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Mr. Silver’s Restraint

December 31, 2014

We’ve been thinking about our previous post in which we criticized Mr. Silver.

It occurs to us that our post was the product of some frustration.  We’re frustrated that nobody seems to challenge the Governor in ways that would cause him to raise the level of his game and produce better governance overall. We’re frustrated that the Assembly isn’t the creative and dynamic body it could be. We’re frustrated that Mr. Silver is laconic Mr. Silver.

Those sentiments, while well-grounded, may have produced a conclusion about Silver that was too harsh. 

Silver is actually a very nuanced and sophisticated person – much more so than anyone gives him credit for. To understand this, all you have to do is reflect on the degree to which he is always a target.

Start with yesterday’s New York Times article. The nub of it is that there’s another source of income for Mr. Silver that he didn’t report in his annual ethics disclosures. We’ll go out on a limb here and say that this is flat out wrong.  It can’t be that.  Careful, cautious-to-a-fault Mr. Silver would never conceal a source of income. He’d never not report income as required by law. He’d never mess around with his ethics filing. 

So it has to be a matter of the way income is reported. Maybe this particular income was lumped with other income for legal work. It surely was accounted for in some manner. It surely would have been reviewed by multiple attorneys and surely comports with existing law. And if it does, and we presume it does, you have what? You have question about current reporting requirements for all lawmakers. Does anybody think there’s a federal crime here? Does anybody really think it’s a big deal?

Now consider the other scandals that supposedly linked to Silver and do a little exercise. Take Silver out of the equation in each scandal and ask whether, minus him, would it have received the coverage it did. Go back and look at the clips. Minus a Silver angle, the stories are underwhelming. There was an embezzler, a groper and the shocking matter of a lobbyist who was said to have “arranged campaign contributions to help gain access” to an elected official.  Each of these matters produced an above-the-fold story in the Times.

Does it occur to anyone that with some regularity there’s a rush to connect Mr. Silver with the negative? And has anyone else noticed that the New York Times often leads the charge?

Rhetorical questions both. And here’s another: Who benefits from this? Who benefits from having a distracted and destabilized Shelly Silver?

Stay with us for some delicious conspiratorial musing: Everyone knows that behind the scenes Shelly is planning his opposition to certain aspects of the Governor’s agenda – namely the education reforms. Right?

Well, who benefits from the current Silver hit? The answer is: The governor and the hedge fund big shots who want charter school expansion. No?

So is it possible that Cuomo placed the Times story as some have suggested? While he did have access to the Moreland findings about Silver, it’s highly doubtful he placed the story simply because he has an abysmal relationship with the Times.

We don’t know it for sure, but Cuomo probably called up Silver yesterday and said: “Shelly, now you know how I feel!” This would have been a reference to receiving the Preet Bahrara-NY Times treatment.

If not Cuomo, who? The hedge fund guys? Powerful players for sure. But would the Times do their bidding? Probably not.

The only play here might have been the hedge fund guys encouraging Preet to give Silver the business knowing the Times would eat up anything Preet does and that it would help them in their charter school expansion fight.

Is there a Preet-Hedge Fund connection? Preet – as any close examination of his record would reveal — really has done very little in that sector. In this regard, he follows his mentor Chuck Schumer’s dictum of not messing with Wall Street.

Some connection is possible, but it’s far-fetched. Perhaps the most likely scenario is simply that Preet is just having too much fun doing what he’s doing. There are no federal crimes here, but, hell, every time he says something, it lands on the front page of the Times.

Back to Silver. We know something about him. We know he has the ability to respond. He could convene a news conference today and say: “Preet is full of baloney. All he’s doing is grabbing cheap headlines. I do everything exactly according to the law.”

But Silver won’t do that. He’ll eat the negative coverage and the snarky editorials. He’ll do that because it’s not his style to engage like that, and he’ll do it to take the hit for dozens of other lawmakers who report outside income in exactly the same way he does.

While it’s not exactly a thing of beauty, it’s not quintessential leadership or profound moral positioning, there’s something to be said for Mr. Silver’s restraint.  

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