Next Week/This Week: Silver Bells


(Photo: Andrew Burton for Getty Images)
Sheldon Silver after the jury found him guilty (Photo: Andrew Burton for Getty Images) Photo: Andrew Burton for Getty Images


1. Preet Bharara: Depending on how you look at it, ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction on multiple corruption charges Monday was either a major victory for the people of the State of New York or yet another national embarrassment. Actually, it definitely looks like more like the latter when you consider he’ll almost certainly be able to claim his taxpayer-financed pension—and his successor in the speakership, Carl Heastie, is holding up a bill that would prevent pols convicted of shady dealings from claiming their cushy retirement funds. But there is one man who is unequivocally whistling “Happy Holidays”: U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. The Silver case was a beast that could have easily eaten the crusading prosecutor alive. The overturning of several of Mr. Bharara’s insider trading cases in October showed he had constructed charges on flimsy evidence in the past, and there were plenty of doubters who pointed out that Mr. Silver had enriched himself through the particularly subtle subterfuge of legal referral fees. But in the end, he rode in on a horse and cut the monster’s head off. Seeing as his tenure at the Southern District of New York is up at the end of next year, it will be up to the rest of us to deal with whatever grows back.

2. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton: A Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday found the two top Democratic candidates for president would dispatch any of the top Republicans by a margin of anywhere from one to 10 points—with the socialist senator from Vermont actually performing slightly better than the former secretary of state. The survey also found Ms. Clinton increased her lead over Mr. Sanders to 60-30 among Democrats, meaning the party has a distinct frontrunner and a base that isn’t currently coming over the hill with their pitchforks for the establishment—which is more than the Republicans can say.

3. Paul Ryan: The new Speaker of the House of Representatives has transfixed America with his scruffy quasi-collegiate beard and his party with his robust declaration of aims and principles on Thursday. The speech had fairly few of the new ideas he called for, but in the face of a faltering Obama administration, the speech showed an optimism and resolve that Republicans have failed to muster over the past five years thanks to internal strife. It remains to be seen, but for now it looks like Mr. Ryan might actually have shot at doing what his predecessor John Boehner never could: uniting the GOP congressional majority.


1. The Skelos family: Mr. Silver’s former counterpart, former State Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, continued to have his dirty laundry aired in federal court and the New York press. The soiled bed linens take the form of hours and hours of wiretapped conversations between the once-mighty Republican and his son Adam, for whom the ex-legislative leader arranged jobs and payments from groups with business with the state and Nassau County. The tapes depict the pair as venal, conniving, underhanded and greedy, the kind of people who think that a slain cop’s funeral is a good place for conducting “business”—basically, everything you ever thought about politicians and their miscreant kids, but were afraid to listen in on their phone calls to find out. It doesn’t help that the Skeloses’ attorneys seem determined to try to present obvious and potentially illegal nepotism as some kind of heartwarming tale of paternal affection, and that they attempted to call a dead man as a witness on Wednesday. That, combined with the Silver verdict, seems to make it even more likely that the state senator and his son will become another notch in Mr. Bharara’s belt—and that New Yorkers will again cover their faces in shame as another of their state’s top pols shows up on CNN on his way to jail.

2. The whole country: Two mass shootings in the past week—one by an evangelical Christian at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado last Friday, the other Thursday by a California man and his foreign-born wife, who had pledged allegiance to ISIS—seemed to hit so many of the country’s pressure points: guns, abortion, immigration and terrorism. If nearly 20 people hadn’t died and dozens more been left wounded, it would seem almost like an an absurd game of political bingo. Odds of this resulting in a productive conversation about any of these issues? Close to zero.

3. Bill de Blasio: Call him the mayor who just couldn’t get it right. Mr. de Blasio is capping off a politically disastrous second year in office by having community and borough boards across the city resoundingly reject his mandatory inclusionary zoning plan, which is a crucial part of his ambitious plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of below-market housing, which is in turn a crucial part of his legacy in Gracie Mansion. They mayor showed his characteristic self-righteous indignation on Monday by labeling his critics “doubting Thomases,” which is sure to change a lot of minds out there.

And, most exciting for reporters, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton indicated on Wednesday that he had no plans to stop causing his boss headaches with his off-the-cuff commentary.


Mr. Silver’s conviction again sent the state’s top politicians scurrying, all bumping into and climbing over each other like roaches in a suddenly illuminated room.


The press and public will continue to take survey of the Skeloses’ stained shorts and crusty socks, and eagerly wait to see if the jury puts another present under Mr. Bharara’s tree. There have been some broad calls for fundamental reform in Albany, but the smart money says that the the most sweeping proposed changes will again die in the backrooms of the capitol.

Mr. de Blasio has repeatedly emphasized that the real fight over his housing plan will be in the Council, so look for the carrots and sticks to come out.


After the San Bernardino shooting, the top thought in nearly everyone’s mind was “what does Congressman Eliot Engel think about this?” Unfortunately, the Bronx Democrat didn’t issue a statement til a solid 24 hours after the rest of his colleagues had weighed in.


Another wiretap reveals the secret to State Senator Skelos’s much-envied hair.


Mr. de Blasio will stand behind a podium and sound pissy while trying to fend off another political embarrassment.

Next Week/This Week: Silver Bells