COLONIE, N.Y. — A benefit for Joe Bruno caused some controversy Tuesday night as friends of the former State Senator held a private fundraiser for his legal defense fund.
Close to two dozen demonstrators lined the entrance to The Desmond hotel in Colonie with mops and brooms, saying it's time to clean up Albany. They were upset not only over the fundraiser, but that one of the hosts was John Nigro, head of the Legislative Ethics Commission.
“I think we need to acknowledge the role that money plays in our state politics,” said protestor Pete Looker.
Fellow protestor Skip Stranahan told NEWS10, “I just hope to see that the law is upheld equally amongst all the people.”
Inside, there was a much different tone.
While our cameras were not allowed at the fundraiser itself, Bruno and two close friends spoke to the media.
“I live life a day at a time,” Bruno said.
Bruno says he's thankful for his supporters, who were asked by organizers to donate up to $1,000 each for the former Senate Majority Leader's legal bills.
“It's important, of course,” said Bruno friend Steve Coffey, “but the money's really secondary. We're here as his friends.”
Instead, they say this was about celebrating the good Bruno has done during his career.
“Look at upstate New York and the difference between the Albany region and all that exists around upstate New York,” E. Stewart Jones, another supporter of Bruno, said. “That's because of Joe Bruno.”
Still, Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), says the circumstances here raise questions.
“The potential for conflict is narrow, but it still would have been the right thing to do to get the blessing in advance,” Horner told NEWS10.
But NEWS10 legal analyst Thomas Carr, with Tulley, Rinckey and Associates, says the bottom line is that Bruno has a right to his own defense and have friends make donations to help pay for it.
“I think legally there's nothing wrong with it,” Carr said. “It's a judgment call for the individuals concerned.”
A Bruno spokesperson says roughly a couple hundred supporters were expected to show up Tuesday, but as far as how much they expected to raise, that remains to be seen.