Posts Tagged ‘Albany’

New York Political Leaders Sleazy Pork Standards

April 7, 2008

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.

New York State Pork Project

April 6, 2008

New York Govenor David Paterson laments what he terms lawmakers’ unwillingness to rein in spending on pet projects By JAMES M. ODATO and RICK KARLIN, Albany Times Union Capitol bureau.  First published: Saturday, April 5, 2008      A frustrated Gov. David Paterson blasted the Legislature Friday for ignoring the state’s economic slide even as he agreed to spend at least $45 million on lawmakers’ pet projects this year.     As lawmakers began passing a pork-laden economic development budget of more than $13.5 billion, Paterson told reporters that no matter how he tries to keep spending in check, legislators push for more.     “I don’t like this process very much,” said Paterson. “What I found in the last week was that the process is actually very ordinary, very much like Albany has been in the past.”     Despite the extraordinary circumstances this year, with an ailing economy and Paterson taking office March 17 after Eliot Spitzer’s resignation, lawmakers are acting as if there’s nothing different, the governor complained, adding he’d pushed for an on-time budget in hopes of sending a message to the public.     With the $124 billion budget being passed slowly and in pieces, Paterson said he wants to keep lawmakers here over the weekend to finish a budget deal. Assembly and Senate members are expected to remain in Albany or be on call.     Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said a quick resolution may not be at hand.     “If we don’t reconcile what we are discussing, we’re going to be here for awhile, and I’m afraid it’s going to be a long while,” Bruno said, suggesting that tax and borrowing issues remain unresolved.     Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan, maintained that the Legislature took the unusual step of not adding new funds this year for member items because of the tight times.     Instead, the budget will allow new member item spending by “sweeping” unused dollars from the member item accounts of past years, he said. That will result in $45 million in new expenditures using previously appropriated funds.     Assemblyman James Hayes, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, noted that the budget also includes a commitment of $40 million in new member item money for the next fiscal year.     “The revenue budget that’s coming I’m almost certain will be a crushing blow to people in this state when we go to pay for this budget,” Hayes said.     Typically, the Assembly and Senate add $170 million for member items each fiscal year and split the money 50/50. The Assembly uses a chunk of its funds for programs while the Senate tends to use most of its money for groups in members’ districts.     Both chambers have used the funds in some questionable ways in the past.  Read more.