It’s been a big week for Democratic Party corruption.
First, Democratic Speaker of New York’s Sheldon Silver was convicted of all the corruption charges against him:
“The Democratic speaker of the state Assembly for more than 20 years, Mr. Silver was found guilty by a 12-person federal jury in Manhattan of four counts of honest-services fraud, two counts of extortion and one count of money laundering.”
For years, New York State has ranked among the most litigation-friendly places in America. (Those unlucky enough to get caught up in the state’s civil justice system call it “Sue” York.) Lawsuit reform has bypassed New York largely because one of the state’s most powerful politicians, former assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, was himself a plaintiff’s attorney who benefited from the system he helped create. Over the years, Silver not only blocked attempts to change unique features of New York’s civil justice system, but he also appointed other trial lawyers to key legislative positions, including on the crucial Assembly Judiciary Committee. So it’s not shocking that when Silver himself finally fell from grace, the case revolved around state grants Silver arranged to a cancer researcher, who then referred mesothelioma patients back to the former speaker’s law firm so that they could become clients in the lucrative asbestos-litigation business.
Silver thought the people’s money was his money. For years, he helped lead a regime in which legislators from both parties received millions of dollars to distribute as “earmarks”—money handed out directly by elected officials to favored organizations outside of the state’s regular contracting or granting process. The New York Times dubbed Silver the “king of earmarks” because he used them as a way of exercising power over members of his political caucus. In doing so, Silver was accountable to no one. He handed out millions of dollars of state money, for instance, to the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, an organization run by William Rapfogel, the husband of Silver’s longtime chief of staff. Judy Rapfogel sat in on meetings about funding for her husband’s group, according to press accounts. In 2013, William pled guilty to stealing some $3 million over a nearly 20-year period from the largely government-funded Met Council. He served 14 months of a 3- to 10-year sentence in an upstate prison and recently entered a supervised work-release program.
In New York, the earmark process is so corrupt that politicians can create their own nonprofits and then finance them with taxpayer money—a remarkably blatant display of conflict-of-interest.
Meanwhile, in Rahm Emmanual’s Chicago:
THERE’S been a cover-up in Chicago. The city’s leaders have now brought charges against a police officer, Jason Van Dyke, for the first-degree murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. But for more than a year, Chicago officials delayed the criminal process, and might well have postponed prosecution indefinitely, had it not been for a state court forcing their hand.
They prevented the public from viewing crucial incriminating evidence — first one police car’s dashboard camera video; now, we learn, five such videos in total. And these senior officials turned a blind eye to the fact that 86 minutes of other video surveillance footage of the crime scene was unaccountably missing.
The video of a police shooting like this in Chicago could have buried Mr. Emanuel’s chances for re-election. And it would likely have ended the career of the police superintendent, Garry F. McCarthy.
And so the wheels of justice virtually ground to a halt. Mayor Emanuel refused to make the dash-cam video public, going to court to prevent its release. The city argued that releasing the video would taint the investigation of the case, but even the attorney general of Illinois urged the city to make it available.
Then the city waited until April 15 — one week after Mr. Emanuel was re-elected — to get final approval of a pre-emptive $5 million settlement with Mr. McDonald’s family, a settlement that had been substantially agreed upon weeks earlier. Still, the city’s lawyers made sure to include a clause that kept the dash-cam video confidential.