Skelos and Son Convicted On All Corruption Counts

Ex-State Senate leader Skelos and his son found guilty at corruption trial

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Former state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted on all counts Friday for shaking down more than $300,000 in payoffs by trading on the father’s political influence. The senior Skelos automatically lost his Senate seat upon his conviction on Friday.

US Attorney Preet Bharara noted that the swift convictions of Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos beg an important question: “How many prosecutions will it take before Albany gives the people of New York the honest government they deserve? It’s a question many editorial boards and good government advocates are asking Governor Andrew Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan, IDC leader Sen. Jeff Klein and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Former Senator Skelos is thirty-third state lawmaker forced from office because of ethical misconduct or corruption since 2000 with half of them – 16 – taking place in the past five years alone.

In a news release, Governor Andrew Cuomo seemed to respond directly to US Attorney Bharara stating, “The convictions of former Speaker Silver and former Majority Leader Skelos should be a wakeup call for the Legislature and it must stop standing in the way of needed reforms.” Cuomo pledged  that more reforms will be pursued as part of his legislative agenda.

After noting his sadness at Friday’s verdict, Senator Flanagan said that he takes corruption very seriously and is determined to work with his fellow legislators to swiftly and completely
restore the public trust.

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie simply reissued the statement he made after Silver’s conviction: “We will continue to work to root out corruption and demand more of elected officials when it comes to ethical conduct.”

Neither Flanagan nor Heastie believe that any new anti-corruption measures or legislative changes are needed in the wake of the unprecedented and near-simultaneous convictions of legislative leaders. Flanagan’s deputy Senator John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) told an upstate newspaper that further changes were unnecessary because Silver and Skelos were convicted of breaking laws that already exist.

Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) leader Senator Jeff Klein said his conference has repeatedly put forth a comprehensive package of ethics reforms. “We expect the conviction of Dean Skelos will serve as a catalyst for change.”

In a departure from the other leaders, Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, noting that a second jury has convicted a second legislative leader, stated “Albany is out of second chances.”

“Every investigation, arrest and conviction of a public official has sounded an alarm on corruption. But Albany has responded to corruption alarms by hitting the snooze button each time. This year we must have a comprehensive and meaningful response to the issues that have eroded the public’s trust,” said Kolb.

Dick Dadey, executive director of Citizens Union, sent an email calling on New Yorkers to end the “ceaseless parade of Albany corruption”.  Echoing Kolb, Dadey wrote that change requires that everyone in Albany should be held accountable.

Calling the twin convictions, “New York’s Watergate moment,” Dadey pledged that “nothing will stop us from pushing for the kind of wholesale change that is needed to not just change Albany, but to transform it.”

To that end, Citizens Union is organizing an anti-corruption rally for meaningful ethics reform on Tuesday, Dec. 15 at 12:30 pm outside of Governor Cuomo’s Manhattan office at 633  3rd Avenue.

Perhaps, the moment for transformative change has arrived. Stay tuned.

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