Cancer and Cronyism in the New York State Assembly

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The Speaker of the New York State Assembly, Sheldon Silver was recently arrested on corruption charges. Millions of dollars in bribes may have found their way to the politician. Given that the Manhattan Democrat was the most powerful person in the state legislature for years, this is no small deal.

At least part of what concerns authorities is Silver’s connection to an oncologist, Dr. Robert N. Taub a leading light in the effort to fight mesothelioma. Mr. Taub’s office may have improperly referred cancer patients to the law firm of the Assembly Speaker. These patients translated into millions of dollars in lawyer fees.

(From The New York Times)

Despite Dr. Taub’s overtures, Mr. Silver told him the firm would not be able to donate. Later, however, Mr. Silver asked Dr. Taub to start referring patients to the firm. The doctor complied, eager to curry favor with the powerful Assembly speaker and to attract money for his research, the complaint says.

The first client came from Dr. Taub in November 2003. And as Weitz & Luxenberg collected payouts on the cases, Mr. Silver’s law firm income swelled. By 2005, hundreds of thousands of dollars in client referral fees were coming into Mr. Silver’s bank account from the Weitz firm.

Mr. Silver inappropriately pocketed about $4 million from two different law firms — Weitz & Luxenberg and a real estate law firm, according to prosecutors. Most of the illicit funds, the complaint indicates, came from the Weitz firm, which paid him more than $5 million in all.

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