Sheldon Silver

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Sheldon Silver
SpeakerSilver.jpg
119th Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Incumbent
Assumed office
February 11, 1994
Governor Mario Cuomo
George Pataki
Eliot Spitzer
David Paterson
Andrew Cuomo
Preceded by Saul Weprin
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 65th district
Incumbent
Assumed office
2013
Preceded by Micah Kellner
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 64th district
In office
2003–2012
Preceded by Richard Gottfried
Succeeded by Nicole Malliotakis
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 62nd district
In office
1983–2002
Preceded by Paul Viggiano
Succeeded by Robert Straniere
Member of the New York State Assembly
from the 63rd district
In office
1977–1982
Preceded by Anthony DiFalco
Succeeded by Steven Sanders
Personal details
Born (1944-02-13) February 13, 1944 (age 70)
Lower East Side, New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Rosa
Residence New York City
Alma mater Yeshiva University
Brooklyn Law School
Religion Orthodox Judaism
Website Assembly Website

Sheldon "Shelly" Silver (born February 13, 1944) is an American lawyer and Democratic politician from New York. He has held the office of Speaker of the New York State Assembly since 1994.

Personal life

An Orthodox Jew of eastern European descent, Silver has lived all his life on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He lives with his wife Rosa a few blocks from their children and her parents.

He graduated from the Rabbi Jacob Joseph High School on Manhattan's Henry Street, where he was captain of the basketball team. He graduated from Yeshiva University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965, and received his J.D. from Brooklyn Law School in 1968. By the time he became Speaker of the Assembly, he was known to play basketball with other high-ranking officials, including former Governor Mario Cuomo and former Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi. In addition to his duties in the Assembly, he is an Of Counsel member at the Manhattan personal injury law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg.[1]

Political career

Silver practiced law with the firm of Schecter and Schwartz from 1968 until 1971. From 1971 to 1976 Silver was law secretary for Civil Court Judge Francis N. Pecora. Silver was first elected to the Assembly in 1976, and became Speaker on February 11, 1994. He replaced Saul Weprin, who had suffered a stroke. He represents the 65th Assembly District, comprising much of lower Manhattan, notably the former World Trade Center site.

He was the chairman of the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee from 1992 to 1994, selected after Weprin replaced former Speaker Mel Miller.[2] In December 1993, he criticized then New York City Mayor-Elect Rudy Giuliani's appointment for budget director, Abraham M. Lackman, as "a person whose primary function [as director of fiscal studies for the State Senate Finance Committee] has been to limit the benefits for New York City."[3]

Silver was instrumental in the reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State in 1995. The bill passed was ruled unconstitutional by the New York State Court of Appeals in 2004 (see People v. LaValle), as the law stipulated that if jurors were deadlocked between sentences of life without parole and execution, the court would sentence the defendant to life imprisonment with parole eligibility after serving 20 to 25 years. The Court ruled that in such a case, execution would seem unfairly preferable to the jury. New York's crime rate had dropped significantly in the 10 years since the law was passed, without seeing an execution. Silver let the law expire in 2005 without much debate.[4] In December 2005, after two New York City police officers were killed in as many months, Pataki called for reinstatement of the death penalty. The New York Times quoted Silver's spokesman Charles Carrier as saying, "He no longer supports [capital punishment] because Assembly hearings have shown it is not the most effective way to improve public safety.[5]

In 1999, Silver was instrumental in the repeal of New York City's commuter tax, which taxed non-resident workers similarly to city residents. This was a great benefit to those commuting to work in the city from surrounding areas, but came at a tremendous cost to his own NYC constituents. Silver was criticized by[6] city leaders for removing the tax, and though after 9/11 he has suggested he would support reinstating it, he has taken no steps to do so.

