Power & politics
by Emily Gallagher
Sep 26, 2017 | 0 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
We have all become accustomed to gasping when we turn on the news, but for me these past few weeks have been particularly surprising. On Tuesday, I turned on the radio to hear breaking news that corruption charges against Dean Skelos were being overturned. Dean Skelos was the Republican Senate majority leader and one of the most powerful men in Albany for many years. He was one of the "three amigos" or "three men in a room" along with Governor Andrew Cuomo and former Democratic Assembly leader Sheldon Silver. Together, they made most of the major decisions about what would happen in our state's political system. Both Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos were investigated by former U.S. attorney Preet Bharara in 2015, and were both found guilty of corruption. According to an article in Politico, "Skelos was convicted in November 2015 on eight corruption counts of using his office to pressure and threaten businesses with business before the state to ensure his son, Adam, was given employment. “The pair were convicted of extortion, wire fraud, solicitation of bribes and gratuities and honest services fraud after three separate companies were forced by threats against their interests before local and state governments to provide Adam with work, much of which he failed to do." Taking a step back to look at these four over the last few years is really a wild demonstration of how our state government is largely an insider game where favors and privileges are traded and protected by a small group of powerful men. Reformers step in to attempt to fix this system and when they succeed, it seems to never last very long. Bharara worked extremely hard to investigate both Skelos and Silver. He also convicted Silver of corruption, and that charge was overturned two months ago. The explanation for that corruption charge from the New York Times was that, "Mr. Silver was convicted on charges that he had obtained nearly $4 million in illicit payments in return for taking a series of official actions that benefited others." So essentially, at least two of the three most powerful men evidently were using our government to benefit themselves and their friends and family in enormous ways. But then Bharara was fired by President Donald Trump, whom he was also investigating for corruption, and now our courts are overturning these cases based on a Supreme Court determination that happened only last year. The argument is not that these men are not guilty, but that the argument against them was too broad. I would be lying if I said I really understood how each of these judges who are overturning these cases ended up in their positions, but I do know that many judges are politically appointed or they are chosen in elections where our choices are predetermined by political club kingpins. It is not inaccurate to say that judges are largely chosen through a political lens, though we hope they are more influenced by ethics and the law than their political advantage. How can I be anything but frustrated that these corrupt politicians are free after not even a full year? Our state has long struggled with corruption. According to a University of Missouri study, "New York is first for the (30) public corruption cases, followed by Pennsylvania, where 24 cases have been filed over the past decade. New Jersey ranks third with 12 corruption cases. Look further back, and New York State has topped the list since at least 1986." Between 2005-2015 over 30 lawmakers in Albany were at least accused of wrongdoing, and many were convicted. But it seems our court system is more concerned with freeing these powerful men than wrongfully incarcerated ones. In New York, money and power top justice time and again.
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PHOTO: MICHAEL O'KANE
PHOTO: MICHAEL O'KANE
slideshow
Final chapter for Weiner? Doubtful
Sep 26, 2017 | 5 views | 0 0 comments | 0 0 recommendations | email to a friend | print
PHOTO: MICHAEL O'KANE
PHOTO: MICHAEL O'KANE
slideshow
Another chapter in the long, tragic fall of Anthony Weiner comes to a close and another begins. That new chapter is a 21-month sentence in prison for exchanging lewd messages with a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina, at one point convincing her to strip naked for him. A once-rising star in Washington, D.C. as a congressman from Brooklyn and Queens, Weiner will now be the new guy on the cell block in a federal penitentiary. It's a pretty staggering fall from grace that began with his resignation in 2011 after he screwed up on Twitter, posting what was supposed to be a private message that included a picture of his crotch to a follower. Instead he posted it to his public timeline. He quickly deleted it, but by then people had grabbed screenshots of the post and the proverbial horse was out of the barn. He originally claimed that his account had been hacked, an excuse that inexplicably works these days for any celebrity or politician caught in a social media misstep but didn't work for Weiner. Even the most novice of Twitter uses at the time could fathom how the mistake happened. So Weiner confessed and resigned, and then laid low for a while. At least as far as the public knew Two years later, he mounted his political comeback in a bid for mayor, and for a while Weiner was leading a field of five Democrats. He even stopped by this paper's office and made a case for why we should be the first to actually endorse his bid for mayor, promising that we he won the primary he would hold a press conference in front of our building praising us for our courage and foresight. The public loves a comeback, and in the grand scheme of things sending someone a photo of your congressional member isn't exactly on par with what former governor Eliot Spitzer did when he was outed as Client 9. Then Carlos Danger and Sydney Leathers joined the campaign. It became clear that Weiner's obsession with connecting to women online was a much deeper issue than sending a racy pic to a Twitter follower after explicit photos he exchanged with the Indiana women using the pseudonym were published. Weiner didn't quit his bid for mayor, but ended up fifth in a five-way primary race. After his defeat, he tried rehab and professed his desire to recover. And then news of the exchanges with the young girl came to light, and now he's off to prison. We would like to say that this is the last we have heard of Anthony Weiner, if only for the sake of the privacy of his young son and estranged wife, former Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin. But we're not sure that's the case. Weiner cried in the courtroom when his sentenced was handed down. Hours later, he was posing for the cameras outside the Union Square building where he shares an apartment with his soon-to-be ex-wife. “Everybody got that? Good,” he reportedly told the shutterbugs, trading in his courtroom suit for a Mets cap and white shorts before heading down to the subway. A politician who shall remain nameless, but who once ran against Weiner for a seat, once told us that after one of the debates they remember thinking, “just for one day I would like to be as confident as Anthony Weiner is everyday of his life.” The same confidence that made him such an accomplished elected official is also the same confidence that led him to believe that he could continue his illicit sexting ways and get away with it. It's the same confidence that has us believing we'll be hearing more from Anthony Weiner in about 21 months when he walks out of prison. He won't (can't) lay low for long.
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