It shows how power trumps the rights of victims. And it demonstrates the appalling lack of courage in electoral politics today.
It’s been over a week since we learned that Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) arranged a secretive, $103,000 payoff to female Assembly employees who claimed to have been sexually assaulted by their boss, Assemb. Vito Lopez. He was also the Brooklyn Democratic Party boss — a post he has said he will resign. But not a single Democrat — and just two elected Republicans — have called on Silver to resign as Assembly Speaker.
That cacophony of “War on Women” cries we’ve been hearing all summer? It’s gone utterly quiet.
Silver, who has held an iron grip on power in the Assembly for the past 18 years, initially failed to report the Lopez incidents to law enforcement officials. The $103,000 — in taxpayer money — was supposed to make the matter go away. But the women’s stories got out anyway.
This is not the first time Speaker Silver has been caught ignoring sexual assault allegations. His former legislative counsel, Michael Boxley, was accused of rape in 2001 by a young female Assembly staff member. When the matter was brought to his attention by the victim, the Daily News later reported, Silver sat eating pretzels while she recounted her story. Silver backed the account of his counsel. The matter wasn’t referred to prosecutors as it should have been.
Two years later, Boxley was indicted on rape charges for a separate incident. He pleaded guilty to “sexual misconduct” in 2004 and was sentenced to six years on probation.
It’s a hard thing to call on a speaker to resign. Silver is all-powerful in Albany. He decides who gets lucrative committee chairmanships; he selects what bills can go to the floor for a vote; he signs off on every detail of a $132.6 billion budget — and he can direct millions of dollars in campaign contributions to help or hinder fellow Assembly members at the ballot box.
But that’s no excuse for remaining silent while New York‘s daughters are molested by lecherous political bosses. Where are the courageous ones? Where are the Mr.-Smith-Goes-to-Washington heroes? We need them now. It’s time for them to emerge and be brave, regardless of the personal price they may pay.
The rest of this columns is available at Newsday and Newsday Westchester. Thanks for reading!