Sunday, November 01, 2015

The Stink Of Corruption In New York This Month Is Very Much Bipartisan


3 New York crooks-- 2 going on trial and the one in the middle on Hillary's Leadership Council

Sheldon Silver is from the Lower East Side; his Assembly district-- first won in 1976-- includes the world's worst cesspool of corruption, Wall Street. He became Assembly Speaker early in 1994 while Mario Cuomo was governor. He was Speaker during the terms of George Pataki, Eliot Spitzer, David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo and he was widely considered not just grotesquely corrupt but also a manipulative dictator. Last January he was arrested on federal corruption charges and a week later he resigned as speaker.
When federal prosecutors subpoenaed a law firm to learn what exactly Sheldon Silver, the powerful leader of the State Assembly, had done to earn the hundreds of thousands of dollars the firm paid him each year, prosecutors received just one file.

It was exceptional in two ways, they say.

First, Mr. Silver had performed a bit of lawyering on behalf of a client: He helped a legislative employee settle a private property dispute.

Second, Mr. Silver did not receive any payment for his efforts.

Other than that one instance, Mr. Silver “never did any actual legal work,” Preet Bharara, the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York, said at a news conference Thursday. “He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his public office and his political influence.”

The story that unfolded in the federal criminal complaint filed on Thursday reads like a political thriller, a lurid tale of abuse of power whose main character squeezed a tidy fortune out of the obscure but lucrative legal niches of asbestos lawsuits and property-tax reductions, while capitalizing on his position at the front gate in Albany where lobbyists and special interests seek passage through the legislative process.

Juggling more than half a dozen bank accounts, Mr. Silver-- who went before a judge to hear the charges and was released on a $200,000 personal recognizance bond-- steered public money to help those who would privately help him in return, the complaint alleges. He also meticulously covered up his scheming, it said, even meeting at his office in the State Capitol to draft side agreements that hid his actions.

When an anti-corruption panel appointed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in July 2013 started asking questions about Mr. Silver’s income, the speaker fought the commission’s authority to do so-- deploying taxpayer-funded lawyers to do battle in court, and portraying the battle as a constitutional fight, not an effort at self-preservation.

Ultimately, Mr. Silver helped cut a deal with Mr. Cuomo to have the panel shut down entirely. But rather than ending the investigation into Mr. Silver, as the speaker had hoped, the panel’s disbanding inflamed Mr. Bharara, whose investigation culminated in the early morning arrest on Thursday.
Last April April 25, Silver was indicted on more charges-- making illegal investments, with money he had taken as kickbacks or bribes, through private vehicles, bringing him a profit of $750,000. He's still a member of the Assembly and his trial begins tomorrow This is going to be quite a month in New York politics, with a major politician from each party on trial. The Republican is Dean Skelos, former state Senate Majority Leader from southwest Nassau County, just east of JFK. The district includes the 5 Towns (Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Inwood, and Hewlett), Atlantic Beach, Long Beach, Lido Beach, Valley Stream (where I grew up), Malvern, Lynbrook, Oceanside, Rockville Centre, South Hempstead. He was arrested on his federal corruption charges, which include extortion and solicitation of bribes, last May. He was forced to step down as Majority Leader but, like Silver, he's still a member of the legislature.

Of course, the big media story in New York about the twin trials is that the fetid political culture in Albany is on trial.
Court papers in the two cases suggest that testimony in Federal District Court will expose in granular detail what watchdog groups say is a seamy world where big money and politics have long intersected with government.

There are accounts of kickbacks disguised as legitimate income; no-show jobs for a lawmaker’s son; and the use of state money to influence a doctor to refer clients to a favored law firm that, in turn, paid millions of dollars to a lawmaker.

The alleged acts are typical of a culture, according to the watchdog groups, that has made Albany practically synonymous with corruption and stubbornly resistant to reform, keeping citizens-- and even most lawmakers-- in the dark about much of the legislative work and spending done in their names.

For more than two decades, Mr. Silver and, for a lesser period, Mr. Skelos, have presided over the machinery comprising, along with the governor, the so-called three men in a room who have historically controlled much of the state’s policy, legislative and budgeting decisions.

The two trials-- Mr. Silver’s case is to begin on Monday with jury selection, and the case against Mr. Skelos, who is going on trial with his son, Adam, is scheduled to start on Nov. 16-- could run as long as six weeks each, so they will probably overlap for about a month. Never before have two lawmakers of their stature gone on trial at the same time in New York.

...The charges against the two men fall in line with generations of senior legislators in Albany, where corruption has endured for more than a century, with four previous Senate majority leaders and three speakers indicted. When Mr. Cuomo was elected governor in 2010, he vowed to restore integrity, a task that has eluded him so far.

The governor’s creation of the anti-corruption panel in 2013, known as the Moreland Commission, brought high hopes; it began to uncover what many of its members believed were the institutional problems forming the bedrock of Albany’s troubled culture.

Among them were two broad issues that are expected to figure prominently in both trials: ineffectual campaign finance laws that give moneyed interests-- especially large real estate developers-- outsize influence; and lax financial disclosure rules that allow corrupt lawmakers to list part-time jobs or consulting work to mask political payoffs. Often, this work is listed at law firms that represent clients with business before the state. These laws and rules, largely written by the lawmakers themselves, are seldom enforced.
Perhaps these trials will lead to some meaningful reform. Jesse McKinley writing last week for the Times suggested that "[w]ith corruption and the policing of government still pressing issues in New York’s capital, state ethics regulators have proposed that state elected officials be barred from accepting and asking for campaign contributions from any person or group under investigation by, or involved in legal action with, their offices. The proposal, made this week by the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which investigates violations of state ethics and lobbying laws, would extend current conflict-of-interest policies that apply to state employees to also include the governor, the state comptroller, the attorney general, state legislators and their re-election campaigns."

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At 2:15 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Yep you said it these guys are rotten to the corruption core.


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