WHERE ARE ALL OF SHELLY SILVER’S FRIENDS?
So where are all of Shelly Silver’s friends? Where are all those people who worshipped at his feet and couldn’t say enough good things about the man who could make or break any mere political mortal?
One day, Shelly was at the top of the political heap and then, just like that, no one knew him. It was almost as if he had to take the full brunt of all the bad behavior on the part of the Albany political establishment. Judge Valerie E. Caproni put it this way, “This crime was driven by unmitigated greed.” She added, “The bottom line is that Silver wanted to seem like a man of the people while he was using his public position to richly line his own pockets.” For his part, Silver threw himself on the mercy of Caproni, admitting his own bad choices. “Everything I ever accomplished has become a joke and a spectacle.” The Times quoted him as saying, “I pray I won’t die in prison.”
Here was this guy who almost owned all of New York or at least a third of it. He was a very religious man who would not work on the Sabbath, so apparently committed was he to his religion which preached among other things that, “Thou shalt not steal.”
Of course, you’d have to be pretty stupid not to know that with immense power comes vulnerability. In fact, maybe that was his problem — he was so inured to the immensity of his power that he thought he could do anything. For a brilliant man, and Shelly was and is all of that, he seemed to forget the way things work. It boggles the mind.
It is doubtful that the New York state authorities will come after those in power in state government (way too risky), but it certainly is a feather in the cap of any prosecutor at the federal level to bring down the most powerful political personages in New York. After all, people like Shelly Silver and his fellow prisoner to be, Dean Skelos, now face years in prison. In Shelly’s case, he risks spending the rest of his life in prison. All the honors that have been bestowed upon him and all his accomplishments are out the window and he knows it. It must be incredibly painful to look back on what might have been, had he just realized that he put himself at way too much risk by grabbing money that he really didn’t need. It became a bad habit.
Assuming he did what he was accused of and traded official governmental favors quid pro quo in the form of cash, why would he risk all that he had built up for such an obviously tawdry reward? Didn’t he understand the danger? The answer is, apparently not. That raises a number of questions, one of which is whether he thought, based on what he had done before, that there wouldn’t be any problem.
Judge Caproni may have made a mistake by suggesting that those who commit crimes of the Silver variety “…constitute a tiny minority of public officials who are as corrupt as Mr. Silver.” I see it differently. All the backbenchers and all the lieutenants who are refusing to pass anti-corruption laws bear the guilt in both houses. They simply won’t make the changes that are needed. They won’t put limits on outside income like those imposed by the United States Congress. They won’t impose term limits for people like Silver and Skelos, giving these folks an aggregated sense of potency. As long as those people who worship at the altar of Silver and Skelos and Trump continue to acquiesce and bow down to power, we will see more pathetic scenes like the one we just saw the once powerful Shelly Silver go through.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected]