Posted by on January 24, 2015

During a late evening conference Tuesday, the Assembly Majority brushed aside the glare of a federal investigation and sex abuse cover-ups to re-elect Sheldon Silver Speaker of the Assembly.

Assemblyman Gary D. Finch (R,C,I-Springport) said he is disappointed, but not surprised.

“The Speaker is relentless. He maintains power through intimidation. Just look at what happened to Michael Bragman,” said Finch, in reference to Bragman’s failed 2000 coup to unseat the Speaker, which resulted in the prominent Majority Leader being stripped of his title, leadership stipend, office space and nearly his entire staff budget.

Last night, Majority members voted to bolster Silver’s power despite a New York Times report that Silver has been receiving “substantial” cash payments from Goldberg & Iryami, a Manhattan law firm that seeks real estate tax deductions for commercial and residential properties. The Speaker failed to report this income on his financial disclosure form.

The firm has been highly successful in the Speaker’s district, and has benefited from legislation he has shepherded through the chamber and donated to his campaign.

Additionally, the Speaker has covered up rape and sexual abuse allegations against members of his Assembly Majority Conference by paying off female staffers with taxpayer dollars. This fall, Silver came under fire for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to defend him against a suit brought by two accusers who alleged that he told them to keep quiet.

Finch believes public policy can prevail where parliamentary procedure has not.

“Yet again, this proves how badly we need stringent public ethics laws,” said Finch. “It is so important that we hold ourselves to a much higher standard.”

This fall, Finch focused his re-election effort on ethics reform. He cosponsors the Public Officer’s Accountability Act, the nation’s most exacting ethics package. It calls for fundraising transparency, tough criminal sentencing for corrupt politicians, and creates a new crime against the public trust. The bill would also strip pensions from corrupt lawmakers.

“As public officials, one of our most important responsibilities is setting a sterling example for young people in our communities. We need to edify public service,” said Finch.

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