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“OUTSIDE INCOME” QUESTIONED, STEMMING FROM DISBANDED INVESTIGATORY COMMISSION
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 23, 2015) — On Wednesday evening, The New York Times received information which predicted that the Speaker of the New York House of Representatives Sheldon Silver would be arrested by the FBI on Thursday.
Silver was arrested by FBI agents early on Thursday morning on several federal corruption charges. Several mainstream news sources have referred to Silver as “powerful.” In so describing him, The Los Angeles Times reported that “no bill is passed without Silver’s consent.”
Silver has been Speaker since 1994 while continuing to have an active practice as an attorney with the firm of Weitz & Luxenberg. New York lawmakers are permitted by law to have outside professions.
Last month, The New York Times reported that it was known that Silver was under investigation for “outside income” earned along with his salary and benefits as Speaker. He is being prosecuted by U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, an Obama appointee.
Silver is accused of using his political position to award favors in exchange for large amounts of money termed “referral fees.” The criminal complaint alleges that Silver has collected between $4 million and $6 million in “kickbacks.”
Bharara said in a statement that Silver “never did any legal work” in exchange for the money. “He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his public office and political influence,” The Star Tribune reported.
Bharara served as assistant U.S. attorney in the same district during the Bush administration between 200o and 2005.
Information leading to Silver’s arrest was reportedly gleaned from the work of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption opened by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to investigate allegations of corruption but precipitately shut down in March of last year by the New York General Assembly, replacing the commission with a set of new laws.
On July 23, 2014, The New York Times reported that a subpoena intended for a company placing highly-priced advertising for the New York Democrat Party, including Cuomo, was ordered to be “pulled back” by Cuomo’s assitant. “The pulled-back subpoena was the most flagrant example of how the commission, established with great ceremony by Mr. Cuomo in July 2013, was hobbled almost from the outset by demands from the governor’s office,” The Times reported.
Silver had opined that the Moreland Commission was “on a fishing expedition,” according to Syracuse.com. On March 24, 2014, Syracuse.com reported that “The commission has annoyed legislators, who are fighting subpoenas for information about their outside income.”
Fitzpatrick’s response to Silver’s comment was quoted as:
Maybe the dumbest thing I’ve heard in four decades in public service is Speaker Silver referring to the Moreland Commission as a ‘fishing expedition,'” Fitzpatrick wrote. “Perhaps he hasn’t noticed, but several dozen fish have been removed from his chamber under his watch for blatantly stealing from the tax-paying public.
Silver appeared in federal court later on Thursday and was released on $200,000 bail.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Silver has been “a political ally” of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
On Silver’s website as an assemblyman representing New York’s 65th district, Silver states:
As Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver has dedicated his career in public service to improving education, protecting affordable housing, delivering quality healthcare to all New Yorkers and reforming our criminal justice system.
Last year, Silver advocated for and celebrated the passage of a law making the Lunar New Year a school holiday in deference to “Asian Americans.”