Joseph Bruno

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Joseph Bruno
Joe Bruno.JPG
Lieutenant Governor of New York
In office
March 17, 2008 – June 24, 2008
GovernorDavid Paterson
Preceded byDavid Paterson
as Lieutenant Governor
Succeeded byDean Skelos
Temporary President and Majority Leader of the New York State Senate
In office
November 25, 1994 – June 24, 2008
Preceded byRalph J. Marino
Succeeded byDean Skelos
Member of the New York State Senate
In office
January 1, 1977 – July 18, 2008
Preceded byDouglas Hudson (41st)
Ronald B. Stafford (43rd)
Succeeded byJay P. Rolison Jr. (41st)
Roy McDonald (43rd)
Constituency41st district (1977–82)
43rd district (1982–2008)
Personal details
Joseph Louis Bruno

(1929-04-08)April 8, 1929
Glens Falls, New York, US
DiedOctober 6, 2020(2020-10-06) (aged 91)
Brunswick, New York, US
Political partyRepublican
Spouse(s)Barbara Frasier (deceased)
Domestic partnerKay Stafford
Alma materSkidmore College (BA)

Joseph Louis Bruno (April 8, 1929 – October 6, 2020) was an American businessman and Republican politician from upstate New York. Bruno served in the New York State Senate from 1977 to 2008 and was Senate Majority Leader from 1994 to 2008. Bruno was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2009, but his conviction was overturned on appeal and a subsequent retrial resulted in an acquittal.

Early life[edit]

Bruno was born in Glens Falls, New York[1] and grew up in a six-room cold-water flat.[2] Bruno graduated from St. Mary's Academy and earned a B.A. in business administration from Skidmore College. He served in the Korean War as an infantry sergeant. Bruno was president of the New York State Jaycees; in 1964, he was named by them as one of the five "Outstanding Young Men of the State."[1] He “became a millionaire after founding and then selling the Coradian Corporation, a company that sold telephone systems to private businesses and government agencies”.[2]

Political career[edit]

In 1966, Bruno was on the campaign staff of Governor Nelson Rockefeller, and from 1969 to 1974 he served as Special Assistant to Speaker of the Assembly Perry B. Duryea. From 1968 to 1969, he was President of the New York State Association of Young Republicans. He also served as Chairman of the Rensselaer County Republican Committee from 1974 to 1977.[3]

New York State Senate[edit]

Bruno was a member of the New York State Senate from 1977 to 2008, sitting in the 182nd, 183rd, 184th, 185th, 186th, 187th, 188th, 189th, 190th, 191st, 192nd, 193rd, 194th, 195th, 196th, and 197th New York State Legislatures. He was elected Temporary President of the New York State Senate on November 25, 1994, ousting the incumbent Ralph J. Marino.[4]

Bruno, along with Governor George Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, was instrumental in passing a death penalty law in New York State in 1995.[5][6] The New York Court of Appeals (the highest state court in New York) later found the law to be unconstitutional because it gave jurors deadlocked between life without parole and execution no choice but to give eligibility for parole after 25 years; the Court of Appeals feared that jurors faced with this choice would unfairly lean toward a death sentence.[7] In the 10 years after the law was passed, New York's crime rate plummeted without ever seeing an execution, perhaps weakening public support for the death penalty.[8] Silver let the law die in 2005 without much debate.[9]

During the budget process in 1995, Bruno, who was new to the Majority Leader role at the time, made a comment about Blacks and Hispanics who "got their hands out" pressuring the legislature to avoid cuts to social services.[10][11] According to the Syracuse Post-Standard, "Bruno said he was referring to the Black and Puerto Rican Caucus, which is a major force in the Democratic majority in the Assembly."[12] Bruno's defense was that he was referring to political caucuses, not all blacks and Hispanics; he offered a blanket apology for offending some people, but refused to take his words back.[13]

