Corruption charges a distraction and a disappointment

State speaker Sheldon Silver should step down Ð not back Ð immediately


Even as the threat of prison looms over Sheldon Silver, the speaker of the New York State Assembly refuses to step down.

It’s fair to point out Silver is innocent until proven guilty, but that argument doesn’t justify the politician clinging to political power even as his claims of innocence slowly slip from his tenuous grasp.

After the FBI arrested Silver last Thursday, he waited until Sunday to even temporarily step back (he refused to fully “step down”). He maintained his position even as he went to court to be charged with corruption, including counts of conspiracy and bribery for three days.

Silver faces up to 100 years in prison for his alleged crimes.

The criminal complaint in his case details that the speaker abused his power and collected approximately $4 million in political payoffs over the last decade.

Silver claimed the money as income from his employment as a lawyer outside of his government position. But prosecutors argue that his job was merely a disguise, generated to justify the money he made through bribes and kickbacks.

Despite damning amounts of evidence, Silver maintains his innocence, as is his right. But Silver clinging to his position in government is not his right. In fact, it’s nothing short of embarrassing for a government already plagued by corruption.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has repeatedly pledged to clean up Albany, remains under scrutiny for disbanding an ethics commission and reportedly interfering with the panel’s work on multiple occasions.

Recent reports from The New York Times allege multiple politicians were taking advantages of loopholes in state laws in order to benefit financially.

The state government reeks of corruption and greed – with his arrest, Silver fits right in. That’s precisely why he should step down. Even now, before his fate is determined in a courtroom, his presence is a poison in Albany.

The media circus and public reaction to Silver’s situation is a problematic distraction to a government that needs to be able to function smoothly. Considering that Silver was allegedly able to get away with illegal activity for years, there is a great deal of work to be done.

Silver’s fellow Democrats need to revise their reactions to the speaker’s arrest.

Party members initially offered their support to their beleaguered leader, despite the mountains of evidence against him. Now, with a temporary speaker in place, many Democrats continue to speak out on Silver’s behalf, expressing confidence that the politician will be vindicated.

Meanwhile, other party members express unease – understandably – with the current arrangement that allows Silver to maintain his position.

Democrats – and the state government as a whole – should present a united front. On that demonstrates not just their discomfort with the temporary shuffling of government positions, but also their disgust with the pervasive presence of corruption and amorality that continues to loom over Albany.

The first step in accomplishing this: insisting that Silver is no longer fit to lead. This should have been expressed from the very start, and it should have come from Silver himself.