From NY Post Albany Bureau chief Fred Dicker:
A bold plan to launch a “coup’’ against embattled Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver through a coalition of Democrats and Republicans has been rejected by Assembly GOP leader Brian Kolb — who many lawmakers insist is actually in league with Silver, The Post has learned.
The plan, which some in the Legislature contend could have enlisted the support of Gov. Cuomo, a Democrat, would have had the Assembly’s 44 Republicans vote as a bloc with a minimum of 32 of the Assembly’s 106 Democrats to cast the 76 votes needed to elect someone other than Silver, the Manhattan Democrat now being probed by US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin (R-Rensselaer), an increasingly outspoken critic of Kolb, has secretly pushed the plan to oust Silver for two years and accelerated it in recent weeks in the wake of new revelations involving Bharara’s investigation of Silver, who was just re-elected as speaker last week.
“What we should have done, and what I’ve been urging we do, is work with the Democrats in order to pull a coup against Silver,’’ McLaughlin told The Post.
“I would tell the Democrats, ‘Silver has a serious crisis, he’s under federal investigation, we have 44 [Republican] votes, there’s no sense in our voting for someone for speaker who is going to lose [Kolb] so let’s see if we can get [Democratic Majority Leader and Cuomo favorite] Joe Morelle or anyone else.”
Michel Fraser, a spokesman for Kolb, claimed he was unaware of McLaughlin’s plan, calling it “utter nonsense, rumor and innuendo.”
Kolb has repeatedly and conspicuously refused to criticize Silver since becoming the Assembly’s GOP leader in 2009 despite a series of scandals and allegations of ethical transgressions including the speaker’s highly controversial approval of a secret $100,000-plus settlement paid to female staff members of former Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, whom they accused of sexual harassment.
Most recently, Kolb has been silent on the revelations now being examined by Bharara that Silver has apparently been receiving substantial income from a little-known Manhattan law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, but failed to disclose the information as legally required on his state financial-disclosure statement.
Kolb, after the Lopez scandal broke, bizarrely contended that Assembly Republicans shouldn’t criticize Silver because “none of the Republicans voted for him for speaker.’’
McLaughlin called that statement, “Quite possibly the stupidest excuse I ever heard. By Kolb’s logic, he’ll now continue saying nothing no matter what Silver may do.’’
Over several months, many Assembly members, including Republican James Tedisco of upstate Glenville, Kolb’s predecessor as minority leader, have told The Post that they’re convinced Silver has directly or indirectly blackmailed Kolb into silence because he possesses some evidence or allegation of improper conduct against him — a claim Kolb’s spokesman strongly denied.
“The speaker is not holding anything over Kolb’s head, simply because there’s nothing to hold over his head,” Fraser insisted.
Having a bipartisan coalition tacitly backed by a governor elect a leader of the Legislature isn’t without precedent.
A coalition of Republicans and Democrats that had Cuomo’s backing presided over the state Senate during the past two years. And in the 1960s, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller hammered out a similar coalition that elected the Senate leader.