Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Sheldon Silver Is Going To Prison For Taking Bribes And Kickbacks-- Do You Think He's Any More Corrupt Than, Say, Chuck Schumer?


The gang's all here: Silver, Rangel, Clinton, Paterson, Schumer

If you read any of the pre-trial coverage of Sheldon Silver's corruption case, it will come as no surprise to you that spontaneous festivities broke out up and down the halls at DWT when he was found guilty of all seven of his charges yesterday. As the NY Times reported, "After a five-week trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the end came rather quickly and unceremoniously for Mr. Silver, 71, a Democrat who served more than two decades as Assembly speaker before he was forced to resign from the post after his arrest in January." He still hasn't resigned from his seat in the state legislature, but now he'll be automatically kicked out of it.

Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, issued a statement that said, simply, "Today, Sheldon Silver got justice, and at long last, so did the people of New York." My favorite line in the Times report though-- one that tells the story of the culture of corruption endemic to our politics was:
Silver’s lawyers argued that in charging him, Mr. Bharara’s office had sought to criminalize the kinds of activity in which state legislators routinely engaged.
Routinely? Absolutely... just like DC. The Gothamist saw it the same way: "The prosecution centered on the question of whether nearly $4 million in payments Silver received for referring tax and asbestos illness cases to law firms were the fruit of quid pro quo arrangements he made with developers and a prominent cancer researcher for favors, or just run-of-the-mill greed-driven back-room dealing of the legal variety." Silver defended his $700,000 in kickbacks by arguing "It's virtually impossible for someone to serve in this citizen-legislator model and not have some form of conflict." That;'s exactly what his attorney said. And expected it to exonerate his client!
Silver is the most prominent in a parade of state lawmakers who have been convicted by prosecutors with Mr. Bharara’s office. At the time of Mr. Silver’s arrest, Mr. Bharara said the charges against him made it clear that “the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain.”

His conviction comes as Mr. Bharara’s office is trying his former counterpart, State Senator Dean G. Skelos, a Republican from Long Island who stepped down as majority leader after his arrest in May on federal corruption charges.

For portions of his tenure as speaker, Mr. Silver maintained a viselike grip on power, withstanding the rare challenge from a well-intentioned but unsupported Democratic colleague, and brushing off all criticism of his performance. He was faulted for his handling of two sexual harassment allegations; in 2013, a state ethics report criticized him for covering up accusations of sexual harassment against Assemblyman Vito J. Lopez.

Mr. Silver also loomed large in financial disclosure reports that were required under a new state ethics law, reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in outside income from a law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg. That arrangement would become one of the focal points of the government’s prosecution.

At Mr. Silver’s trial, the government presented evidence that prosecutors said showed he had orchestrated two schemes through which he obtained nearly $4 million in illegal payments for taking official actions that benefited a prominent cancer researcher, Dr. Robert N. Taub, at Columbia University, and two New York real estate development firms.

Testimony and other evidence showed that Mr. Silver had arranged to have the State Health Department award two grants totaling $500,000 to Dr. Taub, whose research focused on mesothelioma, a deadly form of cancer related to asbestos exposure.

In return, Dr. Taub sent mesothelioma patients with potentially lucrative legal claims to Weitz & Luxenberg, which then shared a portion of its fees with Mr. Silver.

In the other scheme, prosecutors charged, Mr. Silver had the two developers, Glenwood Management and the Witkoff Group, move certain tax business to a law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, that secretly shared its fees with Mr. Silver.

In return, the speaker lent his support to critical rent legislation backed by Glenwood, in particular, and met with the company’s lobbyists.
A week after Silver was arrested, Zephyr Teachout, in an OpEd for the NY Times wrote that "fighting the kind of corruption that plagues not only New York State but the whole nation isn’t just about getting cuffs on the right guy. As with the recent conviction of the former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell for receiving improper gifts and loans, a fixation on plain graft misses the more pernicious poison that has entered our system... The legal shades into the illegal." It's why, here are DWT we regularly refer to the $23 million dollars Wall Street has given Chuck Schumer as "legalistic"-- or "legalized"-- bribery and why we just as regularly point out charts like this that show the Wall Street errand boys whose careers the banksters finance year after year after year all belong in prison, like this group of corrupt scumbahs, each one of whom is infinitely more criminal than Sheldon Silver; just not caught yet. These figures, by the way, are for this year alone, and just for the Finance Sector.

