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Yesterday the names of 9 individuals caught on wiretap by Sen. Shirley Huntley were made public. Six of those individuals were sitting Democratic State Legislators. The list includes already-indicted Sens John Sampson and Malcolm Smith and their colleagues Sens. Jose Peralta, Velmanette Montgomery, Ruth Hassel-Thompson and Eric Adams. Two political operatives were also taped as well as Councilman Ruben Wills. Huntley, who was facing her own legal troubles, invited pols to her home under the ruse that she had a broken ankle and then recorded them. Taped parties reacted in different ways to finding out their names were on the list. Officials said eight one of the recorded parties are under investigation for wrongdoing. Sen. John Sampson was indicted earlier in the week on embezzelment charges and he is just the latest in a long line of state legislators facing federal indicments. Gov. Andrew Cuomo threatened to convene a Moreland Commission if legislators don't pass major elections and ethics reform.
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Sen. Shirley Huntley was having trouble with the FBI so she called up her colleagues and had them over to her house — to wiretap them.
According to court documents, Huntley was hoping to win favor with prosecutors when it came to her corruption case.
Today a judge unsealed Huntley's sentencing document unveiling a list of those she helped record for the FBI. They include several sitting Democratic Senators, a couple political consultants and a sitting Council member. Prosecutors have indicated that at least one of the people named on the list is not under investigation.
So who are these lawmakers and political operatives?
Lets start with the usual suspects: Sens. John Sampson of Brooklyn and Malcolm Smith of Queens.
The State Legislature seems to be a in rush to get out of town.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon SIlver has cancelled today's scheduled session. "Why?" you ask. Well, for ethics training of course!
Sort of. The Assembly has been scheduled to undergo ethics training today for sometime but the session was going to go on later in the day.
However, it was decided the ethics training could run late.
Meanwhile, the Senate has called off session for Monday and Tuesday citing the Jewish Holiday Pesach Sheni.
A judge has ruled that the names of eight people who spoke on wiretaps with former state Sen. Shirley Huntley can be made public tomorrow.
Huntley, who pleaded guilty to funnelling tens of thousands of dollars in public money to a bogus charity that she operated, wore a wire for federal prosecutors for several months last year.
What makes Huntley's case so interesting is that prosecutors are arguing that the names should not be released because doing so could compromise ongoing investigations. Six of the eight people Huntley spoke to while wearing a wire are elected officials.
Judge Jack Weinstein wrote in his ruling that he isn't worried that revealing these names will ruin any cases.
"Every legislator who has conversed with this defendant will necessarily assume that he or she wasrecorded under the supervision of the FBI," he wrote. "There will be no surprises to the potentially accused by the revelations of their names. Interference with ongoing investigations will be of almost no significance."
Who is state Sen. John Sampson? This morning, everyone knows Sampson as the man who turned himself in to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to face multiple charges for embezzling money he was in charge of as a lawyer to fund his ill-fated run for Brooklyn District Attorney.
But Samspon has long been a player in Albany, and rumors of corruption have swirled around him for years.
Elected to his seat in 1996, Sampson has worked as an attorney for Alter & Barbaro, Esqs., since 1994. For a while Sampson was the answer for all the Senate Democrats' problems and became one of the most powerful men in Albany.
In 2009, during the Senate coup, the Democratic conference elevated Sampson to conference leader (a position that had previously not existed) in a bid to return Sens. Hiram Monserrate and Pedro Espada to the fold.
Sampson's time as a leader of a majority conference was brief; Democrats lost their majority in 2010.
Andrea Stewart-Cousins is the new head of the Senate Democrats. The Westchester Senator was elected by a 19-6 vote over Sen. John Sampson and is the first woman to head a legislative conference in New York State.
"I will work with my colleagues in the Republican and IDC Coalition to ensure that the progressive issues that both the Governor and our conference believe in are advanced. I want to thank Sen. Sampson for all his hard work and his dedication to the Senate Democratic Conference and to the people of New York," Cousins said in a statement.
Sampson took over as the head of the conference from Sen. Malcolm Smith in June 2009 after the Senate Coup. A number of Democrats expressed that they felt the vote would help move the conference forward from the association with the troubled period when the conference was in the majority.
Here are statements from a number of Senate Democrats: â€śI look forward to working with Leader Stewart Cousins as we move the Democratic Conference forward serving all New Yorkers. The people of New York want a progressive and democratic agenda and that is what the Democratic Conference under the leadership of Senator Stewart Cousins will provide,â€ť stated Senator John Sampson.
