Surely, now, New York lawmakers cannot resist the demands to clean up state government. With two former political powerbrokers now facing prison time, the pressure is high and should remain that way.
Former State Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos and his son, Adam, were found guilty of federal corruption charges Friday. The conviction follows quickly on the heels of that of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who held office for decades, and for much of that time at the top of the political heap.
The Skelos corruption trial has been watched closely in political circles for what it represents. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has been rooting out the public corruption. He began making headlines for investigations of top public officials following the disbandment, retirement, or “hiatus,” if you will, of the governor’s Moreland Commission. Bharara has been relentless, overseeing the conviction of 11 legislators in six years.
From Silver’s outside job at a law firm, which amounted to illegality at the expense of public trust, a jury late last month convicted the now-former legislator of bribe taking, extortion and money laundering.
It was only a matter of time, it seemed, before the former majority leader got his due. Skelos, 67, and his son, Adam, 33, were found guilty of all eight bribery, extortion and conspiracy counts. They were charged with using the senior Skelos’ position as majority leader to twist the arms of three businesses to provide Adam Skelos with income reaching into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, some of it from a no-show job. It sounds like a script from “The Sopranos.”
Details of the extent to which Dean Skelos went to give his grown son seemingly everything he wanted is startling. One account involves a company pressured to “hire” the younger Skelos. It was essentially a no-show job but lined Adam’s pocket. The chief executive and owner of Physicians’ Reciprocal Insurers testified that he was “afraid to fire” the younger Skelos from his $78,000-a-year job. He thought it might upset the senator. Did we mention Adam is 33?
In the pay-to-play atmosphere, those who wanted special legislative consideration knew what to do.
New York City real estate developer Glenwood Management was reportedly directed to ensure Adam received $20,000, “and to help get him consulting payments at AbTech Industries, an environmental technology company.”
According to news reports, real estate magnate Leonard Litwin and his associates in Glenwood Management paid to keep a line on the State Senate through the Republican Party. Litwin used limited liability corporations, or LLCs, to keep the money flowing.
Prosecutors asked an executive with Glenwood the amount of money the LLCs donated. The answer was an astonishing $10 million. According to an article in the Times, Litwin sent $300,000 to a real estate trade group. From there it went to a campaign committee led by Skelos. Oh, and Litwin told the executive to make sure Skelos knew where the contribution came from.
To borrow from a famous quote: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Good riddance to Silver and now good riddance to Skelos.