Serpentine Shell, Serpentine!

Since 1994, Sheldon Silver has been the Speaker of the New York State Assembly. From the Wikipedia entry on him:

Of eastern European descent, Silver has lived all his life on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. He lives with his wife Rosa a few blocks from their children and her parents.

He graduated from the Rabbi Jacob Joseph High School on Manhattan’s Henry Street. He was athletic and captain of the basketball team. He spent his undergraduate years at Yeshiva University and obtained a law degree from Brooklyn Law School. By the time he became Speaker of the Assembly, he was known to play basketball with other high-ranking officials, including former Governor Mario Cuomo and Alan G. Hevesi the former New York State Comptroller. In addition to his duties in the Assembly he is an Of Counsel member in the Manhattan personal injury law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg.

And today, Shelly has been arrested and faces federal corruption charges claiming he illegally used his political power to the tune of millions of dollars. From the NYT:

The criminal complaint outlining the charges accuses Mr. Silver of “using the power and influence of his official position to obtain for himself millions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income.”…

The complaint maintains that for more than a decade, Mr. Silver devised a scheme “to induce real estate developers with business before the state” to use a real estate law firm controlled by a lawyer who had once worked as Mr. Silver’s counsel. That lawyer, according to the complaint, orchestrated payments to the speaker for referrals to the firm.

The complaint, referring to the personal injury firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, also said that “there is probable cause to believe that Silver received approximately $4 million in payments characterized as attorney referral fees solely through the corrupt use of his official position.”…

The inquiry by Mr. Bharara’s office and the F.B.I. focused in part on payments that Mr. Silver received from the real estate law firm, which is not identified in the complaint but which a person briefed on the matter said was Goldberg & Iryami, which specializes in seeking reductions of New York City real estate taxes…

Goldberg & Iryami operates out of a small office at 42 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, a faded building that also houses a number of city offices. In recent years, Mr. Goldberg and his firm have represented hundreds of properties across New York City, from storefronts on Staten Island to office buildings in Midtown Manhattan, according to court filings and records from the city’s Tax Commission. He has also represented large cooperative developments on the Lower East Side, the neighborhood that makes up the heart of Mr. Silver’s political base.

The Jewish Daily Forward’s headline reads: “Sheldon Silver’s Fall Signals End of a (Jewish) Era in New York Politics”. I thought it was anti-Semitic to even point this out… Oh, right, if it’s written about by a fellow Jew, it’s kosher. From the JDF piece:

New York State’s most powerful Jewish powerbroker has fallen…

Silver was a member of a tight-knit coterie of Jewish political operators who came up together in the co-op developments on Grand Street. Many had working class roots, belonged to the Bialystoker Synagogue on Willett Street, and developed power together through the same few Jewish institutions.

Now, that Lower East Side crew is falling to pieces. William Rapfogel, Silver’s close ally, is in state prison after pleading guilty to embezzling millions as executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty. Silver was a key benefactor of the Met Council, and William Rapfogel’s wife Judy is Silver’s chief of staff. Heshy Jacob, the traditional third member of Rapfogel and Silver’s Lower East Side power troika, was traveling in Israel and said he was unaware of Silver’s arrest when reached via telephone.

There’s currently one comment to the JDF piece. Commenter “michaelnmarcus” writes simply:

Too bad his name isn’t James Smith.

Isn’t that nice.

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