Attorney General

For Now, AG Candidates Have Some Parity On Fundraising

It’s still early, but the unexpected resignation of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman following domestic violence allegations set off a scramble to replace him — and raise money to mount a competitive bid.

With five candidates — four Democrats and one Republican — in the mix, the fundraising for now has shown some parity when it comes to total amounts raised over the last two months, at least for now.

Take Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who is set to report having raised $1.1 million. He will report $4.1 million in cash on hand.

It’s not clear how much of that will have been transferred from another account. But Maloney’s campaign points to 1,500 individual donations and 90 percent of the contributions coming in at $200 or less.

Republican Keith Wofford, meanwhile, also raised $1 million and has $1 million in cash on hand.

He’s received support from the New York Republican Committee, including $150,000 transfer and a personal loan of $100,000. Republican Chairman Ed Cox gave Wofford’s bid $44,000.

Schneiderman Filed For Retirement In June

Disgraced former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman filed for retirement on June 5 and will earn a nearly $64,000 pension.

Schneiderman resigned in May amid allegations of domestic abuse leveled by multiple women who spoke to The New Yorker.

Schneiderman last month received a pro-rated pension payment of $4,618 and will receive monthly payments of $5,329.

The former attorney general has not yet been criminally charged based on the accusations.

His resignation triggered a Democratic primary for the office Schneiderman had held since 2011. Currently, there are four Democrats vying for the nomination: Leecia Eve, Zephyr Teachout, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney and New York City Public Advocate Tish James.

Republican Keith Wofford is the presumptive GOP nominee for attorney general.

NY Bernie Backers Stick With Teachout

The New York-based organization People for Bernie has continued its track record of backing Fordham Law School Prof. Zephyr Teachout, announcing over th weekend its endorsement of her state attorney general bid.

The co-founders of The People for Bernie – Kat Brezler Charles Lenchner Winnie Wong and Moumita Ahmed – worked on Zephyr’s unsuccessful gubernatorial run in 2014, in which she turned in a stronger-than-expected performance against incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary.

The organization also backed Teachout in 2016, when she ran unsuccessfully for an open House seat, (vacated by former Republican Rep. Chris Gibson), against Republican John Faso. Sanders himself endorsed and campaigned with Teachout in that campaign, but she lost the general election to Faso in November.

“Zephyr Teachout literally wrote the book about corruption,” Brezler said. “We need her tenacity to fight back against corporate power.”

In true Sanders style, People for Bernie announced its support of Teachout in a tweet, saying it will focus on helping her petition her way onto the ballot after she failed to make the cut at the state Democratic Party convention in May.

NYC Public Advocate Tish James, who is supported by Cuomo, was selected by the party rank-and-file at the convention to be the official Democratic nominee.

Also seeking to petition onto the September ballot is Leecia Eve, a former top aide to Hillary Clinton and Cuomo who is on leave from her job as a lobbyist and top government affairs official for Verizon; and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who ran unsuccessfully for AG in 2006 – the year Cuomo won the four-way Democratic primary for that office, and went on to beat Republican Jeanine Pirro in the November election.

Throughout all of her political campaigns to date, Teachout has focused on campaign finance reform. That focus continued today, when she highlighted the fact that she is the only Democratic AG candidate to reject exploiting the LLC loophole to maximize her fundraising capability.

Teachout also took a swipe at James for being the beneficiary of a fundraiser big money fundraiser being headlined next week by Cuomo, who has raised $16.5 million since 2011 from LLCs alone.

“I accept no corporate PAC money, and no LLC money,” Teachout said. “This is not complicated: No attorney general should take money from corporations she is charged with overseeing and investigating and whose law breaking she may prosecute. When law enforcement candidates takes corporate money, it undermines trust in the law itself, and people get shut out.”

Though not getting the Democratic nod at the convention complicated things for Teachout, forcing her to expend time and resources to get onto the ballot, it also freed her, in a sense, to take positions far to the left of what the governor, (who basically runs the party), is comfortable with. That could prove problematic in a general election, but might help her eke out a victory in the primary.

Underwood Knocks Travel Ban Ruling

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Tuesday criticized the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from predominantly Muslim countries.

The ban, which applies to Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen, also applies to North Korea and some Venezuelan officials, is the third attempt by the Trump administration to block travel from counties deemed to be a security risk to the United States.

