Harrison Fraud (Episode IV of "The Joe Bruno Democrats")--REVISED (now politically correct)

Stephen Harrison of Brooklyn's Community Board 10 will formally announce his bid to take on the city's sole Republican Congressman…

Harrison, a conservative Democrat, had run on the Neighborhood's First line in a 2003 special election for the City Council against Vincent Gentile (on the Most Qualified line). Harrison got 781 votes and came in third out of four candidates  (beating only the Community First candidate, which must have sounded too much like communism)…The Democratic Party didn't pick Harrison over other candidates, one source said, but rather, Harrison was the only person left…

In 2004, progressive Democrat and former Assemblyman Frank Barbaro ran against Fossella from the left. Didn't work. This time, it looks like the plan is to go after Fossella from the right.

Can't wait for that announcement.”

NY Press Political Blog, January 31, 2007

For those of us who remember Steve Harrison before he set his sites on national office, by opposing the egregious Vito Fossella for Congress, the idea of him as the cause celebre of the “progressive” left is almost as astonishing as if Former Councilwoman Margarita Lopez announced she was pregnant with Mike Bloomberg’s love child.  

The old Steve Harrison, of the American Heritage Political Association, where he always let you know he was a “conservative Democrat”, before letting you know exactly where he stood on gay rights and abortion (against them), while his friend Ralph Perfetto shrugged his shoulders and said “it’s Bay Ridge, Jake”. The old Steve Harrison of Brooklyn Community Board #10, where he proudly served as Republican-Conservative-Right to Life Councilman Marty Golden’s errand boy.   

Well, actually, from the viewpoint of, say, early 2002, the birth of Rita Mae Bloomberg-Lopez actually does seem more plausible.        

But as we are led to believe, for some it was not September 11, 2001 which changed everything, but October 11, 2002, when the US Senate voted to authorize the use of US military force in Iraq. Hillary Clinton voted for the resolution, and is therefore political anathema. True progressives must oppose her by supporting John Edwards (who also voted for the resolution, but…well never mind).  

Shortly thereafter, the New York City Council voted on a non-binding resolution opposing the war, and those members who opposed that resolution, including Harrison’s likely primary opponent, Dominick Recchia, must be punished for being Democrats in Name Only (DINO).  

Me, I’d oppose every damned one of those  non-binding Council resolutions. Let’s see if Darlene Mealy is so opposed to using the terms “bitch” and “ho” once she gets a primary from Tracy Boyland. For me, it’s tough enough figuring out who’s going to pick up my garbage, improve my kids’ school, and be able to distinguish sensible development from the turkeys, without worrying whether they have any idea who Benazir Bhutto is. But since Recchia is running for Congress, I guess it’s now fair game.    

But being a DINO is a funny thing. Apparently, the statute of limitations is longer for some violations than for others.

By the end of 2003, if not sooner, Recchia had become so anti-war he was an early supporter of Howard Dean’s presidential race, and ran as one of Dean’s delegates. But the blot of actually believing that Iraq may have had weapons of mass destruction can never be erased, because, truth be told, weapons of mass destruction don’t matter much to real “progressives”, since the use of US military power, anywhere, for any purpose, even to stop genocide in the Balkans, is always an evil act of imperialism. Just ask Michael Moore.

By contrast, we are led to believe that Steve Harrison was “right from the start”. I agree; at the start of the war, Steve Harrison was right: RIGHT WING!  

Harrison started life as a relatively conservative Democrat, veered wildly to the looney right, and is now the favorite of those to the far left of liberalism. What does it all mean? Believing, as I do, in “Deep Throat’s” injunction to watch not what they say, but what they do, I’ve taken a look at Harrison.

I long ago concluded that one of the best ways to predict a politician’s future behavior is to get a handle on what their fundamental values are. In some cases, this is difficult, as the candidates have no values other than “what’s in it for me?” or “any weapon to hand”. Actually, in the case of Harrison, this would appear to be the preferable alternative to the other possibilities for explaining his wild political flailing.   

The other possibilities include that he may be "barking crazy" (the term in favor at "The Daily Gotham"). I am reminded of my graduate school days, when a friend called me depressed about the state of her life, and said she was contemplating suicide. A couple of days later, she called to let me know she’d met someone and was better now. “Karen”, I warned her, “wild and extreme mood swings are not necessarily a sign of good mental health.” But apparently, they are all the rage among the right sort of “progressive”. Do me a favor though guys, before you vote for Harrison, make sure he’s had his meds. It seems clear in Harrison’s case that sincere conversion to anything resembling a “progressive” philosophy is highly unlikely, as that usually requires one to stay put, rather than emulating a pin ball bouncing all over the place on its way to tilting.

