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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Peter Buffett: The Charitable-Industrial Complex


Warren and Peter Buffett
I HAD spent much of my life writing music for commercials, film and television and knew little about the world of philanthropy as practiced by the very wealthy until what I call the big bang happened in 2006. That year, my father, Warren Buffett, made good on his commitment to give nearly all of his accumulated wealth back to society. In addition to making several large donations, he added generously to the three foundations that my parents had created years earlier, one for each of their children to run.
Early on in our philanthropic journey, my wife and I became aware of something I started to call Philanthropic Colonialism. I noticed that a donor had the urge to “save the day” in some fashion. People (including me) who had very little knowledge of a particular place would think that they could solve a local problem. Whether it involved farming methods, education practices, job training or business development, over and over I would hear people discuss transplanting what worked in one setting directly into another with little regard for culture, geography or societal norms.
Often the results of our decisions had unintended consequences; distributing condoms to stop the spread of AIDS in a brothel area ended up creating a higher price for unprotected sex.
But now I think something even more damaging is going on.
Because of who my father is, I’ve been able to occupy some seats I never expected to sit in. Inside any important philanthropy meeting, you witness heads of state meeting with investment managers and corporate leaders. All are searching for answers with their right hand to problems that others in the room have created with their left. There are plenty of statistics that tell us that inequality is continually rising. At the same time, according to the Urban Institute, the nonprofit sector has been steadily growing. Between 2001 and 2011, the number of nonprofits increased 25 percent. Their growth rate now exceeds that of both the business and government sectors. It’s a massive business, with approximately $316 billion given away in 2012 in the United States alone and more than 9.4 million employed.
Philanthropy has become the “it” vehicle to level the playing field and has generated a growing number of gatherings, workshops and affinity groups.
As more lives and communities are destroyed by the system that creates vast amounts of wealth for the few, the more heroic it sounds to “give back.” It’s what I would call “conscience laundering” — feeling better about accumulating more than any one person could possibly need to live on by sprinkling a little around as an act of charity.
But this just keeps the existing structure of inequality in place. The rich sleep better at night, while others get just enough to keep the pot from boiling over. Nearly every time someone feels better by doing good, on the other side of the world (or street), someone else is further locked into a system that will not allow the true flourishing of his or her nature or the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life.
And with more business-minded folks getting into the act, business principles are trumpeted as an important element to add to the philanthropic sector. I now hear people ask, “what’s the R.O.I.?” when it comes to alleviating human suffering, as if return on investment were the only measure of success. Microlending and financial literacy (now I’m going to upset people who are wonderful folks and a few dear friends) — what is this really about? People will certainly learn how to integrate into our system of debt and repayment with interest. People will rise above making $2 a day to enter our world of goods and services so they can buy more. But doesn’t all this just feed the beast?
I’m really not calling for an end to capitalism; I’m calling for humanism.
Often I hear people say, “if only they had what we have” (clean water, access to health products and free markets, better education, safer living conditions). Yes, these are all important. But no “charitable” (I hate that word) intervention can solve any of these issues. It can only kick the can down the road.
My wife and I know we don’t have the answers, but we do know how to listen. As we learn, we will continue to support conditions for systemic change. 
It’s time for a new operating system. Not a 2.0 or a 3.0, but something built from the ground up. New code.
What we have is a crisis of imagination. Albert Einstein said that you cannot solve a problem with the same mind-set that created it. Foundation dollars should be the best “risk capital” out there.
There are people working hard at showing examples of other ways to live in a functioning society that truly creates greater prosperity for all (and I don’t mean more people getting to have more stuff). 
Money should be spent trying out concepts that shatter current structures and systems that have turned much of the world into one vast market. Is progress really Wi-Fi on every street corner? No. It’s when no 13-year-old girl on the planet gets sold for sex. But as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.
It’s an old story; we really need a new one.
Peter Buffett is a composer and a chairman of the NoVo Foundation.

    The Giving Gene

    From running philanthropic organizations to clocking 

    volunteer hours, women are leading the giving charge.

