Corruption and politics? Say it ain’t so!
The sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) is legal and regulated everywhere in North America… Well, except for New York that is.
That’s because New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has done his very best to keep MMA from becoming regulated in the state.
As a consequence, amateur fighters are competing in unregulated events and some are doing so while carrying Hep C or HIV.
If that’s not enough to turn heads, New York is also losing out on the millions of dollars which cities collect when the UFC comes to town.
Now, the New York Times is reporting that the aforementioned Sheldon Silver is under investigation by the FBI, this over substantial payments made to Silver by a small law firm that seeks real estate tax reductions for commercial and residential properties in New York City. Check it out:
Prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York and agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have found that the law firm, Goldberg & Iryami, P.C., has paid Mr. Silver the sums over roughly a decade, but that he did not list that income on his annual financial disclosure forms, as required, the people said.
The prosecutors, from the office of the United States attorney, Preet Bharara, and the F.B.I. agents were seeking to determine precisely what Mr. Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, has been doing for the payments, the people said.
Part-time work by legislators has long been a focus of federal investigators because corrupt lawmakers have used payments for ostensible part-time jobs or consulting work to mask political payoffs. It has also been a source of concern among government watchdog groups because of the potential for conflicts of interest.
Mr. Silver, who has wielded enormous influence in Albany for the two decades in which he has served as speaker, is a personal injury lawyer. He is not known to have any expertise in the complex and highly specialized area of the law in which Goldberg & Iryami practices, known as tax certiorari, which involves challenging real estate tax assessments and seeking reductions from municipalities.
Mr. Silver’s income from his private law practice well exceeds his legislative salary, which as speaker totals $121,000. On his most recent financial disclosure form, for 2013, he reported earning more than $650,000 from his outside legal work. But what he does to earn that money has long been shrouded in secrecy.
While Mr. Silver has been the focus of previous federal investigations, none of which resulted in charges, the disclosure that federal authorities are examining payments made to him raises new questions about possible conflicts of interest.
He has long listed the personal injury firm Weitz & Luxenberg on his financial disclosure forms. Still, almost nothing is known about his role at the firm.
State ethics laws do not require him to provide any details about what he does, who his clients are, or even if he has any clients at all. Public records contain no indication that he has ever appeared on behalf of clients in state or federal court. For years, he has steadfastly refused to discuss his work or his clients in anything but the most general terms.