All hell broke loose yesterday when New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested on corruption charges. Silver, who has represented the Lower East Side district (where he has lived since childhood) for nearly 40 years, allegedly failed to report “substantial payments” from Goldberg & Iryaimi, a Manhattan-based law firm. The assumption that Silver was practicing law was a “fiction,” an elaborate scheme designed to cover up $4 million in payoffs he’d received over the space of a decade.
US Attorney Preet Bharara’s office brought the charges against Silver, and this morning Bharara himself appeared at a breakfast event at the New York School of Law and voiced his take on the speaker’s actions. And in calling Albany “a cauldron of corruption,” Bharara implied that corruption in Albany extends well beyond Mr. Silver.
“The people of New York should be disappointed—they should be more than disappointed,” Baharara announced. “They should get angry.” As the New York Times wrote this morning, the takedown of someone as powerful as the speaker, who “became a seemingly indestructible presence at the nucleus of the New York political world,” came as a shock. Furthermore, it signals a change in the balance of power, which up until now has been based on an agreement between Governor Cuomo and the heads of both the Assembly and the Senate, all of whom have come together to administer policy decision.
The implications for the Democratic Party are huge, as Silver was quite possibly the most powerful Democrat in the state of New York. Many of de Blasio’s policies dependent upon Albany’s support, relied on the backing of Silver. So far, only a handful of Democrats have called for Silver’s resignation, and it looks like they are not willing to disown him en masse just yet.