The Lesson of Silver and Skelos

By Freeman, originally published May 16, 2016 •

Last week in Manhattan, Republican Dean Skelos, the former Majority Leader of the New York State Senate, was sentenced at federal district court to five years in prison on corruption charges of bribery, extortion and conspiracy. His son, Adam Skelos, was sentenced to six and a half years.

This follows the sentencing a week earlier of disgraced Democrat Sheldon Silver, the former New York State Assembly Speaker. Mr. Silver was sentenced on May 3rd to twelve years in prison for honest services fraud, money laundering, and extortion. These are not the first criminals — nor likely the last — to be dragged from the dens of government corruption in Albany and New York City.

Other recent political convicts include Democrat State Assemblyman William F. Boyland Jr. (14 years in 2015); Republican NYC Councilman Dan Halloran (10 years in 2015); Democrat State Senator Malcolm Smith (7 years in 2015); Democrat NYC Councilman Larry Seabrook (5 years in 2013); Democrat State Senator Pedro Espada (5 years in 2013); Democrat State Senator Carl Kruger (7 years in 2012); Democrat State Assemblyman Anthony S. Seminerio (6 years in 2010); Democrat State Senator Efrain Gonzalez Jr. (7 years in 2010); Democrat State Assemblyman Brian M. McLaughlin (6 years [reduced] in 2009); and Democrat NYC Councilman Miguel Martinez (5 years in 2009).

That’s quite the roster. Joining the lineup this week is former State Senate Democrat leader, John L. Sampson, who will also receive sentencing for his felony conviction of obstructing justice and making false statements. He faces up to 20 years.

Additionally, federal prosecutors are pursuing a corruption probe of Democrat Governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration, notably his longtime friend and confidant, Joe Percoco. The top aide is alleged to have illegally taken $150,000 from contractors. Administration insiders suggest that Mr. Cuomo must have been aware.

Meanwhile, the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, which has political ties to Mr. Cuomo, has been investigating NYC mayor Bill de Blasio’s dubious nonprofit, Campaign for One New York (CONY). The organization is said to have raised millions of dollars for the mayor’s special projects. The commission is looking into whether Mr. de Blasio and several aides broke fundraising laws by soliciting large sums of campaign cash for State Senate candidates, another felony.

Mr. de Blasio has his own contractor problems as well. His administration is being eyed by federal and state investigators for awarding a multi-million dollar contract for trash bags to be used in city parks. A provisional order was made by the city through a middleman shortly after the original bag manufacturer had donated $100,000 to de Blasio’s aforementioned CONY. Ironically, the trash bags in question supposedly repel rats. Perhaps City Hall should be draped in the stuff.

This is all wonderful news of a sort that these public servants are being held accountable for their transgressions against the Laws and People of New York. Unfortunately, history has witnessed political graft on this scale before in the Empire State. The legendary Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed crowd come immediately to mind. Rinse and repeat.

With all of this happening in our municipal and state governments, imagine what must go on at the federal level. In Washington, there is even less oversight and far greater opportunities for the self-interests of the so-called elites. And far greater consequences for the American People. We are not talking mere millions, but billions, even trillions of dollars at stake.

It should not surprise anyone that the median net worth of congressional members in 2013 exceeded one million dollars, while the net worth of the average American household plummeted 36% from 2003 to 2013. Nor should it surprise that the nation’s five biggest banks have continued getting bigger since the financial collapse and bailouts. Ditto for our $20 trillion national debt, which will have nearly doubled since Barack Obama took office.

The nation’s Founders knew well the designs and dangers of an entrenched political class consorting with a moneyed aristocracy. People today call it crony capitalism; we prefer the term “corporatocracy.” The Founders saw it simply as the gravest threat to an independent, self-governing American Republic. That’s why they chose to war over these principles against the elites of their day. It’s also why they framed the Constitution the way they did, replete with checks and balances.

Yet today we have a president-who-would-be-king ruling by executive diktat: Signing secret economic treaties with enemies of the state. Bypassing congress and altering the implementation of laws on a whim. An army of unelected fed agency bureaucrats marching in lockstep to do his bidding, hell-bent on destroying political enemies, silencing dissenters, and thwarting any challenges to the corporate cartel system. All under color of law.

We have governors ramrodding dangerous laws in the dead of night, without proper review and debate. We have county clerks, mayors, and municipalities infringing upon our property and privacy rights, literally at every turn. All in the name of our wellbeing.

They have instituted power madness. And we have allowed it.

It cannot be said enough: Our federal and state constitutions were not intended to restrain the people — they were created to keep close rein on those elected to administer the Will of the People through government. The Supreme Law of the Land is the Great Rulebook by which Americans are meant to govern their government. It is the only sure way, short of war, that a Free People can safeguard a true Liberty.

However, these rules are meaningless unless We The People give them meaning. And the only way this will be accomplished is by holding tyrants accountable to the Rule of Law, by any and all means necessary. “Preserve, protect, and defend the constitution” are just words, unless we apply the Great Rulebook at every turn throughout every generation.

Therefore it is imperative that we begin again to empower our posterity by teaching the honest origins and intents of our founding documents in our children’s schools. It’s why we must be wary of calls for constitutional conventions by the political class and their agent delegates, as a means to further advance their self-serving agendas.

It is also why we must remain eternally vigilant, for there will always be another Obama. Another de Blasio. Another Cuomo. Another Silver. Another Skelos.

Thomas Jefferson may have said it best: In questions of power, let no more be heard of confidence in man — but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.

Heed well the lessons of history.

TJ bind down by the chains of the Constitution# # #

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