Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York State Assembly, was arrested on corruption charges on Thursday morning.
Silver, 70, a Manhattan Democrat, is under investigation over undocumented payments he allegedly received from a real estate tax law firm.
The veteran politician has a major say which legislation can be voted on and controls the purse strings in the state budget. Opponents have complained that he holds too much power
Here’s what you need to know about the controversial speaker:
1. He’s Been Speaker for 20 Years
Silver has served as speaker since 1994. His arrest would disrupt the running of the assembly and the leadership.
He is known as a consummate backroom player and a skilled negotiator. He was easily re-elected speaker earlier this month when the assembly met in Albany for the new session.
2. He earned $650,000 in legal income in 2013, says the NY Times
A New York Times report claims Silver’s speaker salary is $121,000 a year, but he supplemented that with $650,000 in legal income in 2013, including work for the personal injury law firm, Weitz & Luxenberg, according to his most recent financial disclosure filing.
The total amount of the payments under investigation is unclear. He is accused of failing to disclose them on his annual financial disclosure filings with the state, as required.
Silver insists everything was above board.
3. He Strongly Denies the Assembly is Dysfunctional
Silver was first elected to the assembly in 1976 and was instrumental in New York reinstating the death penalty.
He can continue serving if he is arrested but must quit if he is convicted of a felony.
4. He is an Orthodox Jew and is Married to Rosa
Silver is an Orthodox Jew of eastern European descent. He graduated from the Rabbi Jacob Joseph High School in Manhattan and was an undergraduate at Yeshiva University.
He has been married to wife Rosa for 47 years and has lived all his life on New York’s Lower East Side. He and his wife live a few blocks from their children and 18 grandchildren.
5. He’s an Obama Supporter
He gave an interview before President Obama won the 2008 election saying the then senator had his full support. He also defended Obama’s stance on Israel.