New York politics
A prosecutor takes on New York state's culture of corruption
“ CORRUPTION'S such an old song that we can sing along in harmony/ And nowhere is it stronger than inAlbany.”These lines from“Hamilton”, a musical about Alexander Hamilton now playing inNew York, got an especially loud laugh on January 22nd. That morning Sheldon Silver, the long-serving and powerful Speaker of theNew Yorkstate Assembly, was arrested by the FBI and indicted in a federal court on five corruption charges. Each charge could carry a sentence of20 years.
“腐败是一首如此古老的歌曲，以至于我们可以独自娓娓唱来，并且这里的腐败之风比奥尔巴尼更强。”这些句子来自于“汉密尔顿”，一个有关亚历山大·汉密尔顿的音乐剧1 月22日就在在纽约上演，并反响强烈。那天早晨，长期就职于议会并且拥有强大发言权的纽约州众议院议长谢尔顿·西尔弗，被美国联邦调查局逮捕，并在联邦法庭上被指控五项腐败事实，每项罪名均面临最高20 年刑期。
According to the complaint, Mr Silver, a Democrat who has served in the Assembly for 38 years and has been Speaker for 21, received more than $6mfrom two law firms. This included $700,000 in“bribes and kickbacks” for inducing “real-estate developers with business before the state” to use a particular property-law firm; $5.3mfrom Weitz and Luxenberg, a law firm that handles personal-injury cases.
根据投诉，在议会任职了38 年并且担任发言人21 年的民主党人西尔弗先生，从两个律师事务所收受了超过600 万美元的资金。这其中包括，通过给一个律师事务所介绍房地产商而获得的70 万美元回扣。以及从一家处理人身伤害案件的法律公司韦茨卢森博格那里获得的530万美金。
Among other things, he allegedly directed state grants to a doctor who then referred clients to an unsuspecting Weitz for asbestos lawsuits. Preet Bharara, the prosecutor, said that Mr Silver had amassed “a tremendous personal fortune—through the abuse of his political power”. He denies it all. The law firms are not accused of wrongdoing.
In 2011 Citizens Union, a watchdog, reported that legislators in Albanywere more likely to leave office under a cloud than in a coffin. Since 2000, 28 have left in disgrace and four have been indicted. The New York Post reported that Mr Silver regularly sent a $100 cheque to the campaign fund of a former district attorney. The story goes that if the cheque was cashed, Mr Silver would joke that he knew he was not in any trouble.
在2011 年，监督者公民联盟，报道说奥尔巴尼的议员活在强权政治的阴影下而不是走向垮台。自2000 以来，28 位立法者已经引咎辞职并且有四位已经被起诉。纽约邮报报道，西尔弗定期会向前检察官的竞选基金发送一张100 美元的支票。故事是这样的，如果支票兑现，他会开玩笑说他知道他不会有任何的麻烦。
That cavalier attitude was hardly surprising, given the power he had. Most legislators were firmly under his thumb. He could advance or kill legislation with a nod. Sensible ideas like congestion pricing did not even make it to the Assembly floor. Power inAlbanyis entrenched in the hands of the governor, the Senate majority leader (usually a Republican) and the Assembly Speaker (usually a Democrat). These “three men in a room” often give their underlings just a few hours to review bills the size of encyclopedias; lawmakers then vote as they are told, for fear of being denied money for their districts.
The once-obedient rank-and-file of the Assembly at first appeared to stand by their leader, but then abandoned him. On January 27th they announced that a new Speaker would be appointed in February. The Assembly is now in chaos, while lawmakers elbow each other aside for his job.Meanwhile, important budget negotiations simply have to wait.
The affair has caused some to call for term limits for lawmakers. Such calls have been heard before, but most changes have been token. During his campaign for governor ofNew Yorkin 2010,Andrew Cuomo vowed to clean upAlbany. But his anti-corruption law and an ethics task-force did not go far enough. Later Mr Cuomo went one better, setting up the Moreland Commission to root out public corruption. But he disbanded it last March with, curiously enough, Mr Silver's enthusiastic backing.