Beware, all those who think this is the end of Shelly

So what could have Speaker Shelly Silver have been thinking when he shelled out more than 100K of taxpayer money to settle with someone claimed that Vito Lopez had sexually offended an Assembly employee? On its face it looks bad. It violates transparency and it just adds to the “old boys club,” image of an Assembly where the Bear Mountain rule (anything that happens after the Bear Mountain Bridge stays in Albany) used to be inviolate. This might never have come to light unless Lopez went and did it again with more than one female complainant. This time Shelly came down on Lopez like Zeus throwing thunderbolts. I like to think that Shelly really felt betrayed after he went to bat for Lopez who is one of the most important of the Democratic power brokers as the Boss of Brooklyn. Clearly, up to now, Shelly needed Lopez as an important part of the constituency that made him speaker. If you don’t have Brooklyn it would be hard to imagine getting enough Democratic votes to be speaker. When you are speaker you become one of the important “three men in the room,” who make virtually every decision.

There is an old story about how the famous chief of the Soviet KGB, Lavrentiy Beria, entered into a room after the death of Stalin, thinking he was going to take Stalin’s place. However there were others who took out a gun, arrested him and had him led away to be shot. The name of the game was that it was a crucial moment for sticking together. Judging by all the Democratic voices that demanded that Lopez resign, the power brokers are sticking together and that includes Governor Andrew Cuomo. It is a perfect moment. If Lopez did what everyone seems to think he did, “grope,” women who worked for him and who clearly did not want to be groped, he is indeed a despicable human being. But, if Lopez lives to fight another day, he could prove to be quite dangerous to people like Shelly and the governor.

Of course, Governor Cuomo and Shelly Silver are known to have a contentious relationship. With all the newspapers picking up the secret earlier payoff story, this could weaken Silver and give the governor a chance to replace him with someone more to his liking, much like George Pataki once dispatched the late Ralph “Mumbles” Marino as the top dog in the State Senate. That would be a big stretch

There are many colleges and universities facing a lawsuit over a similar situation which have paid off in the same way Silver and his Assembly did. The problem for Silver is that everyone hates the Legislature. It turns out that Lord Acton’s observation that power does corrupt is true. This year alone we have seen one legislative miscreant after another hauled off in handcuffs for siphoning off the people’s tax dollars. Obviously, there are many very good people in the Legislature who do not break the rules. Acting under the “First Law of Chutzpah” they actually want a pay raise. The people don’t want to give them money. If I were these legislators I would be very angry at the Vito Lopez’s of the world. They are ruining it for all those people who are doing very well with their law and consulting practices. This is what the famous “Plunkett of Tammany Hall,” once called “honest graft.”

You had better believe that with the expected political death of Vito Lopez the political sharks are circling in the waters trying to get the best cadaver parts of Lopez. Some will be keeping a careful eye on Shelly Silver so that if he doesn’t survive, they’ll get something out of his political corpse. I have to tell you though; Shelly has remained alive because he really tries to represent his members. The labor unions love him because he has defended them. There was once a bragging man named Bragman who tried to oust Shelly. He told everyone that he had the votes but when the smoke cleared, bragging Bragman was in a basement office wondering what happened to him. Beware, all those who think this is the end of Shelly.

Originally published in the Legislative Gazette, 9/3/12

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One Comment on “Beware, all those who think this is the end of Shelly”

  1. Bob Sarbane Says:

    It is chilling to read comparisons of Sheldon Silver and the Albany Democrats to the former Soviet thugs like Beria and those who dispatched him. What is truly remarkable is that Alan is correct with his comparisons. Albany’s culture is just as corrupt, ruthless and viscous as the former Soviet state’s. All we lack are the execution squads.


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