According to an editorial in The Buffalo News, Bruno pushed a bill through the Senate on June 27, 1995 that would have required girls under 16 to get consent from both parents for an abortion. The bill never passed the New York State Assembly.[1]

After SONDA, a gay rights bill, languished in the state Senate for many years as a result of Bruno's opposition,[14] Bruno and his caucus were put on the spot for their support of a socially conservative agenda.[15] LGBT people and groups pushed very hard for SONDA,[16] and in late 2002, Bruno finally gave in;[17] the bill passed the Senate and was signed into law by Governor Pataki.[18]

In 2005, Bruno proposed research into high-speed rail development in New York State as part of a plan to boost Upstate New York's economy.[2]

In February 2005, Bruno stated that America, instead of battling insurgents in Iraq, should declare victory and "get the troops out of there."[19]

In December 2006, Bruno disclosed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had been looking into business associates of Bruno's who had received state grants.[20] The FBI investigation appeared to lead Bruno to end one of his long-time consulting jobs in 2007.[21]

Fiscal conservative pundits originally were very supportive of Bruno's agenda in the State Senate.[22] In later years, they expressed concern over Bruno's willingness to cooperate with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on budgets deemed to be excessive, over endorsements Bruno received from state employee labor unions, including health care union Local 1199, and over Bruno's recruitment of former Democrats to run as Republicans for swing Senate districts in Syracuse and the Bronx.[23][24]

As of 2009, there was at least one building named for Bruno in each of the fourteen towns and two cities that comprise Rensselaer County, New York. In addition, the Tri-City ValleyCats—a short-season minor-league affiliate of the Houston Astros—play in Joseph L. Bruno Stadium situated on the Troy-North Greenbush border.[25]

2007–2008 legislative session[edit]

Entering 2007, Bruno's hold on Senate control appeared more tenuous than in prior years, as the Republicans lost the seat formerly held by Nicholas Spano, failed to regain a Republican-leaning seat in Syracuse and—with a caucus diminished to 33 members—had to defend the open seat of Michael Balboni in Nassau County; the latter seat was lost to Democrat Craig M. Johnson, a Nassau County Legislator in a February 6, 2007 special election.[26] The electoral reverses and the ongoing FBI investigation led some Republicans to suggest Bruno might step down as Majority Leader.[27] There were also rumors some Republican senators might cross the aisle to throw control of the Senate to the Democrats.[26]

In April 2007, Bruno also appeared to hold veto power over two other Spitzer initiatives: gay marriage[28] and campaign finance reform.[29] Bruno challenged New York State Governor Elliot Spitzer to restore the state's death penalty law.[30] Bruno also criticized the Governor's plan to issue driver licenses to illegal immigrants, claiming it was aimed at stuffing the ballot box with Democratic voters.[31]

Bruno's position became more tenuous in February 2008 after the special election loss of the heavily Republican 48th District in Watertown, which had formerly been held by Sen. James W. Wright. This loss diminished the Republican Senate majority to a single seat, and press speculation centered on whether the remaining GOP senate caucus would cause Bruno to step down.[32]

Police surveillance controversy[edit]

On July 23, 2007, New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo admonished Governor Elliot Spitzer's administration for ordering the New York State Police to track Bruno's travel records, particularly his use of a state helicopter.[33] At the direction of top officials of the Spitzer administration, the New York State Police created documents meant to cause political damage to Bruno.[34] The governor's staff stated they were responding to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA or FOIL) request from The Times-Union of Albany in late June.[33][35] On May 23, Spitzer's Communications Director Darren Dopp wrote Rich Baum, a senior Spitzer adviser, that "records exist going way back"[36] about Bruno's use of state aircraft, and that "Also, I think there is a new and different way to proceed re media. Will explain tomorrow."[35] Dopp later wrote another e-mail to Baum after a story ran in the Times-Union about a federal grand jury investigation of Bruno's investments in thoroughbred racing horses, and wrote: "Think travel story would fit nicely in the mix."[35][36]

