Dean Skelos, 67, makes as much as $250,000 a year for his part-time work "of counsel" at Ruskin Moscou, according to his financial disclosure forms. In addition, he makes a $120,000 state salary, which includes his leadership stipend. In Albany, the Rockville Centre Republican is one of the "three men in a room" -- with the governor and Assembly speaker -- who negotiate major legislation and the spending of billions of dollars of taxpayer money behind closed doors.Skelos is the only lawyer on Ruskin Moscou's website who doesn't list a specialty. There's no detail on what he does to earn his outside income or how he specifically avoids potential conflicts of interest. A Skelos spokesman also has declined to discuss it. The law firm represents major real estate, health care and corporate interests in New York City and on Long Island....Former Assemb. Arthur "Jerry" Kremer, 79, is a partner in Ruskin Moscou and chairman of its government affairs department. Kremer also lobbies Albany under his own small firm, Empire Government Strategies, a registered lobbyist, which the law firm describes as its "government relations arm." Those clients include real estate, health care and corporate interests, as well as towns and school districts in Skelos' Nassau County district.Real estate is one area in which legal clients and state legislation can overlap. For example, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been charged in a corruption scheme that in part involves what federal authorities said was a powerful real estate developer.NBC New York reported in January that a federal prosecutor was looking at Skelos' income from his law firm and taking a specific look at real estate clients. Skelos criticized the report as thinly sourced and told Newsday the next day that neither he nor his attorneys had been contacted by the federal authorities.
Skelos and Kremer said they make sure their work poses no conflict. "My policy -- all the years -- was I don't deal with Dean," Kremer told Newsday. "I do not. It's off-limits."
Instead, Kremer said, he lobbies other senators, including those in Skelos' Republican conference, and Assembly members. His lobbying pitch says he benefits from "lifetime friendships" that make "the doors of government swing wide open" for his team. Last year, he said Empire Government Strategies landed $3.5 million in state and city grants for clients, while it defeated $200 million worth of "anti-business legislation."
"There is a wall," said Skelos' spokesman, Scott Reif. "He doesn't have anything to do with that. There is a total wall. They don't discuss it . . . anything relevant."
"The problem," said Eliason, former head of a public corruption unit in the District of Columbia, speaking generally, "is the backdoor stuff, the secret stuff." Eliason said the Skelos-Kremer-Ruskin situation appears to be "a concern, at a minimum, of an appearance of impropriety."
He said, however, that such dealings may not break any specific laws, but voters and taxpayers won't know for sure because of the lack of transparency. "There are a lot of things in politics that can smell bad or look sleazy but aren't criminal," Eliason said.
Perhaps this arrangement Skelos has making $250K for his part-time work at Ruskin Moscou that's never been disclosed publicly is all above board but it sure sounds like it could use a little sunlight to, you know, make sure.
What say you, Dean?
Want to tell New Yorkers what the hell you're doing for that $250K a year?