In 2000, Silver faced an attempted coup in the Assembly as members, primarily from Upstate New York, tried to overthrow him. Michael Bragman, one of the leaders of the backlash, lost his position as majority leader of the Assembly.[7]

In July 2007, Silver was a key voice of opposition to Mayor Bloomberg's congestion pricing program, and when a meeting of the Democratic Assembly Conference indicated the proposal lacked support, Silver declined to schedule a vote on the measure and it died. Although Silver personally stated that he "probably would have voted for the bill" on congestion pricing, a majority of his conference strongly opposed the proposed plan.[8] Proponents argued it would reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions, lead to less crowded streets, and raise much-needed funds for public transportation, while opponents objected to the notion of a new driving tax.

Silver, in his role as Speaker, has been widely blamed for the delay in passing A04146A through the Assembly to legalize professional MMA in New York State.[9][10] Silver and NY State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman (both Democrats supported by UNITE HERE) have opposed legalizing MMA.[11][12]

In 2008, he had his first Democratic primary in over two decades beating his challengers, Paul Newell and Luke Henry, winning 7,037 votes. Newell and Henry received 2,401 and 891 votes, respectively. Silver was reelected on November 4 with 27,632 votes. His Republican challenger, Danniel Maio, received 7,387 votes.

Arrest on corruption charges

On January 22, 2015, Silver was arrested on federal corruption charges. The federal inquiry that led to his arrest focused on payments that Silver received for years from a small law firm that specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes. Investigators said Silver failed to properly disclose the payments from the firm, Goldberg & Iryami, on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state. Similar charges involved asbestos-related referral fees that he received from the law firm Weitz & Luxenberg. Silver faced immediate pressure to resign.[13][14] One of his longtime associates, Brian Meara, provided key information to investigators in exchange for a non-prosecution agreement.[15]

Criticism

An editorial in The Buffalo News, written in response to the failed 2000 coup against Silver's speakership, attributed him with having too much power:

The problem—which also exists in the State Senate—can be boiled down to a single overarching issue: The Assembly speaker has too much power. He controls everything, from the legislation that can be voted on to how his normally docile members vote on it. He decides what the Assembly will accept in a state budget. He negotiates secretly with the other two leaders to hammer out important, expensive and far-reaching laws. And he ignores the wishes of less-exalted lawmakers.[7]

Silver has long been criticized for his employment with Weitz & Luxenberg, one of the state's larger litigation firms. This has led some to accuse Silver of having a conflict of interest, as he has consistently blocked medical malpractice and other tort reform in Albany. Weitz & Luxenberg insists that Silver's ties with the firm are "negligible" but Silver has refused to disclose the details of his employment or the salary he receives from the law firm.[16]

In 2005, commentator Bill O'Reilly of the Fox News Channel lambasted Silver for blocking legislation that would mandate restrictions on child molesters after their sentences are finished (including possibly forcing them to become permanent residents in psychiatric wards).[17]

In May 2006, when legislators proposed a law to eliminate the state's 5-year statute of limitations on rape charges, Silver tied the legislation to a proposal to eliminate a 10-year statute on filing civil lawsuits. In the ensuing controversy, then gubernatorial candidate Elliot Spitzer sided against Silver saying "... the two should not be held hostage, one to the other."

A former top aide to Silver, J. Michael Boxley, has been accused of raping two women while he was working for the speaker. Silver was said to have assisted in failing to properly investigate the Crothers case and of tolerating a culture of sexual harassment in the Assembly. In 2006, Mr. Silver and the Assembly leadership agreed to pay $500,000 to settle a lawsuit regarding this matter.[18]

After the resignation of State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi in December 2006, Silver and Governor Eliot Spitzer attempted to compromise on the appointment of a new Comptroller. According to the New York State constitution, the full legislature (Assembly and Senate) jointly takes a majority vote for the replacement of certain statewide offices. However, Silver had enough Democrats in his conference to pass anything he wanted in a joint session without any Senate votes at all, giving him enormous power. The alleged deal was that a Blue Ribbon panel would formulate a list of up to five nominees. The panel, including three former state and city comptrollers, Edward V. Regan, H. Carl McCall, and Harrison J. Goldin, ultimately put forward three candidates, none of whom were members of the state legislature.[19] Silver, expressing disappointment in what he deemed a broken promise by Spitzer, organized the legislature to approve sitting Assemblyman Thomas DiNapoli as the new state comptroller.[20]