Senator Eric Adams said, â€śNew Yorkers deserve a state government that responds to them, not the special interests. That is why I am so pleased that Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins will lead our conference and together we will advance the progressive legislative agenda called for by the residents of this great state.â€ť Senator Joe Addabbo said, â€śI commend our new Democratic Conference leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, for her dedication to the conference and the hard working men and women of New York State. I look forward to working with her to advance the progressive agenda the voters sent us to Albany to achieve.â€ť Senator Tony Avella said, â€śThe Senate Democratic Conference has been instrumental in the fight for common-sense, progressive legislation. Senator Stewart-Cousins will continue that proud tradition as she leads our conference into the upcoming legislative session.â€ť Senator Neil Breslin said, â€śI applaud Senator Stewart-Cousins on becoming the next leader of the Senate Democratic Conference. The people of New York expect progressive leadership from their state representatives, and under Senator Stewart-Cousins, that is exactly what we are going to ensure gets done.â€ť Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. said, â€śSenator Stewart-Cousins will be an excellent leader for our conference, and will be a powerful voice for good government. The residents of New York State need a leader like Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins to represent their interests, and I am honored to serve with her.â€ť Senator Martin Dilan stated, â€śI congratulate Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and look forward to helping her stand up for the working men and women of New York.â€ť Senator Adriano Espaillat, said, â€śUnder Conference Leader Stewart-Cousins, Senate Democrats will continue to be a powerful voice for New Yorkâ€™s working families. I look forward to working with Senator Stewart-Cousins to continue to grow the Democratic conference and apply progressive solutions to move our state forward.â€ť Senator Mike Gianaris said, â€śI want to give my immense thanks to John Sampson for his leadership and I look forward to working with Democratic Conference Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Her historic election will help move our conference forward and help us pass the progressive agenda that we successfully ran on and the people of New York have demanded.â€ť Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson said, â€śI am proud to join my Democratic colleagues on this historic occasion in applauding our new Conference Leader, Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Senator Stewart-Cousins has been an excellent public servant, and I am confident she will be an exceptional leader for our conference.â€ť Senator Tim Kennedy said, â€śSenator Stewart-Cousins has been a voice for the underserved and a champion for working families. Today she earned her place in history by becoming the first female, African-American Minority Leader in New York State history. I look forward to working with her and continuing to move this state in a new direction by championing issues that are important to Western New Yorkers.â€ť Senator Liz Krueger said, â€śSenator Stewart-Cousins will ensure that New York remains committed to a progressive agenda. She has been a great Senator and I know will be a great Conference Leader.â€ť Senator Velmanette Montgomery said, â€śSenator Stewart-Cousins will be an excellent leader for the Senate Democratic Conference and I commend her on her new position. I look forward to working with her, and all of my Democratic colleagues to protect the interests of all New Yorkers, not the privileged few.â€ť Senator Kevin Parker said, â€śI commend Senator Stewart-Cousins and join with my colleagues in supporting her as our new Conference leader. Under Senator Stewart-Cousins we will continue to be outspoken advocates for those New Yorkers who need a progressive state government the most.â€ť Senator Jose Peralta said, â€śI am proud to support Senator Stewart-Cousins as Democratic Conference Leader. This next session will be extremely important and we must work together to ensure the people of New York have a strong voice fighting for them in Albany to increase the minimum wage and enact common sense gun laws.â€ť Senator Bill Perkins said, â€śI look forward to working with our new leader, Senator Stewart-Cousins, and all of my colleagues in the State Senate to ensure that New Yorkers receive the effective state government they deserve.â€ť Senator Gustavo Rivera said, â€śAs someone who helped work to elect Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, I am particularly proud today to join my colleagues in the Democratic conference in selecting Andrea Stewart-Cousins as our new leader. Together, we will fight to advance the progressive agenda New Yorkers so clearly have called by overwhelmingly voting for Democrats this past election.â€ť Senator Jose Serrano said, â€śI commend Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins and look forward to serving with her as our new Democratic Conference leader. The residents of New York have repeatedly called for progressive leadership, and that is exactly what Senator Stewart-Cousins, and the entire Democratic Conference, will provide.â€ť Senator Daniel Squadron said â€śToday we made history, electing the first woman leader of a New York legislative conference. I look forward to working with Senator Stewart-Cousinsâ€™ leadership to continue to move forward the progressive foundation that Senator Sampson has built.â€ť Senator Toby Stavisky said, Senator Stewart-Cousins will be the first female legislative leader in New York State history, and I am honored to serve with her. Senator Stewart-Cousins will be an excellent leader for the Democratic conference and I commend her for her dedication to the conference and residents of New York.â€ť Senator-Elect Terry Gipson said, â€śI am eager to get to Albany and fight for my constituents. I am honored to support Senator Stewart-Cousins as Democratic Conference Leader.â€ť Senator-Elect George Latimer said, â€śI served with Democratic Leader Stewart-Cousins in both the State Legislature and the Westchester County Legislature and I know that she will be a strong voice for Democratic values.â€ť Senator-Elect Brad Hoylman said, â€śI look forward to taking my place in the State Senate this January to begin representing the interests of all my constituents. I am proud to be part of an historic first for New York State Government. With Senator Stewart-Cousins as our leader, I am confident that together with my Democratic colleagues we will give New Yorkers the progressive government they deserve. I commend Senator Sampson for laying the groundwork for our conferenceâ€™s further success.â€ť Senator Elect Ted Oâ€™Brien said, â€śIt is an honor for me to take my place alongside my Democratic Senate colleagues to select Senator Stewart-Cousins as our conference leader. I look forward to serving under her leadership and working to represent my constituents, and all New Yorkers, in the State Senate.â€ť Senator-Elect James Sanders, Jr. said, â€śSenator Stewart-Cousins has a distinguished history fighting for those who need state government the most. I look forward to joining the Democratic Conference under her leadership, and together we will continue the struggle to give New Yorkers the government they deserve.â€ť Senator-Elect Cecilia Tkaczyk said, â€śAs I stand ready to complete the election process and take my place in the State Senate, I look forward to serving with Senator Stewart-Cousins as she leads the Senate Democratic Conference into the next legislative session and beyond.
State Senate Democrats are expected to take a leadership vote later this afternoon.
A number of sources have said that the situation remains very fluid and have indicated that discussions about who should lead the conference have really heated up over the past week.
We reported last week that some Democrats were excited when Gov. Andrew Cuomo seemed to chide Republican Sen. Dean Skelos for not publically backing his litmus test. There has also been a lot of talk about voting for a new leader who might entice the breakaway group of Democrats led by Sen. Jeff Klein back into the fold, should there be trouble between them and the Senate Republicans.
However, other Democratic senators insist they will vote for the right person to lead the conference based on their positions and abilities not just someone who could possibly make the IDC happy down the road. Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins is being talked about as a favorite to replace Sampson, and she has a decent relationship with Klein.
We will update you on the situation as it unfolds.