Tag Archives: Sheldon Silver

The State Assembly Reminds you that Albany Remains Dysfunctional

21 May

Courtesy Marquil at EmpireWire.com

And to this point, it’s high time the Democrats in the Assembly grow a pair and unite to overthrow Speaker Silver’s “bossism”. To that point, the Daily News’ Bill Hammond yesterday penned the most persuasive and succinct primer on how the Assembly works and why Silver wields the power he does. It is a must-read, and the only reason why the redundant, pointless State Senate is marginally more small-d democratic has to do with the tight electoral margins and breakaway factionalism. 

By the same token, I can’t name a single, solitary accomplishment – or attempted accomplishment – that my Assemblywoman Jane Corwin has undertaken since joining that body in 2009. Indeed, her website’s welcome page refers to herself as “newly elected”, yet she’s already been re-elected once. Collect a paycheck (even though you’re a Spaulding Lake millionaire), get your health insurance, and go home. 

Albany is broken and it’s set itself up in such a way that it’s exceedingly difficult for you to do anything about it. 

Deep Thought

22 Mar

I suspect that a lot of the animosity towards Sheldon Silver has little to do with his policies and a lot to do with who he is

The vitriol directed towards Silver is odd, because Dean Skelos has similar influence yet WNY politicos don’t habitually run against the Senate majority leader. To his credit, Carl Paladino is one of the few who is consistent on his hatred of Silver and Skelos. 

I’m no fan of Silver’s because of the disproportionate amount of power he wields, and the way in which he wields it; the way in which he controls the statewide agenda and is naturally unsupportive of local initiatives because his constituency is on the lower east side of New York.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying. 

Kearns Defeats Fahey in A-145

21 Mar
Kearns, LoCurto, Rivera

Photo by Flickr user Whitney Arlene

Mickey Kearns? Really? 

The 15% of the electorate who turned out elected a Democrat running as a Republican whose only recognizable platform plank was to do battle with Shelly Silver?  Kearns has said he’ll caucus with the Democrats – so Republican efforts to spin this as a victory will ring particularly hollow. 

The New York State Assembly is a particularly malignant and useless construct. On the one hand, you have majority leader Sheldon Silver, who rules his Democratic caucus with an iron fist. On the other hand, you have a collection of the most useless political castrati – the Assembly Republicans. To call the Assembly a legislature is an insult to the notion of democratic representative lawmaking. To call a member “independent” is synonymous with “impotent”. 

That’s why, when I have in the past advocated for a nonpartisan unicameral legislature, I’ve made it clear that we can’t just abolish the Senate and supplant it with the Assembly. Each redundant body is dysfunctional in its own way. 

Yesterday I posted a perfectly benign reminder that an election was taking place and that people who live in that district should go out and vote. I didn’t endorse or attack either candidate, except to say that Kearns’ run as a “Republican” was, to me, inexplicable. Of course, I had some knuckle-dragging Republican attack me for that, and longtime commenter Starbuck, who is quite reasonable although I disagree with him, pointed out that it was “quite explicable” because of party bosses and giving people a choice and Sheldon Silver and Len Lenihan. 

Yes, I understand that Kearns’ ambition would not be stopped by such trivial matters such as party loyalty or ideological consistency. Such is the nature of politics and politicians – win at all costs, even if you jettison your principles.

(By the way, if Carl Paladino and his insult billboardatorium really want to be rid of Sheldon Silver, perhaps he could help find, fund, and support a challenger to Sheldon Silver down in Manhattan. That might actually work.) 

Chris Fahey isn’t a Higgins puppet despite his ties to Higgins’ office, and so what if he was? Brian Higgins is – and has been – among the best representatives of Buffalo and Western New York throughout his political career. While not perfect, he has done tremendous good especially when it comes to waterfront revitalization. Fahey is a bright guy and he’ll do great things – he’s a well-respected and thoughtful behind-the-scenes policy researcher and formulator – a wonk’s wonk. 

Much was made of Kearns’ ties to Carl Paladino, but that support amounted to a few thousand dollars and a Palinesque Facebook post here and there. 

The winner here isn’t Paladino, it’s Byron Brown, who has rid himself of another troublesome common councilmember. Kearns’ vacancy will be filled by the other councilmembers – and the council is now made up primarily of Brown allies, so Brown has an opportunity to further consolidate his control of the city’s policies. Probably one of those unintended circumstances we often read about.  I suppose this indirectly benefits any Republican running in a countywide race, thanks to the longstanding, well-known but denied agreement between Brown and the GOP that no Republican challenger will come to the plate in November, thus suppressing city turnout.

