A day after his investigation led to the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara delivered a speech Friday at New York Law School that took aim at what he says has become the unfortunate status quo in Albany. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Preet Bharara is not typically so forthcoming with his opinion, but a day after releasing a complaint in which he alleged that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had taken $4 million worth of kickbacks disguised as income, Bharara offered a grim assessment of state government if the charges prove true.
"How can we possibly trust that anything that gets decided in Albany and imposed upon the rest of us is on the level?" he said.
Speaking at a breakfast series hosted by New York Law School, Bharara drew a record crowd and a standing ovation after telling New Yorkers they should be more than disappointed in their elected officials: they should be angry.
He took particular aim at the proverbial "Three Men in a Room" power structure in Albany, where the Assembly speaker, governor and state Senate majority leader call the shots.
"The concept of three men in a room seems to have disappointingly taken root as opposed to being questioned. It’s almost become part of the furniture, the political furniture," Bharara said. "If you’re one of the three men in the room, you keep people in the dark because you can. You punish independent thinking because you can. You demand lockstep loyalty because you can."
While Bharara said he wasn’t here to offer any policy prescriptions on Friday, he also made clear he believes it’s time to change politics as usual in Albany.
"Given the interest and the attention to some of the cases we brought and continue to bring, this can finally be perhaps a turning point for reform," he said.
However, it’s up to voters, he said, to demand more.
"If there was ever a time for New Yorkers to show their trademark impatience with the status quo and to show it loudly, I submit: Now’s a good time for that," Bharara said.