Ya Got the Stone(s)?

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I’m lucky I live in New York. Because if national politics ever settles down I’ll have New York politics to keep me entertained. I think of it as sort of an occupational insurance policy.

A short while ago, aides to Gov. Spitzer (D) got caught in some dirty trick shenanigans employed against one of the governor’s rivals, state GOP kingpin Joe Bruno. The stunts appear to have fallen short of illegality. But they’ve been more than enough to take some of the luster off Spitzer’s good guy crusading image. Republicans in Albany are investigating what happened and possibly other stuff earlier in Spitzer’s career. And they must really feel like spicing things up because they’ve hired none other than ubiquitous GOP operative-cum-yakmeister Roger Stone to help out in whatever way in knocking Spitzer around.

Now, you’ve got to have some sense of Stone’s background to get the full flavor of this story. Suffice it to say that Roger Stone must be awfully friggin’ good at being an operative because only that explains how he keeps getting hired notwithstanding a series entertaining press stories about Stone in his own right. (To get your own research started, try googling ‘roger stone and swinger’.) He actually did play a key role in shutting down the Florida Recount in 2000. So I guess you could say he is pretty good at what he does. Needless to say, Stone has his own website, the aptly named StoneZone.

In any case, as I said, Stone is working for state Republicans and apparently the Empire State GOPers are considering looking into Spitzer’s dad’s finances too. But it appears Stone got a little hot under the collar in his pursuit of the anti-Spitzer jihad, apparently going so far as to leave an unhinged message on Pop Spitzer’s answering machine.

Here we pick up the story from the sedate pages of the hometown paper …

The message, left at Bernard Spitzer’s Manhattan office just before 10 p.m. on Aug. 6, says that Mr. Spitzer, 83, a wealthy real estate developer, would be “compelled by the Senate sergeant at arms” to testify about “shady campaign loans” he made to his son during Eliot Spitzer’s unsuccessful campaign for attorney general in 1994.

Mr. Winner’s committee has been holding hearings into a scheme by some of Governor Spitzer’s top aides to use the State Police to embarrass the Senate Republican leader, Joseph L. Bruno. Senate Republicans have said they were considering reviewing Bernard Spitzer’s 1994 loans to his son.

“If you resist this subpoena, you will be arrested and brought to Albany,” the message says, according to a transcript. The message also calls Governor Spitzer a “phony” and a “psycho.”

That led Spitzer’s dad to hire a private security agency which … well, back to the Grey Lady …

Bernard Spitzer’s lawyers hired Kroll Associates, the private investigative firm, to trace the message, and their report was included with the letter to Mr. Winner. The firm traced the number that appeared on Mr. Spitzer’s caller identification system, linking it to listings under the name of Mr. Stone’s wife, Nydia.

“The review of publicly available records,” the report says, “strongly suggests that the number is controlled by Roger Stone.”

Digital recordings were also sent to Mr. Winner, including the audio of the voice mail message and “a sample of Roger Stone’s voice from a broadcast interview” to allow for comparison. The Times was given a copy of both recordings, but was unable to draw any conclusions about whether Mr. Stone’s voice was on Mr. Spitzer’s phone message.

In the message, the caller says, referring to a potential subpoena: “There is not a goddamn thing your phony, psycho, piece-of-shit son can do about it. Bernie, your phony loans are about to catch up with you. You will be forced to tell the truth and the fact that your son’s a pathological liar will be known to all.”

Now, Stone concedes the phone is his. But Stone, who’s known as a consumate dirty-trickster alleges what perhaps might be considered the ultimate dirty trick as his exculpatory theory. Stone points out that his apartment building is owned by a prominent Spitzer fundraiser and that it would be no difficult matter for him to let Spitzer operatives in to his apartment for a set-up job.

Said Stone to the Times: “They have unfettered access to my apartment. I am on television constantly. As Gore Vidal said, never pass up the chance to have sex or be on television. Putting together a voice tape that sounds like me wouldn’t be hard to do.”

You almost get the sense that Stone is letting projection get the better of him in this little tear. And those apropos of nothing references to tv and sex, I’m not sure what to make of those other than I’m pretty sure the Times reporter got a pretty big kick out of including them in Stone’s denial.

In any case, I guess the rule of thumb is that if you get a harassing phone call and it’s traced back to the phone of one of your political enemies and the voice on the phone sounds like your enemy, then Occam’s Razor says you must have broken into the guy’s apartment with Rich Little and set him up. I’m going to keep checking in at the StoneZone for the latest.

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