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Spitzer Tours; lobbying agency going dark

Gov. Eliot Spitzer Thursday heads to a school in Cheektowaga, as he continues his back-to-school tour that began earlier this week in New York City.

Aides expect little in the way of breaking news. Instead, the governor is flying around the state with appearances timed to the start of the school year to discuss -- and take credit for -- a record hike in state spending on public schools this year.

The governor's trip to Western New York serves another benefit: it keeps him away from the Capitol press corps back in Albany. The governor has had few public appearances at the Capitol in recent weeks since revelations about his senior advisors using the State Police to monitor the travels of his major political nemesis, Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno.

Meanwhile, back in Albany Thursday, the New York Temporary State Commission on Lobbying -- which has had the word "temporary'' in its title since 1977 -- holds its final public hearing as an agency. The commission, known for its aggressive investigations of the lobbying community under its executive director, David Grandeau, is going out of business. In its place will be a new agency that will combine the duties of the Ethics Commission and the lobbying agency. The new department will be controlled by appointees of Gov. Eliot Spitzer.

In their last gasp, agency investigators are expected to make public details about some of its ongoing investigations so the board can decide whether to refer the cases over to the new monitoring agency. A hearing involving former Attorney General Dennis Vacco -- who the lobbying agency accuses of entering into an illegal contingency fee arrangement between his lobbying agency and a casino developer -- has been put off following a court-ordered stay. Vacco has denied any such arrangement existed and that the work he did for the developer did not constitute lobbying.

For a rare glimpse into the doings of the lobbying world, the lobbying agency's last meeting will be broadcast over the internet. The 10:30 a.m. meeting can be found at

--Tom Precious

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