In 2006, Warren Buffett pledged nearly a billion dollars of Berkshire Hathaway shares to each of his three children, earmarking the money for charitable contributions. In the case of his son Peter Buffett, this pledge would be reallocated in the form of annual contributions to the NoVo Foundation.
[Jennifer and Peter Buffett]
Jennifer and Peter Buffett of the NoVo Foundation
NoVo -- a play on the Latin word for "anew" -- is the brainchild of Peter Buffett and his wife Jennifer, and is dedicated to empowering women and girls by securing education and economic opportunities. While the couple are both heavily involved in the running of the foundation, it's Jennifer Buffett -- not her husband -- who serves as the foundation's president.
The Buffetts are far from the only couple to make this kind of choice: Jean Case -- wife of AOL founder Steve Case -- is CEO of the Case Foundation, and both Melinda Gates and Teresa Heinz Kerry are credited with driving the success of their respective organizations.
"Looking at other couples running organizations we noticed that each partner excelled at the skill he or she had been socialized for. Women saw things in the larger narrative, and men cared more about data points," explains Ms. Buffett. "We're each capable of both, but I thrive on the groundwork. We decided accordingly."
In fact, research corroborates women's tendency to lead the giving charge: A study published in the International Journal of Educational Advancement found that, controlling for income, single women give about the same amount, on average, as married couples while married couples donate 13% more than single men.
"Women bring men in with respect to philanthropy," says Patrick Rooney, director of research at the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University and the study's lead author. "Given that the behavior appears to be independent of income, it's difficult to ignore the argument that altruism is more highly developed in women than in men."
Adjusting for any pay difference, single females contribute nearly twice as much to nonprofits as single males, according to a study in the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. And Dr. Rooney's research has found that women-generated gifts hold steady over time, while those given by men tend to fluctuate with the market.
Women's commitments extend beyond the financial, too: Single females are about one and a half times more likely to clock volunteer hours than their male counterparts, says a 2008 study by the Corporation for National and Community Service. (Married mothers with part-time jobs lead the pack.)
With women now controlling over 50% of investment capital and comprising nearly 50% of the nation's top wealth holders, in recent years women's contributions have gone up by 20% versus just 6% for men.
Since its launch in 2007, the organization "Women Moving Millions," designed to galvanize wealthy women to give in large sums, has already come two-thirds of the way toward its goal of raising $150 million in donations to the Women's Funding Network, a collection of 125 women's foundations spanning six continents. Meanwhile, the evolution and proliferation of giving circles -- groups that allocate donations based on collective decisions -- offers a clear picture of the direction philanthropy is taking: 81% of members are women and 61% of the circles are women-only.
Throughout history, women have contributed generously to philanthropic causes -- the first documented gift from an American woman was made in 1643, a Harvard scholarship from Lady Ann Radcliffe Mowlson -- but today, as women become increasingly independent, the practice has turned from pastime to business.
"What I see as really different now is a sense of responsibility," says Ms. Buffett. "Even 30 years ago, people would have thought of me as yet another person engaged in redistributing my husband's wealth. My influence would have mattered, but the business aspect would have been absent. Today, philanthropy carries a results-oriented importance."
Moreover, women's eagerness to support greater-good causes can propel them toward sound, long-term business and investment decisions.
"We've entered an era where people are having to incorporate social responsibility into the bottom line," says Samantha Unger, director of California emissions markets at Evolution Markets, an environmental brokerage and advisory firm.
"Our dependence on foreign oil, for example, is underscoring the need for sustainable energy solutions. However you look at it, individuals who invest themselves or their capital in these areas -- even if they take a short-term hit -- stand to gain in the long run."
From Ms. Buffett's perspective, the writing's on the wall: "We're finally recognizing altruism's critical role in our global future," she says. "That's the challenge, moving forward, making the most of this kind of empowerment."
Write to Sara Reistad-Long at

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Michael Goodwin: Sleazy Politicians Are Back In NYC

