New York’s Crooked Line of Succession

Two former Senate GOP Leaders, Dean Skelos and Joe Bruno, in Albany.

When Mr. Paterson took over in March of 2008, the next man in line for the job, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Bruno, was already under investigation for improperly using state planes--for which he was later cleared--and for using his position to further his outside business interests. Mr. Bruno gave up his leadership position in June of 2008--handing it over to right-hand man Dean Skelos (pictured next to him above). Mr. Bruno was later convicted on two counts of corruption in federal court.


When Democrats took over the chamber in January of 2009 and made Malcolm Smith the new president--elevating him to the state's new number two--he was relatively scandal-free (aside from a paternity suit by a former staffer in 2006). But earlier this month, it came out that Mr. Smith directed $56,000 in state funds to a charity that was supposed to have given the money to Hurricane Katrina victims, but reportedly didn't. The charity was run by several of Mr. Smith's former staffers; Mr. Smith has denied wrongdoing.

Of course, $56,000 dollars is a relatively tidy sum compared to his successor as Senate president ...


When Republicans installed turncoat State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr. as their new Senate president--launching the coup that strangled Albany--Mr. Espada was already being investigated for a $400,000 contract at the hospital he founded, along with lingering questions about whether he actually lives in his district, and why he chooses to file campaign finance reports after his elections are over.

The prospect of Governor Espada was so mortifying that David Paterson refused to leave the state (that would make Mr. Espada the acting governor), and tried a new tack that may or may not have been constitutional...


Fearing the worst, David Paterson decided to test his constitutional powers by appointing Richard Ravitch as a replacement lieutenant governor, which would ensure the number two spot wasn't at the whim of the dysfunctional state senate. A dour, no-nonsense policy guy with a reputation for fixing some of the state's most glaring problems, Mr. Ravitch was ultimately confirmed by the courts, and Mr. Paterson was again safe to leave the state.

Now, with Mr. Ravitch--who has never been implicated in a scandal firmly in place--as next in line, New York's elected leaders can beat the drum for Governor Paterson's resignation without having to worry about who would otherwise be next...


Yes, next in line behind Mr. Ravitch is, once again, the restored Senate president, Malcolm Smith. (When Mr. Espada bolted the Republican Party a month after he joined it, his switch put the Democrats back in power and restored Mr. Smith in the line of succession.)

And after him...


Last in the constitutional line of succession--waiting just behind the carousel of State Senate presidents--is longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Mr. Silver has never been implicated in a scandal--though critics of Albany's ethics always mention that he should really disclose the clients of his private law practice.





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