The Economics of Sheldon Silver

Anthony Rivieccio & Sheldon Silver, in Albany, 2014

Anthony Rivieccio & Sheldon Silver, in Albany, 2014

Let me first start off by mentioning that I, of course, know the speaker. Being a founder of a local political organization, called “Northwest Bronx Democrats”, allows me, at least, once a year, to sit with , what many call, “3 Men in a room”. The last time I saw Mr Silver was in April of 2014, discussing support for Mosholu Parkway and the extension of 200 trees.

I will not discuss the “ethics” of this situation (expect for some basic facts). More importantly, for this article, I will be discussing “the economics’ of this situation.

Lets start off by acknowledging some truths. The first: Sheldon Silver was the Speaker in 1994. So, did he just gain power? No. Since the early 80’s, 30 years of power, has Mr Silver correlated to yield his mighty throne.

Remember Joe Bruno? He was former Majority Leader of The State Senate. He was recently indiated for corruption. So, I guess that makes it offical: For over 30 years, 4 decades, New York City & State, since the crazy 1970’s (now 40 years, 5 decades) has been put up for sale. Out of the “3 Men in a room, we now know 2 of them are corrupt.

Did you know that an Assembly Legislative Job is a Part Time Job? Yes, Really. So, creating law for one of the largest States’ in The Union is a Part Time Job (maybe this is the first problem).

Because it is a part time job (yes, really), the law justifies legislators having ‘outside income.” A Recent NYPIRG & Common Casue study, published by The New York Daily News suggests that the average legislature is making over $210,000 a year , in total, while their salary is $80,000. Sheldon Silver himself, reported $810,000 in Total Salary, in 2012.

In the study:

Westchester Assemblywoman Amy Paulin, a Democrat, had the highest individual household income among lawmakers, taking in between $2.2 million and $2.6 million during the year, according to the study. Much of Paulin’s household income came from real estate investments controlled by her husband.
Sen. John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), who was charged with embezzling money from real estate escrow accounts, had the fifth-highest household income among lawmakers, taking in between $709,636 and $964,636.

Who came out on top? Bronx Legislators? No.

Lawmakers in the Mid-Hudson region, which includes pricey Westchester County, were best off with household incomes that averaged between $276,029 and $290,092, the study found. The poorest lawmakers were in Staten Island.

Since 1999, over 20 legislators have been charged with criminal conduct.

Over 100 years ago, when legislators only had to go to The State Capital a few times a year, the job made sense as part-time, thus, allowing other or outside income. But when is “Outside Income” a measure of “Conflict of Interest”? Is there a percentage? If not, should there be?

Well, let’s use Mr Silver as an example:

First, because we are being economists, lets not forget taxees, inflation, present & future value of time . Lets also use some known facts. He is charged with making $4 Million Dollars in 20 years. That is $200,000 a year. The median for 20 years is 12. The median for $200,000 is $120,000 in 12 years. If A legislator’s income is $80,000 today then 12 years ago, it was $54,000.

So, Sheldon Silver, during his 20 years of tenure, on median avg, made $174,000 a year, $54,000 or 31% of his income on salary, $120,000 or 69%, on outside income.
The revelations about lawmakers’ wealth are available , only for the first time recently, thanks to new ethics disclosures from Gov Andrew Cuomo that required all elected officials to report details regarding their outside incomes. The lawmakers disclosed income ranges, sadly, though they do not give specific details.

So, is 69% of outside income, a “Conflict of Interest” when one is a legislator?

In my view, yes. Clearly.

There is a law currently in the state senate, bottled up since last year, in committee, drafted by Senator Ruben Diaz Sr.


TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the legislative law, in relation to prohibiting outside work by a legislator during the term of office

PURPOSE OR GENERAL IDEA OF BILL: Prohibits a member of the legislature from engaging in any outside paid activity during his or her term of office.

SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1 Amends the Legislative Law by adding a new section 2-a. Prohibits members from engaging in outside activity for renumeration while in office.

So, is this one way we can clean it up? Is there a model for clean government? Ever met your Congress person and wonder why some of them smell like perfect ethical roses?

It is because members of Congress are prohibited from earning outside income above 15 percent of their yearly Congressional salaries, and from serving as officers or board members for compensation. In addition, members are not permitted to be affiliated with professional services firms (such as law or consulting practices).

Now, do The Assembly Democrats want to take this opportunity to finally get rid of corruption in New York State?


Anthony Rivieccio is a 5 decade Bronx resident & 3 decade Bronx Small Business Owner. He was the President of: Bronxites for Parks, The 204th St/Bainbridge Ave Merchants Association & The Committee of 100 Democrats. He is a current member of The Bedford Mosholu Community Association, Friends of Mosholu Parkland, Friends of Williamsbridge Oval, a former member of Community Board 7 and founder of Northwest Bronx Democrats

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