Sex pols sock it to NY

Last Updated:7:21 AM, July 17, 2013
Posted:1:23 AM, July 17, 2013
Michael Goodwin
What’s the matter with New York? More to the point, what’s the matter with New Yorkers?
The question takes on new and urgent meaning after the latest poll showing Eliot Spitzer stomping his primary opponent in the comptroller’s race and Anthony Weiner leading the Democratic mayoral pack. The laugh-out-loud jokes about the perv-palooza campaign suddenly feel stale now that the sex-crazed pols are serious contenders.
This is no laughing matter. Both could win. There, I said it.
The races are different — Spitzer has only one opponent, Weiner has four major ones — but something strange is afoot in both primaries. Or maybe it’s not so strange.
Maybe it’s actually as simple as this: Voters are mad as hell about politicians-as-usual and they’re not going to take it anymore.
Say what you will about Spitzer and Weiner, but they break the mold, to a fault, of course. But that might be good enough in this lackluster field.
They embody, in their own weird ways, what the late, great Murray Kempton wrote about John Lindsay and his opponents in the 1965 campaign: “He is fresh and everyone else is tired.”
Similarly, in 1977, Ed Koch pulled an upset in a divided field largely on the strength of a bigger-than-life personality.
The polls also suggest that a more recent phenomenon, the revolution against the city’s permanent government that saw Democrats lose the last five mayoral elections, is alive and well. The party kept nominating run-of-the-mill pols, and voters kept saying no thanks, we want somebody better, somebody not from the clubhouse.
So Rudy Giuliani beat David Dinkins and Ruth Messinger; Michael Bloomberg beat Mark Green, Freddy Ferrer and Bill Thompson.
Not many New Yorkers regret those results. Gotham isn’t Nirvana, but it sure beats Chicago and Detroit. You have a good chance of living to old age here, largely because you have better odds against a speeding bicycle than a bullet.
The sense that City Hall demands a big personality helps explain the lack of enthusiasm for any of the other mayoral candidates. The many attempts to draft top cop Ray Kelly into running was one indication, and another was Bloomberg’s bid to lure Hillary Rodham Clinton and others into the race.
Even union bosses, initially determined to unite behind a single Democrat, couldn’t settle on one puppet. They spread their endorsements around in a way that is keeping each of the wannabes alive without actually making any one of them inevitable.
As for policies, the differences among the candidates are mostly nuanced. They’re all playing small ball, micro-targeting messages to special-interest groups that include real-estate developers, gays, small-business owners and ethnic, racial and religious blocs. Only occasionally do straight, secular, middle-class taxpayers, homeowners and families figure into the calculation.
Weiner’s positions and interest-group appeals aren’t really distinctive, but he is. Like a crazy man in a subway with a knife, you can’t take your eyes off him. The others you can safely ignore.
Spitzer also carries the aura of a man who could explode any minute. You know he’s itching to take a bite out of somebody; you just hope it’s not you.
His vault in the Quinnipiac poll is a real head-turner. Eight days after jumping into the race, the former governor stands at 48 percent, a 15-point margin over Scott Stringer. He leads among women, blacks and Hispanics, with Stringer ahead only among men.
Stringer, the current Manhattan borough president, barely registers, with nearly six out of 10 Democrats saying they don’t know enough about him to have a clear opinion.
In a sign of its confusion and desperation, his camp is spinning that finding as an upside, saying his numbers will grow as more voters get to know him. But time is running out for an introduction.
Besides, everybody knows Spitzer, and nearly half already have settled on him as their man. Remarkably, 53 percent of Dems have a favorable opinion of him, with only 32 percent unfavorable.
Although this is still just the primary season, it is disturbing to think that Spitzer and Weiner, after their sleazy betrayals of public office, could get another shot without any evidence they have changed. But voters seem ready to get back on the roller coaster instead of settling for boring.
Buckle up, New York. It could be a helluva bumpy ride.
The real racial shame
God save America from experts, the government and the liberal media.
They told us — over and over and over — that the George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin spectacle was a racial parable for our times. They forgot to tell the jury.
“All of us thought race did not play a role,” said the only juror to speak. Her identity concealed, she told CNN that race never came up during more than 16 hours of deliberations.
Prosecutors didn’t go there, either, trying to make the case that Zimmerman had no reason to fire his gun in self-defense. They never alleged a racial component.
They couldn’t, because there was no evidence to support it. The police department’s chief investigator testified that he believed Zimmerman’s account that he was attacked and feared for his life. FBI agents interviewed more than 30 people and found no evidence of racial bias.
The unanimous “not guilty’’ verdict should spark soul-searching from those who claim Martin was killed because he was black.
It should, but it won’t. Too many people see stirring the racial pot as good business.
It keeps the hustlers in the headlines and gives predominately white news organizations a way to expiate their guilt.
Remember how all this racializing was going to stop when we got a black president?
It turns out that a postracial presidency was just another false promise. Barack Obama actually fanned the flames for votes, saying during last year’s campaign, “If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon.”
Subtle he’s not.
Nor can you expect change when the first black attorney general, Eric Holder, links the case to the civil-rights era. His smear of the jury system turns a criminal case into another political football.
America is better than that, even if they are not.
Getting ‘left’ out in a crisis
It is outrageous that no ambulance arrived after Council Speaker Christine Quinn called one when a council intern collapsed at a press conference. But it is curious that, after waiting 30 minutes, Quinn called Police Commissioner Ray Kelly for help.
Why didn’t Quinn call the Civil Liberties Union for an ambulance? After all, her record shows she trusts lefty lawyers more than Kelly.
Don’t sweat the mud dwellers
They are words to live by, and they come from Joe Califano. The former top aide to LBJ, Cabinet secretary under Jimmy Carter and super statesman encourages a friend whose forceful leadership was maligned by pipsqueaks and ankle biters. He writes: “Always remember, when you kick up the dirt, it’s the worms who get annoyed.”
Read more:New York voters seem to prefer sleazy over boring - NYPOST.com

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Lest We Forget: Quinn, Bloomberg and Secrets (2009)

The Secret Bloomberg Administration

NYC Rubber Room Reporter, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg, with City Council's Christine Quinn standing behind him

I wonder why citizens of New York want a Mayor that closes the door to public scrutiny of all policy determinations. Bloomberg's disdain for accountability is obvious to anyone who has tried to obtain information about him, and/or his staff pursuant to the freedom of information law.

