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NY. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver Financial Holdings Raise Conflict Questions

September 4, 2010

It’s a hot topic in Albany.

According to public disclosure forms, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver owns stock in over 30 companies — including Pepsi, Verizon, Exxon, Cisco and CitiGroup — and many of them do business with New York.

However, what the forms don’t show voters is how much the shares are worth.

Political watchdogs say the state’s ethics laws are inadequate and don’t shine enough light on potential conflicts of interest.

Silver’s stake in Companies doing business with NY, or any other stock, are protected by the state’s disclosure laws.

“That’s what is wrong with our laws, they raise questions that they don’t answer,” Lerner said.

Blair Horner, the Legislative Director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, points out there’s a big difference between $1,000 and $500,000.

“How much are those investments worth — because that would be a far more important element of information,” Horner said.

Silver also has disclosed he owns stock in AOL, Johnson & Johnson, Ford, General Electric, American Express, Pfizer Pharmaceuticals and more.

Horner says Silver has followed the letter of the law, done all that’s required, but that doesn’t mean he can’t disclose more – such as how many shares he owns or even how much he’s worth. Legally, lawmakers are not required reveal their worth beyond noting their value is over $1,000.

“They should be doing more, remember we’re talking about the people who decide what the letter of the law is,” Lerner said.

She adds a cloud of possible corruption may be unfair and it’s up to the elected official to clean the air.

Commentary: This would be more true if (1) the company was getting no bid contracts; (2) was involved in the decision-making process or influenced the decision making process of who gets the Government Contract award or (3) the congressman was ruling on legislation that would affect industry s/he has an interest in. Otherwise if the congre

Silver’s office has not yet returned calls from 1010 WINS.

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