Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

Audio recordings released by the U.S. attorney’s office at the corruption trial of Sen. Dean Skelos aim to show that the former Senate leader and his son colluded to use Dean Skelos' official position to help his son get employment, in what turned out to be a succession of no-show jobs. But the phone recordings paint a revealing picture about how Albany really works behind the scenes.

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

The New York State Legislature is seemingly back to business as usual, with majority parties holding planning meetings and the new session set to begin right after the holidays. But there has been little public discussion about a corruption crisis that has led to the two most powerful men in the Legislature both on trial in federal court this month.

It’s almost as though they’re taking place in two parallel worlds. In federal court in Manhattan, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and former Senate Leader Dean Skelos are both on trial for corruption.

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State lawmakers said a few years ago they would no longer permit the controversial member item program to continue, but critics said the old system, which gave taxpayer money to legislators’ pet projects, is being revived in a new form.

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New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he has made a decision to stay out of politics for now, due to a climate of corruption and ongoing investigations by his office.

Schneiderman said he will not be endorsing or appearing with any candidates any more, as statewide office holders sometimes do. Both former leaders of the legislature face federal corruption trials next month and the attorney general’s office has, along with the state comptroller, probed the actions of dozens of elected officials, some resulting in charges and convictions.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News

Fixing the state’s troubled ethics commission will be the subject of hearings in Albany on October 7 and in New York City October 17. Reform groups say they are ready with suggestions.

The panel, created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in May, is tasked with looking at ways to improve the Joint Commission on Public Ethics, or JCOPE, which has been widely criticized as secretive and ineffective. JCOPE was launched by Cuomo and the state legislature during the governor’s first months in office back in 2011.

Governor Andrew Cuomo / Flickr

Two more lawmakers, a former Senate Leader and the Deputy Majority Leader of the Senate, were convicted of corruption in the past week. But Gov. Andrew Cuomo continues to say it would not be a good idea to call state lawmakers back to the Capitol to enact more ethics reform measures.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo for the first time as governor, has an approval rating below 50 percent in a new Siena College poll that also finds only 39 percent of New Yorkers think he’s doing a good job in office.

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The final week of New York’s legislative session begins Monday, and so far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers have still not come to agreement on a number of major laws that expire.  

New York City’s rent laws, which impact over one million apartments, sunset at midnight. They are tied, through legislation, to a property tax cap important to suburbanites and upstaters. Also set to expire -- a tax break for large real estate developers who agree to set aside some of their projects for affordable housing, and mayoral control of the New York City schools.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledges that the cloud of corruption over the Capitol is making it harder to achieve end of session deals. Cuomo says currently, there are no deals on any end of session issues, including renewal of New York City rent laws and a related property tax cap, or an education tax credit the governor is pushing.

The governor says the renewal of a tax break for real estate developers, known as 421a, has become problematic, because any changes to the law benefits “some political interest.”

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It’s the second to the last week of the legislative session, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers still have a long way to go before they can agree on key issues.

Rent regulations and the mayor’s control of public schools in New York City expire in June 15, as well as a tax break for real estate developers who set aside a portion of their project for affordable housing. The rent laws are tied, through legislation, to an issue important to suburban and upstate residents, the continuation of a property tax cap.

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A reform group is taking a new approach to trying to close a loophole in the state’s campaign finance laws, as years long attempts to crack down on what’s known as “dark money” donations have failed.

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A third poll in as many weeks shows Gov. Andrew Cuomo losing popularity with voters. This time it’s by Quinnipiac University, which puts the governor’s rating at it’s lowest ever.

State Sen. John DeFrancisco is Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and was involved in the leadership battle in the Senate when former leader Dean Skelos resigned as Majority Leader after being arrested on federal corruption charges. DeFrancisco ultimately lost the leadership role to Long Island Sen. John Flanagan. On this episode of the Campbell Conversations, DeFrancisco speaks with host Grant Reeher about this year's state budget and legislative agenda, the current state of affairs in Albany, the issue of upstate versus downstate, and more. 

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The former leader of the state Senate was formally indicted on federal corruption charges Thursday. Sen. Dean Skelos resigned as leader earlier in May after the accusations against him were announced by the U.S. attorney.

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A new poll finds Gov. Andrew Cuomo with the lowest approval ratings since he took office, in a year where corruption scandals have dominated news at the Capitol.  

