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Critics Blast Democrats For Remaining Silent Amidst Albany Cover-Up Scandal

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Elected officials have been notably silent when it comes to criticizing one of the most powerful Democrats in New York amidst a sex harassment claim and cover-up scandal in Albany.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver is under fire for approving a secret payout of tax money to settle a sex harassment claim against his ally, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, and failing to follow protocol by referring the claim to the Ethics Committee.

But in contrast to the harsh newspaper headlines, leading female elected officials like Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Rep. Carolyn Maloney have put out statements devoid of any criticism of Silver.

"I think what's going on here is pure politics and it's absolutely shameful," Iona College political science professor Jeanne Zaino told CBS 2's Tony Aiello on Thursday.

Zaino pointed out that New York Democrats are often front and center in the media when it comes to slamming Republicans for a "war on women."

"If this was a Republican, you'd hear swiftly, women on both sides and men, Democrats, coming out strongly against it. Yet on the Democratic side, because of politics, because Shelly Silver is who he is...they have been very mild and very kind of complacent," Zaino said.

State Sen. Tony Avella said self-preservation keeps Assembly Democrats from criticizing Silver.

"I think it's important for every elected official when a situation comes up like this, to speak out. That's the only way we're gonna change the attitude in Albany," Avella said.

While Speaker Silver avoids direct fire, Assemblyman Lopez is taking heavy flak, with many Democrats demanding he resign.

Lopez has denied harassing female staffers, who claim he propositioned them and urged them to dress provocatively. He has refused to resign his legislative seat, but is stepping down as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

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