New York Political Leaders Sleazy Pork Standards

From the December 6, 2006 New York Post— For an observant Jew, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver sure likes his pork.      Political pork, that is.     Silver, who has absolute control of an $85-million legislative slush fund meant to buy favor with the folks back home, spent an astonishing $7 million on himself this year alone.      Or, rather, on individuals or groups in his Lower East Side district – in effect purchasing political loyalty come Election Day.     The technical term for such thinly veiled graft is member item.      Silver controls the list (as does Majority Leader Joseph Bruno in the state Senate), and the result is absolute member loyalty to the speaker.      That said, Silver snatches much of the cash for himself – to bestow on his own personal friends.     Corrupt?      In spades.     But it’s perfectly legal – the Legislature writes the laws, after all.      Until now, though, no one knew just exactly how corrupt it is – that is, how much taxpayer dough Silver’s been glomming.      Because the speaker kept it a secret. (Just as state Bruno has with his $85 million pot of pork.)      But recently an upstate newspaper got a judge to force Silver and Bruno to tell the public (i.e., the people whose money they’re spending) who was showering what on whom.      Guess what?     Turns out Silver treats himself best of all.      No surprise there: To the leader goes the spoils.     Still, $7 million-plus is a stunning amount or money – even given Albany’s notoriously corrupt ways.      Stunning even by Silver’s sleazy standards – and that’s saying something.      Silver has long sought to out-do Boss Tweed for twisting the rules to enrich and empower himself and his friends at the public’s expense:      * He consistently blocks tort reform, while collecting a huge fee (believed to be well more than $1 million a year, though Silver keeps that a secret, too) from a top New York tort-law firm.  Read related post.

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