We the People: Politics as usual raises multitude of alarms

It appears that the Republican Congress is seeking to pursue its own foreign relations policy with its invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to both houses about Iran. The invite was done without consultation with the White House and it is an attempt to embarrass President Obama.

The Washington Post reported that neither John Boehner nor PM Netanyahu gave the administration any notice of the planned visit which is a breach of traditional diplomatic protocol. It is likely that the relationship between the U.S. and Israel may suffer due to this slight concocted by the Republican Congress.

National Security Council Spokesperson Bernadette Meehan said that President Obama would not meet with PM Netanyahu during the visit citing “proximity to the Israeli election.” This is an alarming way to start the last half of President Obama’s last term.

What is even more alarming is the evidence of long‑term corruption by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He has been indicted for using his power for his own personal gain, which included using an $8.5 million slush fund given to him by the Assembly to fund research into mesothelioma by a top oncologist.

Dr. Robert Taub, former director of the Columbia University Mesothelioma Center, got $500,000 in state funding for research and in turn funneled sick patients to the Silver‑affiliated law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg. The law firm paid Silver more than $3 million in referral fees after the doctor started to refer patients to the law firm that specializes in mesothelioma cases.

Apparently Albany cannot conduct business in an ethical manner and no one is able to do anything to stop it. After the speaker lost power, his critics came forward to trumpet their seemingly justified criticism.

Where was the action? Sheldon Silver was one year short of becoming the longest‑serving Assembly speaker in New York State history and if the accusations are proven true, scrutiny should be applied to all of his actions including any involvement in the establishment of a special asbestos/mesothelioma court in New York Supreme Court or in  hindrance to the development of low cost housing in his district on the Lower East Side.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, a federal prosecutor, was able to investigate and file  charges against Silver although people have questioned his activity for decades. Governor Cuomo pulled the plug on the Moreland Commission on public corruption before it had finished investigating Silver.

Why couldn’t a state investigator or state prosecutor bring this case out into the open? Now, Mr. Cuomo is being investigated by Bharara over the abrupt disbanding of the commission and Bharara told the public to “stay tuned’’ for more results from his investigation.

There is speculation that Bharara may be trying to find evidence that Mr. Cuomo knew about Silver’s allegedly illegal activity when he and Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Silver agreed to disband the commission.

It has been reported that Governor Cuomo is “freaked‑out and furious” and “obsessed with fear” over the criminal charges against Silver as well as the ongoing federal corruption probe.

Carl Heastie, chairperson of the Bronx Democratic Party, is the front runner to become the Assembly’s first African-American speaker as Joseph Lentol from Brooklyn has dropped out of the race and endorsed him.

Hopefully, the new speaker will invigorate ethical reform and reestablish the Moreland Commission. There should be a permanent Moreland Commission with wide powers and an independent budget.

We will need fiery hot anger and cool resolve in order get reform in Albany. Could everyone in Albany really have missed that Sheldon Silver earned $79,000 a year in the Assembly but earned millions as a lawyer without having to do any substantive work?

Was Silver such a good attorney that he could rake in millions a year from his “part-time” employment? We must stop sending the same people to Albany cycle after cycle and indictment after indictment when they cannot stop the back door deals, cover-ups and bribery.

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