In the spirit of reform, it’s time for Sheldon Silver to fully disclose his outside income, so says a young upstart who’s a big long-shot to unseat the state’s most powerful Democrat.
Paul Newell, one of two declared Democratic challengers to the Assembly Speaker in his Lower East Side district, is demanding that Silver cough up the details of his financial relationship with Weitz & Luxenberg, a major personal injury law firm of which Silver has been “of counsel” since 2002.
“Nothing dispels suspicion like a bit of sunlight,” said Newell, noting that other Albany luminaries such as Governor Eliot Spitzer and Attorney General Andrew have already released full details regarding their non-legislative income. Were Silver to do the same, said Newell, it would send a “powerful, transparent demonstration that he has nothing to hide.”
Newell’s demand for transparency comes on the heels of Silver’s decision to appoint Arthur Luxenberg, the name-bearing partner of the aforementioned law firm, to a seat on the 13-member committee that screens candidates for the Appellate Division, Court of Claims and State Supreme Court for the City’s judicial district before making recommendations to the governor.
Silver has defended his choice, but editorial boards have sounded the cry that Silver put forward a full accounting of just how much he makes from his relationship with Luxenberg’s firm. Silver and his firm have never disclosed the number, which some say might reach seven figures. In the spirit of fairness, Newell put forward his own tax returns, which reveal he earned the modest sum of $46,028 in 2006 as grassroots director for the non-profit Ubuntu Education Fund. Now that he’s laid everything on the line, Newell’s only asking Silver to do the same.
Does Silver have anything to hide? A response to Newell’s charges from Silver’s office has not yet been forthcoming. But others have speculated that the relationship between the speaker and the law firm might have unseemly overtones. In the past the New York Post has accused Silver of being weak on sex offenders in order to keep money in the pockets of his attorney buddies. This conflict of interest, be it real or simply imagined, is too much for the State to bear when the buzzword in Albany is “reform.”
“We will never end the culture of failure in Albany while our legislative leaders can accept payments in secret from parties with interests before the state,” said Newell.