I think it is important here to make distinctions about party disloyalty. I find it troubling in nearly all cases, but some violations are clearly worse than others. For instance, I heartily condemned all those, including Dominick Recchia, who endorsed Mike Bloomberg’s re-election, mostly because it gave license to those, like Carl Kruger and Dov Hikind, who commit far more perfidious acts (like helping Joe Bruno to retain his Senate Majority), to use the excuse that others cross party lines as well. True, Bloomberg gave unspeakable amounts of cash to the campaign committees of Joe Bruno and Tom Delay, but his being Mayor did not increase the value of that dirty money. And, frankly, Bloomberg’s most controversial acts as Mayor, like his proposal for congestion pricing, are often embraced wholeheartedly by “progressives”.  

Likewise, support for City Council and Assembly Republicans, who will never come within reach of organizing their legislative bodies, is more an eccentricity than a crime. Personally, I oppose such support, since the GOP uses those bodies as breeding grounds for future Republican State Senate candidates, and I’d rather crush the bastards while they’re still larvae, but if Steve Harrison’s support for Republicans were restricted to the $150 check he gave to Marty Golden in the 2001 election cycle (when he also gave Recchia $75), I’d probably not make an issue of it.          

On the other hand, it seems clear that advancing the agendas of the Tom Delays and Joe Brunos of the world would qualify as acts worthy of the severest forms of sanction. This is especially the case when the grips of those evil men upon the throat of state was, or is, so tenuous. Tom Delay is not the concern of this series (though Harrison did his small part for Delay’s majority as well), but Harrison played no small part in helping Bruno to expand his tenuous majority, enabling it to hang on to power it may already have lost were it not for the victory Harrison helped to enable. And, every day, our City and our State pay the price. 

Joe Bruno holds his majority by two seats. If he held it by only one, it is nearly certain that the rats swimming from the Senate Republicans’ sinking ship would already have guaranteed a Carl Kruger-proof Democratic majority. But, in the year 2002, Joe Bruno reapportioned Vinnie Gentile’s seat into a psychedelic atrocity and put up Republican-Conservative-Right to Life City Councilman Marty Golden. Bruno then started buying local Democratic deserters by the car load; and Steve Harrison was riding shotgun.   

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not calling Steve Harrison a whore for supporting Golden. I am calling Kruger a whore for supporting Golden. By all evidence, Harrison’s 2002 support for Golden and other Republicans seems quite sincere.   

Harrison’s pre-2002 contributions seem mostly a matter of support for friends and neighbors, regardless of party, with a little expedience thrown in. $75 for his law partner Sal Albanese’s 1993 Council race; $1550 when his law partner ran for mayor in 1997. That year, Harrison also donated $324 to a Democratic Council candidate Joanne Seminara, in her losing race against Marty Golden. $224 of that money was returned; perhaps she should have kept it. 1999 brought a small lawyer-like donation to a sitting judge, and $150 to his incumbent State Senator (Gentile).

In 2000, Harrison switched sides from his 1997 stance, and gave $150 to Golden, in his victorious rematch against race against Democrat Joanne Seminara. None of that money was returned; more's the pity. To be fair, it is clear that Harrison was with Seminara before he was against her. In 2001, in addition to Recchia, Harrison made a large donation to Steve Dibrienza, and a small one to Mike McMahon.

The pattern here was more legal/community than ideological. By contrast, Harrison’s 2002 campaign contributions are in uniform ideological lockstep (or should I say goosestep?): 

February 28        $350     Marty Golden 

April 2               $550     Marty Golden 

June 3               $75       Marty Golden

September 12     $400      Marty Golden 

October 27         $400      Marty Golden 

Of course, Harrison didn’t merely give all the money he was asked for; as a prominent leader in the community, he lent his important support to Joe Bruno’s candidate in every manner possible.  

In addition to this help for Joe Bruno, Harrison also did his part for Tom Delay. On May 17, he gave $150 to a Republican Congressional candidate. The candidate’s name was Vito Fossella. This is notable for being the only evidence on the web that, prior to his run for Congress, Harrison ever showed enough interest in a national election to make a donation. In fact, there is no other evidence that Harrison ever gave any money to any candidate for Congress before or after he started running for it, himself included!

While I appreciate that one must win over former Fossella supporters to win this seat, that doesn't mean we have to nominate one. Incidentally, during this same time period, Recchia was bravely voting to extend the protections of the City’s human rights law to the transgendered; but, then again, we all help out good causes in our own unique ways; let a thousand flowers bloom!           

Harrison supporters parrot out the party line that these contributions were the normal cost of doing business for a Community Board Chair; says Harrison groupie Rosalie: “As for Steve giving money to Fossella and Golden, he did this as Community Board 10 Chairman which was about 4 or 5 years ago”. Given the specificity of the argument, it’s clear that it came straight from the candidate, so let me retort: Steve, the only conclusion one can draw from your sorry excuse for your past support for Republicans is that your were doing it for your own personal self interest. Are you saying that selling out to reactionaries is morally superior to being one? That would be a great argument for the candidacy of Judas Iscariot, if he were running against Pontius Pilate.

