Tag Archives: Silver

Truman Club under fire for violating campaign finance laws

Last week the NY Post ran a story about the Truman Democratic Club violating campaign finance laws for years:

The Lower East Side political club that for years served as the home base for disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has failed to publicly disclose its finances, as required by law, for nearly two decades, an activist charges.

Full disclosure: that “activist” is me. First I noticed that neither the Truman Club nor its two candidates for Democratic District Leader, Karen Blatt and Jacob Goldman, had registered campaign committees with the state board of elections. Then, by searching for payments other campaigns have made to the Truman Club over the years, I found close to $100,000 in contributions to Truman that the club has never disclosed. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, because most donors — individuals and corporations — are not required to report their own contributions.

All of this information comes straight from the board of elections database of contributions, which is searchable online.

In contrast, Caroline Laskow and Lee Berman, who are challenging Blatt and Goldman, registered their campaign committee earlier this year and filed their first disclosure report on time.

The Post article appeared last Sunday; on Monday, Blatt registered “Committee to Re-elect Blatt”. This is the second time she’s running for office, but only the first time she’s registered with the state. Her first financial disclosure is due in one week.

Silver’s “enforcer and gatekeeper” still working Grand Street

Meanwhile, NY1 ran a report on Sheldon Silver’s appeal to the Supreme Court, making a sideline to report on Silver’s continued influence on Grand Street in the form of his “enforcer and gatekeeper” and former chief of staff, Judy Rapfogel, who is actively campaigning for the Truman Club’s District Leader candidates, Blatt and Goldman.

Blatt, in a statement to NY1, welcomed Rapfogel’s involvement, calling her “an asset that any campaign would want to have on their side.”

Blatt appointed by Silver to patronage job

Finally, a newspaper in Albany revealed what Blatt herself has not: her current job. Blatt’s online bio does not disclose her current occupation; neither does a color flyer distributed to voters in Seward. Turns out she is co-executive director of a state agency called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment (LATFOR). LATFOR is essentially responsible for redistricting in New York State, though that authority was shifted to an independent commission following a constitutional amendment passed by voter referendum in 2014.

Critics contend that the agency is now toothless and just “a place for patronage”. The report notes, “LATFOR had faced criticism for drawing district lines that favor the candidates of majority Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans.” Blatt’s position was made on appointment by Assembly Democrats, who at that time were still controlled by Sheldon Silver.

Sheldon Silver will try for Supreme acquittal

More interesting twists in the case of disgraced former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver:

Instead of waiting for federal prosecutors to retry his corruption case with revised jury instructions, his lawyers are attempting to get a hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court for an outright acquittal.

Silver’s original convictions were thrown out last month because of a subsequent Supreme Court decision that overturned the corruption conviction of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. Silver is hoping to get the same friendly reception by the D.C. Nine.

U.S. Attorney Joon Kim wants to prosecute Silver again, but now has to wait for the Supreme Court to decide whether to hear the case.

Silver’s appeal successful, will get new trial on corruption charges

Sheldon Silver
Former Assemblyman Sheldon Silver’s 2015 conviction on seven counts of fraud, extortion, and money laundering was overturned today by the Court of Appeals based on a new definition of “official acts” as set by the Supreme Court in 2016.

The appellate court ruled that instructions to jurors were too broad when compared to the new guidelines devised by the Supreme Court.

Acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim issued a statement that Silver should expect a new trial and expressed confidence that even with narrower jury instructions Silver would be convicted again. At the same time, Silver’s lawyers said “We’re absolutely delighted with the result, and look forward in the future to a full Silver vindication.”

Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney who pursued Silver’s conviction, said on Twitter, “The evidence was strong. The Supreme Court changed the law. I expect Sheldon Silver to be retried and re-convicted.”

Silver looking for Get Out of Jail Free card

Former assemblyman Sheldon Silver was convicted of fraud, bribery, and extortion in 2015. But his lawyers argued yesterday before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that a Supreme Court decision in 2016 changed the parameters of his prosecution and that his conviction should be overturned.

Prosecutors in 2015 argued that a variety of actions by Silver were “official acts” influenced by personal dealings, intermingling state grant disbursements and rent control legislation with things like finding a job for the son of a doctor who pushed business to Silver’s law firm. And jury instructions in that trial similarly did not make any distinction between those activities.

But a 2016 decision by the Supreme Court acquitted Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell by narrowing the definition of “official acts” to include only acts performed as an official, like passing legislation, not things like setting up meetings between individuals.

Silver did both. But because the instructions to the jury were broader than the subsequent Supreme Court decision allow, there’s no way to know how the jury reached its decision.

As I understand it, the Second Circuit could let the conviction stand, overturn it, or allow for a new trial under the more stringent definition of “official acts”.

Silver was sentenced last year to 12 years in prison, but he has remained at home in Hillman pending appeal.

Read reporting from yesterday’s hearing in the New York Times and Daily News.

Silver’s appeal set for this week

Disgraced former assemblyman Sheldon Silver has been home on Grand Street even after his 2015 federal conviction on corruption charges, pending appeal. Well, that appeal is finally set for this Thursday in front of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

At issue is whether Silver’s help getting state funding for cancer specialist Dr. Robert N. Taub in exchange for litigation cases for Silver’s law firm (and referral fees for Silver) constituted “official acts” according to a narrow definition of that term adopted by the Supreme Court last year (McDonnell v. United States).