A 57-page report issued by the Attorney General's office[37] concluded that Spitzer aides attempted to create negative media coverage concerning Bruno's travel before any Freedom of Information Act request was made.[38] The investigation looked into both Bruno's travel and the senate leader's allegation that Spitzer used State Police to spy on him.[39] The Spitzer administration and the State Police provided far more details about Bruno than about other officials to the Times-Union, including records to reply to a request under the state's Freedom of Information laws, though no such request had even been made.[40] No other officials were subject to the same scrutiny as Bruno, and in some cases, the reports created by State Police were pieced together long after the trips, sometimes based on the memory of the police escorts involved.[41] The report cleared Bruno of any legal violations in his use of the state's air fleet.[34][42][43][44] The report criticized Spitzer's office for using State Police resources to gather information about Bruno's travel and releasing the information to the media.[43]

Spitzer responded at a July 23 press conference that "As governor, I am accountable for what goes on in the executive branch and I accept responsibility for the actions of my office"[33] and that his administration had "grossly mishandled"[33] the situation.[44] Spitzer issued an apology to Bruno and stated that "I apologized to Senator Bruno and I did so personally this morning."[33]

On March 29, 2008, The Buffalo News reported that "former Gov. Eliot L. Spitzer lied to prosecutors" about his role in Troopergate, but added that "the Albany County District Attorney said he will not pursue any criminal charges against the already disgraced ex-governor."[45]

Acting Lieutenant Governor[edit]

On March 17, 2008, Governor Eliot Spitzer resigned and Lieutenant Governor David Paterson succeeded to the governor's office. Bruno - as Temporary President of the Senate - became Acting Lieutenant Governor, and was next-in-line to become Acting Governor of New York in case of a vacancy.[citation needed]


On June 23, 2008, Bruno confirmed that he would not seek re-election in the fall of 2008.[46] On June 24, 2008, Bruno stepped down as "temporary president of the senate" and as Senate Majority Leader.[47] On July 18, 2008, Bruno resigned his New York State Senate seat.[48] On November 4, 2008, he was replaced by his "hand-picked" successor, Roy McDonald, in the general election.[49]

Almost one year after stepping down from being Senate Majority Leader, Bruno announced that he supported same-sex marriage - a position that in the past he had never taken publicly.[50] In 2009, Bruno was asked by Governor David Paterson to speak out for same-sex marriage in Albany.[51] Bruno also admitted in 2009 that he personally favored same-sex marriage but never brought it to the floor of the State Senate because the majority of his conference was against it, stating "[this] is America, and we have inalienable rights... Life is short, and we should all be afforded the same opportunities and rights to enjoy it."[52] Same-sex marriage legislation was passed in New York in 2011.

Criminal charges and eventual acquittal[edit]

On January 23, 2009, Bruno was indicted on eight federal corruption charges, including mail and wire fraud.[53] The indictment alleged that between 1993 and 2006, Bruno was paid $3.2 million in consulting fees to use his position to do favors for entities with business before the state.[54]

On December 7, 2009, Bruno was convicted of two counts of mail and wire fraud. He was acquitted of five felony charges, and the jury hung on the eighth and final count of the indictment.[55] On May 6, 2010, he was sentenced to two years in jail.[56][57]

In November 2011, Bruno's convictions were overturned on appeal.[58][59] In May 2013, Bruno's lawyers urged an appeals court to halt the planned retrial, claiming it would violate Bruno's right against double jeopardy.[60] In August 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit denied Bruno's appeal and held that he could be retried.[61] On May 16, 2014, Bruno was acquitted on both remaining corruption charges.[62]

Personal life[edit]

Bruno and his wife, Barbara, had four children: Joseph, Susan, Kenneth, and Catherine. Barbara Bruno died in 2008 after suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[63] As of 2014, Bruno's partner was Kay Stafford,[64][65][66] President and CEO of CMA Consulting Services[67] and widow of the late Republican State Senator Ron Stafford.[68] Bruno lived in Brunswick in Rensselaer County, New York.[69]

