Is Sheldon Silver Jewish?

Yes New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is a Jew. He is a member of the Orthodox community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and a graduate of Yeshiva University, class of 1965.

Sadly, he was arraigned at a federal courthouse Jan. 22, 2015, on bribery and corruption charges.

JTA reported on the story and linked it to another scandal involving an associate of Silver.
William Rapfogel, the longtime CEO of New York’s Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, was arrested in September 2013 for involvement in a kickbacks scheme. He pleaded guilty to helping fleece more than $9 million from the charity, including $1 million that he pocketed himself, and was sentenced last July to 3 ½ years in prison and ordered to pay $3 million in restitution.

Rapfogel’s wife, Judy Rapfogel, is Silver’s chief of staff. After her husband’s arrest, Judy Rapfogel claimed she had no knowledge of her husband’s criminal malfeasance, and she remained on Silver’s staff.

Silver and William Rapfogel lived in the same neighborhood and went to the same shul, the Bialystoker Synagogue on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The two men often sat together in the sanctuary on Shabbat morning, though in recent years Silver began going to the early minyan on Saturday mornings, a neighborhood insider who declined to be identified told JTA.

Rapfogel’s eldest son, Michael Rapfogel, works for real estate developer Bruce Ratner, who has been on the receiving end of numerous favorable decisions by the Public Authorities Control Board, over which Silver has significant control. In 2006, Silver’s intervention helped secure a lucrative tax break for Ratner’s Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn, even though that tax break actually was being phased out, The New York Times reported.

The criminal complaint filed this week against Silver by the U.S. Attorney’s Office alleges that Silver was “on retainer to a mammoth real estate developer” while his office was passing legislation affecting that developer’s business, meeting with lobbyists paid for by the developer and “deliberately keeping secret from the public any information about this lucrative side-deal, in violation of the law.” The complaint does not identify the real estate developer by name.

The heart of the charge against Silver is that he received nearly $4 million in bribes and kickbacks in exchange for his official acts – especially in matters relating to real estate and health care funding — and that he hid the money by disguising it as income from a law practice focused on personal injury matters.

Silver amassed a tremendous personal fortune through the abuse of political power, Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
“As today’s charges make clear, the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain,” Bharara said.

“And as the charges also show, the greedy art of secret self-reward was practiced with particular cleverness and cynicism by the speaker himself,” he said. “Politicians are supposed to be on the people’s payroll, not on secret retainer to wealthy special interests they do favors for.”
The Times discussed Silver's scandal with regard to how it affects Governor Cuomo. Cuomo is not Jewish.


Sammy Finkelman said...

The news reports even putting together from different newspapers, are kind of fragmentary, but the clearest thing, and the biggest thing, is that involvement in asbestos cases, which are generally considered to be a legal outrage. You could look it up. Patients who probably didn't get asbestos from the exposure they are suing over. The same case being used to sue different companies, with nobody being the wiser because the settlements are confidential. Maybe some cases of people who don't even have that disease at all.

Where to begin? Let me try it this way.

There's an asbestos doctor who is actually praised in today New York Daily News.


He changed the chemotherapy regimen for Mesothelioma (a cancer that is supposedly caused by asbestos exposure) from injecting it by IV into an arm to flooding the abdomen with the drug. all these patients used to die with a year. Now 70% are alive after 10 years.

Of course, there is the possibility that maybe many they don’t actually have the disease! But I don't know.)

Anyway, this is what the doctor did: He agreed to refer patients to the law firm where New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was a member and Sheldon Silver was collecting one third of all the law firm got from the settlements as well as a $120,000 a year salary for being associated with this firm.

The prosecutor finds a problem with the fact that Sheldon Silver did no other work for this money (about $3 million over the years) besides the referrals.

Sheldon Silver also gave the doctor $250,000 twice from a 9/11 research fund he had virtual control over, and the prosecutor complains he never cared about what research was done in return.

It’s not clear what the other $8 million in the fund accomplished.

The doctor had originally asked for the law firm to funds his asbestos research, as another firm had done, but Sheldon Silver had a better idea.

When the doctor asked for a third round of funding in 2008, Sheldon Silver said the program was over – actually he had lost control over it – and the doctor subsequently reduced substantially the number of patients he referred, and when Sheldon Silver asked why, the doctor explained because he stopped getting the money and another law firm was funding his research.

Sheldon Silver did direct $25,000 to a nonprofit that the doctor’s wife sat on the board of, and had an official Assembly resolution passed in 2011 honoring the doctor, and in 2012 got his son a job with another non-profit which was a recipient of his patronage {OHEL)

Sheldon Silver also kept all of this hidden except his membership in the law firm.

And today the New York Post reports, asbestos cases from his law firm are fast-tracked in court.

The Manhattan Supreme Court divides cases in Weitz and non-Weitz cases on its web site. They’ve taken over a section of the courthouse. And there is a special section for asbestos cases. More than half the asbestos cases are handled by Silver’s firm. Money is literally pouting into the firm, and asbestos is the biggest piece of its business.

The other day other lawyers had all their cases postponed because the firm was given the entire jury pool.

Judges have allowed the firm to join together cases and a judge reversed a 20-year old decision limiting punitive damages on asbestos cases.

The average award for an asbestos case is two or three times larger than in other courts nationwide according to Bates White Economic Consulting (that might be partly because they are consolidated)

The American Tort Reform association has called NYCAL (New York City Asbestos Litigation) the nation;s top judicial hellhole, saying it plaintiff’s lawyers are brazenly favored by the judges.

Sheldon Silver is notorious for standing in the way of tort reform.

He wasn’t indicted for that. This is more in the nature of a conflict of interest.

Sammy Finkelman said...

The real estate tax reduction and special tax treatment thing, which apparently involved more work and less money (only about $700,000) I don't understand.

Although again making money from referrals. In one case a lobbyist for a company, whose principal in now 100 years old, got worried about silver sharing in the legal fees. So they wanted this 96 or so old man to sign an agreement that Sheldon Silver was his lawyer or something but he refused, so they worked out something in Silver's Assembly office where he would acknowledge it in a side agreement. This man is actually the biggest contributor to Democrats in New York State.

Sheldon Silver misled people about what was going on, although that is not a violation of the penal code.

He also once told someone, I read last week, that he contributed $100 every year to the campaign committee of Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau. The idea was, so long as the contribution was not rejected he'd know he was not in trouble.

One little thing: At his shul this Shabbos, he refused to accept a mishberach.