And What Do YOU Do For the Money?
Maybe it’s time for Mr. Silver to go. Maybe it’s time for change. Maybe it’s overdue.
But as they prepare to make the change, Assembly members need to think about the circumstances under which this change is occurring.
If Mr. Silver is guilty of a quid pro quo, just about everyone is.
If a grant to a hospital for cancer research is a bribe, then every time a lawmaker plays a role in advocating for funding for an organization, he or she risks prosecution.
If voting on legislation that affects an entire industry can now be construed as providing an improper benefit to one player in the industry, then any lawmaker who voted in favor of the bill could be liable.
All lawmakers with an outside job ought to be given pause about what is happening here. Any time there’s a situation in which mutual benefit can be identified, the lawmaker could be in trouble.
Time frames are relevant here. Mr. Silver arranged a grant for Columbia Presbyterian Hospital in 2005. Prosecutors reviewed the next ten years for signs of interaction between him and a doctor who worked at that hospital.
By this construct, a lawmaker, acting in his official capacity, could help an organization now, and could be accused of a crime if an individual from that organization helps him at any time over the next ten years.
And what kind of “help” are we talking about? Well, the help could be a simple referral.
Referral. That’s when a doctor says to a patient: “If you’re looking for a good law firm to represent you, you might consider this one.”
Any referral is potentially problematic now. This isn’t just about rainmakers. If you’re a lawmaker who has a business, you could have a problem. If you’re insurance agent, if you’re a real estate broker, if you’re an undertaker – you could have a problem if anyone you once helped makes a recommendation of or referral to your business.
There’s more. If the Silver case moves forward and is successful, then it sets an extraordinary new precedent:
Federal prosecutors would be free to intervene in state politics and say to part-time lawmakers: “Who are your business clients? How much did you get paid? What do you do for the money?”
And by extension, federal prosecutors would be able to determine appropriate levels of compensation.
We are all in desperate need of some context here. Unfortunately, you can’t really get it in New York right now. You have to get beyond the influence of the media, which is on a crusade to get rid of Mr. Silver and change things in Albany.
When you talk to people in the legal community in Washington, they are scoffing at this case. They think it’s an incredible overreach by a prosecutor playing to the media. They say that unless there’s a wiretap of Mr. Silver saying incredibly incriminating things, it will never stand.