The old saying is you can judge a person by the company they keep. Standing shoulder to shoulder with Democratic New York State Speaker Sheldon Silver was New York State Assemblymember David Weprin. Silver was holding a press conference explaining how he was dealing with the recent scandal concerning former Kings County Democratic Party leader and former State Assemblymember Vito Lopez. The scandals surrounding Lopez include repeated sexual harassment of female staffers for years, along with steering millions of dollars in member item pork barrel spending to his favorite local Assembly district organizations. The scandals are so bad that even the liberal New York Times as well as the New York Post, New York Daily News, Staten Island Advance and several other upstate daily newspapers called for both Lopez and Silver to step down from their respective leadership positions.
Weprin is an ever faithful lapdog and apologist for Speaker Silver. He joined a dozen other members in offering their moral support to Silver at his press conference. Weprin learned how the game in Albany is played from his late father—former Democratic State Assembly Speaker Saul Weprin. David, the apple, didn’t fall far from Saul, the tree.
One wonders if Weprin’s genuflecting to Silver was a thank you for his recent appointment to the meaningless position of New York State Assembly Subcommittee on Banking in “undeserved communities?” This earned Weprin a lulu in the thousands of dollars to supplement his $79,000 annual base salary. There are plenty of banks on virtually every street corner in his Assembly District. I guess Weprin believes that he is also entitled to a “piece of the action” just like all the other “goniffs” in the State Legislature.
How can Weprin survive on a base yearly salary of $79,500 for a part time job? He has a family and college tuition for his children. The majority of Silver’s loyal flock has lulus for chairing dozens of useless committees and subcommittees. These are up to $41,500. This can result in a salary of $121,000 per year. This is supplemented by day-to-day meal expense accounts and reimbursement for travel three hours each way to and from Albany.
Silver rules the State Assembly with an iron hand. He controls whose bills come out of committee to a full vote, lulus for chairing committees and subcommittees, funding for member item pork barrel projects, staffing (like the “media officers” who sent out the e-mail several weeks ago announcing Weprin’s appointment), mailings and district office budgets. Silver also controls the Democratic State Assembly campaign committee, which provides funding to the handful of members who actually have to run competitive races against Republican opponents.
There is even more to the problems of some of our members of the State Legislature. Upon retirement, too many of them and their employees join the thousands of infamous State Street Albany lobbyists. Subsequently, they return to the Capital on behalf of their new employers for client “favors”. Albany lobbyists, just like in Washington, play a behind the scenes role in assisting members and staff of the State Legislature to insert favorable language into bills. This is buried in the fine print contained within the hundreds of bills and annual adopted State budget. This is known as a quid pro quo.
Lobbyists purchase tickets to elected officials’ fundraising events held during evening hours after the daily Legislative sessions. They also have their own political action committees make direct campaign contributions to candidates running for another term. Union lobbyists will not only deliver dollars, but endorsements which provide volunteers to run phone banks along with canvassing door to door for election day vote pull operations.
The 2013 State Legislature Session Calendar covers a six-month period from January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013. There are 129 available weekdays. After subtracting New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, President’s Day and Memorial Day, most ordinary New Yorkers will be working 125 days. State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s chamber is scheduled to be in session only 66 days.
Even with all these perks, Weprin still needs to continue his law practice, which pays far more than what he earns as a State Assemblymember. Perhaps The Queens Courier should host a charity event for Weprin to help him make ends meet without picking the pockets of taxpayers.
Real change will only come to Albany with the departure of Silver along with Weprin and other members of his loyal flock who continue to stand by as scandal after scandal unfolds on their watch. David Weprin is a proud member of the Queens County Democratic Party clubhouse. How many more fellow members will follow in the footsteps of former Queens Democratic State Assembly members Alan Hevesi, Brian McLaughlin, Anthony Seminaro and others who have been indicted and had to resign in shame?