Funny how similar it is to write about Erie County politics as it is to write about, say, organized crime. 

The coverage of this contest was a ridiculous recitation of who’s ahead, who’s behind in the horserace. Aside from his rejection of Sheldon Silver, what’s Mickey Kearns going to do in Albany? Aside from his ties to Brian Higgins, what would Fahey have done there? Well, Fahey outlined a few plans he has to make the environment better for creating jobs. These guys deserved pointed questions about reform, Albany dysfunction, the Cuomo agenda, abolishing authorities, reduction of state corruption, etc. Instead, we got questions about party labels and who was whose puppet. 

Being a maverick isn’t policy – it’s politics. 

Congratulations to Mickey Kearns. I look forward to the analysis of his almost-inevitable rapprochement with Shelly Silver, or his switch to the Republican Party (one of these is going to have to happen if Kearns is going to accomplish much else besides becoming a master Sudoku player.)

Now, let’s see whom Paladino recruits to run against Higgins himself this November.  


Changs and Engs

28 Apr

I wonder how many of the “mad as hell”, mostly local, Paladino supporters are the same people who usually moan about negative campaigning? Because the Paladino campaign sort of inexplicably released this weird Eng-and-Chang photo parody of Republican gubernatorial candidate Steve Levy and Assembly Speaker and all-around-bad-guy Sheldon Silver:

The text accompanying the picture reads like this:

Democrat Steve Levy voted with Democratic Assembly Boss Sheldon Silver 98 percent of the time when he was in the New York State Assembly. He even contributed annually to Silver’s political slush fund. Democrat Steve Levy was endorsed for Suffolk County Executive four times by ACORN’s left wing Working Families Party. Levy actively supported Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential election. Levy solicited millions in campaign contributions from special interests, even though he was unopposed in his recent re-election. Now, Democrat Steve Levy tells us he wants to be the Republican candidate for Governor.


Do we really need to re-hash Paladino’s own embrace of Democratic politicians? At least Levy can argue that when he voted with the Democrats he was a Democrat and did so either based on principle or party discipline.

When Paladino donated thousands to Hillary Clinton, Eliot Spitzer, and the exact same Sheldon Silver “slush fund”, he did so out of political expediency.

Remember – Steve Levy donated a mere $650 to Silver’s political slush fund the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. Carl Paladino and entities under his control donated about $450.

So under Paladino’s argument, maybe he’s just Sheldon Silver’s fraternal twin, rather than an identical or siamese.

Or maybe Levy’s campaign decides to be too cute for its own good and sends this out:

I’m also struck by the linkage between ACORN and the WFP. That is pure Glenn Beck retarded chalkboard paranoia. Attaboy, Carl. You go ahead and read Breitbart and regurgitate that as some sort of campaign strategy to move New York forward.

New York State Gubernatorial race 2010: an embarrassment all around. Seriously.

Paladino’s Conundrum

31 Mar

If I was a Republican in New York State, I’d be pretty ticked off, too, by the late entry of unlikely candidate Stephen Levy, the Democratic Suffolk County Executive, into the race.  Lazio has been running for governor for over a year, and if nothing else, he’s a dedicated Republican.  Levy’s a late switcher, and the whole thing reeks of desperation.

(I don’t know how the mustachioed Democrat from Long Island is meant to defeat the Cuomo juggernaut, but then I don’t make Ed Cox money).

But forget Republicans – we have a genuine tea party candidate announcing next Monday. Noted Buffalo professional loudmouth and sometime developer Carl Paladino is running as a real Republican; right down to the fact that he’s got Roger Stone’s BFF Michael Caputo as campaign manager.  They’ve gone the whole mockery route, essentially ignoring Lazio and instead running guns-a-blazing against Levy.

Don’t ignore the Cox/Stone Nixon connection.  There’s also allegations of a quid pro quo whereby Cox threw Levy the nod in exchange for his son, Chris Cox, getting support for an unlikely congressional run in Suffolk County.

Paladino would have you believe he’s a lifelong conservative Republican.  A guy so politically principled, with tea party credentials so pure, that he’s mocking Steve Levy’s recent Democratic past, and his support of Sheldon Silver’s Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee. Naturally, a good tea party candidate includes Biblical language implying that Cox and Levy are not unlike Judas; 30 pieces of silver was Judas’ payoff for betraying Jesus to the Romans.

But since Paladino is blasting Levy as being a Johnny-come-lately to the Republican fold, what about his own contributions and electoral history?

