Editor’s Note: Speaker of the New York Assembly Sheldon Silver has been charged with orchestrating a massive bribery and corruption scheme.

As we reported last week, Ithaca’s Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton has not joined the chorus calling for Silver to resign. The Tompkins County Republican Party is now criticizing Lifton for her handling of the situation.

Below are two statements: One, issued by Lifton elaborating on her response to Silver’s arrest, and a second issued over the weekend by the Tompkins County Republican Party.

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— Jeff Stein

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Statement from Lifton on Monday:

“The charges made against Speaker Silver by the US Attorney are very serious and cast an ethical cloud over him. While these are still only allegations, if I am not satisfied that the Speaker did not commit the unacceptable ethical lapses described in the criminal charges, I would not be able to continue to support him as our Speaker. In my own experience,  I have always found the Speaker to be an honest and ethical person, and he has been a champion of progressive issues I hold dear, but I am very troubled by the appearance of unacceptable conduct in this matter of fees from two NYC law firms.

“It is critical that the leader of our Democratic conference and the Assembly has the trust of the public and our conference.  I will be in meetings today, and perhaps tomorrow, with the Speaker and my colleagues, from which I assume I will have enough information to make a decision on whether the Speaker is able to lead effectively. ”

Silver, center

From the Tompkins County Republican Party:

In the wake of the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on federal felony charges of corruption and bribery, editorials in the New York Times, the Syracuse Post-Standard, the Ithaca Journal, and the New York Daily News have called on Silver to resign.  The Tompkins County Republican Party now joins in that call.

Tompkins County Republican Chairman James Drader observes, “Most members of the Assembly’s Democrat Caucus have failed to call for Silver’s resignation despite the seriousness of the charges against him, which include taking millions of dollars in kickbacks.  Sadly, Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton, who represents Tompkins County and part of Cortland County, is among these die hard Silver supporters who seem to be looking for any excuse not to remove their Speaker.  This is hardly surprising since Lifton admits she is a friend of Silver’s. Her voting record shows she has faithfully voted with her leader and friend Silver almost all the time. She seems to think because they share positions against fracking and for teachers, he should be given a pass.

“Now Lifton says Silver’s ‘leadership’ could be important in budget decisions.  First, how can a ‘leader’ who has been charged with federal felonies be an effective leader and, second, what kind of budget can we expect from someone accused of selling his office?  More of the same things that got him indicted?

“As far back as Lifton’s 2010 re-election campaign, Silver’s corruption was a major issue.  To charges against Silver of corruption Lifton replied, ‘That’s not the way we do things in Albany.’  Apparently, she was right about that, since it took a federal prosecutor to do something.  Corruption, regardless of party is unacceptable, the federal prosecutor should follow the trail wherever it leads.

“Federal prosecutors, particularly those in a national Democrat controlled Justice Department, are unlikely to move against or charge a major Democrat political figure with federal felonies without very substantial evidence.  Unless she is politically naïve, Lifton should know this and take these charges far more seriously.  Loyalty to one’s friends should stop at possible corruption and charged serious criminal activity.  Lifton’s failure to recognize this is a moral and ethical failure and a lapse in good judgment.

“The Tompkins County Republican Party therefore calls for Silver to resign and urges Lifton to cease her blind defense of her friend and colleague Silver.”


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.