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Nearing mid-term, DiNapoli faces ups and downs
State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli -- whose elected post makes him sole trustee of a $150 billion pension system -- this week disclosed for his own campaign fund a modest fundraising haul of $323,315 in contributions since January, with a cash balance of $280,699.
"Unfortunately in today's politics the measure of one's strength is tied to the size of your campaign account," he said Thursday after appearing at an Action Long Island luncheon in Woodbury. "As everyone knows, the comptroller's office -- for good reason -- is precluded from raising money from any of the folks that give the biggest contributions, given some of the conflicts in the past."
But, he added, "I'm confident we'll have enough resources to mount a campaign in 2014" -- and expressed hope for a public-financing law before then, despite longtime opposition in the State Senate.
Like any comptroller, DiNapoli, of Great Neck, a former Democratic assemblyman, lives in a different, dimmer spotlight than a governor. He's nearing the halfway point of his first elected term, which he barely won, having first been appointed to the post in 2007 following predecessor Alan Hevesi's scandal-driven downfall.
For better or worse, DiNapoli's style comes off as less triumphalist than most state pols.
His luncheon presentation on a panel Thursday at Crest Hollow Country Club gave DiNapoli a sweet platform. He was there mainly to tout the Common Retirement Fund's "In-State Private Equity Program," established in the name of jobs and private investment in New York.
Action Long Island board chairman Sheldon Sackstein, in his introduction, recalled the comptroller's role in prodding the Long Island Power Authority to competitively bid its contract for a new management-services agreement.
Last week, however, DiNapoli's office drew attention for a highly embarrassing blunder.
Responding to an information request from the Gannett news organization, DiNapoli's office accidentally released the Social Security numbers of more than 300 state legislators and staff, which were briefly posted online. Aides explained that two "hidden tabs" in a spreadsheet contained the information, which was thus overlooked when officials inspected the document before release.
On a wider scale, DiNapoli -- who's widely perceived as pro-union at a time when public employee benefits are drawing nationwide concern -- also has evidently had impact in corporate boardrooms. As summarized in The Buffalo News this week, he's prodded firms to put more women on boards of directors and address huge executive pay packages, pushed for anti-discriminatory sexual orientation policies, and for disclosure of political involvements by corporations.
Slowly, the "pay-to-play" scandal that led up to Hevesi's felony conviction, and those of others, morphs from current events to history.
Does all this mean DiNapoli has settled securely into his five-plus-year role?
His 2010 election by the voters, he says, "has given us strength," especially following the multiyear Hevesi probe, which he said caused "a distraction to say the least."
While citing accomplishments and efforts to "stay ahead of the curve," DiNapoli said: "The reality is, given the uncertainty and the volatility of our times in terms of the economy, budgets and investing, it's been very hard to settle in, in the way that the phrase implies."