In September 2013, Bruno had successful surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his kidney.[70]

In October 2015, Bruno announced that he was contributing $1.4 million in unspent campaign funds to the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, and donating $100,000 to a scholarship fund. At the same time, he announced that he was closing his legal defense fund and donating the $70,000 balance to several nonprofit organizations.[71]

Bruno's autobiography, Keep Swinging: A Memoir of Politics and Justice, was published by Post Hill Press in November 2016.[72]

On October 6, 2020, Bruno died after a lengthy battle with prostate cancer at his home in Brunswick, New York. He was 91.[73][74]


  1. ^ a b "Joseph L. Bruno".
  2. ^ a b Hakim, Danny (June 24, 2008). "Top Senator in New York Won't Seek Re-election" – via
  3. ^ Biography, The New York State Directory, published by E. T. Walsh, 1997, page 22
  4. ^ Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, by Peter Elkind, 2010
  5. ^ Newspaper article, New York Senate Approves Revival of Death Penalty, by James Dao, New York Times, March 7, 1995
  6. ^ Newspaper article, Senate Pushing For Reinstatement Of Death Penalty, North Country Gazette, April 25, 2007
  7. ^ Newspaper article, 4-3 Ruling Effectively Halts Death Penalty in New York, by William Glaberson, New York Times, June 25, 2004
  8. ^ Did You Know? Page Archived March 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine, New Yorkers for Alternatives to the Death Penalty web site, accessed March 30, 2012
  9. ^ Magazine article, No Death Penalty for New York, Mark Hatch-Miller, March 7, 2005
  10. ^ James Dao (April 8, 1995). "Governor Criticizes A Chief Ally". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  11. ^ Kevin Sack (April 10, 1995). "Budget Battle Heats Up in Albany as Legislative Leaders Trade Harsh Words". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  12. ^ SyracusePostStandard-Bruno-Assailed
  13. ^ AlbanyTimesUnion-Sharpton-to-Bruno
  14. ^ Bruno Opposes Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage Archived March 11, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, by Nicholas Confessore, New York Times, May 2, 2007
  15. ^ Blog post, Assembly Passes Gay Marriage Bill Archived June 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine, by Jen Chung, The Gothamist, June 20, 2007
  16. ^ Newspaper article, GOP senator from Saratoga becomes 31st vote for same-sex marriage bill; GOP Sen. Roy McDonald becomes 31st vote for same-sex marriage bill, Albany Times-Union, by Jimmy Vielkind, June 15, 2011
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 10, 2011. Retrieved September 20, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on November 7, 2006. Retrieved September 20, 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Bruno: 'Get the Troops Out of There', The New York Sun, February 3, 2006. Retrieved on March 17, 2008.
  20. ^ Michael Cooper and Danny Hakim (December 20, 2006). "Bruno Is Subject of Inquiry by F.B.I." The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  21. ^ James M. Odato (December 22, 2007). "Bruno cuts ties to firm". Times Union. Archived from the original on March 16, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  22. ^ Steven Malanga (Spring 2001). "New York's Republican Crack-Up". City Journal. Manhattan Institute. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  23. ^ Elizabeth Benjamin (November 22, 2006). "Mystery Candidate Revealed". Capitol Confidential. Times Union. Archived from the original on October 7, 2007. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  24. ^ Jonathan P. Hicks (July 17, 2004). "Conservative Party Refuses To Endorse Senate Leader". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  25. ^ Newspaper article, In Bruno’s Upstate Corner, Name Stays Untarnished, by Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, December 8, 2009
