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State Legislature Gains Reputation As One Of Nation's Most Corrupt

The New York State Capitol in Albany. Photo Credit: Wikipedia
Former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, was indicted on federal bribery and kickback charges in January. Photo Credit: File photo
Former state Sen. Nicholas A. Spano and his lawyer, Richard Levitt, in front of the U.S. Courthouse in White Plains in 2012. Photo Credit: File photo
Vincent Leibell, a Republican who served parts of Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties as a state senator and assemblyman for 28 years, was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison in 2011. Photo Credit: File photo

ALBANY, N.Y. -- New York residents have suspected it for years, but now it's official: With both of its former leaders indicted on criminal charges, the state Legislature ranks as the most if not one of the most corrupt in the nation.

Since 2005, nearly three dozen elected state officials , including at least 28 legislators, have been criminally indicted, imprisoned or resigned over accusations of bribery, stealing, extortion or sexual misconduct. One governor resigned in scandal and a comptroller was jailed for fraud.

The latest to be arrested include former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos and his son in May on federal charges of extortion, fraud and soliciting bribes. Skelos is the fifth consecutive Senate majority leader to face criminal charges.

Sen. Thomas Libous, a Binghamton Republican, was once in line to become majority leader. Instead, he faces a summer trial on charges of lying to the FBI. His son was sentenced last month on similar charges.

Also last month, former state Assemblyman William Scarborough, a Queens Democrat, pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, admitting to bilking taxpayers out of at least $40,000 in fake travel expenses.

In January, former state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat from Manhattan, was indicted on federal bribery and kickback charges.

Meanwhile, a widening investigation by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara has left Albany paralyzed and Gov. Andrew Cuomo paranoid, according to State Capitol insiders.

State lawmakers from Westchester and Putnam counties have been among those prosecuted by federal authorities.

Vincent Leibell, a Republican who served in the Senate and in Assembly – representing parts of Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties for 28 years -- was sentenced to 21 months in federal prison after he pleaded guilty in 2011 to tax evasion and obstruction of justice.

In 2012, former Sen. Nicholas A. Spano pleaded guilty to obstructing the IRS, admitting he filed false tax returns and concealed payments from a politically connected insurance broker. Spano, a Republican, served for 20 years representing the 35th Senate District, which includes Yonkers, Greenburgh, Mount Pleasant and Pleasantville.

Several state lawmakers from Westchester County have called for reforms, including term limits or banning convicted legislators from receiving state pensions.

Meanwhile, 47 state senators, including Skelos, passed a bill to double the length of their terms to four years. The Constitutional amendment, which requires approval by the Assembly, governor, next legislature and voters, sailed through the Republican-led Senate with only 15 senators opposing it.

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