If your post-Halloween Sunday Scaries continued right into Monday, take a deep breath and be thankful you’re not Sheldon Silver or Dean Skelos of New York.
Once considered two of the most powerful men in New York state, the former politicians are now at the center of two separate corruption trials. Under scrutiny is their manipulation of the state’s political machinery, with little oversight, over the last two decades.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation finally brought charges against Silver, an Assemblyman and former speaker, and Skelos, State Senator and former majority leader, after a year and a half of extensive investigation.
Silver and Skelos are representative of Albany’s overarching political culture, which has been rife with bribery and dysfunction for nearly a century. Their arrests mark a pivot towards integrity, and will hopefully put the city’s fragmented political infrastructure under a microscope.
Partners in Crime
Both Silver and Skelos have followed in the inconspicuous footsteps of generations of senior legislators before them, keeping corruption alive and well in Albany.
Silver has been charged with honest services fraud and extortion, while Skelos is facing conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, extortion under the color of official right and bribe solicitation.
Both lawmakers have also had a hand in what Governor Cuomo and the now defunct Moreland Commission perceive as the two main issues spurring Albany’s political dysfunction: Weak campaign finance laws that give power to “moneyed interests” and vague financial disclosure rules that “allow corrupt lawmakers to list part-time jobs or consulting work to mask political payoffs,” reports the New York Times’ William Rashbaum and Susanne Craig. “Often, this work is listed at law firms that represent clients with business before the state. These laws and rules, largely written by the lawmakers themselves, are seldom enforced.”
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
The men are also in hot water regarding their involvement with two New York-based law firms, Weitz & Luxenberg in New York City and Ruskin Moscou Faltischek in Long Island. Silver and Skelos listed themselves as “of counsel” at the two law firms respectively, revealing little else about their positions. Curiously, their tenuous employment was enough to earn them millions of dollars over the last decade, despite doing little to no legal work.
Unfortunately, using the tax dollars of our citizenry to fund personal endeavors through extortion and bribery is not exclusive to Albany. But the city’s politics further substantiate millennials’ frustration and disengagement with the political system. Not a good look heading into 2016.
How, if at all, does this change your political opinions heading into 2016? Share your take in the comments below or join the discussion on Facebook.