If you read the new website of the Committee on Open Government, you will read about the many violations of FOIA and FOIL by both Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. Joel Klein. More about Mr. Klein's violations in a later article. So let's go now to the New York Times' requests for information on Mayor Bloomberg's successful campaign to get himself into a third term as Mayor, as you can see in the Times' article posted below.

By the way, I have heard that any New York City Council member who can win a third term on the Council gets free health insurance paid by the New York City taxpayer for the rest of his/her natural life. This is good to know, isnt it?

Wake up, New York.

Betsy Combier

April 25, 2009
E-Mail Sheds Little Light on Term Limits Campaign in City Hall

“Many thanks.”

In the middle of the pitched battle over Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s plan to re-engineer the city’s term-limits laws, those are the only two words that the first deputy mayor, Patricia E. Harris, (pictured below with Mayor Bloomberg) wrote about the topic.

Or at least those are the only two words that City Hall will allow the public to see.

On Friday, six months after The New York Times requested copies of all e-mail messages about term limits sent or received by six top aides to the mayor under the Freedom of Information Act, the Bloomberg administration released 66 pages of correspondence.

Much of what the city released amounted to fan mail for the mayor, from businesspeople, friends of his aides or ordinary citizens.

“My husband and I fully support your bid for a third term,” a husband and wife wrote the mayor. Their names were withheld.

In an e-mail message to the mayor, Edward B. Ryder IV, from Farmington, N.Y., wrote a ringing endorsement of the third-term plan. “If there was a case to be made for lifting term limits, I’m sure you will make it and make it well,” he wrote.

The Times sought e-mail messages written or received by Mr. Bloomberg; Ms. Harris; Edward Skyler, deputy mayor for operations; Kevin Sheekey, deputy mayor for intergovernmental affairs (pictured below); Stu Loeser, the mayor’s press secretary; and James Anderson, communications director.

The administration did not release any e-mail messages written by Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Skyler (pictured below)or Mr. Anderson.

The mayor’s office released 17 e-mail messages that encouraged him to change the law and seek a third term, and four others opposing the move. The remainder consisted of press releases, poll results and inquiries about Mr. Sheekey’s young twins. None of the messages reflected discussions of strategy, support-building or organizing the broader campaign around the issue, which consumed the administration for months in the second half of 2008.

In a letter to The Times, a lawyer for the mayor, Anthony W. Crowell, said the administration was withholding other correspondence because it falls under an exemption for “interagency or intra-agency” materials.

Gene Russianoff, (pictured at right) a senior lawyer at the New York Public Interest Research Group, which also sought the records, said that the city’s release of the e-mail messages “can’t be the full story.”

“It sounds like a very selective release of memos and that support for term limits was spontaneous combustion,” Mr. Russianoff said. “It’s hard to believe this was conceived by spontaneous combustion. People on the scene felt like it was well orchestrated. But you can’t orchestrate without an orchestra.”

A spokesman for the mayor, Jason Post, said on Friday afternoon, “We released all the e-mails that were subject to disclosure.” He noted that Mr. Bloomberg did not personally respond to many of the e-mail messages on term limits.

Even those e-mail messages that offer a window into City Hall’s thinking about term limits are long on logistics and short on substance.

An e-mail message to Mr. Sheekey from an official at 32BJ, a union representing custodial workers in the city, bears the subject line “Term Limits.”

The union official wrote: “Are you back in the U.S.A. for good? Want to talk on this A.S.A.P.” Mr. Sheekey responded: “Just back this a.m. Let me know where/when to call you.”

And even while citing the exemption for correspondence between agencies in City Hall as a reason for not disclosing other messages, the administration nevertheless included one e-mail message from Mr. Loeser, sent on Oct. 3, 2008, in which he forwards the result of a poll to his City Hall colleagues, including Ms. Harris, Mr. Sheekey and Mr. Anderson. The poll found that most New Yorkers backed the idea of a third term for Mr. Bloomberg.

