Shelly Silver Is 'the Enemy of Reform,' but His Law Firm's Cash Is Still Good as Gold for Kathleen Rice
File this one one away under the "Unsolved Mysteries" of this election season:
Try to follow: Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver is the key symbol of Albany hypocrisy. Only yesterday, Ed Koch, the newly re-born reform banner waver, was declaiming him at City Hall. "He is the enemy of reform," said EIK. Why is Silver the enemy of reform? Top count in the indictment is that he won't list his law clients at Weitz & Luxenberg, the giant personal injury law firm where he's an attorney. And if he won't list them, then who knows what scoundrels and state pork-feeders he's hiding on his client roster?
Clear so far? Now shift to the Democratic primary race for Attorney General. Frontrunner Kathleen Rice has shaped her entire candidacy as the outsider free of Albany taint who will win the tough ethics reforms her rivals -- especially state senator Eric Schneiderman and Assemblyman Richard Brodsky -- cannot because they are part and parcel of that tarnished Silver crowd up in the capitol.
As she says this, Rice has been hauling in so much cash from Silver's Weitz & Luxenberg law partners that her campaign must need a special vault to hold it all.
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Just this week, the state elections board's 24-hour campaign filings show that Rice pulled in another fat $18,100 check from Randi Luxenberg, wife of lead Weitz and Luxenberg partner Arthur Luxenberg who has already maxed out in his personal donations. This is on top of the shovelfuls of money already pushed her way by other firm lawyers.
Back in May, when the Times' Danny Hakim first took a look at this remarkable generosity, the Nassau County D.A.'s take from W&L lawyers and their allies stood at $236,698. Hakim looked again in late July and detected another $120,000 in donations from the same sources.
It's easy to lose count here but with the latest contribution, Rice's take from the law firm whose potentially scandalous and conflicted clients may be the root of all Albany evil is somewhere in the vicinity of $350,000. And there's five days to go yet!
Rice's response to this embarrassment of riches has been that the firm's top lawyers are Long Island residents so they are naturally supportive of their hometown hero (well, at least one donor - attorney Robert Gordon who gave $46,599 -- lives in Scarsdale, but we'll let that pass). There is also a natural wish to support the D.A. since she hired lead partner Perry Weitz's son, Justin, as an assistant D.A.
Boy, that hire must have been some heavy lift: You run the biggest P.I. firm in the metro area but you're so grateful to the employer who hired your son that you shell out tens of thousands of dollars in campaign gifts as a thank-you present?
Then there's the old "a mere bagatelle" explanation: "The firm's contributions make up a very small portion of what has become the most vast, diverse and progressive network of financial supporters in this race," Rice's spokesman told Hakim in July.
OK. But three hundred and fifty grand? Still sounds like more than a mere bag of shells to us.
Chalk it up right next to that other Unsolved Mystery of this sad election period: Rice's acknowledgement that she never even bothered to cast a vote in any election until she was 37 years old. But she now holds the key to all that ails us. Go figure.
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