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Sheldon Silver, Malcolm Smith among many New York City pols who won’t reveal outside income

May 30, 2010

From Daily News

In a stunning show of hypocrisy, two-thirds of the New York City lawmakers who voted to disclose how much they earn moonlighting now refuse to make the numbers public.

Dozens of Assembly and state Senate members who publicly approved revealing their outside income 14 weeks ago suddenly decided not to put their money where their votes were.

Asked by the Daily News to reveal their outside income, 63 of the 90 sitting members of the city delegation declined – including top legislative leaders. Only 27 city lawmakers agreed; 16 flat-out refused, and the rest ignored The News’ request.

Full disclosure has gained traction among good-government groups and many statewide candidates.

In announcing his run for governor, for example, Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said he’d push for ethics laws requiring legislators to reveal all outside income.

New York lawmakers can have outside jobs, but they cannot conflict with their public positions.

Such conflicts have recently resulted in criminal charges:

Ex-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno (R-Rensselaer) got hundreds of thousands of dollars through consulting companies he controlled from firms doing business with the state. He was convicted of corruption and sentenced to two years in prison.

Ex-Assemblyman Anthony Seminerio (D-Queens) got $1 million through his consulting company from vendors trying to win state business or his support for bills. The former lawmaker is serving six years in prison.

“Those two cases are good examples of why you need a law,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group, a nonpartisan government watchdog. “Everyone should disclose this information. The public has a right to know it.”

Legislators must disclose the names of outside employers, but not how much they make.

In January, embarrassed by the spectacle of Bruno and Seminerio, the Senate and Assembly gave near-unanimous approval to an ethics reform bill sponsored by Sen. Eric Schneiderman (D-Manhattan, Bronx). It included a provision to reveal for the first time how much lawmakers earn on the side.

Gov. Paterson vetoed the bill, saying it didn’t go far enough. As a result, outside pay is still secret.

That means the public still does not know how much Senate President Malcolm Smith (D-Queens) makes with his title insurance company, Great Abstract Title Co., or how much Senate Democratic Conference Leader John Sampson (D-Brooklyn), Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and other lawyer-legislators make from their legal practices.

“The speaker will comply with the current law,” Silver spokesman Dan Weiller said, refusing to reveal the speaker’s law income.

Silver’s “of counsel” position at Weitz & Luxenberg, one of the biggest negligence firms in New York, has created a potential conflict of interest.

Under his leadership, the Assembly has twice rejected enacting laws that would control the skyrocketing costs of negligence suits.

A similar problem exists for Sampson, who says he’s “of counsel” at two firms – Adams, Sampson and Associates in Brooklyn and Belluck & Fox in Manhattan.

Senate spokesman Austin Shafran said Smith and Sampson would “follow the laws that are on the books and continue to push for stronger ethics law.”

Other members of the Albany leadership wouldn’t reveal their outside income, including Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Peter Rivera (D-Bronx) and Senate Deputy Majority Leader Jeffrey Klein (D-Bronx). Both are lawyers.

Bosses first, he says

Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (D-Bronx), the only member of the Senate to vote against the ethics reform bill, vowed to release his information – if the leadership does so first.

“Whatever the leader does, I will do,” he said. “If they don’t release theirs, we don’t have no reason to release ours.”

Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), who twice voted to release the information, said he won’t give it up because he didn’t want to embarrass his colleagues.

“If I do it and my other colleagues don’t, [that] would make them look bad,” Dinowitz said.

Assemblyman Michael Benjamin (D-Bronx) had a different excuse.

“Why would I do that?” he said. “The law simply requires us to submit it to the ethics commission.”

A handful of legislative leaders agreed to reveal incomes – most surprisingly, Senate Majority Leader Pedro Espada Jr., who admitted making more than $250,000 as CEO of the nonprofit Soundview Health Center.

State prosecutors have accused the Bronx Democrat of using Soundview to line his pockets. The feds are investigating, too.

Assembly Majority Whip Dov Hikind (D-Brooklyn) and Vice Chairwoman of the Majority Conference Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Queens) released the information; neither has an outside job.

So did Senate Minority Leader Dean Skelos (R-L.I.), who revealed his income ($100,000 to $250,000) as “of counsel” to the law firm Ruskin Moscou Faltischek.

And a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission that oversees this disclosure, Sen. Andrew Lanza (R-S.I.) also released what he made as a personal injury lawyer ($35,000).

POLS WHO WON’T REVEAL OUTSIDE INCOME

SENATE: Sen. Jose Peralta 
SENATE: Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. (all over the news)
SENATE: George Orato 
SENATE: Malcolm Smith (all over the news)
SENATE: Velmanette Montgomery 
SENATE: John Sampson (see corrupt courts hearing)
SENATE: Eric Adams 
SENATE: Kevin Parker 
SENATE: Martin Golden 
SENATE: Carl Kruger 
SENATE: Jeff Klein 
SENATE: Ruth Thompson-Hassell 
ASSEMBLY: Vivian Cook 
ASSEMBLY: Barbara Clark 
ASSEMBLY: Michael DenDekker 
ASSEMBLY: Michael Miller 
ASSEMBLY: Inez Barron 
ASSEMBLY: Feliz Ortiz (wants to tax McDonalds and soda)
ASSEMBLY: Joan Millman 
ASSEMBLY: Darryl Towns 
ASSEMBLY: William Boyland Jr. 
ASSEMBLY: Annette Robinson 
ASSEMBLY: Hakeem Jeffries 
ASSEMBLY: N. Nick Perry 
ASSEMBLY: D. Janele Hyer-Spencer 
ASSEMBLY: Matthew Titone 
ASSEMBLY: Lou Tobacco 
ASSEMBLY: Michael Cusick 
ASSEMBLY: Daniel O’Donnell 
ASSEMBLY: Herman Farrell 
ASSEMBLY: Aurelia Greene 
ASSEMBLY: Jose Rivera 
ASSEMBLY: Naomi Rivera 
ASSEMBLY: Carmen Arroyo 
ASSEMBLY: Ruben Diaz Jr. 
ASSEMBLY: Nelson Castro 
ASSEMBLY: Grace Meng 
ASSEMBLY: Audrey Pheffer 
ASSEMBLY: Rory Lancman 
ASSEMBLY: Jeffrion Aubrey 
ASSEMBLY: Catherine lan 
ASSEMBLY: Helene Weinstein 
ASSEMBLY: Rhoda Jacobs 
ASSEMBLY: James Brennan 
ASSEMBLY: Stephen Cymbrowitz 
ASSEMBLY: William Colton 
ASSEMBLY: Peter Abbate 
ASSEMBLY: Joseph Lentol 
ASSEMBLY: Vito Lopez 
ASSEMBLY: Sheldon Silver 
ASSEMBLY: Deborath Glick 
ASSEMBLY: Adria Espaillat 
ASSEMBLY: Peter Rivera (refuses to investigate fraud)
ASSEMBLY: Michael Benjamin 
ASSEMBLY: Jeffrey Diwitz 
ASSEMBLY: Ann Margaret Carrozza 
ASSEMBLY: Andrew Hevesi 
ASSEMBLY: Margaret Markey 
ASSEMBLY: Michele Titus 
ASSEMBLY: Carl Heastie 
ASSEMBLY: Alan Maisel 
ASSEMBLY: Nettie Mayersohn 
ASSEMBLY: William Scarborough

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