As Chris Smith reports, Paladino was a registered Democrat between 1974 – 2005.  He switched in late October 2005, coincidentally just a week or so before Byron Brown won election as Mayor of the City of Buffalo.  Paladino was tight with Tony Masiello.  With Brown’s election imminent, he switched parties.

Paladino was a big Helfer backer in 2005. In fact, the Brown campaign attacked Helfer for his very close ties to Kevin Helfer, whom Paladino employed to run BCAR.

But you can’t just erase a 30-year history as a loyal Democrat and generous donor to Democratic candidates and causes.  Including the dreaded  Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee that Paladino now berates Steve Levy for having donated to.

Levy’s donations to the DACC amount to a paltry $650 since 1999.

But Paladino’s donated – and continues to donate – quite generously to Democratic candidates. From Chris’ post:

Staats Street Group, Inc. has given nearly $5,000 to local and statewide Democrats, including $150 to the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, which Paladino uses as evidence that Levy is really a Democrat.

Swan Group LP, has given nearly $27,000 to various Democrats, including Robin Schimminger, Byron Brown, Brian Higgins, the New York State Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee, Erie County Democratic Party (ECDC), Len Lenihan, Jim Keane, and Dennis Gabryszak.

Mohawk Group LP, has given $9,600 to Democrats including David Paterson, Mark Poloncarz, Sam Hoyt, the ECDC and the Lackawanna Democratic Committee.

Niagara Group, LP has given $4,790 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer for Attorney General, Higgins, Dan Ward, Paul Tokasz, Hoyt and the ECDC.

Slade Group, LLC has given $10,500 to corrupt former candidate for Erie County Executive Paul Clark.

Michigan/Seneca Group, LP has given $14,750 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer for Attorney General, Paul Clark, Len Lenihan, the ECDC, Denise O’Donnell, Higgins, Paterson and Spitzer for Governor.

8246 Group, LP has given $6,600 to local and statewide Democrats including the ECDC, Spitzer, Paul Clark and Jim Keane.

2468 Group, LP has given $13,600 to local and statewide Democrats including Hoyt, Higgins, Denise O’Donnell, the ECDC, Jim Keane, Carl McCall,  Spitzer, Paul Clark, and Crystal Peoples.

Ellicott Development has given over $12,500 to local and statewide Democrats including Denise O’Donnell, Gary Parenti, Joe Nicoletti and Spitzer

Ellicott Group has given $700 to local Democrats including Hoyt and Higgins.

Ellicott Group, LLC has given $1,200 to local Democrats including the ECDC.

Ellicott Group A Partnership has given $5,600 to local Democrats including the ECDC, Hoyt, Paterson and Mickey Kearns.

JP Group has donated nearly $20,000 to local and statewide Democrats including Spitzer, Bonnie Russell, the ECDC, Paul Clark, Alan Hevesi, Lynn Marinelli and Joe Mesi.

Jefferson Utica Group, LP has given $1,200 to local Democrats.

9274 Group, LP (Who by the way have won 62 GSA contracts for a total of $738,171 in government money) has given $4,200 to local Democrats.

Paladino and his various shell companies and associations have donated over $135,000 to Democratic candidates since 2000, including several hundred dollars for Sheldon Silver’s Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.  We’d have to consult paper records to go further back than that.

The appeal of the tea party movement is that it attracts and energizes people who believe themselves to be disenfranchised or otherwise ignored by government. Paladino is the consummate insider. He knows all the players. He donates generously to his favored candidates – to the people who will best help him and his businesses. He is not a principled player but a fundamentally transactional one.

Just look above at the various legally constituted entities he uses to donate money to candidates. He can donate far, far above the individual or corporate maximum by peppering his donations across several entities. It’s an insider’s trick, designed to maximize influence and minimize public scrutiny. (No one’s heard of “Niagara Group, LP”, for instance).

He can play conservative make-believe all he wants, but he can’t change the past. No matter how he explains the difference between “gun owners” and “sportsmen”.

And turning back again to the party switch in 2005, Paladino has been relentlessly critical of the Brown Administration. Of course, Brown has decided that Rocco Termini is his local developer of choice, thus shunting Paladino off to the side. I have no doubt that this:

…has nothing to do with a change in political belief and ideology and everything to do with the imminent Masiello exit and Brown entry, and quite likely the difference in how the Brown administration handled the downtown casino issue. (Read: stopped using Paladino to help negotiate on the city’s behalf with the Senecas). It’s no secret that Carl Paladino is the owner of all that attractive surface parking in the Cobblestone near where the permanent casino is supposed to go.