“​President Trump’s travel bans are a stain on American history that were rooted in deep anti-Muslim animus and unleashed chaos on families, businesses, institutions, and communities throughout New York,” Underwood said. “Despite today’s ruling, New York will continue to serve as a beacon to the world, welcoming people of all faiths, races, nationalities, and backgrounds.”

The New York attorney general’s office had joined efforts to block the ban from taking effect. The 5-4 ruling at the Supreme Court is one of the first major victories in the court for the Trump administration.

“I’m proud of our work to successfully beat back President Trump’s first two discriminatory bans,” Underwood said. “My office won’t hesitate to act to protect New York’s families and ensure that we live up to the values on which this state and this nation were built.”​

Underwood Sues Trump Foundation, Alleging Illegalities

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday announced a lawsuit against the charity founded by President Donald Trump and his family, arguing that there is a “pattern of persistent illegal conduct” that stretches back more than 10 years including efforts to boost his presidential prospects.

The suit alleges Trump used the Donald J. Trump Foundation to fund his legal bills and market his business efforts, including Trump-branded hotels, and to purchase personal items.

At the same time, the suit claims Trump used the foundation to illicitly provide support for his successful bid for the presidency in 2016. The suit points to the Trump Foundation’s name being used to raise money and promote his candidacy in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

“As our investigation reveals, the Trump Foundation was little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” Underwood said. “This is not how private foundations should function and my office intends to hold the Foundation and its directors accountable for its misuse of charitable assets.”

The foundation raised more than $2.8 million in order to influence the election, the suit alleges, including funds from a nationally televised fnudraiser that were used instead of Trump’s participation in a Republican presidential primary debate.

In addition to naming Trump, the suit also names his children, who are the directors of the foundation, Donald J. Trump, Jr., Ivanka Trump, and Eric Trump.

Trump lashed out at the suit in a series of tweets, inferring incorrectly that Eric Schneiderman is still the attorney general. Schneiderman resigned last month after he was accused by multiple women of physical abuse.

Underwood was appointed by the Legislature in May to fill out the remainder of Schneiderman’s term. Schneiderman’s office did sue Trump’s for-profit college, Trump University, which ultimately resulted in a settlement.

“The sleazy New York Democrats, and their now disgraced (and run out of town) A.G. Eric Schneiderman, are doing everything they can to sue me on a foundation that took in $18,800,000 and gave out to charity more money than it took in, $19,200,000,” Trump posted. “I won’t settle this case!…”

But in a follow up tweet, Trump acknowledged Schneiderman was no longer in office.

“….Schneiderman, who ran the Clinton campaign in New York, never had the guts to bring this ridiculous case, which lingered in their office for almost 2 years. Now he resigned his office in disgrace, and his disciples brought it when we would not settle.”

Maloney Announces Bid For AG

Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney formally announced Wednesday he will run for attorney general – a campaign he will conduct in tandem with a bid to keep his congressional seat.

“When you’ve got crooks in the White House, crooks in Albany, and crooks in corporate suites, you need a leader with the passion to fight and the experience to win,” Maloney said. “That’s why I’m running for attorney general.”

Maloney is expected to run for the Democratic nomination in a September primary against Leecia Eve, Letitia James and Zephyr Teachout. If he’s unsuccessful, Maloney will run for re-election to his current post in a Hudson Valley congressional district that has been in the past a battleground district.

“I’ve successfully defended the Constitution and our progressive values against the Trump Administration’s attacks down in Washington – but now it’s time to go on offense,” Maloney said.

“I’ve been proud to fight for New Yorkers of all stripes throughout my career – from my experience as a young attorney fighting for immigrants and tenants – to my time working in a Democratic White House on behalf of hate crime survivors, and looking out for workers while creating jobs in the tech sector.”

Maloney has run for attorney general before, last seeking the nomination in 2006, losing in a crowded primary to Andrew Cuomo.

James Says Pardon ‘Loophole’ Should Be Closed

Democratic candidate for attorney general Tish James on Tuesday endorsed a measure that would allow state-level prosecutors to bring charges against people who have been pardoned by the president.

The support for the measure from James, one of three Democrats in the race for the attorney general nomination, comes as President Donald Trump has asserted his power to pardon himself, though he does expect it will come to that as the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election is played out.

“After careful deliberation, I am urging the State Legislature to swiftly pass legislation which safeguards against President Trump’s attacks on the rule of law in our country,” James said.

“The pending legislation closes a loophole in our state law that effectively allows the President to pardon individuals for crimes committed in New York State. Given President Trump’s recent use of the Presidential pardon in a case adjudicated in New York State and his claim that he can pardon himself as he pleases, it’s clear that we must act now. We can protect New Yorkers from double jeopardy prosecutions without giving away our state’s ability to deliver justice for all.”