  26. ^ a b Elizabeth Benjamin (February 7, 2007). "Spitzer's Senate choice wins". Times Union. Archived from the original on March 23, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  27. ^ Danny Hakim and Mike McIntire (December 22, 2006). "More Records Subpoenaed in Bruno Case". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2008. On the political front, Senator John Bonacic... became the first Republican to call openly for Mr. Bruno to step down as majority leader, a rare act of defiance among Senate Republicans.
  28. ^ Nicholas Confessore (May 2, 2007). "Bruno Opposes Bill to Legalize Gay Marriage". The New York Times. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  29. ^ Kenneth Lovett (April 25, 2007). "Bruno vs. Ri¢hie $ptiz". New York Post. Archived from the original on March 15, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  30. ^ Azi Paybarah (April 25, 2007). "On Death Penalty, Bruno and Spitzer Versus Assembly". The New York Observer. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  31. ^ Kenneth Lovett (September 26, 2007). "Bruno Warns of Illegal Vote Drive". New York Post. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  32. ^ Irene Jay Liu (February 27, 2008). "Senate loss slams state GOP". Times Union. Archived from the original on March 23, 2008. Retrieved March 18, 2008.
  33. ^ a b c d e Danny Hakim (July 23, 2007). "Spitzer's Staff Misused Police, Report Finds". The New York Times. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  34. ^ a b Cara Matthews (July 23, 2007). "Cuomo: Spitzer aides used state police to try to damage Bruno". The Ithaca Journal. Alt URL[permanent dead link]
  35. ^ a b c Michael Gormley (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides blamed for leak". Troy Record. Archived from the original on October 20, 2007. Not available, March 17, 2008.
  36. ^ a b Michael Gormley (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides linked to Bruno leaks". Oneida Dispatch. Archived from the original on February 29, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  37. ^,0,3604652.story
  38. ^ Tom Precious (July 23, 2007). "Cuomo criticizes Spitzer for using State Police to monitor Bruno". The Buffalo News. Not available, March 17, 2008.
  39. ^ Michael Gormley (July 23, 2007). "Report: NY Governor's Office Leaked Data". Guardian Unlimited. London. Not available, March 17, 2008.
  40. ^ Fred Lebrun (July 24, 2007). "Exhaustive effort to 'get Joe' boomerangs on Spitzer's aides". Times Union. Archived from the original on March 23, 2008. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  41. ^ James M. Odato (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer aides on the outs". Times Union. Archived from the original on May 14, 2008. Not available, March 17, 2008.
  42. ^ Melissa Mansfield (July 23, 2007). "Spitzer punishes aides after AG report". Newsday. Not available, March 17, 2008.
  43. ^ a b Jacob Gershman (July 24, 2007). "Spitzer Faces Probe in Senate". The New York Sun. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  44. ^ a b Sally Goldenberg (July 23, 2007). "Report: Governor's office compiled, leaked data on Bruno". Staten Island Advance. Retrieved March 17, 2008.
  45. ^ "The March 29, 2008 Buffalo News article".
  46. ^ Gormley, Michael (June 23, 2008). "NY Senate leader Joseph Bruno won't run again". Newsday. Associated Press.
  47. ^ Eltman, Frank (June 24, 2008). "New majority leader a skilled, savvy politician". Newsday. Associated Press.
  48. ^ "N.Y. Senate Leader Bruno To Resign Seat".
  49. ^ Kenneth C. Crowe II, "McDonald tops Russo in 43rd Senate race: Incumbents Farley, Seward, Breslin also lead in their Senate races", Times Union, found at TimesUnion website. Retrieved November 6, 2008.
