One of the more attention-grabbing appointments to Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo's transition team is that of Kenneth Langone - prominent Home Depot and Invemed founder, former New York Stock Exchange director, philanthropist and Sands Point resident. He famously clashed with Cuomo's predecessor as attorney general, Eliot Spitzer. His selection symbolically distances Cuomo from Spitzer, even if it also aims to tap Langone's financial expertise.
One-time Spitzer mentor Lloyd Constantine, who's run some past transitions, told Newsday: "The message is clearly and unequivocally a thumb in Eliot's eye. . . . Having said that, Langone may render some good advice, and I hope he does."
After Spitzer was exposed while governor in March 2008 as a solicitor of prostitutes, Langone said he was less than surprised. "I know for sure he went himself to a post office and bought $2,800 worth of mail orders to send to the hooker," Langone claimed on CNBC. "I know somebody who was standing in back of him in line. . . . I hope his private hell is hotter than anyone else's."
As attorney general, Spitzer had filed a massive lawsuit in which Langone was a co-defendant. The suit sought return of more than $100 million from ex-NYSE chairman Richard Grasso's eye-popping compensation package. The legal battle ended in July 2008 when courts ruled against the AG's authority to press the cases. After a key high-court decision, a spokesman for Cuomo, then AG, announced "an appeal would not be warranted."
Ex-state Comptroller H. Carl McCall is a transition co-chairman. Ironically, as the Grasso case unfolded, critics charged that, for political reasons, Spitzer let McCall - who'd chaired a NYSE compensation committee - off the hook.
Records show Langone donated $51,834 to GOP attorney general candidate Dan Donovan in the Nov. 2 election. (Cuomo, boosting AG-elect Eric Schneiderman, slammed Donovan's stated reluctance "to be the sheriff of Wall Street.")
Langone, a Republican, has backed Rudy Giuliani and contributed heavily to the congressional and state Senate GOP campaigns. But his Spitzer animus went far beyond the partisan - Langone even helped bankroll Nassau Democrat Thomas Suozzi's 2006 Democratic primary race for governor.
Recent phone and e-mail requests to interview Langone were unavailing.