Sheldon Silver arrested

sheldon silver at podiumHuge state politics news: Sheldon Silver has been arrested by the feds on corruption charges -- he turned himself in to the FBI Thursday morning in New York City, according to the New York Times.

NYT first reported back in December that Silver was under investigation by the feds, and reported Wednesday night that the Speaker of the state Assembly would be arrested. From NYT:

The investigation of Mr. Silver began after Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo in March abruptly shut down an anticorruption commission he had created in 2013.
The federal inquiry, led by the United States Attorney for the Southern District, focused on payments that Mr. Silver received from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes.
While it is legal for lawmakers to hold outside jobs, investigators said Mr. Silver failed to list the payments from the firm, Goldberg & Iryami, on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state.
In the past, Mr. Silver has been criticized for his outside law practice, a lucrative career that supplements the $121,000 he earns as speaker.
In 2013, Mr. Silver earned at least $650,000 in legal income, including work for the personal injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, according to his most recent financial disclosure filing.
But what he does to earn that income has long been a mystery in Albany, and Mr. Silver has refused to provide details about his work.

Silver's attorneys issued a statement Thursday morning: "We're disappointed that the prosecutors have chosen to proceed with these meritless criminal charges." [WSJ]

As recently as two weeks ago Silver, in typical Sheldon Silver fashion, calmly no-commented the news that he was under investigation. [NYDN]

Silver, who represents a section of lower Manhattan, has been speaker for just short of forever (well, 1994), the second longest tenure in New York history. He is one of "The Three Men in a Room" of state government. And he's demonstrated a remarkable ability during that time to ride out the waves and scandals (of which there have been many) in the legislature. Here's a NY Mag article from a few years back that looked at Silver's ability to persist.

More than 30 New York state legislators have faced ethical or criminal charges since 2000, according to list kept by the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.

Some history: Over at State of Politics, Liz Benjamin looks at what happened the last time an Assembly speaker was arrested, in 1990.

photo: Nyer42 via Wikipedia


It's about time.

Not certain, but I'm willing to bet based on number of comments that AOA readers care more about doughnuts than corruption in state gov't.

It's not surprising...the NYS political system lends itself to corruption both by concentrating power in the hands of a few and by an expectation that most benefits come as legitimate perks (aka 'lulus') or side deals with organizations that benefit from policy. Similar forces lead to corruption among leaders of African countries (e.g. read up on the Mo Ibrahim prize).

NYS corruption rules are very weak and it's not the first time the feds have had to step in.

From the politicians point of view, if everyone else is getting perks such as unnecessary 'work vehicles' that they can drive home and for senators generous housing allowances for houses they barely use why shouldn't they? And if they're one of the top pols, shouldn't they get the best perks?

@Chip M -- another factor that allows some politicians to slide into corrupt practices is the overriding notion that if they hadn't chosen to become "public servants" that they'd be making mega bucks on the corporate world. Which maybe they would. But it seems to give them license (in their own minds) to exploit any ethical grey area to make up for that loss of income.

I'm sure he wont serve any time. Too bad.

Classic white male 1% problems.

It is time to revisit term limits. No one should be Speaker of the House for 20 years.

As a progressive democrat who voted for Zephyr Teachout in the democratic primaries, I can't wait until the democratic party (in New York, at least) rids itself of crooks, cronies, hacks and other low lives who permeate the fabric of the party. Accordingly, this is good news to me.

@chrisck: As there's a Dunkin' Donuts in the NYS Capitol Building, we can have our state government, our corruption, and our donuts, too. All in one convenient location. However, there are no warranties or guarantees on quality.

Outside income for state legislators is just an open invitation for self-dealing and bribery. It’s way overdue for NYS to seriously consider prohibiting outside income for legislators. While this won't address the whole problem, it's a start. Didn’t we learn our lesson from Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno?

@AKM, I agree with you on one of the adjectives, however, there are plenty of politicians who aren't part of the 1% club (which I'll concede is a nebulous term, depending on who you talk to) nor white that make our state so classic when it comes to corruption (e.g. John Sampson, Malcolm Smith, three of the four name a few). And less Republicans salivate that Democrats are totally corrupt, there are plenty of Republicans who have abused their public positions as of late.

@chrisck - we have more real opportunities to choose our doughnuts than to choose our politicians

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