Federal authorities arrested one of New York state's most powerful Democrats on Thursday on corruption charges, alleging that he accepted millions of dollars of bribes and kickbacks since 2000. "Politicians are supposed to be on the people's payroll, not on the payroll of wealthy special interests they do favors for," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara told reporters Thursday afternoon.
In New York, the criminal indictment against the state Assembly Speaker is clearly a major political development, but the larger trend is striking for those outside the Empire State.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Manhattan Democrat, is accused of defrauding voters by accepting millions of dollars in bribes. He was arrested in New York City earlier today after he turned himself into the FBI.
Given Silver's considerable influence in New York politics, and his alliance with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the criminal allegations have rattled state politics. And while the legal process will obviously play out in the coming months, I have a big-picture question: what's with all the state House Speakers getting arrested lately?
In September 2014, South Carolina's state House Speaker, Republican Bobby Harrell, was indicted on multiple criminal counts, including "six counts of using campaign funds for personal use."
A month later, in October, Alabama's state House Speaker, Republican Mike Hubbard, was arrested for multiple alleged felonies, including the misuse of his public office for personal gain.
In other words, that's three state House Speakers who've not only been caught up in scandals, but who've actually been charged with serious crimes, just over the course of five months.