“The greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the Speaker,” said Bharara, making yet another appearance to talk about a new case involving an elected state official.
In a press conference, Bharara laid out the case against Silver and said it emerged in part from materials collected by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Moreland Commission panel on public corruption. That panel was shuttered in April 2014 midway through its planned lifespan after a budget negotiation between Cuomo and the legislative leaders included a modest package of ethics fixes.
“For many years, New Yorkers have asked the question, ‘How could Speaker Silver — one of the most powerful men in all of New York — earn millions of dollars in outside income without deeply compromising his ability to honestly serve his constituents?’ Today we provide the answer: He didn’t,” Bharara said.
” … For many years, New Yorkers have also asked the question, ‘What exactly does Speaker Silver do to earns his substantial outside income?’ Well, the head-scratching can come to an end on that score too, because the answer to that question today as well (is) he does nothing.”
Instead, Bharara said, Silver “simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his public office and his political influence.”
Silver’s attorneys released a brief statement: “We’re disappointed that the prosecutors have chosen to proceed with these meritless criminal charges. That said, Mr. Silver looks forward to responding to them — in court — and ultimately his full exoneration,” said the release from Joel Cohen and Steven Molo.
In the news conference, Bharara said his office wasn’t the only investigative entity to have probed Silver’s outside work, and noted the Moreland panel’s work on the subject.
“But a deal was cut that cut off the commission’s work,” Bharara said. “To the great relief of Sheldon Silver, who furiously fought its subpoenas and urged the commission’s early shutdown, Moreland was made to close its doors after only nine months, its work barely begun, and while litigation over those subpoenas about Sheldon Silver’s outside income was still pending before a state judge.”
“The show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Bharara said.
A spokesman for Cuomo had no immediate comment.
“Today, in order to prevent Silver from accessing his alleged ill-gotten gains, we also announce that the court has issued warrants allowing us to seize approximately $3.8 million in alleged fraud proceeds that Silver had dispersed among eight different bank accounts at six different banks,” Bharara said.
In a line that might send a chill through certain corners of the Capitol, Bharara noted that his corruption work was ongoing.
“We will keep at it, because the men and woman of the FBI and of my office still subscribe to the quaint view that no one is above the law, no matter who you are, or who know, or how much money you have,” he said. “And so our unfinished fight against public corruption continues. You should stay tuned.”