The bill was initially endorsed by then-AG Eric Schneiderman, whose office has investigated Paul Manafort, a former Trump campaign chairman now accused of money laundering. Attorney General Barbara Underwood, Schneiderman’s successor, endorsed the bill last month after the pardoning of conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza.

Underwood: D’Souza Pardon Shows Need For Loophole Closure

Attorney General Barbara Underwood on Thursday reiterated her office’s push for a bill that would still allow state prosecutors to bring charges against people who received a presidential pardon.

Underwood released the statement was conservative firebrand Dinesh D’Souza was pardoned by President Donald Trump earlier in the day after he pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations stemming from 2016 donations to Republican U.S. Senate candidate Wendy Long in New York.

“President Trump’s latest pardon makes crystal clear his willingness to use his pardon power to thwart the cause of justice, rather than advance it,” Underwood said.

“By pardoning Dinesh D’Souza, President Trump is undermining the rule of law by pardoning a political supporter who is an unapologetic convicted felon. First it was Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Then it was Scooter Libby. Now it’s Dinesh D’Souza. We can’t afford to wait to see who will be next. Lawmakers must act now to close New York’s double jeopardy loophole and ensure that anyone who evades federal justice by virtue of a politically expedient pardon can be held accountable if they violate New York law.”

The bill is backed in the Legislature by Assemblyman Joe Lentol and Sen. Todd Kaminsky.

The measure had been backed by Underwood’s predecessor, Eric Schneiderman, over concerns Trump would pardon those who have worked on his campaign now facing federal indictments, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

Underwood Appointed AG

Barbara Underwood was formally appointed attorney general of New York by the state Legislature on Tuesday, serving out the remainder of Eric Schneiderman’s term after his resignation this month.

“It’s a tremendous honor and I pledge to serve the great people of the state of New York with honesty, integrity and all the skills that I’ve acquired in all my decades of public service,” Underwood said after the vote.

Underwood is the first woman to officially serve as attorney general, but will not run for the job this fall. The depth of her experience and her decision to not run for the job made her an appointment both Republicans and Democrats could support.

“I think the most important thing I can do right is now is keep going,” she said. “The work this office does is important.”

The Legislature has the power to appoint a new attorney general when there is a vacancy. It’s a power Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said lawmakers had the right to use.

“The framers of the constitution — sometimes we have to give them credit and they did say they thought it was better to have all of the members of the Legislature pick the attorney general,” said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

Lawmakers backed Underwood from a dozen candidates who had interview publicly for the job. She was supported early on by Republicans, who are outnumbered in the joint Assembly-Senate vote.

“I think the message is the editorials worked, the peoples’ outrage worked, many of us spoke up to not have one political affiliation be in place right now,” said Sen. Jim Tedisco, a Republican from the Capital Region.

Republicans had opposed candidates who wanted to run for the job after being appointed by the Legislature, saying it would give that person an unfair advantage.

“Now they understand that the most important thing to do is leave it up to the people of New York state who should be our new attorney general,” Tedisco said. “Barbara Underwood is imminently prepared for this. She was second in command. She knows where these ethics cases are.”

Still other lawmakers, like GOP Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, praised the process itself on the floor of the chamber, saying Republican lawmakers felt included.

The appointment comes as Republicans and Democrats meet Wednesday for their state party convention. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has officially endorse New York City Public Advocate Tish James, while three Republicans are in the running for the nod.

TWU Local 100 For James

The Transport Workers Union Local 100 on Friday endorsed Democratic attorney general candidate Tish James, the latest labor endorsement she’s received in her bid for the office that officially began this week.

“I’m humbled by the support of TWU 100. The men and women of labor helped build this country and I am proud to stand with them,” James said. “As Attorney General, I will fight to safeguard the rights of working people and apply my experience, capabilities, and passion to help New Yorkers in every part of our state.”

James, the New York City public advocate, has largely cleared the field, though she could face a primary challenge for the Democratic nomination from Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout. Tim Wu, Teachout’s 2014 running mate, has also signaled an interest in running.

“Our members know that Tish James has always been a fearless advocate for our rights,” said Local 100 President Tony Utano. “She has stood with us at every turn and we are confident she will continue to stand with us as our next Attorney General. We are proud to endorse Tish James, a true champion for working people, and we look forward to electing her as our New York State Attorney General.”