Mr. Post said that because the e-mail message contained “final statistical tabulations,” the city determined it should be disclosed.

Still, the documents do provide a glimpse of the ego-stroking and subtle hierarchies that govern the political world.

When writing last October to Patrick Gaspard, (picture at right) a Barack Obama campaign aide who is now deputy political director at the White House, Mr. Sheekey urged him: “Focus on winning the national election. If you can take some time out from the transition, find some time for me.”

Then Mr. Sheekey quoted the character Leo McGarry, the White House chief of staff on the television series “The West Wing.” (Picture at left is actor John Spencer as Leo McGarry).

“We have the ability to affect more change in a day at the White House than we will have in a lifetime once we walk out these doors. What do we want to do with them?”

Mayor Bloomberg's e-mail stormed by New York voters - pro and con - after OK'd 3-term bid
Saturday, April 25th 2009, 1:09 AM

3rd time's the charm

How do you feel about Mayor Bloomberg running for a 3rd term?

Great - He's doing the best he can - all he needs is another chance.

Disappointed - I've lost hope in him - we need a new mayor.

Angry - I belive in term limits - you should only get two terms.

Mayor Bloomberg got an earful from New Yorkers last fall when he tossed term limits so he could run for reelection, according to e-mails released Friday by City Hall.

"This is a sad day for New York City. How dare you?" wrote one disgruntled citizen to Bloomberg the day after City Council voted to make the change in October.

Another urged him not to run for mayor again because "fatigue can set in," while a third wrote, "The way this is being handled is hurting you - it really is."

Others were more encouraging.

"We are thrilled to hear the news about the third run. THANK GOD," Mara Manus of the Film Society of Lincoln Center e-mailed the mayor.

"We only regret you didn't run for President," an enthusiast e-mailed after urging him to seek a third term.

The exchanges between City Hall and outsiders suggest Bloomberg was trying to line up labor support days before the Council voted on the controversial measure.

Deputy Mayor Kevin Sheekey was arranging meetings in early October to discuss the term limits debate with Stuart Applebaum of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (at right) and Peter Colavito of SEIU 32BJ, records show.

"Want to talk on this ASAP," Colavito wrote.

Sheekey also appeared to discuss the issue with President Obama's political director, Patrick Gaspard, who wrote on Oct. 21 he "wanted to talk term limits."

Gaspard was previously an operative at SEIU 1199, which opposed term limits. Bloomberg is now courting the union for a reelection endorsement.

The Council narrowly voted to extend term limits for itself and citywide elected posts on Oct. 23 despite opposition from good-government groups and several politicians.

Bloomberg received support from Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum chief Bill White, who ended his e-mail with, "Hope to see you at the Intrepid for the Grand Reopening."

Adrian Flannelly, chairman of Irish Radio Networks, wrote after the vote, "Congratulations. We look forward to your leadership of New York City for the next five years."

The e-mails were provided to the Daily News through a Freedom of Information request, though the names of most e-mail senders were redacted.

Poverty Is What’s Crippling Public Education in the US—Not Bad Teachers

Sunday, July 14, 2013

NY Daily News: Behind The Rise of Sex-Scandal-Scarred Politicians Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner

From Editor Betsy Combier: The New York Daily News writes that "we", the general public, are "more tolerant of personal indiscretions, notably sexual" (see the editorial re-posted here) yet the same newspaper makes innocent teachers into sexual perverts and admonishes arbitrators who do not fire them without evidence. Which is it, folks?

Eliot Spitzer

I found the Editorial in the NY Daily News on Sunday, July 14, 2013, interesting, because reporters over there (see Ben Chapman's postsas an example - I love Stanley Feldman, and believe he is 100% innocent of any charges allegedly "committed"), were given the responsibility to make innocent teachers into sexual perverts in order to get them fired. I think the media needs to have a monitor to curb the political targeting we see all the time, in the news, our schools, and in the courts so that opinions of powerful, wealthy politicians don't have the right of way over rational, fact-based news and decisions.

Betsy Combier

Behind the rise of sex-scandal-tarred politicians Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner
It was an amalgam of forces that allowed the postscandal returns of Spitzer, Weiner and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, who survived a deceit-filled extramarital affair as governor and was just elected to Congress.

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2013, 4:29 AM

Eliot Spitzer and Anthony Weiner are two very lucky dogs.

If you doubt we view scandal differently these days, it was just 50 years ago that New Yorkers and pundits were outraged when Gov. Nelson Rockefeller tied the knot with a divorced woman, Margaretta (Happy) Murphy, who was also giving up custody of her four kids.

