|Report: Silver to be Arrested on Corruption ChargesThe New York Times reports that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to be arrested on corruption charges today in connection with an investigation into his outside income.
The speaker’s attorney, Joel Cohen, declined to comment to the NYT. There has been no word so far from Silver’s spokesman. The Assembly is scheduled to be in session this morning, and the Democrats are slated to conference at 10 a.m.
The exact charges that the speaker will face remain unclear, though federal investigators have been looking into his work with Goldberg & Iryami, a Manhattan firm that specializes in challenging real estate assessments.
The speaker didn’t report the firm on his state financial disclosure form, citing only his role as “of counsel” to the personal-injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg.
If this report is true, it will throw the 2015 legislative session, which just got underway with Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s delivery of his State of the State/budget address yesterday, into chaos.
There is no clear successor to Silver, who was just re-elected to a second two-year term as speaker and is the longest-serving legislative leader in Albany.
It’s possible the Assembly Democrats will elect a caretaker speaker to get them through this session – someone like Codes Committee Chairman Joe Lentol, of Brooklyn, or Ways and Means Committee Chairman Denny Farrell Jr., of Manhattan – both veteran members of the chamber (and close Silver allies).
There will likely be a significant battle for the speakership, should the position indeed become vacant.
Though Silver has had his share of problems – from a failed coup mounted in 2000 by ex-Central New York Assemblyman Michael Bragman to, more recently, the spate of sexual harassment scandals to the recent NYT reports on the US attorney’s probe into his unreported outside legal work – no lawmakers have been seriously trying to put together a coalition of support to oust him.
Members mentioned in the past as potential Silver replacements include:
– Assemblyman Keith Wright, the Housing Committee chairman, current Manhattan Democratic chair and former NYS Democratic chair.
– Assemblyman Carl Heastie, the Bronx Democratic chairman.
– Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, of Rochester. (This is unlikely since an upstater would have a tough time getting elected as head of the downstate-domionated conference, and Morelle is close to Cuomo, which could be perceived as a detriment by his colleagues).
Silver was in Albany yesterday and sat on the stage in the Empire State Convention Center for Cuomo’s big speech.
He was taciturn as ever, showing absolutely no sign of the potential trouble ahead.
The speaker evenchatted calmly with reporters, questioning the legality of the two-tiered legislative compensation system that the governor floated in his 2015 Opportunity Agenda.
So far, there hasn’t been a lot in the way of reaction from lawmakers in Albany. (It’s pretty early yet, and the NYT story broke after midnight).
But Democratic District Leader Paul Newell, one of two Democrats who mounted long-shot and unsuccessfulprimary challenges to Silver in 2008 – the speaker’s first Democratic primary contest in over two decades – was the first to release a statement.
Newell, who represents the 65th AD (Silver’s district), said if the report of the speaker’s imminent arrest is true, then it is a “sad day for Lower Manhattan, and a sad day for New York.”
“I can’t speak to the specific charges against the Speaker,” Newell added. “But I can say that outside income for legislators is a certain recipe for corruption. Speaker Silver and Majority Leader Skelos should have banned it long ago.”
“The 65th Assembly District, and all New Yorkers, deserve better.”
If Silver is lead away in cuffs today, it will definitely strengthen the position of Cuomo is many ways – not the least of which is his push for a cap on outside income by state lawmakers and more transparency in the reporting of what they earn while moonlighting.