NEW YORK — Swooping out of a clammy July sky, unannounced, was the specter of Sheldon Silver, the former speaker of the New York state Assembly and, as of Thursday morning, a former felon. A federal appeals court overturned his convictions for bribery and money laundering.
One more time, Silver was able to beat big numbers with smaller ones.
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Hardly anyone ever voted for him — just 11,455 people in 2014, the last time he ran for office. In a state of 20 million, that total would have been barely a pimple on the body politic, except for one critical quality that has carried Silver through his time as a politician and convicted plunderer.
He had a genius for leveraging obscurity.
In taking power as Assembly speaker in 1994, he persuaded enough of the roughly 99 Democrats in the chamber to give him the speakership. Suddenly, he was the negotiating equal of a succession of leaders of the state Senate and governors from both parties.
Andrew M. Cuomo may have been re-elected governor on the back of 2 million votes in 2014, but in getting half of 1 percent as many votes, Silver could play just as big as Cuomo.
Look now to the criminal case that Silver has, for the moment, beaten. The theme continues.
Each legislative chamber had a pot of health care money that, for a few years, the leadership alone controlled. That gave Silver a wizard’s power. A doctor…
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