Nelson and Happy Rockefeller 

Then, in an epic battle for the Republican Party’s soul, he ran for the 1964 presidential nomination against ultraconservative Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater. He lost partly because Happy gave birth to a child three days before the critical California primary, inspiring further moral condemnation. His lead vanished and he lost the primary and campaign.

Marilyn Monroe with Robert and Jack Kennedy

Meanwhile, we now all know that President John F. Kennedy was regularly having sex in the White House with a 19-year-old intern and other women. His philandering got a pass because, well, the media operated differently back then.

Now, an amalgam of forces allows the post-scandal returns of Spitzer, Weiner and South Carolina’s Mark Sanford, the avatar of the newly resuscitated, who survived a deceit-filled extramarital affair as governor and was just elected to Congress. Ditto David Vitter of Louisiana, who managed to keep his Senate seat despite a prostitution scandal.

Weiner sends out pictures of himself


We’re more tolerant of personal indiscretions, notably sexual. We increasingly differentiate personal and professional conduct. And a less-protective press revels in the mishaps of public officials, whose foibles are further tolerated precisely because we hold them in such low esteem to begin with.

We thus cheer them on, even vote for them, at the same time we hold our noses and their professional class in close to utter contempt.

“We’ve gone from being shocked to being entertained,” says Jeffrey Seglin, an ethics and public policy expert at the Kennedy School at Harvard University. “It’s now all kind of a circus.”

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, it was quite different. There weren’t public opinion polls or much coverage of personal scandals, notes Betty Koed, associate historian of the U.S. Senate. Many constituents had little contact with their representatives and little information about their private lives.

There were exceptions that go back as far as the 1800 presidential election. As historian Bernard Weisberger has detailed, scandalmongering Scottish newspaper editor James Callender sought to discredit the winner, Thomas Jefferson, by breaking the tale of his relationship with Sally Hemings, one of his slaves.

(And who can forget the even earlier, positively operatic sex scandal involving Alexander Hamilton, then secretary of the treasury, and Maria Reynolds, who had an affair with him, then blackmailed him.)

These days, Koed said, very little about politicians’ lives remains private. And that all changed in fundamental ways with former Sen. Gary Hart and Bill Clinton.

In 1987, Hart was caught having an extramarital affair while running for the Democratic presidential nomination. A photo of him and model Donna Rice on the Monkey Business yacht in Bimini prompted him to drop out a week later.

During the 1992 Democratic primary, candidate Clinton confronted allegations of model-actress Gennifer Flowers that she was one of his multiple affairs back in Arkansas.

Gennifer Flowers claimed she had a 12-year-long sexual relationship with former President Bill Clinton.

But amid a distinctly new sort of media feeding frenzy, he survived and won the nomination and presidency.

Key to his survival was discerning public willingness to separate personal failings from issues in which they were interested, says Frank Greer, a prominent political and media consultant whose quickie focus groups concluded that New Hampshire voters, especially critical independents, were more interested in jobs and health care than Flowers.
“I told him that people were more interested in their futures than your past,” Greer recalls. “If he stuck it out and made the race about something other than his improprieties, he could win.”

Flowers, of course, was a hint of a bigger mess to come. As President, the House impeached Clinton for lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice, in part arising from his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky, a White House employee. But he rode that out, too, surviving a Senate trial and now enjoys a late-life revival as a popular globe-trotting statesman.

“Clinton was a turning point,” says historian Richard Norton Smith, who is completing the first major biography of Nelson Rockefeller.

“Clinton is the prime example,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “The public is more aware of human frailties; more accustomed to leaders who get into trouble, and has shown a capacity, even a willingness, to forgive and forget.”

So when it comes to Spitzer and Weiner, Kohut said, there will be a greater inclination to at least weigh their frequenting a prostitute and sexting weird, personal photos against the merits of their past performance.
It’s all part of a changing ethical and moral landscape that’s been confronted by Irving Rein, who teaches communications studies at Northwestern University and has written important works on persuasion and influence in popular culture.

A younger generation, especially, is more “ho-hum” and less inclined to be judgmental about many behaviors. He saw that when using “The Social Network,” the film about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, as a teaching tool.

He lectured on how troubling it was that Zuckerberg exploited friends and enemies to get his company going. His students felt he overreacted. That's what folks in high-tech do, they told him.

Rein scratches his head — then notices how European TV ratings are soaring for the ongoing Tour de France bike race, whose image was destroyed by drug-driven scandals that prompted Lance Armstrong to be stripped of his seven Tour titles.
Or so we might have assumed.
“I don’t want to become a relativist, but the marketplace makes decisions about what is valid and not valid,” said Rein.

