During his Wall Street and insurance industry barnstorming days as attorney general, Eliot L. Spitzer got used to seeing his name in headlines in national and international news outlets.
He's back in the news beyond New York's borders -- but not for trying to end Albany's "status quo," as he likes to call it, or for his mantra to change the political culture at the Capitol.
Rather, the out-of-state headlines center on his personality clash with State Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno, a fight including allegations over waste of taxpayer money, police surveillance and a whole host of conspiracy theories.
"Now, now boys -- New York state politics," says the headline from an upcoming article in the respected London-based Economist magazine.
"Even by Albany's standards, their recent feuding has caused new highs, or rather new lows, of dysfunction," the Economist article says of the Spitzer and Bruno feud.
"It sounds like the plot of a suspense novel, spiced with revenge and back room deals," CNN's Wolf Blitzer said in a lead-in to a report last week by the cable news network on Albany's battles. "One side alleges political spying. The other side charges abuse of power. It's a political brawl that seems to be escalating by the moment."
"A little drama in Albany," Blitzer said, ending his report.
"NY Government Halts as Feud Escalates," a Washington Post headline last week said.
Halfway across the country, the Tulsa World headline stated: "New York Political Squabbles Reach New Lows."
By week's end, the sides appeared to declare an unofficial cease-fire. Spitzer, despite some gasoline-throwing by Bruno, seemed to go out of his way -- at least publicly -- to say that he is friends with Bruno and that the clashes are about "substance" and not personalities.
The battle has been on-again, off-again almost all year between the two men. The latest came when, as Bruno alleges, the Spitzer administration leaked documents to a newspaper about the senator's use of the state air fleet. Bruno has said the trips included state business, and he countered that Spitzer was using the State Police to spy on him.
The extent of any possible detente will be tested today when the Republican-led Senate returns to Albany to take up some unfinished business left after the Legislature closed up shop last month. But most of the bills the Senate was planning to consider as of late last week were measures the chamber had already passed, such as approving a death penalty bill for cop killers, which has stalled in the Assembly.
The Senate will be doing some more property tax rebates that officials say will help the upstate economy.
Still unresolved from the formal session is a whole series of matters, including measures to provide more nutritional food in schools, expanding the state's DNA databank, what kind of power plants should be given expedited approval consideration as a way to help lower energy costs and whether local industrial development agencies will still be able to provide low-cost financing to nonprofit groups for construction projects.
"We need to address these vital issues and get a result," Bruno said Friday, calling on Spitzer to hold a public meeting at the Capitol today to try to resolve the outstanding differences.
Not on Bruno's agenda is Spitzer's plan to sharply limit political donations to New York politicians -- a proposal senators said the governor linked to a slew of other unresolved matters at the end of session, causing them all to fall off the table.
But the Assembly leadership is scheduled to be meeting privately in Manhattan to consider a controversial request by New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg to impose new fees on vehicles coming into a large section of the city as a way to control congestion.
Spitzer has gone on the stump beating up Senate Republicans for leaving town June 21 -- a criticism he did not level at Assembly Democrats. The state Democratic Party, which the governor controls, has run Web advertisements also critical of the Senate GOP, providing Internet links to the governor's Web site with his take on the unfinished business.
But today's Senate session could end up being not much more than political face-saving to show that the Republican-led body is still on the job. Whether anything real happens before the fall remains uncertain, since the Assembly leadership has said it has no immediate plans to return to Albany and its chamber is filled with scaffolding for a rehabilitation project.
One key test: How many of the more than four dozen pending Spitzer nominees to various state agencies will be confirmed by the Senate? A whole assortment of nominees -- including upstate economic development czar candidate Daniel Gundersen -- have not yet been officially confirmed and, as such, have either not been able to take their positions or are serving in acting capacities. Spitzer has sharply criticized Bruno for holding back the nominees for political purposes.
If Bruno lets some of the Spitzer appointments through, it could signal a warm-up in the relations between the governor and his Republican nemesis.