consistent" with Spitzer administration claims that all it did was respond to a FOIA request.[23] No other officials were subject to the same scrutiny as Bruno, and in some cases, the reports created by State Police were pieced together long after the trips, sometimes based on the memory of the police escorts involved.[24]

The report cleared Bruno of any legal violations in his use of the state's air fleet.[13][25][26][27] Spitzer also used the state aircraft during the first six months of his term as governor for political purposes, including a stop in Rochester to attend an event for the Monroe County Democratic Committee on a day in which he had a number of stops related to public business.[24] The report criticized Spitzer's office for using State Police resources to gather information about Bruno's travel and releasing the information to the media.[26]

Spitzer responded at a July 23 press conference that "As governor, I am accountable for what goes on in the executive branch and I accept responsibility for the actions of my office"[12] and that his administration had "grossly mishandled"[12] the situation.[27] Spitzer issued an apology to Bruno and stated that "I apologized to Senator Bruno and I did so personally this morning."[12]

However, Spitzer's apology did not end the dispute. Four probes by the state Attorney General's office, the State Senate Investigations Committee, the Albany County District Attorney's office, and the New York Commission on Public Integrity (the state ethics board), are ongoing.

On March 29, 2008, the The Buffalo News reported "former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer lied to prosecutors" about his role in Troopergate, but "the Albany County district attorney said he will not pursue any criminal charges against the already disgraced ex-governor."[28]

Acting Lieutenant Governor

On March 17, 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson succeeded to the governor's office. Joseph Bruno - as Temporary President of the state Senate - became Acting Lieutenant Governor, and was next-in-line to become Acting Governor of New York in case of a vacancy.


On June 23, 2008, Bruno confirmed that he would not seek re-election in the fall of 2008.[29] On June 24, 2008, Bruno stepped down as "temporary president of the senate" and as Senate Majority Leader.[30] On July 18, 2008, Bruno resigned his New York State Senate seat.[31] On November 4, 2008, he was replaced by his "hand-picked" successor, Roy McDonald, in the general election.[32]

Reversal on Same-Sex Marriage

Almost one year after his stepping down from being Senate Majority Leader, Bruno announced that he supported same-sex marriage - a position that in the past he had never taken publicly.[citation needed] After years of working with the relatively socially liberal Governor George Pataki (who many conservative Republicans criticized over for his continued support of abortion rights and pro-choice agenda, and his heavy lobbying in favor of a gay rights bill that had languished in the state Senate for many years due to the opposition of Senate Leader Joseph Bruno himself),[citation needed] Bruno and his caucus were put on the spot for their support of a socially conservative agenda.[citation needed] LGBT people and groups pushed very hard for the gay rights bill[citation needed] and in 2003, Bruno finally gave in;[33] the bill passed the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Pataki.[34] In 2009, Bruno was tapped by Governor David Paterson to speak out for same-sex marriage in Albany.[35][36] Bruno also admitted in 2009 that he personally favored same-sex marriage but never brought it the floor of the State Senate because the majority of his conference was against it, stating "This is America, and we have inalienable rights... Life is short, and we should all be afforded the same opportunities and rights to enjoy it."[37]


During the budget process in 1995, Bruno, who was new to the Majority Leader role at the time, made a comment about Blacks and Hispanics who "got their hands out" pressuring the legislature to avoid cuts to social services.[38] [39] According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, "Bruno said he was referring to the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which is a major force in the Democratic majority in the Assembly."[40] Bruno's defense was that he was referring to political caucuses, not all blacks and Hispanics; he offered a blanket apology for offending some people, but refused to take his words back.[41]

Fiscal conservative pundits originally were very supportive of Bruno's agenda in the State Senate.[42] In later years, they expressed concern over Bruno's willingness to cooperate with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on budgets deemed to be excessive, over endorsements Bruno received from state employee labor unions, including health care union Local 1199, and over Bruno's recruitment of former Democrats to run as Republicans for swing Senate districts in Syracuse and the Bronx.[43][44]

In December 2006, Bruno disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been looking into business associates of Bruno's who had received state grants.[45] The FBI investigation appeared to lead Bruno to end one of his long-time consulting jobs in 2007.[46]

2009 Indictment

On January 23, 2009, Bruno was indicted on eight counts of corruption, including mail and wire fraud. The indictment accuses Bruno of defrauding New Yorkers from 1993 to 2006. During that period of time, Bruno allegedly used his powerful position to help entities with business before the state that in return paid him $3.2 million in private consulting fees.[47]


