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Calls for ethics reform go unanswered after ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s conviction tossed

Ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s overturned conviction has sparked calls for tougher ethics laws from advocates.

ALBANY — The overturning of ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon’s corruption conviction has sparked new calls for tougher ethics laws — but no rush to action.

Good government groups and other advocates for reform said that aside from statements of support from a few rank-and-file lawmakers, there’s little sign that Thursday’s appeals court decision nixing Silver’s conviction sparked any new momentum among Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders to enact tougher measures.

Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group said that if Silver’s initial convictions weren’t enough to spark new ethics measures, it’s unlikely the overturning of those convictions on appeal will do so.

“He had already been convicted and there was no pressure,” Horner said. “The governor and legislative leaders don’t want to do anything.”

When asked during a stop in Buffalo Thursday whether the ruling in Silver’s case would lead to a new drive for ethics reform, Cuomo sidestepped the question.

“I don’t know what people will find and argue about this,” Cuomo said, stressing that federal prosecutors intend to retry Silver.

(New York Daily News) (New York Daily News)

Front pages of the New York Daily News for December 12, 2015, and December 1, 2015

“Before we do the dissection and the analysis of the legal theories let it be fully litigated and then we’ll know where we wind up,” Cuomo said.

Spokesmen for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (R-Suffolk County) and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) did not respond to questions about whether the developments in Silver’s case should spark a new drive for tougher laws.

“I am not surprised by the lack of noise in calling for stronger ethics laws,” said Citizens Union Executive Director Dick Dadey. “I don’t think the governor and the Legislature are willing to solve the problem.”

Reform advocates noted that the overturning of Silver’s conviction comes after the Legislature ended its annual session without passing any major ethics measures.

Cuomo, in his State of the State message in January, had proposed a package of ethics and government reforms that included a constitutional amendment limiting lawmakers’ outside income and legislation to close a loophole in state election laws that allows limited liability corporations to contribute nearly unlimited amounts to candidates.

There’s little sign that Thursday’s appeals court decision nixing Silver’s conviction sparked any new momentum among Gov. Cuomo and legislative leaders to enact tougher measures.

(Jefferson Siegel/New York Daily News)

While the Assembly passed versions of some of Cuomo’s proposals, the Legislature’s session ended without three-way agreements on any of them.

When pressed on the issue, lawmakers have noted measures adopted in prior sessions, including more stringent financial disclosure requirements for legislators and a proposed constitutional amendment that goes before voters this fall that, if approved, would strip corrupt politicians of their pensions.

Reform advocates argue that more needs to be done and vow to keep up the pressure.

“It showed that we cannot place all our hopes for cleaning up Albany with federal prosecutors,” Dadey said. “This one falls back to the governor and lawmakers.”

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