Monday, August 26, 2013

Kathleen Rice and Her Cuomo-Silver Conflict of Interest

Question: What do people in NY State know that the Daily News does not?

Answer: Kathleen Rice will not investigate Sheldon Silver, and there will be a coverup

Betsy Combier

Critics question how deeply corruption panel co-chair Kathleen Rice would probe Sheldon Silver after campaign contributions

State government officials are questioning how aggressively Gov. Cuomo's corruption panel would investigate Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, after the law firm that employed Silver gave nearly $300,000 in campaign donations to co-chair and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

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Kathleen Rice


ALBANY — A co-chairwoman of Gov. Cuomo’s commission probing state government corruption received nearly $300,000 in campaign donations from the law firm that employs Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Some critics question how aggressive the panel would be if asked to probe Silver — given the contributions to the co-chair, Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, from Weitz & Luxenberg, its partners and their spouses.

“Given these hefty contributions, it’s fair to ask if Kathleen will look the other way or will she really hold Shelly’s feet to the fire,” said a senior state government official. “Time will tell.”

Rice and her co-chairs — Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Milton Williams — must all sign off on any subpoenas the commission issues.

Silver, a Democrat, reported making between $350,000 and $450,000 last year as “of counsel” at Weitz & Luxenberg, one of the leading trial lawyer firms in the state.
Law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, its partners and their spouses have contributed nearly $300,000 to Rice's campaign.

Law firm Weitz & Luxenberg, its partners and their spouses have contributed nearly $300,000 to Rice's campaign.


The firm gave Rice $5,000 in 2006. Partners Perry Weitz and Arthur Luxenberg, along with their wives, donated another $292,896 to her DA and attorney general campaigns between 2009 and this year.

No one else on the 25-member corruption commission received contributions from Weitz & Luxenberg.

Rice hired Justin Weitz, Perry Weitz’s son, as an assistant district attorney in 2009. He no longer works for her.

Rice spokesman Eric Phillips said the Democrat district attorney has spent more than two decades as a prosecutor “immune to fear or favor.


Cuomo and Rice
“There’s no chance of that changing now,” Phillips said.

RELATED: POLITICAL CORRUPTION PANEL ISSUES FIRST SUBPOENAS

The current system, he said, requires politicians “who want to make a difference” to raise campaign money.

“The DA volunteered for this commission to help break down that unfortunate reality,” he said.

Bill Mahoney of the New York Public Interest Research Group noted that Rice is among the top 10 fund-raisers for every disclosure filing period, receiving money from a host of special interests.



Sheldon Silver


“It’s something to be mindful of,” Mahoney said. “Hopefully she will be able to rise above her ties to her donors and investigate the entire Legislature fairly.”

Aside from the Weitz & Luxenberg donations, Rice has received tens of thousands of dollars from unions and others with state business.

RELATED: ANTI-CORRUPTION PANEL MEMBERS FAILED TO PURSUE CRIMINAL REFERRALS

Among those who have given is Joseph Sitt, a partner at Thor Equities, one of five developers subpoenaed by the anti-corruption commission after the Daily News revealed the firms quietly received lucrative tax breaks in a housing bill passed in January.

Sitt gave Rice’s failed attorney general campaign $4,000 in 2010.

Rice has been a far bigger fund-raiser than fellow commission co-chair Fitzpatrick.

Campaign records dating back to 2006 show that he received regular donations from an upstate law firm that employs Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Fulton) and Sen. Neil Breslin (D-Albany). But those donations totaled less than $8,000.

Williams, the third co-chair, received no donations, since he hasn’t held public office.

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