Attorney General

Schneiderman, NYC Campaign Finance Board Settle With Advance Group

schneiderman Consulting firm The Advance Group on Thursday received a $25,800 fine by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and the New York City Campaign Finance Board joint investigation over the organization’s work during the 2013 elections in New York City.

The investigation by the AG’s office, along with the campaign finance board, found through its investigation that the Advance Group had worked for both city-based candidates as well as independent groups that had spending money to boost those candidates.

As per the terms of the settlement, none of the candidates who were clients of the group violated the law.

“New York voters deserve elections that are fair and free of coordination that distorts the democratic process,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The law preventing coordination between candidates and advocacy campaigns is clear. Today’s agreement sends a clear message that campaign coordination is unacceptable in New York City and state politics.”

City campaign finance law limits the amount of contributions a campaign may receive from a single contributor, and those laws also apply to money spent by outside parities that are working on behalf or opposition to individual campaigns.

Spending done without the cooperation of a campaign is considered “independent” but that activity can include authorizing, requesting or suggesting the campaigns work together. More >

Schneiderman Sues Erie County Company Over Synthetic Pot Sales

schneidermanerieAttorney General Eric Schneiderman launched lawsuits on Monday against an Erie County-based company the AG’s office says has been involved in the shipment of hallucinogenic and psychotropic drugs, along with street-drug alternatives.

The suits, filed against distributor Surrealistic Sensations and its Rockland County-based operator Michael Jamail and retailer Liquid Shop, alleges the companies are in violation of state law by selling and promoting the substances — known as designer drugs — and have given the false impression that they are harmless through their labeling.

“The proliferation of illegal designer drugs is a national health crisis that is hurting New York families and communities,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “After successfully stopping more than 20 head shops across our state from selling these dangerous drugs, my prosecutors and investigators are tracking down dealers who sell these drugs online and in stores. There is one set of rules for everyone, and if your trade is selling dangerous, mislabeled drugs anywhere in New York State, you must stop — or we will stop you.”

The lawsuit comes after an investigation conducted by the attorney general’s office found the substances were being sold online to consumers in the Bronx and elsewhere. The retailer Liquid Shop was found to have sold the drugs at a storefront location in Nyack. More >

Schneiderman, State AGs, File Brief In Redistricting Case

schneidermanmapAttorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with attorneys general from 20 other states, signed on to an amicus brief in a U.S. Supreme Court case that could decide how states draw their legislative election districts.

The brief, filed Friday, was first reported this morning Politico New York.

The top court plans to hear the case Evenwel v. Abbott, which comes after a federal appeals court rejected an argument advanced by plaintiffs that the Texas decision to count overall population as opposed to eligible voters, when it comes to drawing the state’s Senate districts.

A ruling in favor of Texas would have significant ramifications in New York, which includes a significant population of non-eligible voters, including newly arrived immigrants.

“This case is about a bedrock principle of our democracy – ensuring that every American is represented,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “States across our country have long drawn legislative district lines based on a district’s total population. This process has ensured that the interests of all – even those who cannot vote – are represented in our democracy. We urge the Supreme Court to retain a standard that helps ensure fair and effective representation for all.”

In the brief, the attorneys general lay out the argument that counting non-voters during redistricting fulfills the “one person, one vote” principle of representation in state government, arguing that a ruling in Texas’s favor would :fundamentally upend the states’ redistricting practices.”

14 940 Bsac the States by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman Hires For LG Candidate Tim Wu

Tim Wu, the Columbia University professor who challenged Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s preferred candidate for lieutenant governor last year, was appointed a special advisor and enforcement counsel to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The appointment was first reported this morning by The New York Times.

“I am honored by the trust that Attorney General Schneiderman has placed in me by appointing me to his Executive staff,” Wu said in a statement. “I have great respect for the work that the Attorney General and his office have done. The fact is, I’m looking forward to joining the fight for the consumer and the public’s interest—a never-ending battle to be sure, but one that could hardly be more important than right now.”

Wu, an open Internet advocate, was the running mate of Fordham Law School professor Zephyr Teachout, who ran against Cuomo in a primary last year. More >

Schneiderman Hires For Syracuse And Suffolk County Offices

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman has filled posts in two regional offices, turning to aides with ties to labor as well as County Executive Steve Bellone, his office on Friday announced.

