Silver follow up and fall out / Preet remains New York’s only ho pe / 5 Immediate Impacts on Albany / more…

Preet remains New York’s only hope

January 23, 2015
As I’ve said before, Preet Bharara remains New York’s best and only hope for uprooting corruption in politics and business. So the news of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest on…

Preet to Albany: Stay Tuned

Capitol Confidential » Bharara: After Silver arrest, ‘stay tuned’ for more

Paterson defends Silver, questions Moreland connection | Capital New York

"People earn money all the time, and don’t do any work," said former Governor David Paterson, who now heads the State Democratic Party. Meanwhile, as an aside, the Speaker has $3.3M in his campaign account in a district where there is no serious contest.Paterson defends Silver, questions Moreland connection | Capital New York

Capitol Confidential » Complaint vs. indictment: the distinction in Silver’s case

A complaint is not the same as an indictment and the distinction may be lost on many…But in the case of the Speaker it was a complaint that will later result in an indictment from a federal grand jury…Likely result, there technically is no certainty.Capitol Confidential » Complaint vs. indictment: the distinction in Silver’s case

After Speaker Silver’s Arrest, Predicting ‘Chaos’ in Albany Power Balance –

Chaos in Albany ? After 20 years everyone thinks they have to go through the Speaker….He has derailed Bloomberg, backed down Governors, advanced liberal causes, but always cut the deal. The devil we know…or just fear….or just laziness, everything was decided by Shelly…With the budget session beginning, the power struggle will be on…Can the […]


Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest is a “bad reflection on government,” but declined to say whether he should resign his leadership post. Silver’s arrest no doubt has some members scared; it opens the question of whether he’ll turn on some of them in return for leniency. The Doctor-1 described in the…

UPDATE: Sen. Gillibrand ‘very concerned’ by Silver AllegationsJanuary 22, 2015

Democrats on Capitol Hill Thursday weren’t calling on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to resign, but they were not rushing to his defense either. “My standard has always been that if an elected official is found guilty of committing a serious crime they have lost the privilege to serve,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said in a statement.…

IDC Keeps Committee Chairs, O’Mara To Chair EnCon, Griffo To Energy January 22, 2015

Members of the Independent Democratic Conference will continue to hold some committee chairs despite the numerical majority held by Senate Republicans in the chamber. Sen. Diane Savino will be chairwoman of the Banks Committee, Sen. Tony Avella will hold the gavel for the Senate’s Ethics panel and Sen. David Carlucci will be chairman of the…

Briefly, Silver Addresses His Arrest January 22, 2015

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver briefly addressed the press after posting $200,000 bond in federal court in New York City. “I am happy the issue is being aired in a legal process,” Silver told reporters. “I am confident that when all the answers are aired I will be vindicated.” Silver is expected to be in Albany…

Silver Released On $200K BondJanuary 22, 2015

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was released on $200,000 Thursday afternoon following a brief appearance in federal court. Silver, accused of using his position as the powerful speaker of the state Assembly to enrich himself with $6 million in kickbacks and bribes, did not enter a plea. A pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Feb. 23. He…

Hochul: Silver’s Arrest Won’t Be A ‘Distraction’ January 22, 2015

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul insisted on Thursday Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s arrest and corruption charges won’t be a “distraction” from the administration’s agenda. At the same time, Silver’s legal problems could spur the Legislature to pass a new “reform agenda.” “I think the circumstances of the last few days are just going to inspire people… […]

Bharara: Silver Case Goes To The ‘Core’ Of Albany’s ProblemJanuary 22, 2015

The case being brought by federal prosecutors against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver goes to the “core” of Albany’s ethics, disclosure and lobbying problems, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday at a news conference. Bharara this afternoon outlined a five-count complaint against Silver, who is being charged with a mix of fraud and corruption tied to… […]