See also

References

  1. ^ Weitz and Luxenberg PC
  2. ^ Verhovek, Sam Howe (January 8, 1992), "Manhattan Assemblyman Wins Ways and Means Chairmanship", The New York Times 
  3. ^ Finder, Alan (December 9, 1993), "Giuliani Names Albany Adviser As Budget Chief", The New York Times 
  4. ^ "Capital Punishment, 1995–2005, editorial", The New York Daily News, April 13, 2005 
  5. ^ Hu, Winnie (December 17, 2005), "Pataki Wants Death Penalty for Killers of Police", The New York Times 
  6. ^ New York Fiscal Watch
  7. ^ a b "The Winner and Still King", The Buffalo News, May 25, 2000 
  8. ^ Paybarah, Azi. "Congestion Drip: Is Sheldon Silver the Man to Blame?". Observer. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Sheldon Silver – Mixed Martial Arts Blog". ESPN. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  10. ^ Kevin Iole (May 28, 2012). "MMA in New York? Not until assembly speaker Sheldon Silver's gone ...". Yahoo! Sports. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  11. ^ Bill McMorris (March 13, 2013). "New York AG backs ban on MMA". Washington Free Beacon. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  12. ^ "The Unions’ Battle Against Mixed Martial Arts (And New Yorkers)". Mediaite. March 28, 2013. Retrieved August 2, 2013. 
  13. ^ Rashbaum, William K.; Kaplan, Thomas (January 22, 2015). "Sheldon Silver, Assembly Speaker, Took Millions in Payoffs, U.S. Says". The New York Times. 
  14. ^ Calder, Rich; Campanile, Carl; Short, Aaron; Golding, Bruce (January 22, 2015). "Sheldon Silver arrested for taking $4M in bribes, kickbacks". NY Post. 
  15. ^ Campanile, Carl; Schram, Jamie; Golding, Bruce (January 23, 2015). "Close friend, top lobbyist helped feds take down Sheldon Silver". NY Post. 
  16. ^ Paybarah, Azi (May 19, 2006), "Spitzer Seeks Compromise On Rape Cases", New York Sun 
  17. ^ McGuire, Brian (July 20, 2005), "Silver Dismisses O'Reilly's Charge That He Is the 'Worst Politician in America'", New York Sun 
  18. ^ Hakim, Danny (July 14, 2008), "Two Accusers of an Ex-Aide Join an Effort to Oust Silver", The New York Times 
  19. ^ Confessore, Nicholas (January 26, 2007), "State Panel Selects 3 Likely Comptrollers", The New York Times 
  20. ^ Cooper, Michael (February 8, 2007), "Legislators Pick a Comptroller, Defying Spitzer", The New York Times 

External links

New York Assembly
Preceded by
Anthony DiFalco
New York State Assembly, 63rd District
1977–1982
Succeeded by
Steven Sanders
Preceded by
Paul Viggiano
New York State Assembly, 62nd District
1983–2002
Succeeded by
Robert Straniere
Preceded by
Richard Gottfried
New York State Assembly, 64th District
2003–2012
Succeeded by
Nicole Malliotakis
Preceded by
Micah Kellner
New York State Assembly, 65th District
2013–present
Incumbent
Political offices
Preceded by
Saul Weprin
Speaker of the New York State Assembly
1994 -
Succeeded by
Incumbent
Lines of succession
Preceded by
Dean Skelos
Temporary President of the State Senate
Governor of New York
3rd in line

Speaker of the New York State Assembly
Succeeded by
Incumbent