Did corruption convictions for Silver and Skelos change nothing in Albany?
As Sheldon Silver savors his freedom, observers of the State Capitol are wondering if his arrest — and that of fellow former leader Dean Skelos, also on corruption charges — changed anything in Albany. The answer, at least in small part, may surprise you. Josh Robin has the report.
The day Sheldon Silver was arrested, they locked the Assembly doors.
Across the Capitol more than two years later, something similar happened as legislators and Governor Cuomo hashed out a $153 billion budget.
You get the metaphor — observers say the arrest of a top lawmaker — followed shortly by another isn't bringing more honest government, to Albany.
"We have not fundamentally changed our system," said Nassau County Senator Todd Kaminsky.
Kaminsky is a former federal prosecutor, helping convict former state Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada of corruption.
He says stronger state corruption laws are needed with, at last, limits on outside income.
After all, Silver's conviction stemmed from his outside law work.
"At the end of the day, people know that we have a system that allows our public officials to serve two masters," Kaminsky said.
Actually, lawmakers are making less in outside jobs than recent years, according to a Politico New York analysis. On average, it is about $24,000 each.
"I think it's had a chilling effect on people who have outside jobs," said Executive Director of the New York Public Interest Research Group Blair Horner. "You see with the legislative leaders, they don't have meaningful outside jobs anymore."
But arrests, and little progress on ethics laws still has the public cynical.
"And it's really a fundamental failure of our elected officials to do what they're supposed to do, which is to fix problems," Horner said.
Governor Cuomo is trying to ban outside income, but says attempts are moot without the Legislature. True, to an extent, but it's also not Cuomo's priority.
Meanwhile, another court decision could grow public cynicism more.
An appeals court could spring former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, with the same legal rationale freeing Silver.
But of note, Monday, an appeals court declined to do the same for former Assemblyman William Boyland.
A bribery case has the Brooklyn democrat sentenced to 14 years.
Skelos' replacement as leader declined to comment. Silver's replacement as speaker Carl Heastie says in a statement in part: "As I have said we must respect the judicial process."