  50. ^ Blog post, Joe Bruno backs Cuomo, same-sex marriage, by Jimmy Vielkind, Albany Times-Union, May 26, 2011
  51. ^ Can Joe Bruno Rescue Gay Marriage?
  52. ^ Same-sex surprise: Joe Bruno, former NY Senate leader, now supports gay marriage
  53. ^ Britt Godshalk, YNN, Bruno Facing Corruption Charges Archived February 22, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, January 24, 2009
  54. ^ Tom Caprood (January 24, 2009). "Feds indict Bruno on corruption matter". The Saratogian. Retrieved January 27, 2009.
  55. ^ Confessore, Nicholas; Hakim, Danny (December 8, 2009). "Bruno, Former State Leader, Guilty of Corruption". The New York Times. Retrieved May 7, 2010.
  56. ^ Newspaper article, 2 Years for Bruno, by Brendan J. Lyons, Albany Times-Union, May 7, 2010
  57. ^ Newspaper article, Former Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno convicted on 2 of 8 felony federal corruption counts, by Glenn Blain and Kenneth Lovett, New York Daily News, December 7, 2009
  58. ^ Newspaper article, Ex-New York Senate Leader Joseph Bruno’s Conviction Thrown Out on Appeal, by Bob Van Voris, Bloomberg News, November 16, 2012
  59. ^ Newspaper article, NY federal appeals court vacates Joseph Bruno conviction; former senate majority leader may face another trial, by Andrew Beam, The Saratogian, November 17, 2011
  60. ^ Bruce Golding, New York Post, Battlin’ Bruno ‘fed’ up Archived June 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine, May 9, 2013
  61. ^ Glenn Blain, New York Daily News, U.S. Appeals Court Allows Corruption Case Against Joe Bruno To Continue, August 6, 2013
  62. ^ Lovett, Ken (May 16, 2014). State Sen. Joseph Bruno walks in corruption trial. New York Daily News. Retrieved June 2, 2014.
  63. ^ Mahoney, Joe (January 7, 2008). "Joe Bruno's wife Barbara has died". Retrieved December 6, 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  64. ^ Groll, Mike (May 16, 2014). "Joseph Bruno, Kay Stafford". Retrieved December 6, 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  65. ^ Hughes, Kyle (May 21, 2014). "JEx-NY Senate leader Joe Bruno, newly acquitted, glad to be free of legal stress". Retrieved December 6, 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  66. ^ Vielkind, Jimmy (May 16, 2014). "After all that, Joe Bruno, and 'this system,' are off the hook". Retrieved December 6, 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  67. ^
  68. ^ Odato, James (July 31, 2013). "Bruno kin accused in no-show". Retrieved December 6, 2017. Cite has empty unknown parameter: |1= (help)
  69. ^ Newspaper article, NY Senate leader Joseph Bruno won't run again, by Michael Gormley, Saratoga Press-Republican, June 24, 2008
  70. ^ Glenn Blain, New York Daily News, Joe Bruno, Ex-State Senate Majority Leader, has Cancerous Tumor Removed from Kidney Before Corruption Trial, September 27, 2013
  71. ^ Associated Press (October 9, 2015). "Ex-Sen. Bruno Giving Leftover $1.4M to NY Senate GOP". WCAX-TV. Burlington, VT. Archived from the original on October 13, 2015.
  72. ^
  73. ^ Lyons, Brendan J. (October 7, 2020). "Joseph L. Bruno, an iconic Capital Region senator, dies at 91". Times Union (Albany). Retrieved October 7, 2020.
  74. ^ R.I.P. – Former NY Senator Joseph Bruno Dies At 91 Of Prostate Cancer

External links[edit]

New York State Senate
Preceded by
Douglas Hudson
Member of the New York State Senate
from the 41st district

January 1, 1977–December 31, 1982
Succeeded by
Jay P. Rolison, Jr.
Preceded by
Ronald B. Stafford
Member of the New York State Senate
from the 43rd district

January 1, 1983–July 18, 2008
Succeeded by
Roy McDonald
Political offices
Preceded by
Ralph J. Marino
Temporary President of the State Senate
November 25, 1994–June 24, 2008
Succeeded by
Dean Skelos
Preceded by
David Paterson
Lieutenant Governor of New York

March 17, 2008–June 24, 2008
Succeeded by
Dean Skelos