By the way, the Lo-Down helpfully pointed out that Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goldstein, who took the lead in prosecuting Silver in 2015, is still in charge of the case even after Preet Bharara’s dismissal last week as U.S. Attorney.

Silver’s $79,222 state pension is safe

Pension forfeiture will be on the ballot in November in the form of a proposed amendment to the state constitution. Two successive sessions in Albany have now passed a resolution subjecting the pension benefits of convicted legislators and state officers to court-reviewed reduction, meaning that voters now have the chance to directly approve the measure.

But there’s a loophole for our neighbor Sheldon Silver, convicted in 2015 on federal corruption charges: the new rules would apply only to crimes committed on or after January 1, 2018.

Sheldon Silver currently lives at home, awaiting appeal, collecting a state pension of $79,222. Even if this constitutional amendment is approved, and even if Silver starts to serve out his 12-year prison sentence, New York taxpayers will continue to pay.

Special election update

There are two Democrats on the ballot for state assembly on April 19 — though one of them is on the Working Families line — so there’s been some intrigue around endorsements.

Niou nabs local Albany reps

At our candidates forum last week, Working Families Party candidate Yuh-Line Niou announced endorsements from prominent establishment Democrats in the Bronx and Queens, seemingly highlighting her opponent’s criticism that she’s parachuting in from outer boroughs with no LES street cred of her own. Since then, Niou has picked up more local endorsements, from our State Senator Daniel Squadron and neighboring Assemblyman Brian Kavanagh.

Cancel gains (temporary) endorsement from Chin

Despite being the official Democratic candidate, Alice Cancel has had a hard time picking up endorsements from Democratic elected officials. (Even her current boss, Comptroller Scott Stringer, has endorsed Niou, which Cancel called a “back-room deal.”) But this week councilwoman Rosie Mendez, a Cancel backer from the start, persuaded her colleague Margaret Chin to join her in endorsing Cancel. But there’s a catch: Chin supports community board 3 chair Gigi Li, who is already running for this seat for the September primary. So Chin’s endorsement lasts only until April 19; after that, even if Cancel wins, Chin says she’ll support Li.

New York Times endorses Niou

The New York Times has been editorializing against Sheldon Silver for years, even endorsing his primary opponent Paul Newell in 2008. So it was no surprise that the paper this weekend backed Niou given that Cancel’s nomination has been credited (somewhat) to the support of Silver’s wife and chief of staff and other members of the Grand Street establishment. The Times called Cancel “a Silver apologist” and called for voters to reject “manipulators, hacks and cronies” and “disciples of the status quo who promise to reform the state government but never do.”

NYT highlights Silver-Rapfogel influence on special election

Yesterday’s New York Times looks at the special elections in Manhattan and Long Island to replace convicted felons Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos and finds a key difference: no potential Skelos successor is willing to stick up for him, while the Democratic candidate to replace Silver has called him a “hero” and dismisses his conviction on federal corruption charges as something “in his private life.”

It’s a sign that Silver’s reputation as a defender of the community — in particular, a reliable supplier of state funds to local charities and public projects — may withstand the revelations that he was eager to leverage his office for personal profit.

Alice Cancel
Alice Cancel
In fact, Silver is still able to influence old friends and allies from the Grand Street establishment by advocating for the woman who would succeed him, Alice Cancel, the Democratic nominee in the April 19 special election. The Times quoted a source from the Truman Democratic Club (headquartered above Frank’s bike shop) who says that Silver and his chief of staff Judy Rapfogel (an East River cooperator) personally appealed to Democratic delegates to vote for Cancel. Cancel was selected overwhelmingly at a meeting of the local Democratic committee two weeks ago.

Yuh-Line Niou
Yuh-Line Niou
Cancel will have two opponents in the April 19 election: Democrat Yuh-Line Niou, running on the Working Families line, and Republican Lester Cheng. Because of our district’s high percentage of registered Democrats, most people expect Silver’s candidate, Cancel, to win.

Redacted evidence from Silver trial to be released

Sheldon Silver
Sheldon Silver
The judge in the Sheldon Silver trial indicated yesterday that evidence not presented to jurors may be released to the public before Silver’s sentencing in April.

That evidence was put forward by federal prosecutors last fall but denied to jurors through successful arguments by Silver’s defense attorneys. Freedom of Information Act requests by the New York Times and NBC now put Judge Valerie E. Caproni in the position of deciding how to balance the rights of privacy for people named in those motions and the right of the public to have all the information gathered by lawyers from both sides. Judge Caproni seems to be leaning toward releasing all material but redacting the names of anyone not introduced formally as part of the trial.

The timeline calls for expeditious release, within the next two weeks.

Read more at nytimes.com.

Dems will pick Silver’s successor this Sunday

Democratic Committee members will meet this Sunday to designate a nominee for the April 19 special election to fill Sheldon Silver’s vacated seat in the state assembly. Given our district’s high percentage of registered Democrats, their pick will likely become our next representative in Albany.

There’s no official sign-up sheet for candidates, but the Lo-Down has been tracking potential contenders. Notably, there is no candidate from Grand Street, and the local Truman Club — one of four major Democratic clubs in the district — has not endorsed any of the people currently seeking the party designation.

Committee members will meet Sunday starting at 2:00 at the Manny Cantor Center on East Broadway. After nominations, ballots will be taken until one candidate reaches a majority. After each ballot, the lowest vote-getter will be dropped from the next ballot.