Silver discloses a raise from outside work

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Sheldon Silver. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
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ALBANY—Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver nearly doubled his income from a Manhattan plaintiffs' firm between 2012 and 2013, according to financial disclosure forms released on Wednesday.

Silver, a Democrat from Lower Manhattan, was paid between $650,000 and $750,000 in 2013 for his “of counsel” work for Weitz & Luxenberg. According to his form, Silver engaged in “general practice of law with emphasis on representation of individual clients and personal injury actions and 'of counsel' to law firm.”

Silver's form shows he also has a broad portfolio of investments and stocks, including shares of American Express, ExxonMobil, Haliburton, I.B.M. and Pfizer worth between $5,000 and $20,000.

For 2012, Silver reported between $350,000 and $450,000 in income from the firm, far more than his fellow legislative leaders, who also practice law. Many other lawyer-legislators, including senators John DeFrancisco, Neil Breslin and Andrew Lanza, reported outside income of between $20,000 and $50,000.

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Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein listed himself as a partner in the law firm of Klein, Calderone and Santucci, LLP and as a member of Yonkers’ Downtown Waterfront Development. Klein listed earnings from his legal practice between $75,000 and $100,000, and representation of two catering companies—Maestro’s and Eastwood Caterers—netted between $10,000 and $40,000 last year. He earned less than $1,000 from his role as a senior lecturer at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry.

Klein also owns a third of the law firm’s property on Williamsbridge Road in the Bronx, which is worth between $500,000 and $750,000. The property is mortgaged for between $250,000 and $500,000.

Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos was paid between $150,000 and $250,000 from his outside employment as an attorney with business before state appellate courts on Long Island. He is of counsel with the law firm of Ruskin, Moscou and Faltischek, which practices real estate, health care, corporate and civil litigation. Skelos’s investments remained largely the same but he and his wife did add new stocks worth between $5000 and $20,000 in Abbvie Corporation, a biopharmaceutical corporation famous for its development of Humira, a drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

It's unclear how much time Silver and the other men devote to their private practice. The speaker has long been criticized for sitting on measures that might restrict the size of verdicts won by trial lawyers as a result of his outside engagement. His spokesman has denied any connection, and says his opposition to tort reform measures is based on principle.

Legislative leaders fought to keep the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption, which was convened by Governor Andrew Cuomo, from subpoenaing records from their firms and others that employ legislators that would detail the extent of their work and their exact clients. Commission officials said such outside employment raised the “risk of criminal behavior.”

Cuomo and legislative leaders struck a deal to disband the commission in exchange for changes to the state bribery statute, a new enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections and a pilot program for public campaign finance.

New York lawmakers are allowed to hold outside jobs and have long been required to disclose their outside employers to the Legislative Ethics Commission. This is only the second year for which the range of income and the amount of assets has been publicly disclosed.

Each legislator's base salary is $79,500 per year, but leaders and committee chairmen earn stipends or "lulus" that augment their annual salary. Klein was paid $20,625 between April 2013 and September 2013 for serving as "senior assistant majority leader" and Skelos was paid $31,125 for his role as "temporary president."