Gov. Spitzer takes a back seat to NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, when it comes to brazenly corrupt politics!
Since 2002, NYS Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been "of counsel" to the biggest ambulance-chasers in NYS: a firm called Weitz & Luxenberg. This firm is at the forefront of contributing to the NYS Democrats, who are blocking much-needed "tort reform." As if to "spit in the face" of reformers, Silver appointed his boss to a state position, as reported in the NY Post (link):
Silver and Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith (D) last month tapped Arthur Luxenberg as their appointment to the 13-member committee that recommends to the governor candidates for the Appellate Division, Court of Claims and State Supreme Court in the city's district.
One lawyer with knowledge of the appointment noted that Luxenberg, whose firm's Web site boasts of "more million-dollar verdicts than most firms in the country," will now have a say in selecting appellate-court judges who will decide whether to uphold or lower such awards.
"Tort reform" is code for the problems in many areas of public policy, especially health care and education. The choice of Mr. Luxenberg is an obvious conflict of interest between the state, and lawyers who routinely sue the state. Speaker Silver should be noted for his ties to the health care and teachers unions, as well. The Post article continues about Siver's past conflicts of interest:
In 2006, The Post reported that Weitz & Luxenberg was shopping for clients who were injured at state-run parks, even though Silver, as Assembly speaker, has a role in overseeing the management of the parks as well as setting budgets for them.
The firm removed the solicitation from its Web site soon after.
See Speaker Silver's pathetic rebuttal (link):
Asked if his firm would gain from the appointment, Silver responded: "Absolutely not. The reverse is true. It takes his time to do the functions properly, and I wanted someone who I had confidence would do the necessary background work when they do the screenings."
I'm in agreement with the NY Post editorial take on Silver, excerpted here (link):
March 1, 2008 -- Albany's King of Torts is at it again.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has long had a sweetheart part-time gig - exact duties, salary and clients (if any) undisclosed - with one of New York's largest trial-law firms, Weitz & Luxenberg.
Maybe Weitz doesn't exactly chase ambulances these days - but it sure follows them down the street pretty closely.
And now, at a time when tort-law abuse is putting appalling financial pressure on commerce and government alike in New York, along comes Silver to make matters worse.
Actually, you might think it couldn't possibly get any worse than having Silver use his role as top dog in the Assembly to deep-six any legislation carrying even a marginal possibility of reining in New York's voracious tort bar.
But you'd be wrong.
As The Post's Ken Lovett revealed yesterday, Silver - with the acquiescence of Senate Minority Leader Malcolm Smith - picked a founder of his law firm, Arthur Luxenberg, to serve on a 13-member judicial-screening commission.
The panel recommends judicial candidates for three venues - the Appellate Division, Court of Claims and State Supreme Court.
Silver, no surprise, sees no problem.
"There is no conflict at all. I have designated one to a 13-member board, all of whom should be familiar with the judicial system in this state," he told The Post.
With a straight face.
He added: "We want people who know how judges are supposed to conduct themselves, how judges are qualified and I have found a very qualified attorney to do yeoman's work on behalf of the state, without compensation, I might add. This is totally voluntary."
Given that the firm boasts that it reaps "more million-dollar verdicts than most firms in the country," Luxenberg will hardly starve while "volunteering."
Yes, there's a conflict: Luxenberg can now help select the appellate-court judges who'll review those million-dollar verdicts.
Silver has picked a man who can help appoint judges who may help Weitz & Luxenberg's - and, indirectly - Shelly Silver's bottom line.
Silver and Luxenberg get to influence the system to an even greater degree than they have to date via Silver's strangling tort reform all by himself.
What's worse: The conflict? Or Silver's refusal to admit it?
Or, perhaps most egregious, the possibility that Silver's conflicts of interest have become so ingrained that he truly doesn't even see them?
In the end, it doesn't make any difference. Silver's arrogance is exceeded only by his contempt for the rule of law.
And, of course, by the tort bar's appalling greed.
Assembly Speaker Silver is working with Gov. Spitzer to take the NYS Senate majority away from the Republicans. In fact, they just won a special senate election in a county on the Canadian border, cutting the GOP Senate majority to one. As bad as the NYS GOP is, things will be much worse if a Democrat Senate Majority Leader comes into office indebted to Silver and Spitzer.
NYS is already a cesspool of political corruption. I fully expect the NYS Dems to consolidate their hold on the reins of power in this fall's elections. The GOP has no leader who can oppose the institutional corruption in the state; Sen. Majority Leader Joe Bruno never was that guy, and his resovoir of sympathy over the Spitzer "spygate" scandal is running dry.
I don't see any light at the end of this tunnel. Let's hope I'm wrong.