Federal authorities are investigating New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ sources of income and alleged ties to the real estate industry, NBC New York reported, citing sources familiar with the inquiry. Skelos, the top Republican official in the state government, has not yet been formally charged.
Skelos, R-Nassau County, has represented the Ninth District for 16 terms since being elected in 1984, and works as legal counsel at Ruskin, Moscou & Faltischek, a law firm in Uniondale, New York. In his annual disclosure, Skelos listed an income of between $150,000 and $250,000 from outside the company in 2013. The investigation against the politician is being led by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who has said he intends to pursue the issue of statewide corruption. The report comes just one week after Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with accepting $4 million in bribes, which he has denied.
“These charges in our view go to the very core of what ails Albany,” Bharara had said in a speech last week, The Villager reported. “Lack of transparency, lack of accountability and lack of principle, joined with an overabundance of greed, cronyism and self-dealing.”
Former federal prosecutor Robert Ray told NBC New York that the news about the inquiry into Skelos' income is unsurprising.
"Given what we know what has happened in Albany and the cesspool that has taken over the state legislature, it is not at all surprising they are looking in other directions," he said. He added, however, that it is “unprecedented” in the state for the Senate leader and the Assembly speaker to be under investigation at the same time.
Bharara is also investigating Governor Andrew Cuomo’s abrupt closure of the Moreland Commission, an anti-corruption panel Cuomo shut down last year. Cuomo’s re-election campaign reportedly spent $100,000 on a defense attorney to represent his office in that case last year, Politics On The Hudson reported.
More broadly, Bharara has spoken out against Albany’s political culture, criticizing it as the proverbial "Three Men in a Room" -- the governor, Assembly speaker and Senate majority leader -- who work in secret and without accountability. For decades, the state’s legislature has effectively been controlled by these three positions, the New York Times reported.
Bharara’s investigation is part of a wider inquiry into how legislators in the state make money from external sources. Authorities have not yet announced any new targets for investigation, but Bharara has indicated that the probe is just beginning.
“Stay tuned,” he said, at the conclusion of his press conference last Thursday.