Trisha Botty will become the central New York director for intergovernmental affairs in the AG’s Syracuse regional office. Botty has worked for 1199SEIU Healthcare Workers East, Assemblyman Sam Roberts (who now works for the Cuomo administration) and was most recently the political director for SEIU Local 200United.

TJ Hatter will become Schneiderman’s Suffolk County director for intergovernmental affairs. Hatter has worked in local government for the last 10 years, serving as a citizen advocate for Brookhaven Supervisor Brian Foley, and most recently was an aide to Bellone, the Suffolk County executive.

Vacco Questions Executive Order For Police-Involved Killings

vaccoRepublican former Attorney General Dennis Vacco questioned on Thursday granting current AG Eric Schneiderman the power of special prosecutor when it comes to cases in which police kill civilians, calling the executive order issued by Gov. Andrew Cuomo “unnecessary.”

“I think that it’s a bit of an overreaction,” Vacco said. “Some may think it’s not bit of an overreaction. It’s an overreaction to a problem that does not exist here in New York state.”

Cuomo issued the executive order last month after state lawmakers could not agree on a package of criminal justice reform measures that had been called for after a series of incidents in which civilians died in interactions with law enforcement both in New York and nationally.

Cuomo granted Schneiderman the authority to investigate and prosecute the cases as a precaution against concerns raised that local prosecutors are too close with the law enforcement officials they often have to work with on other cases. More >

Cuomo Issues Executive Order For Turner Case

cuomonaacpGov. Andrew Cuomo’s office on Monday issued an updated executive order to empower Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office to review, investigate and potentially prosecute law enforcement officials in connection to the death of Raynette Turner.

Turner, a 52-year-old Mount Vernon woman, died in a holding cell on July 27 while she was awaiting arraignment.

Schneiderman earlier in the day on Monday announced he would investigate the death of Turner under the powers of an executive order Cuomo issued earlier this year that supersedes the local district attorneys when it comes to the deaths of civilians related to police and law enforcement. More >

Schneiderman’s Office To Investigate Death Of Mount Vernon Woman (Updated)

schneidermanAttorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office on Monday announced it would investigate the death of Raynette Turner, a 42-year-old black woman who died on July 27 in a Mount Vernon holding cell.

The investigation is the first Schneiderman’s office is launching since Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order granting the attorney general special prosecutor status in police-related killings.

The executive order, which has been staunchly opposed by local district attorneys, gives Schneiderman’s office the authority to investigate and prosecute law enforcement-related deaths of civilians.

“My office’s Special Investigations and Prosecutions Unit will investigate the death of Raynette Turner, consistent with Executive Order No. 147 and a conforming order to be issued by the Governor at my request,” Schneiderman said in a statement

More >

After Libous Conviction, AG Renews Ethics Reform Call

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, whose office had a hand in the investigation that led to the conviction yesterday of now former Sen. Tim Libous, called the Binghamton Republican’s political demise “sad,” and said it should reignite calls for additional ethics reform in Albany.

“These cases are always sad cases,” Schneiderman said of his former Senate colleague during a CapTon interview last night. “To have someone who is supposed to be in public service, swears to uphold the public trust, found to be guilty of a crime, it’s never happy.”

“And it really is, again, another reminder, in my view, that the structure in Albany has to be dramatically changed if you’re going to change the culture,” the AG continued.

“It’s really something that has been happening way too often, and it’s not going to stop. I proposed some very drastic reforms myself, proposed legislation. And I think either that or something like that has to happen, or people will continue to be investigated, and the public trust will be further eroded.”

In the wake of the corruption scandal that brought down former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver at the beginning of this year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a package of ethics reform measures and vowed to force the Legislature’s hand in accepting it as part of this year’s budget deal – even if that meant shutting down the government.

In the end, however, Cuomo comprised on ethics reform.

He focused mostly on more disclosure of lawmakers’ outside income, got some – but not all – of what he wanted, and ended up with changes that good government advocates and others said were not significant enough to really address Albany’s pervasive corruption problem.

