O'Reilly: The elephant in our state capital

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) talks to reporters

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) talks to reporters after a news conference at the Capitol in Albany. (May 15, 2012). (Credit: AP )

William F. B. O'Reilly

Portrait of Newsday/amNY columnist Bill O'Reilly (March 28, William F. B. O'Reilly

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"FLOWER STATION, N.Y., 7.30 a.m. Have got a clue. Found a succession of deep tracks across a farm near here. Followed them two miles east without result; think elephant went west. Shall now shadow him in that direction." -- Mark Twain, in"The Stolen White Elephant"

It's amazing how difficult it can be to find an elephant. The ones hidden in plain sight are the wiliest. The elephant in the room can be downright invisible.

But as the protagonist in Mark Twain's 1882 classic, "The Stolen White Elephant," eventually discovers, it is the stench of the pachyderme that invariably gives it away. What the eyes will not see the nostrils cannot ignore.

Albany is about to discover that, too. The State Legislature is stirring for its upcoming session, and there will be plenty to watch as it unfolds in January. Issues like taxes, hydrofracking, and public campaign finance will draw our eyes and ears. But what about that stink? What is it -- that fetor hovering at nose level in the hallways of our state capital?

It's the hulking corpse of last year's sex assault scandal that was never cleared away -- the one swept beneath the rug at the end of the 2013 legislative session. It may appear hidden, but the nose knows it's still there, rotting. And it's not going away.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) has neither paid a price nor been fully investigated for how he handled sexual assaults over the years by powerful political figures against young female staff members. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and the Republican legislative leaders are complicit because they have not demanded the type of investigation Silver's actions warrant. None has been willing to risk the political capital necessary to demand Silver's ouster.

That cannot stand.

The State Legislature had little moral authority going into last year's legislative session. It has none now. The legislature will exist as a stark public lie until the elephant in the room is exposed and hauled away.

This column has been updated to correct the first name of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a columnist and a Republican political consultant.