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NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Accused of Corruption

NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Accused of Corruption

NY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Accused of Corruption

Azi Paybarah, flickr

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Good government groups say Silver's arrest highlights the need for ethics reform in Albany.
New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been released on $200,000 bail after his arrest on conspiracy and bribery charges.  He's facing accusations he used his position as one of the state's most powerful politicians to obtain millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks masked as legitimate income. 
 
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara discussed the allegations at a briefing today.  He says they "go to the core of what ails Albany."
 
"Lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of principle, joined with an over-abundance of greed, chronyism and self-dealing," he said.
 
Good government groups say Silver's arrest highlights the need to stop this trend.  Dick Dadey, Exectutive Director of Citizens Union says the charges undermine New Yorkers' confidence in government.
 
"It points to a culture of corruption," he said.  "It also points to a rise in the crime wave of corruption that's going on in Albany.  It seems that a week, a month does not go by when another elected official isn't charged with violating the public trust."
 
Lauren George with Common Cause New York says she hopes the attention surrounding these claims underlines the urgency for reform.
 
"Before this just becomes yet another Albany story," she said.  "This goes beyond the sort of cynicism that a lot of people have toward our state government, and it's a real opportunity for change."
 
Both George and Dadey say it's thanks to a tightening of disclosure laws following the state's creation of the Joint Commission on Public Ethics in 2011 that Silver's facing charges for his alleged behavior.  But they say there's more to be done.
 
Bharara's echoing advocates' calls for increased transparency and tighter income regulations in government. He calls Silver's case another in his continuing fight against political corruption.
 
"No one is above the law, no matter who you are, who you know or how much money you have," he said.
 
Silver's charges carry up to 100 years in prison.