Joseph Bruno, the former majority leader of the New York Senate and for a time the most powerful Republican in state politics, was indicted Friday on federal corruption charges.
Bruno, who retired from the Legislature in July after more than a dozen years leading the Senate, is accused of using his position to steer contracts and grants to businesses that paid him a total of $3.2 million in consulting fees or other compensation from 1993 through 2006, and then covering his tracks.
Prosecutors said in one instance, Bruno solicited officials from several labor unions with interests before state government to hire an investment firm that paid him $1.3 million over a 12-year period.
Wright Investors' Service released a statement Friday that Bruno and his attorney had said his actions were cleared by the proper ethics groups.
"If Mr. Bruno engaged in illegal activities, Wright was not aware of them," the investment firm said.
None of the companies or unions mentioned in the indictment were accused of wrongdoing.
Bruno also is accused of lying on public financial disclosure forms and using state employees to do administrative and other work related to his outside financial activities.
Bruno exploited "his official position for personal compensation and enrichment" in dealing with companies and 16 unions with business before the state, according to the 8-count indictment brought by the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of New York.
Bruno pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance Friday.
He later denounced the investigation at a press conference, calling it a politically motivated "fishing expedition that smells really, really bad."
"After being hounded for three years, I am being indicted on a prosecutorial sleight of hand because, after years of effort, they cannot find one example of criminal activity or illegal intent," Bruno said.
He promised Friday to "fight this, and I'm going to win."
The 79-year-old lawmaker, who represented his Troy, N.Y., district for 32 years, seized power in the state Senate in 1994 with the consent of former GOP Gov. George Pataki, who had just been elected. Bruno became the most powerful Republican in state government when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer succeeded Pataki.
Bruno, who grew up in poverty in Glens Falls, north of Albany, worked his way through college and eventually became a top executive in a private telecommunications company. The sale of the company in 1990 and other business dealings made him a millionaire. He subsequently started a consulting company and dabbled in horse breeding on his sprawling Rensselaer County farm a 25-minute drive from Albany.
After his retirement, Bruno became chief executive officer of CMA Consulting Services. CMA, an information technology consulting business based in the Albany County suburb of Latham, is headed by Kay McCabe Stafford, the widow of Republican Sen. Ronald Stafford.
Bruno faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines on each of the eight counts. Prosecutors said he could also face forfeiture of illegally gained assets.