The Siena College survey is the second in a month that shows the governor’s support eroding.  Only 41 percent think Cuomo is doing a good job in office, though he’s still viewed favorably overall by 53 percent of voters.  The Democrat governor fared the worst with New York City and Republican voters.

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his first public comments since the leader of the New York State Senate was charged in an extortion and bribery scheme, says if true, he finds the accusations “disturbing.”

Cuomo, speaking at an event in Syracuse, commented for the first time since Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos was charged with six counts of public corruption.

Matt Ryan / WMHT

Major newspapers in New York state have posted editorials calling for Senate Leader Dean Skelos to resign after the senator and his son were accused of running a corruption scam. But so far, Skelos is hanging on and Republicans are trying hard to carry on business as usual.

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Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who turned himself in to federal authorities on corruption charges Monday, will remain as the head of the Senate, his republican members announced after a more than three hour closed door meeting Monday night.

Karen Dewitt / WRVO News file photo

The leader of the New York State Senate, Dean Skelos, surrendered to federal authorities Monday morning and was charged with six counts of corruption, including bribery and extortion, in connection with an alleged scheme that used his political position to enrich himself and his son.

Ryan Delaney / WRVO News File Photo

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says Assemblyman William Scarborough’s expected decision to plead guilty to illegally claiming over $40,000 in travel expenses is “the right thing to do.”   Schneiderman’s office, along with the New York State Comptroller, originally launched the investigation that led to the charges by the U.S. Attorney for New York’s Northern district.

Karen DeWitt/WRVO News File Photo

The final stretch of the New York state legislative session began as more accusations arose about potential wrongdoing by top legislative leaders.

The session began with a closed door meeting by Senate Republicans, the first time that the majority party members met together since the publication of a New York Times report that says federal prosecutors are investigating Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and his son, for possible corruption.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

State Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle says real ethics reform is coming to Albany.

Morelle, a Rochester-area Democrat wouldn’t say whether he thinks former Speaker Sheldon Silver is guilty of a crime. But Morelle said that Silver should have been forced to disclose the source of his outside income.

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Former State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver was indicted Thursday on federal fraud and extortion charges. Silver was arrested in January and charged with taking nearly $4 million in kickbacks. 

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Carl Heastie was elected unanimously by Democrats in the Assembly to be the next speaker, less than two weeks after former Speaker Sheldon Silver was arrested and charged with running a massive multi-million dollar corruption scheme.

Heastie, the first African-American speaker in the Assembly’s 237 year history, gave a brief speech to the chamber, where he focused on moving on from the scandal brought on the Assembly by his predecessor.

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The New York State Assembly is poised to elect Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie as the next speaker, as Sheldon Silver resigned in disgrace over serious corruption charges.  Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo is threatening to hold up the state budget if lawmakers don’t agree to a number of key reforms.

Assembly Majority Joe Morelle confirms that Democrats, meeting behind closed doors, have decided unanimously that Bronx Assemblyman Carl Heastie will be the next speaker.

Karen DeWitt / WRVO News

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver will end his long reign as the head of the Assembly on Monday, say the Democratic members of the Assembly who announced they will hold a new election for speaker on Feb. 10.

After two long days of closed door meetings, as Assembly Democrats reacted to the mounting fallout from Silver’s arrest on federal corruption charges, the Democrats now say Silver will leave his post.

But Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, who will serve as interim speaker for about a week, was cryptic when describing how the speaker will actually exit.  

governorandrewcuomo / via Flickr

Updated, 7:46 p.m.

Democrats in the state Assembly have emerged from two days of closed door discussions on whether, then how, to remove and replace the leader of their conference, who has been charged with corruption.

Assemblyman Joe Morelle, the majority leader from Rochester, told reporters Tuesday evening that Sheldon Silver will be removed from his post.

"On Monday, there will be a vacancy in the office of speaker," he said.

azipaybarah / Flickr

Update: 9:10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 27 --

Assembly Democrats are planning to huddle behind closed doors again in Albany today, trying to decide their next move.

Azi Paybarah / via Flickr

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is expected to present a plan to Assembly Democrats Monday, in which he would temporarily relinquish his power as Speaker to a small group of Assembly Democrats.  

Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirms that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara sent a warning letter to the lawyer representing the now disbanded Moreland Act Commission on ethics, as first reported in The New York Times.  In the letter, The Times says, Bharara threatened to investigate the governor’s aides and maybe even Cuomo himself for “possible obstruction of justice or witness tampering.”