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Just one more thing...

If anything, Albany is a town of ironies. Consider the state lobbying commission, which this week held its last public meeting before the agency is merged into a new state department.

Led by the fiesty David Grandeau, who has won praise from government watchdog groups for his willingness to take on the lobbying community, the agency's board, as one of its last official acts, declared there was enough evidence against an Albany area businessman involving alleged illegal gift-giving to a state legislator to warrant a full-blown hearing. [Whether it happens depends on the new agency, the Commission on Public Integrity.]

The legislator Grandeau's investigation claims got the illegal gifts -- in the form of a half-dozen flights on private and chartered flights by his friend, Jared Abbruzzese -- is Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno. [The FBI for a year has been looking into the business connections of Bruno and Abbruzzese.]

Who was instrumental a dozen years ago in helping get Grandeau into the position as head of a lobbying agency that became such a headache to lobbyists, special interests and legislators over the past decade? None other than Joe Bruno.

Indeed, Bruno, before a falling out in recent years, has boasted of being Grandeau's ally in helping him land a previous job as city manager of Troy. [Grandeau has pushed aside any suggestions that any of his investigations were motivated by personal feuds with Bruno or anyone else.]

If Grandeau this week was helping to keep open a thorny matter involving his old political mentor, he was ending one involving Gov. Eliot Spitzer, Bruno's chief nemesis in government.

Before the lobbying panel ended its last session, Grandeau brought up one other matter: whether Richard Fields, a casino developer, had violated any laws last year by providing flights on his private jet to Spitzer. On Grandeau's recommendation, the panel closed the case, saying the payments by the Spitzer campaign to Fields for the flights were made in a timely enough manner.

"It should be closed without further action,'' Grandeau told his board.

Today, Bruno was asked if he had any thoughts on the end of Grandeau's reign as the chief lobbying industry watchdog. He would only say he looked forward to the new agency taking over "and doing the right things for the people of this state.''

As for those flights by Abbruzzese? Did Bruno pay for them? "Yes. We did everything that we were supposed to do legally and appropriately. We know that and the people who should know that, the authorities that should know that, also know that,'' Bruno said.

--Tom Precious

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