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More Corruption Trials? Possible Reprise Makes Albany Groan

With a retrial expected for Dean G. Skelos, the former Senate majority leader, above, and for Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker, Albany’s culture of corruption may be highlighted during the 2018 campaign. Source: Seth Wenig/Associated Press.

This material belongs to: The New York Times.

ALBANY — If there was a single upside to the double-barreled corruption convictions of two of New York’s most powerful men, it was the fact that they had occurred in December 2015. That sordid time is past, Albany’s insiders could argue, and we’ve moved on.

But with the recent reversals of those verdicts — of Sheldon Silver, the former Assembly speaker, and Dean G. Skelos, the former Senate majority leader — it seems inevitable that Albany’s dirty laundry, and the actions of some of its powerful participants, will once again be hung out for examination.

This time around, the courtroom rehashing of alleged misdeeds may occur during an election campaign, one in which Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo will be seeking a third term and all 213 Assembly and Senate seats will be up for grabs.

If Mr. Skelos, a Republican, and Mr. Silver, a Democrat, are retried by federal authorities — as they have indicated — the cases may form the backbone of a Murderers’ Row of corruption trials next year. Federal cases against Joseph Percoco, once one of Mr. Cuomo’s closest aides, and Alain E. Kaloyeros, the former president of the State University of New York Polytechnic Institute, are also supposed to begin in 2018.

Mr. Percoco and Mr. Kaloyeros were ensnared in an investigation into bid-rigging, bribery and fraud touching on Mr. Cuomo’s signature upstate economic plan: the Buffalo Billion, which aims to revitalize that western New York city. Both men have denied the charges.

All of this has veteran observers of the Capitol’s venality searching for new metaphors. “The aircraft carrier named Corruption is lined up with a lot of planes,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “They’re all ready to go.”

On a political level, Mr. Horner added, the trials of ex-leaders and ex-friends of the governor could cast a shadow over the 2018 legislative session, as well as the re-election campaign of Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat with purported national ambitions.

On a human level, the prospect of another set of Silver and Skelos trials probably resulted in a cri de coeur among Albany’s professional class — staff members, lobbyists and aides who normally ply their trade from deep in the woodwork — who had been forced to appear on the stand or were name-checked in various ways.

That includes two high-level aides of Mr. Skelos’s who now work for Mr. Cuomo: Robert F. Mujica, the governor’s budget director, and Kelly Cummings, Mr. Cuomo’s deputy chief of staff and senior adviser. Neither was accused of any wrongdoing, but both were working with Mr. Skelos at the time of his arrest in 2015: Mr. Mujica was the chief of staff for Senate Republicans, while Ms. Cummings was the Senate Republicans’ top spokeswoman.

Mr. Mujica was mentioned during the trial as having been in contact with Adam Skelos, Mr. Skelos’s son and co-defendant, about possible state business deals involving an environmental technology company, AbTech, which federal authorities found suspicious. Ms. Cummings was called to testify for two days during the trial, speaking in sometimes granular detail about her work for Mr. Skelos, as well as the inner workings of Senate campaigns and the Republican conference.

Neither Ms. Cummings nor Mr. Mujica responded to requests for comment about how they felt about the possibility of another trial. But Brian Meara, a veteran Albany lobbyist who testified during Mr. Silver’s trial, said he did not relish the thought of more time on the stand.

“The prospect of going through what I went through for three and a half years of my life is not a pleasant one and not something I look forward to,” Mr. Meara said. “But I don’t have any control over it: What will be, will be.”

Mr. Silver’s and Mr. Skelos’s second trials could also mean more talk about Glenwood Management, the real estate powerhouse that used limited liability companies, known as L.L.C.s, to funnel large donations to an array of New York politicians, including Mr. Cuomo. The criminal complaint against Mr. Silver, filed by the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, accused him of using his position as speaker to steer real estate developers, including Glenwood, to a law firm that would then give him a portion of their fee.

While Glenwood was not accused of any wrongdoing, the general counsel of the company, Charles C. Dorego, testified in the Skelos trial under a nonprosecution agreement. And both trials highlighted the ways in which companies like Glenwood viewed political contributions as a necessary expense for getting things done in Albany.

That unsavory lesson, it seems, remains true today, according to good government groups. The so-called L.L.C. loophole, for instance, remains in effect, allowing companies to contribute almost unlimited amounts to candidates. Efforts to close it have failed because of legislative resistance and lackluster backing from the governor, critics say. And efforts to institute other electoral and ethical reforms — like limits on outside income, a major factor in Mr. Silver’s case — have also sputtered.

Still, the possible timing of the trials — when candidates are looking for votes — could add to the pressure for real changes, Mr. Horner said.

“The potential for having major corruption cases happening during an election year has the potential to drive the agenda,” he said before adding, “but maybe not.”