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TAXPAYERS DEFEND STATE SENATORS IN 'NO-SHOW' CASE

Two New York City law firms -- paid with state tax dollars -- have filed legal papers supporting a bid by two Democratic senators to dismiss charges accusing them of hiring no-show employees.

The Court of Appeals received the Legislature's brief Thursday in preparation for a Sept. 5 hearing on the indictment against Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein, D-Manhattan; Sen. Howard Babbush, D-Brooklyn, and two other Democrats.

The indictment charged the Senate Democrats with paying nearly 40 people while they worked on political campaigns in 1986. Some employees had legislative duties, while others worked solely on campaigns, prosecutors charged.

The Legislature maintains that most of the charges should be dismissed since most of them involve workers who did either legislative or campaign work and only 119 counts involve three workers who did neither.

Last December, a panel of the state Appellate Division dismissed all but the 119 counts of the original 564-count indictment.

While Ohrenstein and the other defendants will seek to dismiss the 119 charges, the prosecution will ask the Court of Appeals to reinstate all of the original counts.

The two firms hired by the Legislature to represent its interests in the case have been paid more than $700,000 since prosecutors and others began a variety of ethics investigations starting in 1986.

The law firms -- one for the Assembly and another hired by the Senate -- have filed legal papers, answered prosecutors' questions and accompanied legislators before grand juries.

The New York City law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison has received $570,653 under its contract with the Assembly through March 31.

The Senate has paid $134,198 o-show' case
to the New York City firm Kaye, Scholer, Fierman, Hays & Handler.

The Senate's law firm saw its contract expire in December, but it will be renewed, according to Stephen Sloan, secretary of the Senate.

"The taxpayers are basically getting it at both ends here," said Julian Palmer, state executive director for Common Cause, a good government lobby.

"On the one hand, we're being asked to provide one-sided, campaign financing through no-show jobs or people who are just doing campaign work, and on the other we're paying the cost for defending this undemocratic practice."

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