Senate's John Sampson Scores Big With Law Firm

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It's good to be the king! State senate leader John Sampson - who only a few months was just another Court Street lawyer scurrying for cases in Brooklyn - has hit the big time. The Post reports that the Democratic majority leader is now "of counsel" to one of the state's biggest personal injury law firms, Belluck & Fox.

As the Post's Brendan Scott points out, this gives the powerful state Trial Lawyers Association a pair of bookends at both sides of the state legislature: Assembly speaker Shelly Silver has a similar gig with another P.I. giant, Weitz & Luxenberg.

Sampson spokesman Austin Shafran told the Post that his boss's new gig "never will be in conflict with his official duties." But he declined to talk turkey about the size of Sampson's new paycheck. Under current state ethics laws, Sampson doesn't have to say. But if the ethics reform package now pending in the senate passes, both Sampson and Silver will have to disclose the range of their incomes, including a new category for those earning over seven-figures. Any clients who do state business must also be disclosed. The current porous ethics disclosure rules allowed Sampson's predecessor, former Republican senate boss Joe Bruno, to secretly pull in millions, a scheme that led to his conviction in Albany federal court last month.

There also could be some political tea leaves to be read here: Sampson has been trying to duck questions about his preferences for this year's gubernatorial race, but Joseph Belluck, the lead partner in Sampson's new firm, has already voted - and heavily - with his pocket book. Campaign records show the lawyer has already anted up $55,900 to Cuomo's swollen campaign chest, which is expected to show a total of some $16 million when disclosed later this month. Belluck is also a major donor to the Democratic Senate Campaign committee, now headed by Sampson, giving $22,500 since 2006. Belluck was also a big booster of ex-gov Eliot Spitzer, donating $60,000 to him between 2004 and 2007. He gave another $16,200 to Paterson back in May 2006 when the former state senator was running as Spitzer's number two. Records show Belluck hasn't contributed directly to Paterson since then.

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