Please note how Wall St. bribes to Murphy and Ryan have skyrocketed since just last night!

Corruption exists when institutions and officials charged with serving the public serve their own ends. Under current law, campaign contributions are illegal if there is an explicit quid pro quo, and legal if there isn’t. But legal campaign contributions can be as bad as bribes in creating obligations. The corruption that hides in plain sight is the real threat to our democracy.

Think of campaign contributions as the gateway drug to bribes. In our private financing system, candidates are trained to respond to campaign cash and serve donors’ interests. Politicians are expected to spend half their time talking to funders and to keep them happy. Given this context, it’s not hard to see how a bribery charge can feel like a technical argument instead of a moral one.

...The structure of private campaign finance has essentially pre-corrupted our politicians, so that they can’t even recognize explicit bribery because it feels the same as what they do every day. When you spend a lifetime serving campaign donors, it may seem easy to serve them when they come with an outright bribe, because it doesn’t seem that different.

We should take this moment to pursue fundamental reform. We must reconstitute what it means to run for office and to serve in office. We need to ban outside income for elected officials. Transparency alone is not enough; it doesn’t solve the problem of creating outside dependencies. New York lawmakers can’t carry water for two masters when in office.

We should reject the private financing of campaigns as the only model. We need to provide enough public funding for campaigns so that anyone with a broad base of support can run for office, and respond effectively to attacks, without becoming dependent on private patrons. Running for office shouldn’t be a job defined by permanent begging at the feet of the wealthiest donors in the country.

Those two reforms would be transformational. We will never eradicate every shady deal, but we can make politics more about serving the public and less like legalized bribery.

There’s one last thing we should do: ban corporate spending and limit total campaign spending. Last week not only saw Mr. Silver in handcuffs, it also marked the fifth anniversary of the Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court decided that outside corporate spending was in no way corrupting. We will have to revisit that decision, but we don’t need to wait for the court to act.

Corruption is about greed and private interests put ahead of the public good. Whether influence is bought through a bribe, outside spending, outside income or campaign contributions, the public suffers in the same way. Until we move past scandals toward structural change, our democracy will suffer, too.
The NY Post didn't go for any poetry this morning in describing this-- and included a well-deserved warning to another crook: Cuomo.
Sheldon Silver of the Lower East Side had stuffed his jeans with at least $4 million-- and that makes him distinctive by Albany standards: The capital city’s gutter-grubbers traditionally settle for chump change.

...Bharara’s brief against Skelos-- a sad man who allegedly indulged an arrogant, greedy, stupid son by strong-arming businessmen-- isn’t nearly as nuanced as was the case against Silver.

That is, jury deliberations in the Skelos case aren’t likely to last longer than the minute and 45 seconds that it took to convict Silver.

And then there will be one man left standing-- Gov. Cuomo, who has been squarely in Bharara’s sights for months now; not-guilty verdicts in Silver’s case would have let the steam out of whatever it is that the prosecutor is planning for Cuomo, and that didn’t happen.

Which has to weigh heavily on the governor. Though no one is suggesting that he ever put an untoward penny in his own pocket, he’s beefed up his campaign accounts with millions from people who figured prominently in both the Silver and Skelos cases.
Earlier, an editorial at The Post hit the nail on the head: Shelly Silver’s conviction is an indictment of Albany’s entire political culture.
It’s a big win for New York.

Not just because he was such a disastrous lawmaker. But also because it means even powerful pols like Silver, who ruled the Assembly with an iron fist for years, can be held to account for their corrupt doings.


Remember, the Lt. Governor, Kathy Hochul, is a less than worthless right-wing fake Dem. The Buffalo Chronicle just broke the story that Bharara will indict Cuomo on January 2.
Three sources are confirming that Bharara intends to indict Governor Andrew Cuomo on January 2nd-- along with a half dozen associates and former staffers-- on public corruption, racketeering, conspiracy, and honest services fraud.

The Chronicle is unable to confirm widespread rumors that the former staffers are Howard Glaser, Joe Percoco and Larry Schwartz.

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At 7:29 PM, Anonymous ap215 said...

Get him Bharara!


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