  1. ^
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ NNDB entry: Joesph Bruno
  4. ^ Bruno: 'Get the Troops Out of There', The New York Sun, February 3, 2006. Retrieved on 2008-03-17.
  5. ^ a b Elizabeth Benjamin (February 7, 2007). "Spitzer's Senate choice wins". Times Union. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  6. ^ Danny Hakim and Mike McIntire (December 22, 2006). "More Records Subpoenaed in Bruno Case". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. "On the political front, Senator John Bonacic... became the first Republican to call openly for Mr. Bruno to step down as majority leader, a rare act of defiance among Senate Republicans." 
  7. ^ Nicholas Confessore (May 2, 2007). "Bruno Opposes Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  8. ^ Kenneth Lovett (April 25, 2007). "Bruno vs. Ri¢hie $ptiz". New York Post. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  9. ^ Azi Paybarah (April 25, 2007). "On Death Penalty, Bruno and Spitzer Versus Assembly". The New York Observer. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  10. ^ Kenneth Lovett (September 26, 2007). "Bruno Warns of Illegal Vote Drive". New York Post. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  11. ^ Irene Jay Liu (February 27, 2008). "Senate loss slams state GOP". Times Union. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  12. ^ a b c d e Danny Hakim (July 23, 2007). "Spitzer's Staff Misused Police, Report Finds". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  13. ^ a b Cara Matthews (July 23, 2007). "Cuomo: Spitzer aides used state police to try to damage Bruno". The Ithaca Journal. Archived from the original on 2008-03-17. 
  14. ^ a b c Michael Gormley (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides blamed for leak". Troy Record.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  15. ^ a b c Michael Gormley (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides linked to Bruno leaks". Oneida Dispatch. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  16. ^,0,3604652.story
  17. ^ Tom Precious (July 23, 2007). "Cuomo criticizes Spitzer for using State Police to monitor Bruno". The Buffalo News.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  18. ^ Michael Gormley (July 23, 2007). "Report: NY Governor's Office Leaked Data". Guardian Unlimited.,-6800103,00.html.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  19. ^ Anthony Faiola (July 25, 2007). "N.Y. Governor Moves to Limit Ethics Scandal". The Washington Post: p. A06. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  20. ^ Fredric U. Dicker (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer Aides Dirty: Cuomo". New York Post. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  21. ^ a b Tom Precious (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides faulted for smearing Bruno over use of state aircraft". The Buffalo News.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  22. ^ Fred Lebrun (July 24, 2007). "Exhaustive effort to 'get Joe' boomerangs on Spitzer's aides". Times Union. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  23. ^ Sara Kugler (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer sanctions top aides over scandal". Jordan Falls News.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  24. ^ a b James M. Odato (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides on the outs". Times Union.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  25. ^ Melissa Mansfield (July 23, 2007). "Spitzer punishes aides after AG report". Newsday.,0,243893.story.  Not available, 2008-03-17.
  26. ^ a b Jacob Gershman (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer Faces Probe in Senate". The New York Sun. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  27. ^ a b Sally Goldenberg (July 23, 2007). "Report: Governor's office compiled, leaked data on Bruno". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved 2008-03-17. 
  28. ^ The March 29, 2008 Buffalo News article
  29. ^ Gormley, Michael (2008-06-23). "NY Senate leader Joseph Bruno won't run again". Newsday (Associated Press).,0,1960648.story. 
  30. ^ Eltman, Frank (2008-06-24). "New majority leader a skilled, savvy politician". Newsday (Associated Press).,0,5762765.story. 
  31. ^ N.Y. Senate Leader Bruno To Resign Seat
  32. ^ Kenneth C. Crowe II, "McDonald tops Russo in 43rd Senate race: Incumbents Farley, Seward, Breslin also lead in their Senate races," Times Union, found at TimesUnion website. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Can Joe Bruno Rescue Gay Marriage?
  36. ^ Joe Bruno Supports Gay Marriage?!?!?!?!!?
  37. ^ Same-sex surprise: Joe Bruno, former NY Senate leader, now supports gay marriage
  38. ^ James Dao (April 8, 1995). "Governor Criticizes A Chief Ally". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  39. ^ Kevin Sack (April 10, 1995). "Budget Battle Heats Up in Albany as Legislative Leaders Trade Harsh Words". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  40. ^ SyracusePostStandard-Bruno-Assailed
  41. ^ AlbanyTimesUnion-Sharpton-to-Bruno
  42. ^ Steven Malanga (Spring 2001). "New York's Republican Crack-Up". City Journal (Manhattan Institute). Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  43. ^ Elizabeth Benjamin (November 22, 2006). "Mystery Candidate Revealed". Capitol Confidential (Times Union). Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  44. ^ Jonathan P. Hicks (July 17, 2004). "Conservative Party Refuses To Endorse Senate Leader". Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  45. ^ Michael Cooper and Danny Hakim (December 20, 2006). "Bruno Is Subject of Inquiry by F.B.I.". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  46. ^ James M. Odato (December 22, 2007). "Bruno cuts ties to firm". Times Union. Retrieved 2008-03-18. 
  47. ^ Tom Caprood (January 24, 2009). "Feds indict Bruno on corruption matter". The Saratogian. Retrieved 2009-01-27. 

External links

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Douglas Hudson
New York State Senate, 41st District
1977 - 1982
Succeeded by
Jay Rolison
Preceded by
Ronald Stafford
New York State Senate, 43rd District
1983 - 2008
Succeeded by
Roy McDonald
Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph J. Marino
Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
1994 - 2008
Succeeded by
Dean Skelos
Preceded by
David Paterson
Lieutenant Governor of New York

Succeeded by
Dean Skelos


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