Spin Cycle

News, views and commentary on Long Island, state and national politics.

The guy who moves up from being driver to some kind of confidant and gatekeeper to the top executive is always worthy of some public scrutiny. In the immediate case, it's David W. Johnson (known around the Capitol as DJ), now a top aide to Gov. David Paterson. While perhaps nothing could not have lived up to the rumors, some element of that long-awaited story in the Times appears today as a profile of Johnson, 37, including his drug arrests as a youth, and apparent domestic altercations, more recently. One thing that has been in the air for some time: "Mr. Johnson's increasing prominence, and Mr. Paterson's relaiance on him, have worried some veteran aides to the governor, who themselves are trying to assist Mr. Paterson as he efaces an enormous fiscal crisis and a daunting election effort....more than four current or former officials expressed concern that Mr. Johnson and another aide, a former state trooper, had become the governor's innermost circle and were simply not best euipped to help him tackle the multiple challenges facing him." Paterson responds loyally with a sanctimonious critique that true to the lawyer-public-relations textbook ignores the overall point of the story.

"When I was a State Senator serving a district torn apart by the crack epidemic of the 1980s and early 1990s, I dedicated myself to restoring the community and providing opportunities for young people struggling to find their way. We took interns in our office who wanted to dedicate themselves to getting an education and giving back to the neighborhood. One of these interns was so successful that he became a member of my staff, working his way up from a driver to a constituent service provider, to become a key intergovernmental relations advisor and a trusted friend. David Johnson's growth as a political professional has surprised even his greatest advocates, and I am proud that he has demonstrated what someone can accomplish when given a second chance.

"The New York Times has chosen to splash his youthful offenses across the pages of its newspaper even though the courts of our State have ordered them to be sealed. Mistakes committed during one's youth are determined by law to be kept sealed for a reason -- to give a young person a second chance at a productive life. I profoundly believe in this principle of redemption and giving young people a second chance.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

"The more recent allegations reported on by the Times would be extremely troubling if true -- but the conclusions reached by the Times report are not supported by the facts. There is no independent evidence presented that would substantiate any claims of violence committed by David Johnson against a woman, a fact underscored by the absence of a single judicial finding that any such incident ever took place. I would caution others from making a similar rush to judgment."