Memo to Gov. David Patterson
Re: Two Birds With One Stone
He may not be everybody's role model but it might be time to take a page from the playbook of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to solve two of your most pressing problems: closing a multi-billion budget deficit and filling the U.S. Senate seat of Hillary Rodham Clinton. To quote the best known blowhard in the Windy City, this idea could be "effen-golden."
In a phrase: Sell the seat.
I know that Blagojevich is an unlikely sage, having shocked the nation by wrestling away the title of "most embarrassing governor" from your predecessor, Elliot "Socks" Spitzer, who astonished tri-state voters by being more shocking than New Jersey's James "I've got a surprise for you" McGreevey. But even a broken clock is right twice a day and you might want to consider giving Blagojevich's idea some thought.
That's right: Just sell the Senate seat.
I'm not suggesting any criminal activity. If the FBI is to be believed Blagojevich was planning to sell the seat to pay off personal debts or invest in a new hair brush, one undertaking more substantial than the other. I'm not suggesting you pocket the proceeds of a sale. Just have the candidate deposit it right in the treasury.
Tonight brought news from the Camelot PR machine that Caroline Kennedy wants to be a Senator. I say: You want it, pay off the state's $1.75 billion budget deficit and it's yours.
Don't dismiss this as a mean spirited Saturday Night Live skit; I'm telling you this idea has potential.
Let's look first at Ms. Kennedy's credentials to be a US Senator:
1. She is rich.
2. Her father was President when she was a little girl.
That's right, there is no number three.
Remember that whomever you pick is going to annoy lots of others.
Carolyn Maloney might be a bit more shrill than our founding father's intended, but she is a proven Washington powerhouse and New Yorkers are supposed to have attitude. Naming Kirsten Gillibrand might quiet some of the upstate whiners who believe that geography outranks population when it comes to political clout. On the plus side, she's apparently promised to cede all the Sunday morning photo ops to Chuck Schumer. On the minus side: Who ever heard of her?
Appointing the ever ambitious Andrew Cuomo has the political advantage of knocking off a rival to your eventual gubernatorial race, but it will create massive complaints about a "female" seat switching gender (The plan to appoint Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice to replace Cuomo will soften that blow a bit, but maybe not enough).
So, back to Ms. Kennedy.
There was a time that it would have been considered unseemly to be selling Senate seats, but the days of gentility passed with Daniel Patrick Moynihan. I mean we've had Fred Thompson who played a baritone smart guy on television and, depending on how well Minnesota officials can count while wearing mittens, it's not out of the question that Al Franken will end up getting sworn in.
Is there really that big a difference between "buying" a seat by spending billions on campaign ads or "buying" the seat by writing a check to the State of New York?
Now, I know that Ms. Kennedy will go all society-page on you, tut-tutting that "Kennedy's don't pay for seats."
When she says that, send her back to Chicago. I'll bet somewhere in her mother's "sworn secret until 50 years after I'm gone memoirs" that only Caroline has read there is a hint of how much Grandpa Kennedy paid the Chicago political machine to make JFK president. Figure in the inflation factor, at it probably wasn't a lot less than $1.75 billion. And Governor Patterson, the state will take a check, perhaps even installments. The Chicago machine reportedly made Joe Kennedy come across with cash.
Lets say that at the end of the day, Caroline won't pay. That's still no reason to abandon the "sell the seat plan."
There's plenty of other rich New Yorkers who have the dough. I bet that Tom Golisano who failed to buy the Albany mansion you now call home the good old fashioned way -- by filling GOP coffers and spending big on political ads -- would at least sleep on the idea of paying down the deficit to join one of the most elite social clubs in the world.
And what about Al D'Amato? I don't think he's got that kind of scratch on hand, but don't underestimate his ability to raise it. And even though being an ex-Senator has proved to be a profitable profession, wouldn't he prefer to have little Alfonse see the old man as a sitting Senator rather than just an old man.
The number of super rich egos in this state is nearly endless:
There are Murdoch's, Steinbrenner's, Tisch's, and Wilpon's (well, maybe not the latter as he awaits the final tally on Madoff).
But speaking of sports, what about A-Rod? He's got the money and plenty of time since he's merely holding down what for most working folks would be considered part-time jobs: playing baseball for the New York Yankees and squiring an overage pop star. Plus, Senator A-Rod would buy you a lot of ethnic support now that he's decided to return to his Latino roots and play for the Dominican team.
Just because Blagojevich has bad hair and a big mouth, doesn't mean you should ignore some of his better ideas.
So, as you get ready to sell Plan A to the legislature today, think about Plan B: sell the seat. Like the man said, it could be "effen golden."