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Senate GOP rallies behind Skelos amid fed probe

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Long Island's

State Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), Long Island's highest-ranking legislator and majority leader of the Senate, is the focus of a federal investigation into allegations of corruption. Above, Skelos in July 2012. Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

ALBANY - Senate Republicans Tuesday pledged full support for Majority Leader Dean Skelos before and after their first closed-door conference since he was identified in news reports involving a federal corruption probe.

After the one-hour session, Sen. John Flanagan (R-East Northport) said his confidence level in Skelos is "just as strong as it was two weeks ago," before news reports of the investigation surfaced.

Sen. William Larkin (R-Cornwall-on-Hudson) said the meeting didn't include any discussion of the federal probe, but was all about pending legislative issues.

"He's straight," Larkin said of Skelos.

The top two leaders of the Republican conference that runs the chamber with a narrow majority are now under federal investigation. Senate Deputy Majority Leader Tom Libous (R-Binghamton) is charged with lying to FBI agents in a case in which he's accused of using his political influence to land a job for his son in a law firm. His son, Matthew, was convicted of tax evasion in January. Libous has denied the charge.

Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) has not been charged and has denied any wrongdoing. He didn't leave his office Tuesday, where reporters awaited outside.

The New York Times first reported last week that federal authorities are investigating a $12 million storm water treatment contract from Nassau County in 2013 that went to a company that employed Skelos' son, Adam, as a consultant.

Sen. Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) bristled at reporters' questions about the mood of the conference over Skelos and the investigation. LaValle said the investigation is not an issue "at all."

"People are where they are with the leader, they have trust in him and faith in him," LaValle said. LaValle wouldn't respond when asked if he had been subpoenaed for testimony in the investigation.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman John DeFrancisco (R-Syracuse) said Skelos' "level of support is fine; what we are doing now is setting the agenda for the last two months of the year and that's the priority for everybody here."

"It seems to be the thing of the day to be investigated," he said. "We see it with other people in the conference and other people in the Assembly."

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