Monday, March 22, 2010

Glamour. Intrigue. Fruit.

Since this is the blog you turn to for both religion and politics, I know that you have been waiting for me to go ahead and explain the new health care bill that was passed yesterday. Unfortunately, the thing is longer than War and Peace, and I got bored after page 2. (No disrespect to Tolstoy. I’m sure War and Peace is riveting.) I’ll let you know when I figure out what’s going on, which may be a while, because I heard President Obama doesn’t even know what’s going on.

Instead, I would like to tell a tale of New York State politics: one full of glamour, attempted illegal enticement, and a strange but happy ending.

My husband, as I have mentioned, is a lawyer/lobbyist, a combination of words that is considered a cuss in the blue states. As a lawyer/lobbyist (pardon my French), he has to go to a lot of political events: fundraisers, galas, balls, meetings, and a various number of other synonyms for “get-togethers.”

I may have also mentioned my recent gloomy mood. John has been traveling Mon-Wed every week, which is cool (no one to tease me about watching Dancing with the Stars later on) but mostly not cool. The “not cool” part has been especially exacerbated by our recent viewing of the movie Paranormal Activity. I remain convinced that something evil is lurking in our house. Last night, the paranormal activity turned out to be our ice-maker, but DEAR GOD WHAT ABOUT NEXT TIME????

who will protect me?

John, cognizant of my desire for him to return quickly to our beloved homestead, was detained by two “events” after work the other evening. The first event ended at 6:30. He hoped the second event, a dinner held by a local association, clients of his, would require but a quick appearance by him so that he could be home a little after 7:00.

But then the worst thing happened. People were NICE to him. He was invited to sit at the head table. The executive officer of the association spotted John, insisted he stay for dinner, and gave him a long lecture on the importance of eating vegetables. Every day. (This is the "glamour" section of the story.) John acquiesced to eating some green beans, believing he could quickly duck out afterward.

This is the sort of event where people make speeches , which is a cruel practice and should probably be outlawed. It is why I never go to these things. While John was polishing off his green beans, the keynote speaker, a NYS political official, went ahead and did something dumb. He THANKED my lawyer/lobbyist husband for the work he’d done for the association. (John said he would have felt like a boob eating green beans and running after a public display of gratitude.)

So he stayed. And he was privy to a shocking scene.

His client tried to give the NYS political official a token of appreciation for speaking at the event. And not just any token of appreciation. An $80.00 fruit basket.

I’m sure you are aware of Public Officers Law 73 5(a)

5. No statewide elected official, state officer or employee, individual whose name has been submitted by the governor to the senate for confirmation to become a state officer or employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee shall, directly or indirectly:

(a) solicit, accept or receive any gift having more than a nominal value, whether in the form of money, service, loan, travel, lodging, meals, refreshments, entertainment, discount, forbearance or promise, or in any other form, under circumstances in which it could reasonably be inferred that the gift was intended to influence him, or could reasonably be expected to influence him, in the performance of his official duties or was intended as a reward for any official action on his part. No person shall, directly or indirectly, offer or make any such gift to a statewide elected official, or any state officer or employee, member of the legislature or legislative employee under such circumstances.

This includes fruit baskets.

You will be relieved to know that the NYS political official refused to take the gift. The client kept insisting. The Senator kept refusing, but didn't explain why. And this little dance seemed destined to continue until John stepped in.

“He really can’t accept it. He would be breaking the law if he did.” The client, seemingly astonished that it is illegal to give your keynote speaker fruit if they are serving in government, backed off immediately.

Later that evening, John went over to the same client to say goodnight, weary from another day in the sewer that is NYS politics. Then a wondrous thing happened. The client said,

“Y’know what, John? Why don’t you take this fruit basket home to your wife. I know you really wanted to get home to her this evening.”

Is that not the most heartwarming story you’ve ever read?

And it’s an awesome fruit basket, too. It has, or did have, cheese and sausage and Lindt candies and crackers and gourmet mustard and a lot of fruit. Including kiwi.

I’ve never received a fruit basket before. If this was what life was like for politicians BEFORE Public Officers Law 73 5(a), well, then. I totally understand the allure.


hokgardner said...

Ohh - a pepperidge farm fruit basket no less!

And if you think New York politics are fun, you ought to try Texas. Having an attorney at the table saying that the pol couldn't accept the fruit basket wouldn't have stopped it from happening in the least.

I used to work in legislative offices of two different stage agencies, and I was always amazed and horrified at what went on behind closed doors.

And having your husband travel so much, leaving you at home with four - I feel your pain.

Toaster said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Toaster said...

(Sorry, had to edit for a typo.)

Now why isn't my husband in a job that gives him cause to bring home fruit baskets--especially one with Lindt candies? Speaking of "The Editor," he had wanted to see Paranormal Activity, but then he was afraid he might find it to be too scary. ;)

See you soon!

Kass said...

Heh. I'd have a hard time sticking to South Beach too if that came home. Yum.

MGBR said...

My version of this story: My husband is a reporter (considered a cuss in the homes and offices of most politicians). As such, he is prohibited from accepting gifts worth more than $20. As such, he comes home from said fundraisers, galas, balls, meetings, and various other “get-togethers” with coffee mugs and ball caps. No fruit baskets. Ever. I am SO jealous!