Schneiderman went considerably further in his ethics reform proposals, which included a call to ban moonlighting by state lawmakers and giving them a big pay raise to compensate for their lost outside income.

The AG called on Cuomo to stick to his guns on reform, saying a late budget would be a “small price to pay” for systemic change in Albany.

After Libous’ conviction of a single felony count of lying to the FBI about using his public post to get his son, Matthew, a job at a politically connected law firm – a decision that automatically ejected him from his Senate seat – six good government groups renewed their call for a special legislative session to address ethics reform.

The groups said the failure to address outstanding issues – like closing the LLC loophole in the campaign finance law, which is now the subject of a lawsuit by some of the same entities – is “indefensible” and “shockingly irresponsible”, and the governor should demand the Legislature’s speedy return to Albany.

Schneiderman declined to go quite that far.

“I think that there is a lot more support than people think in the Legislature itself for dramatic reforms,” the AG said. “A lot of the younger members in particular from the Senate and Assembly have said to me, ‘Yeah, we actually like this idea,’…we’ve got to hermetically seal them off, to the extent we can, from money in government and from money in politics.”

“…Albany has become a place where everyone drives 90 miles an hour, and if you pull them over, their first reaction is not, ‘Oh, I’m breaking the law,’ it’s, ‘Why are you pulling me over? Everyone here drives 90 miles an hour.’ It’s something that really has to be shaken up in a big way, and I think the sooner the better.”

The AG declined to criticize Cuomo for failing to wrest a more significant reform deal from the Legislature, saying the governor had a “lot of things on his plate” and an unusually difficult legislative session that saw the ouster of not one, but two conference leaders as a result of corruption scandals.

“I do think that support is building, and will continue to build,” Schneiderman said. “And this is going to end with a bigger reform movement, it’s going to end with some kind of comprehensive reform. Otherwise, this is going to keep happening.”

“And I tell this to my colleagues, most of whom are completely honorable public servants in the state Legislature: You’ve got to do something about this…this is the kind of stuff that makes people lose their confidence in government.”

Schneiderman defended himself – and Cuomo – for calling for closure of the LLC loophole and then turning around and using it to raise campaign cash by saying that unilateral disarmament is “not the right answer” and has “not worked traditionally.”

Schneiderman Confident He Can Work With DAs

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Tuesday said he was confident he will be able to smooth over differences with district attorneys around the state upset over an executive order empowering the AG’s office to investigate police-related killings of civilians.

“I’m confident we’re going to work something out,” Schneiderman said on The Capitol Pressroom. “It was met with some surprise and outrage by some DAs, but I think at the end of the day these are good public servants who want to see justice done.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo this month granted Schneiderman’s office the power of special prosecutor to investigate and prosecute cases in which police kill civilians — a power the attorney general had sought since December following a grand jury declining to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of an unarmed black man on Staten Island.

The order was signed after Cuomo and state lawmakers could not agree on a package of legislative changes, such as new grand jury transparency requirements and a special monitor for cases in which civilians die in encounters with police.

Cuomo has said he will try again next year on a criminal justice bill. Schneiderman’s special prosecutor role expires after 12 months, but can be renewed.

But the move has been met with criticism and skepticism by district attorneys after Cuomo and Schneiderman raised concerns over whether the local prosecutors had a conflict of interest in seeking charges against police.

“When you hear the pain of those families you want to give them the comfort that there’s no perceived conflict of interest,” Schneiderman said in the interview.

Schneiderman’s office last week sent a memorandum and letter to district attorneys informing them they have the power to respond first in police-related killing cases, such as questioning witnesses and collecting evidence. They do not have the power, however, grant immunity or question witnesses before a grand jury.

DAs have raised the possibility of a legal challenge to the executive order and believe the memo from Schneiderman conflicts with the concern that prosecutors are too close with police.

But Schneiderman today insisted he’s trying to work with DAs to develop a system in which the public can have restored faith in the criminal justice system, which the AG said is in need of broader changes.

Schneiderman met with the statewide district attorneys association soon after the executive order was signed by Cuomo.

“I’ve been engaged with them since day one,” Schneiderman said. “We’ve been having a dialogue ever since with them. I’m confident this will be worked because these cases are too important.”