Bharara: Silver Case Goes To The ‘Core’ Of Albany’s Problem
The case being brought by federal prosecutors against Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver goes to the “core” of Albany’s ethics, disclosure and lobbying problems, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Thursday at a news conference.
Bharara this afternoon outlined a five-count complaint against Silver, who is being charged with a mix of fraud and corruption tied to his use of his public office to enrich himself.
Silver is accused of receiving more than $6 million over the last decade through referrals and favor-giving when it came to a variety of areas ranging from a powerful real-estate developer, a doctor and health-care interests.
As detailed in the complaint, Silver received the money as “referrals” which were really masked bribes and kickbacks.
Pointedly, Bharara said Silver never disclosed any of these payments due to “lax outside income laws.”
“The show me the money culture of Albany has been perpetuated at the very top of the political food chain,” Bharara said.
The federal government, meanwhile, has frozen $3.8 million of Silver’s funds in various bank accounts.
Bharara saved some of his most pointed comments for the closure of the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption, a panel created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in 2013 and subsequently shut down the following April after a deal on ethics reform was reached.
“A deal was cut to close Moreland Commission to the great relief of Sheldon Silver,” Bharara said.
After the commission closed, Bharara obtained records and files generated by the commission, though the investigation into Silver’s outside income began in June 2013, a month before the Moreland Commission was formed.
It had long been speculated what kind of money Silver was making at his law firm, where he is “of counsel.” Earlier this year, it was revealed Silver had been receiving previously undisclosed income from a law firm that had real-estate business before the state.
New disclosure laws have taken effect in recent years, with lawmakers having to disclose more specifics on their outside income, how they earn it and where.
Still, good-government organizations have noted the laws don’t necessarily go far enough in limiting the influence of private firms that seek “rain maker” lawmakers to sit on their boards or be of counsel.
Lawmakers, too, have in general resisted efforts to have their legal clients disclosed.
“Solving public corruption problems in Albany and the city is no one person’s problem,” Bharara said. “Legislators have to step up, the press has to step up.”
As for what’s next for a federal prosecutor who has made no bones about going after powerful political figures, Bharara ominously said, “Stay tuned.”
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