I’m thinking a “Let’s Toast Preet Bharara” Cocktail Hour is in order, eh?
The feds have launched a corruption probe into state Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos’ outside income – the same focus that led to the stunning arrest of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver last week, The Post confirmed Friday.
US Attorney Preet Bharara is looking at the powerful Nassau County pol’s connections to various real estate deals, sources said.
Skelos, the highest-ranking Republican in state government and one of the infamous “three men in a room” castigated by Bharara after Silver’s arrest, has not been charged with a crime.
He serves as a counsel for the law firm Ruskin, Moscou Faltischek in Uniondale, which specializes in real estate litigation among other areas.
The law firm is not a part of the investigation, according to WNBC/Channel 4, which first reported the story late Thursday.
In 2013, Skelos was paid between $150,000 and $250,000 for his employment as a lawyer with the firm, according to his financial disclosure documents.
Sources told The Post that Bharara launched the probe based on information provided by a tipster.
And other sources said Senate Republicans were nervous because Mike Avella, a lobbyist who is close to Skelos and other GOP senators, is partners with Brian Meara, a veteran lobbyist who helped the feds bust Silver.
Bharara, who has been relentless in his pursuit of corrupt politicians and white-collar criminals, warned the public to “stay tuned” after Silver was hit with federal corruption charges – a not-so-subtle hint that more arrests could be on the way.
The crusading prosecutor called for reform in Albany during a speech last week.
“If ever there was a moment for real reform, I think it’s now,” he said at the Center for New York City Law at New York Law School.
“If there was ever a time for New Yorkers to show their trademark impatience with the status quo and to show it loudly, I submit now’s a good time for that.”
Bharara’s full-scale attack on Albany is focusing on how part-time legislators make money beyond their public-office salary.
Skelos is a resident of Rockville Centre. He was first elected to the state Senate in 1984. The majority leader, who represents southwest Nassau County, is now serving his 16th two-year term.
In the Silver probe, Bharara’s office found that the disgraced Assembly speaker sent asbestos-related cases to Weitz and Luxenberg without doing any work for the firm, but was still paid more than $5 million over the years.
He also did not disclose $700,000 in payments from Goldberg & Iryami, a small law firm that sought tax breaks for connected developers who had donated to Silver’s campaigns.
Silver is set to be replaced as Assembly speaker Monday after pressure grew on him to step aside.
Skelos’ office issued a statement Friday calling the TV report “irresponsible” — and refusing further comment.
“Last night’s thinly sourced report by WNBC is irresponsible and does not meet the standards of serious journalism. Senator Skelos has not been contacted by anyone from the U.S. Attorney’s office. As such, we won’t be commenting further,” said Skelos spokeswoman Kelly Cummings.
In the law school speech, Bharara also mocked the idea that “three men in a room” – Gov. Cuomo, Silver and Skelos, had total control of state government.
“It seems to me, if you’re one of the three men in the room, and you have all the power, and you always have, and everyone knows it, you don’t tolerate dissent because you don’t have to. You don’t tolerate debate, because you don’t have to. You don’t favor change or foster reform, because you don’t have to, and because the status quo always benefits you,” he said.