But in the end, this exchange from an interview Artvoice’s Bruce Jackson conducted with Carl Paladino is quite telling:

CP: I’m on your side on that one, Mr. Jackson. Totally. We could have protected ourselves, but they didn’t do it. And your buddy Byron Brown—

BJ: My buddy?

CP: Yeah, your buddy. He’s a liberal. He’s a liberal like you are. They’re your buddies.

BJ: Aren’t you a liberal? What are you?

CP: You tell me: How was that deal made?

BJ: What are you?

CP: I don’t know what I am. I’m a whatever. I don’t care. Any way you want to define me.

That was in 2006. Just four years later, Paladino has morphed from left-leaning transactional political player to right-leaning transactional political player. But he’s not in any position to accuse others of not passing a political purity test.

Terrorism (UPDATEDx2)

24 Mar

Whether directed at Louise Slaughter, Tom Pereillo (or his brother), or Steve Dreihaus.

Whether incited by Sarah Palin, or idiot teabloggers, the spate of death threats – and some actual affirmative violent acts – against Democratic lawmakers is an extraordinarily disturbing turn of events.

The frenzy into which the ignorant, hateful, malicious, and cowardly have been whipped by the teabaggers and their enabler-apologists in the Republican Party establishment, will undoubtedly result in someone’s injury or death at some point in the next several weeks.

As Ezra Klein noted today,

I remember listening to the debate the night the House passed the Senate bill and the reconciliation fixes. There are a lot of critiques I could imagine folks on the right making of the legislation. “Regulations to define a minimum insurance benefit will impede innovation in low-deductible plans.” “Congress doesn’t have the will to stick to the cost savings, and until they prove able to do so, we can’t pass a new health-care entitlement.” “The health-care system is broken, and adding a new benefit doesn’t make sense outside the context of radical reform, as it will just create a new set of stakeholders who will resist the necessary changes.”

But totalitarianism? Death panels? The end of America as we know it? These critiques aren’t just wrong in their description of a cautious, compromised reform that uses private insurers and spends only 4 percent of what we spend on health care in an average year. They’re shocking in terms of what the speakers believe their colleagues and representatives are willing to do to the American people. Nunes, for instance, has served with Democrats for decades. He might believe them too willing to tax society’s most-productive members to fund social benefits. But does he really believe them friends of totalitarianism?

And the stuff on talk radio, of course, was worse. So take the universe of people who really respect right-wing politicians and listen to right-wing media. Most of them will hear this stuff and turn against the bill. Some will hear this stuff and really be afraid of the bill. And then a small group will hear this stuff and believe it and wonder whether they need to do something more significant to stop this bill from becoming law. And then a couple will actually follow through. And one will cut the gas lines leading to house of Rep. Tom Perriello’s brother after seeing a tea partyer post the address online.

The Republicans ought to get their people under some fucking control. And it’s not even cretins like Sarah Palin, but even ostensibly smart people like Carl Paladino – arrest Sheldon Silver, send him to Attica and let people beat him up on the way? What the fuck kind of bullshit asshattery is that? I detest Silver as much as anyone, but I just want him away from government. I don’t need him beaten up on his way to jail. What kind of civilization is this, if supposed and wanna-be political leaders can say such irresponsible things?


No matter what adjective you append to it, the violence and threats of violence happening to Democratic lawmakers is terrorism.

Sarah Palin’s “reload” Tweet is, as far as I’m concerned, only mildly different from a tape of Ayman al-Zawahiri that’s found its way onto al Jazeera. The only right thing for the right to do is to immediately clamp down on this and immediately denounce these actions. But they can’t. They’ve spent an entire year doubling down on this type of overheated rhetoric about Obama being the HitlerStalinAntiChrist, and they can’t turn back now and still keep their base.

And no, I’m not kidding.

UPDATE: Minority Whip Eric Cantor says a bullet was shot through his Richmond, VA office last night.  To violently attack any representative of any party for any reason whatsoever is indefensible and reprehensible.  The person(s) who committed this crime should be found, prosecuted, and punished.

(See, Ostrowski? It’s not as hard as it looks).

UPDATE 2:  About that bullet that went through a window at Cantor’s office? Bullet, yes.  Deliberately shot at his office? Not so much.


Chris "Hymietown" Collins

26 Oct

It was via Twitter that I found out that County Executive Chris Collins made a tragically inappropriate “joke” at a Republican function last night. I think that this epic gaffe may very well forever cloud any chance that Collins may have had for securing a statewide office of any sort.