With Weiner and Spitzer, the New York marketplace, which has experienced both for a long time, may see their pasts as somehow virtuous and outweighing their indiscretions.

But all of us still clearly draw lines. “There’s simultaneously much less tolerance than before for corruption and malfeasance in office, both petty and grand,” says John Mark Hansen, a University of Chicago political scientist, currently steeped in books on Louisiana corruption and Chicago machine politics.

Dennis Culloton, a Chicago media and political consultant, discerns New Yorkers relishing tales of a rise, a fall and a return from the dead. It is, after all, a quintessential American narrative.

But he also knows painfully well that there’s more sympathy when the fall involves sex.

He was spokesman for then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, recently released after six years in federal prison for corruption in office. There will be no second act for the Republican — since his downfall is traced to a car crash in which six children of a minister and his wife died, revealing a scheme in which unqualified truckers got state licenses via bribes.
It’s way different for Spitzer and Weiner, especially in an age in which kids put their sexual orientation — and sometimes their sexual exploits — on Facebook.

“Some New Yorkers will root for them because it was just about sex,” said Culloton. “Their views are that no one was really hurt, nobody picked their pocket, and the two of them have already been humbled.”

And, yet, there may ultimately be another element at play: derision of anyone and everyone who serves in public office. That has lowered the overall bar, making it easy even for baggage-carrying former officials to jump over it.

“It’s more than just a more tolerant attitude toward indiscretions” or just being inundated with scandal on TV and the Internet and becoming desensitized, says Sherry Jeffe, a political analyst who is a senior fellow at the University of Southern California’s school of policy, planning and development.

But the standards by which we judge politicians are just not very high anymore. Look at the abysmal, low-teens approval ratings of Congress.

Then, factor in how little attention so many people actually pay to politics and government. A self-reverential, naval-gazing media incessantly dissects cable news food fights and Sunday morning Washington chat fests but the audiences are small, with most Americans disassociated from the process and dismissive of its practitioners.

It cuts across gender lines, too, as noted Friday by a prominent New York businesswoman, taken aback that “women are not rising up against Spitzer and Weiner as one would assume.”

At the moment, in fact, Weiner is leading the once-presumed front-runner, Christine Quinn, among women — whom you would think would be especially offended by his behavior.

“Politicians just don’t mean much to us anymore,” said Jeffe.
She should know. Disgraced politicians and generals seem to gravitate to her campus.

Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is now housed at the Schwarzenegger Center for State and Global Policy, while former General and CIA Director David Petraeus just joined the faculty as a Judge Widney Professor, “a title reserved for eminent individuals from the arts, sciences, professions, business and community and national leadership,” according to the university.

If Spitzer and Weiner don’t win, there is apparently always the classroom.

Manhattan madam Kristin Davis says Spitzer was scared of meeting hooker at building his father built
Posted: 12:33 AM, July 14, 2013

Kristin Davis

Eliot Spitzer feared his daddy would find out about his hooker habit, according to his rival in the city comptroller’s race.

Kristin Davis, the famed “Manhattan Madam,” told The Post she first met then-Attorney General Spitzer in 2005 when he became a customer of her prostitution business, then called Dream Girls.

Davis said she got an urgent call from her booker:

“Look, there’s a client here, a $1,300 appointment, and the girl’s running late. He refuses to wait outside. You’re going to have to let him in or lose the call.”

Davis hustled to her apartment in the 57-story Corinthian on East 38th Street, which doubled as a brothel.

“He told me he was an attorney,” Davis said. “He told me the reason he didn’t want to wait outside was because his father had developed the building. The staff knew him.”

Bernard Spitzer, a real-estate titan and philanthropist, erected the building in 1988.

Davis, who managed the hedge fund Bisys before switching to the oldest profession, took the occasion to dish about her alleged dealings with the disgraced ex-governor, who resigned in 2008 when the feds caught him frequenting a prostitution ring, the Emperor’s Club VIP.

Davis maintains she supplied him with prostitutes on a weekly basis for five years. He paid cash and used such aliases as “ES,” “James” and “Bill Gray,” she said. Officials reportedly also found records linking him to Davis’ service

While Spitzer was polite in that first encounter, Davis said, she later blackballed him as a client twice when he racked up complaints from her girls.

“He was aggressive, trying to force them to do things,” she said. “They felt he was too rough. He was trying to pull your head toward him to make you do things uncovered. You’d say, ‘No, I have to put a condom on,’ only he’s not listening to you. He’s just steamrolling over you.”

Ashley Dupre

But Davis said Spitzer had a soft side. One of his regulars, gorgeous brunette Irma Nici, once told him she was having her cat treated for cancer. The next time they trysted, Spitzer pulled out an extra $500.

“Here, this is to take care of your cat,” Davis said he told Nici.

In response to Davis’ tales, Spitzer spokeswoman Lisa Linden said, “Eliot has long said these assertions are untrue. He’s running for comptroller on his record and on the issues that matter most to New Yorkers.”

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Robert George: John Burnett, Republican, For NYC Comptroller

The real comptroller surprise

  • Posted: 11:25 PM, July 10, 2013
Eliot Spitzer may be Scott Stringer’s worst nightmare, but he could be a dream come true for John Burnett.
Who? A 43-year-old African-American with nearly a quarter-century experience on Wall Street, Burnett is also running for city comptroller — as a Republican.
Spitzer has brought an explosion of public attention to the race for comptroller. Good: It’s arguably the second most important office in city government and shouldn’t be handed to someone in a walkover. Maybe now we’ll have a conversation about the job — and job qualifications.
Until Sunday, Manhattan Borough President Stringer was looking at that walkover, with an unimpeded path to the Democratic nomination. This being New York, any Republican would be ignored and Stringer would be set.
Burnett: Post-Spitzer, GOP candidate has shot.
Burnett: Post-Spitzer, GOP candidate has shot.
But Spitzer’s entry upsets that plan. Now there will be discussion, there will be debates. The public will learn about pension funds, auditing city agencies and approving city contracts.
And John Burnett will get a chance to tell his story.
The seventh child of Southern migrants who met in New York, he was born in rough East New York (which he calls “Vietnam”) before the family moved to Queens Village. He now lives in Harlem.
Burnett was, he says, “an ‘oops’ baby.” Pregnant at 43, his mother faced complications: “Her doctor told her that if she had me she would die and I would die (this was 1969). My parents made the decision to have me.
“The way I look at it, most people aren’t given a shot after they’re born; I wasn’t given a shot before I was born.”
His parents grew up in the Jim Crow South — James in Durham, NC, and Mary in Savannah, Ga. Their experiences informs Burnett’s mantra of “No excuses” — “How can I say, ‘This is difficult,’ when my father had it 10 times as hard?”
Starting out as a dishwasher, his dad did his job super fast so he could watch the cook. He learned to cook himself and eventually became the chef for an entire hospital. Even after becoming a Pentacostal pastor, he continued as a chef because he didn’t believe in living off his congregation.
Burnett says, “He always told me. ‘Son, work to create your own breaks. Don’t depend on anyone for anything.’ ”
After a year at Borough of Manhattan Community College, Burnett quit because he wasn’t learning anything. With no degree, he still talked his way into a margin-analyst position at Dean Witter.
In eight years, he rose to a “compliance” position which immersed him in SEC, NYSE and state securities regulations. He then moved to Smith-Barney for another eight years, as manager of the Global Markets compliance division.
Then, still working full-time, he went back to school at night earning a BS degree in Leadership and Management from NYU, then an MBA from Cornell.
And now politics.
He’d bring a common-sense, no-nonsense approach to city investment: “I believe in investing in an ethically and socially responsible manner [within reason] . . . If [say, green energy] is . . . earning at a comparable rate as other investments, sure I’ll support it. If it’s only yielding a small percentage, say 2 percent and I need it to earn eight, my dollars aren’t going there. That would be a violation of my fiduciary responsibilities in favor of doing something nice and social.”
He pulls no punches on the other candidates. Stringer is “a nice guy, but he’s not qualified.” And the one-time “steamroller”? “Being a bully doesn’t qualify you for anything. Being an opportunist doesn’t qualify you for anything.”
There’s not much love for Wall Street right now. How does he deal with that?
“Just because there are a few bad apples, it doesn’t mean the entire institution is bad. Anymore than the fact most of the politicians involved in scandals in recent years are Democrats. Does that indict the entire Democratic Party?”
What of the historic tension between African-Americans and the Republican Party? Burnett hauls out the heavy weapon that suggests this man truly has no fear.
“My goal is to get people on that side of the aisle to stop, question and frisk their thinking. I want them to stop politically profiling me for my beliefs and judge me for who I am and what I can do.” Oh.
Whoever wins on the Democratic side — the son of family privilege or the favored son of the Democratic establishment — the race just got very interesting. That person will face a man who truly embodies an up-by-the-bootstraps New York success story.
Robert A. George is a member of The Post’s editorial board.