Harrison gave Mole333 a somewhat different excuse, which Mole articulates thusly: “What I do know is that Marty Golden and Steve Harrison had been working together while Marty Golden was a Democrat and it continued into the early days of Golden becoming a Republican but in the end Golden became too conservative for Harrison's tastes.”  So conservatism was the big turn off for you, Steve? Then what were you doing giving THE STATE CONSERVATVE CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE $150 on May 10, 2002 

The latest party line dogma on Harrison’s generosity to reactionaries seems to be a weary implication that Harrison used to be a conservative, but the cataracts fogging his vision magically dropped from his eyes as a result of the war. His checkered checkbook tells a different story.  

On October 11, 2002, a day for which Hillary Clinton is supposed to live in infamy, Steve Harrison, his eyes now clear from his fury over the evil war, fostered by Republicans, and facilitated by DINOs, expressed his outrage at the conservatives he could no longer abide, by writing a $250 check to John Faso, the Republican-Conservative candidate for State Comptroller. Perhaps Steve was merely a visionary, spotting the obvious corruption in Alan Hevesi that the rest of us had missed, and trying to put his money (and ours) where his heart was. Then, on October 27, right before the election, Harrison further expressed his outrage at war supporting Republican-Conservative-Right to Life candidate Marty Golden, by giving Golden a check for $400, instead of $550. That’ll teach him! 

Total Republican-Conservative Harrison contributions for the year 2002: $2275, far more he’d ever given to fellow Democrats in any year, before or since. Of this, $1875 was to Golden, who received far more money from Harrison than Harrison’s ever given any other candidate, before or since. Golden immediately went onto distinguish himself by becoming Bruce Ratner’s Albany bagman (while modestly allowing Vito Lopez to take the credit for his work).       

I am being somewhat unfair to Harrison, for before the end of the year 2002, Harrison did write a check to the campaign of one “Democrat”: Himself, now running for the seat opened up by Golden’s Senate victory (how convenient!). Otherwise, other than a lawyer-like contribution to a Judge, it took until October of 2003 for Harrison to write a check to a Democrat running for office, whose name wasn’t Steve Harrison; this was over two years from the last time he had done so, and even then, it was another self-serving contribution by a Community Board Chair to the Bay Ridge City Councilman. During this same period, Recchia was actively involving himself with the Howard Dean campaign. I guess we all have our own unique ways of opposing the war; let a thousand flowers bloom!   

I won’t dwell on Harrison’s 2003 Council race. Steve helped to split the Democratic vote four ways, nearly electing a Republican, although in fairness to Harrison, there were those who believed that by running to the Republican’s right, he actually cost her votes, which, if true, was more than he’d ever done to help a Democrat who wasn’t his law partner. The most interesting statistic from Harrison’s Council race was the amount of money he donated to himself: $1,305. This was $570 less than he gave to Marty Golden’s Senate race the year before. Of all the “Joe Bruno Democrats”, Harrison is clearly the most selfless.   

My actual conclusion is that Harrison is not crazy, and is not much more of an opportunist than the average politician. Rather, he is a man of basically conservative beliefs, who remains a Democrat, to the extent that he does, because he was born one. But one belief trumps all the others, and that’s Steve Harrison’s belief in Steve Harrison. Recipient of a 2006 Congressional nomination no one wanted, he found only one fruitful source of support: the progressive left, and swallowing hard, he went for it with gusto, wrting checks (albeit modest ones) only to Democrats, abandoning his long  held opposition to supporting the rights of gay people (although, unlike  Recchia, he took a dive on actually seeking the endorsement of Lambda Independent Democrats), and even muddying somewhat  his sincerely held stance against legalized abortion: 

“I fall somewhat in the middle,” said Harrison to the Brooklyn Paper. “I think a woman has the right to choose, but not to rely solely on abortion for birth control.” Hopefully, her contraceptive of choice will be more reliable than Harrison’s party loyalty.

As a pragmatist, I  am also willing to swallow hard. I congratulate the progressive left for supporting Harrison against Fossella (because Judas really is preferable to Pilate); hell, I supported Harrison myself. Moreover, the progressive left really believes that Harrison is the strongest candidate for the seat, and should therefore be the nominee. I’ll admit this is a compelling argument, and it would be even more so, if only it were true.

To find out why’s its not, make sure not to miss the next episode of “THE JOE BRUNO DEMOCRATS”.        

In the meantine Steve, if you'd like to cleanse yourself of the Golden Shower you helped to rain upon the Senate Democrats and the people of Brooklyn, I suggest you consider expiating your sins by running aginst Golden, instead of Fossella. Recchia supporting County Leader Vito Lopez, rumored in the past to have been reluctant to faciliate such a challenge, would gladly embrace your candidacy to help Dominck. It's win/win for everyone! 

The best way to prove you're not a Bruno Democrat is to beat a Bruno Republican!   

Gatemouth's homepage  was updated on 11/13/07; come visit for more fun and laughter!