To this day, Rev. Jesse Jackson is answering for his “Hymietown” remark – a dumb thing he said in 1984.

It’s probably a bad idea for any politician to discuss the prophecies of Nostradamus at any political event, if the politician intends to be taken seriously. Even if it’s a joke. It’s an even worse idea to suggest that a contemporary political figure is the third in the trilogy of anti-Christs prophesied by Nostradamus; Napoleon and Hitler widely regarded as the first two. To suggest that an Orthodox Jewish New York State politician is the anti-Christ is a failure of massive proportions.

As promised and predicted, here’s the link to the post you link to when someone compares someone to Hitler. Just substitute “Obama” with “Silver”.

The joke wasn’t funny, and it was massively offensive and inappropriate. It’s cringe-worthy, like something written into a Ricky Gervais comedy. Like when the Office’s Michael Scott quotes a Chris Rock routine. Collins was right to apologize, and it’s good that he’s being called out on this not just locally, but statewide.

Now, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a lot of things, mostly not good. He’s an entrenched machine politician who is no friend to Western New York. He is a big part of the problem that is Albany. He is not a good government guy; he’s a power guy. He is a person I’d very much like to see electorally removed from his position of power in Albany. But he’s not Hitler. He’s not the anti-Christ. Silver is, apparently, rightfully incensed at Collins’ insult.

And this gets back to Collins’ shtick, which was worn thin on day one. He may be a brilliant businessman, and a savvy political tactician. But he has yet to learn that the kinds of things he evidently likes joking about in the clubhouse or with his teabagging pals have no business seeing the light of day.

If this is what he says in public, imagine where his mind goes in private.

Collins’ shtick plays well up here because people are so desperate for anything that sounds reasonably like “WNY isn’t going to suck so bad anymore” that they’ll buy into it. “Running government like a business” is like that. It was always going to be an uphill battle for a wealthy, unlikeable, obscure technocrat from upstate New York to make any waves in statewide politics. Now, it’s next to impossible. He’s damaged goods. How will a Rick Lazio or a Rudy Giuliani explain to the huge downstate Jewish population that he’s picking a lieutenant governor who compares a contemporary Jewish politician to Hitler? Collins explains,

While we may disagree strongly on policy matters, my statement had no place in our political discourse and I am truly sorry to both the speaker and to anyone else who I may have offended.

You’re right, Mr. Collins. Your statement had/s no place in political discourse, and you should be sorry. You should have also have had the foresight, intelligence, and decency to, I dunno, avoid saying it in the first place.

What’you want? A cookie?

One of those attending Saturday’s dinner called the statement “unbelievable.”

“It was staggering,” said the Republican, who asked not to be identified. “It took my breath away. You just don’t say something like that.”

Collins’ inner circle also was acknowledging the seriousness of the gaffe today, especially in view of the importance of New York City’s Jewish vote in any statewide election. They pointed out that his juxtaposition of Hitler and the concept of the anti-Christ with the orthodox Silver was not seen as any help to Collins’ statewide ambitions.

This kind of crap plays nicely on the Tom Bauerle Paranoid Dummy Hour™, but in the real world – among normal people – it is frankly unheard-of.

Perhaps finally, at least locally, that new chic thing of comparing everything one disagrees with to Hitler (or worse) has just jumped the shark. It’s a facile and ignorant thing that people with small minds like to do. It’s lazy. It’s beyond stupid. I hope this is the end of this ridiculousness.

Smile & Fail

22 Jul

It’s the Albany version of “meet & greet”.

Some Feuds Begat Others

9 Jun

Or something.

Remember how Governor “black socks” Spitzer got into it with Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno? They feuded for practically the entirety of Spitzer’s reign, because the governor figured that by bringing Bruno down, he could push his agenda through. Hence “troopergate”.

Paterson isn’t spying on Sheldon Silver – at least, not that we know of. But they aren’t getting along at all, and that’s good and bad.

The insiders said Silver’s resistance to Paterson’s proposals are largely rooted in the unwillingness of lawmakers, who must face voters in November, to back spending restraints that are bitterly opposed by the powerful public-employee unions.

“[Former Gov. Eliot] Spitzer couldn’t figure out how to work with the Legislature and neither can Paterson. How do you ask Shelly to do something a few weeks before the end of the session that will damage his members in November?” asked a senior state official.

It’s good because Sheldon Silver needs standing up to. It’s bad because if Sheldon Silver has a sniffle, the rest of New York State gets SARS.