Assembly Democrats Back Silver Staying On As Speaker January 22, 2015

Assembly Democrats emerged from a 90-minute closed-door meeting on Thursday to announce their overwhelming support for Speaker Sheldon Silver, who faces a five-count federal complaint on fraud and corruption. “I’m continuing to support the speaker and I would say the members are overwhelmingly from the conversation that we just had are continuing their suppo […]

The Moreland Connection January 22, 2015

Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb today questioned whether there was “some connection” between the governor’s decision to shutter his corruption-busting Moreland Commission and the fact that the body might have uncovered wrongdoing by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who was indicted earlier today on corruption charges. Kolb said Gov. Andrew Cuomo “should […]

Republicans Pile On Silver (Updated) January 22, 2015

As expected, Republicans are – rather gleefully, it must be said – piling on Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the wake of his arrest on corruption charges this morning, saying he must relinquish his leadership post for the good of the chamber, his constituents and the entire state of New York. Assembly Minority Leader Brian…

WXXI CAPITOL BUREAU REPORTSLocal State Assembly Leaders Have Different Views On Sheldon Silver January 22, 2015

Opinion: Shelly Silver’s Arrest: 5 Immediate Impacts on Albany

by Morgan Pehme, Jan 22, 2015

A former member of the New York State Assembly once told me off the record that the real reason Sheldon Silver didn’t disclose who his law clients were was not because he was afraid of being exposed for doing their bidding in the Legislature, as Silver’s critics have long alleged; Silver’s real secret was that he didn’t actually have any law clients whatsoever and that he was being paid millions of dollars by the firm Weitz & Luxenberg for doing no work at all. Thursday’s five-count indictment of Silver by the U.S. Attorney’s Office appeared to affirm that portrait of the Speaker’s outside income from Weitz & Luxenberg and another firm, Goldberg & Iryami.

While Silver, an extraordinarily resilient politician, could certainly survive the charges brought again him and hang on as Assembly Speaker, his arrest will undoubtedly weaken him immensely for the rest of his career in office and have major implications for the current political and legislative landscape in Albany. The following are five immediate ramifications of Thursday’s bombshell turn of events:

1) POWER SHIFT: For over a generation, Silver has been one of Albany’s "three men in a room" and during the troubled administrations of Govs. Spitzer and Paterson emerged as the most powerful of the three, often appearing to be the lone responsible party keeping the ship of state from crashing into the rocks. That power dynamic shifted when Gov. Cuomo, a forceful chief executive, took office in 2010, and Silver was wounded by the series of scandals that have rocked the Assembly in recent years—most notably, the Vito Lopez sexual harassment cover-up complaints—as well as the arrest and conviction of one of Silver’s closest friends and associates,Willie Rapfogel.

Still, Silver has consistently been, at least on paper, progressive Democrats’ foremost champion in the Capitol. If he does remain Speaker, Silver will have a very difficult time holding the line on progressive priorities, particularly if the consistently rock-solid support of his members starts to break down. If Silver gives up his post or is forced from it, Gov. Cuomo is almost certain to try to heavily influence the succession process to ensure that the next Speaker is a pliant ally. If Cuomo prevails, he will further tip the balance of power in Albany in his favor. If the Legislature holds out for an independent Speaker, there will be enmity in the proverbial "room" which will shake up the relatively amicable working relationship Cuomo, Silver, and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos (and IDC head Jeff Klein) have enjoyed for the past four years.

2) POSSIBILITY OF REFORM: Silver’s arrest is already prompting yet another call to address Albany’s appalling epidemic of political corruption. Since the allegations against Silver stem from his outside income, the Legislature’s rules governing what money senators and Assembly members can make from their other jobs and how they have to disclose it—rules good government groups have long slammed as far too lax—are certain to come up for review. A debate over whether the Legislature should become full-time to eliminate the possibility of members being entangled in any perceived or actual conflicts of interest is also likely to arise, though the Legislature would probably only sign off on this change in conjunction with a significant pay raise for legislators, which it is hard to believe could pass amid the current political atmosphere without a serious voter backlash in 2016.

