Sheldon Silver, Untouchable

Is it possible that Sheldon Silver will become even more powerful in Albany once Eliot Spitzer takes over?

The conventional answer is that he won’t — that, by some zero-sum formulation, his ability to rule the lives of his fellow Democrats will be diminished by the presence of a new power at the top of the party ladder.

But there’s a countervailing theory that under a Spitzer Administration, Silver’s influence will actually grow.

It starts with the very asset that is supposed to give Spitzer the power to take on the entrenched powers that be in Albany: his 69 percent voter mandate.

What that actually means, as one reader who has had personal dealings with Spitzer and Silver told me, is that Spitzer will have a hard time coming up with excuses if he can’t show quick results – and that he’ll need the legislative leaders more than ever in order to start producing reforms, as promised, from the moment he takes office.

In addition, some of the changes Spitzer is looking to make will have the effect of concentrating even more power in the speaker’s hands. Take, for example, member items. Restricting how members give out money in their districts will undoubtedly allow Spitzer to claim credit for instituting a needed reform, but it would also have the effect of depriving the rank-and-file members of what little discretion they have, making them even more dependent on Silver.

Which would mean that on Day 1, some things won’t change at all.

— Azi Paybarah

Sheldon Silver, Untouchable