A new scandal has hit Albany, New York – a big one! The arrest of the powerful New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, by the FBI, on Friday, January 23, 2015, has sent shock waves across the State, most likely affecting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Administration. The arrest of Sheldon Silver on corruption charges has less to do with Silver than it does for the way legislation affecting the rights and liberties of over 20 million New Yorkers has been and continues to be compromised by an elite group of elected officials – the “three men in a room” – Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Silver, and the State Senate leader – whom the Governor has jokingly referred to as “the three amigos.”
An overview of the Complaint filed in federal court, on January 21, 2015, bears this point out. It provides a disturbing picture of how business has been conducted in Albany for many, many years. The Complaint says in pertinent part: “Sheldon Silver, the defendant, has engaged in and continues to engage in a secret and corrupt scheme to deprive the citizens of the State of New York of his honest services, and to extort individuals and entities under color of official right, as an elected legislator and as Speaker of the New York State Assembly.”
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York’s filing of felony corruption charges against Silver may cause Governor Cuomo to distance himself from the Assembly Speaker. Cuomo’s own actions cast a bright and disturbing light on Cuomo as well.
On July 2, 2013 Cuomo created the Moreland Commission. Its purpose was twofold: to root out the very corruption the Complaint alleges Silver must now answer for and provide better governance for the residents of the State of New York. The Moreland Commission had the potential to be a good thing for New York State residents and it appears to be a bad thing for Silver.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who filed the criminal case against Sheldon Silver on January 21, 2015, had testified before the Moreland Commission more than one year earlier. On September 17, 2013, Bharara pledged “the cooperation and assistance of [his] office with the Commission’s vitally important work.” He added, “Fighting public corruption has been a top priority for [Bharara] for a long while. . . .”
Many of New York’s elite Legislators railed against the Commission and sued to have it disbanded. In their own filing, those Legislators argued the Commission’s actions trampled the Legislators’ Constitutional Rights. Imagine that.
Less than one year after forming the Commission, Cuomo said, on March 29, 2014, he was disbanding it. On April 3, 2014 the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District sent a letter to the Commission. In it Bharara said he was taking possession of the Commission’s case files. He questioned whether the Governor was abandoning his commitment to fight public corruption. Cuomo, for his part, was petulant. According to a story published in Crain’s Insider on April 24, 2014, Cuomo told Crain’s: “‘It’s not a legal question. It’s my commission. My subpoena power, my Moreland Commission. I can appoint it, I can disband it. I appoint you, I can un-appoint you tomorrow.’” His power seems omnipotent.
The concentration of power in New York has been, for many years, in the hands of a Triarchy, reminiscent of the First and Second Triumvirates that ruled ancient Rome. This modern Triarchy consists of the Governor, the Assembly Speaker, and the State Senate Leader. It has worked in secret, under cloak of darkness, without accountability. These three individuals seem to answer only to themselves as if they do not have to account to the public and do not have to account for their actions.
Did these “three amigos” engineer the New York Safe Act and thrust it down the throats of New York residents and gun owners sans debate? It certainly seems so.
News accounts report that Silver has temporarily stepped down as Assembly Speaker. However, in light of the serious criminal corruption charges the U.S. Attorney has brought against the Assembly Speaker, we question the wisdom of allowing Silver to continue to serve in the New York Assembly at all during the pendency of the case against him.
There is another pressing issue that must be addressed. Since the propriety of the actions of “the three amigos” is in question, we feel the New York public has the right – in fact, the duty – to insist on a probe of how the New York Safe Act was drafted; how it was enacted; and, to what extent, if any, the creators of it knew or had good reason to know that enactment of the Act might undermine New York residents’ Constitutional Rights.
If corruption is uncovered any step of the way, then the Safe Act should be repealed in its entirety.
Despite the fact that some New York residents exhibit animosity toward guns and gun possession, elected officials, including and especially New York Legislators and the Governor, must operate with transparency and fairness on behalf of their constituencies.
Any legislation – especially far-reaching legislation, such as the New York Safe Act, that negatively impacts not only one’s Second Amendment Right to keep and bear arms, but one’s Fifth Amendment private property interest in those firearms, and one’s Fourteenth Amendment Due Process and Equal Protection Rights – must be discussed in the light of day, before enactment. The New York Safe Act wasn’t enacted protecting these Rights. The impetus for it and passage of it all took place in secretive session, out of the public view. Why? The “three amigos” must explain their actions.
How was the New York Safe Act pushed through the Legislature so quickly? How were these individuals able to get away with this? Did the “three amigos” honestly think they were acting on behalf of the New York public for the benefit of the public, as the mainstream media portrayed them? Or were they merely furthering a private agenda, using the power of their respective Office to systematically deprive millions of New York residents and gun owners of their Rights and Liberties under both the U.S. Constitution and the New York State Constitution? Did political ambitions motivate these individuals? If so, how? These are serious questions. And they deserve serious consideration. The public demands answers. The public demands accountability. New York residents and citizens must speak up. The damage to the Public’s Constitutional Rights and Liberties must be undone. The time to act is now.Copyright © 2015 Roger J Katz (Towne Criour) and Stephen L. D’Andrilli (Publius) All Rights Reserved.