Leadership term limits may also now be on the table in light of how long Silver was allegedly enriching himself via his position. Since Gov. Cuomo shuttered the Moreland Commission on Public Corruption in March as part of a deal with Skelos and Silver, he will be under significant pressure to demonstrate that he didn’t let Silver almost skirt free, and to prove that he is as determined to clean up Albany as he has repeatedly professed. Silencing his critics who claim that he has been soft on—if not complicit in fostering—Albany’s culture of corruption will now become one of the governor’s chief concerns for the foreseeable future—and will encumber his ability to focus solely on achieving the ambitious agenda he laid out yesterday—with Silver on stage beside him—in his State of the State address.

3) HOUSING FIGHT UNCERTAINTY:Tenant advocates hoping to preserve and strengthen New York City’s rent control laws and other key pieces of housing legislation that are sunsetting this year have placed a lot of their eggs in Shelly Silver’s basket. Though Silver was Speaker two of the times the city’s housing laws were weakened in Albany, tenant advocates widely regard him as their foremost bulwark in the Capitol, as they are suspicious of where Gov. Cuomo, who received millions of campaign dollars from the real estate industry, sides in the fight, despite his having helped them win stricter limits on the deregulation of apartments in 2011 and creating the Tenant Protection Unit, which landlords generally do not like.

If Silver remains Speaker, it will be far more difficult for him to defend the city’s rent laws, and if he is ousted, it will matter significantly who takes his place. If his successor is Assembly Housing Committee Chair Keith Wright, who is always quick to point out that he lives in a rent control apartment, a change could end up potentially benefitting tenant advocates, but Wright is also a close ally of Cuomo, who appointed him co-chair of the New York State Democratic Party in 2012, and unlikely to cross the governor. In any event, an already tense situation for tenant advocates got much more stressful for them on Thursday.

4) TORT REFORM BACK ON THE TABLE:Supporters of modifying or eliminating New York State’s Scaffold Law undoubtedly are rejoicing today. The law, which holds contractors and property owners 100 percent liable if a worker falls on the job, is detested by business groups and the real estate industry, which insist it dramatically drives up the cost of building, and fiercely defended by union advocates and trial attorneys, the latter of whom receive a lucrative percentage of the often large settlements that can result from lawsuits that hinge upon the statute. Since he became Speaker in 1994, there has been no more dependable and aggressive ally than Silver of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association, on whose board Weitz & Luxenberg partner Arthur Luxenberg sits.

Last year Gov. Cuomo called the trial lawyers "the single most powerful political force in Albany" in explaining toCrain’s why there was no current path to reforming the Scaffold Law, and that power largely emanates from Silver. With Silver hobbled and his financial ties to law firms centrally related to his indictment, it will be much harder for the Trial Lawyers and related lobbies to rebuff any efforts at reforming the Scaffold Law and other favorite targets of tort reform advocates, like contingency fee limits and trespasser responsibility.

5) MORE SCALPS?: The reason Shelly Silver is only a year short of becoming the longest serving Speaker in Assembly history is because he has been very good at his job. The speaker’s principal responsibility is to protect his members, and in that regard Silver has been exemplary, often taking the heat for bad and criminal behavior by his members when he could have easily opted instead to hang them out to dry. With Silver on the ropes, he won’t be in a position to protect his members any more, and human nature being what it is, now that they are exposed to the elements some of his members may turn on each other or on him, creating a general atmosphere of paranoia, hostility and shameless opportunism.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has every reason in the world to put in jail every corrupt elected official in the state, particularly after he so publicly took over the Moreland Commission’s investigations, and so far he has demonstrated a dogged willingness to do so. In the past there has been an omertà in Albany, kept sacred by the leaders of the Legislature. It’s hard to believe that Skelos and Silver will be able to enforce that code of silence moving forward with the same vigilance.

Morgan Pehme is the former editor-in-chief of City & State, and a frequent commentator on New York politics and government on television and radio.


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