PREET : "ALBANY, REALLY IS, A CAULDRON OF CORRUPTION."
There was an unusally massive turnout at New York Law School's annual City Law breakfast this morning, causing some guests to be funneled into an overflow room. All this commotion was to hear from US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Today's event followed Bharara's announcement of federal corruption charges against the speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver, on accusations that he has collected nearly $4 million in illegitimate proceeds.
Bharara restated his pledge to stamp out corruption in politics. He said this about his office's mission, "We simply want people in high office to stop violating the law. It seems like a simple and modest request: people elected to make laws should not be breaking them."
Since Bharara assumed office as the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in 2009 he has indicted and convicted three state Senators, three Assembly members and two City Council members. He says the accusations against Sheldon Silver are yet another example of what ails Albany.
"In the series of cases we have brought...including the one we brought yesterday, they, I think, go to the very core of what ails Albany. And, I said this yesterday, it's a lack of transparency, a lack of accountability and a lack of principle, joined with the over abundance of greed cronyism and self-dealing. I mean, it seems, sometimes, that Albany, really is, a cauldron of corruption," Bharara said.
He went on to call out the political structure in Albany, which Bharara said is controlled by "three men in a room" – the governor, state Senate president and Assembly speaker.
Bharara asked the crowd, which included former Mayor David Dinkins and former mayoral candidate Joseph Lhota, a series of rhetorical questions, “Why three men? Can there be a woman? Do they have to be white? How small is the room that they can only fit three men? Is it three men in a closet? Are there cigars? Can they have Cuban cigars now? After a while, doesn’t it get a little gamey in that room?”
Bharara concluded, "I think given the interest and the attention to some of the cases we brought, and continue to bring, this could finally be, perhaps, a turning point for reform."