Attorney General

Siena Poll: New Yorkers Back AG As Special Prosector

A majority of New Yorkers support giving Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the power to investigate other instances of police brutality, a Siena College poll released on Friday found.

The poll found that by a 58 percent to 33 percent margin, New Yorkers would back giving Schneiderman the power of special prosecutor to probe other instances of police brutality after a grand jury chose to not indict a New York police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

“A majority of Democrats, independents, voters from every region and race agree that the Attorney General and not local district attorneys should have authority in cases where unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, although Democrats, New York City voters, blacks and Latinos feel most strongly about this,” Siena College pollster Steve Greenberg said. “Only majorities of Republicans and conservatives think people of color are treated fairly by our criminal justice system. Two-thirds of Democrats and a plurality of independents disagree, as do a majority of downstaters, particularly New York City, and people of color. Whites and upstaters are closely divided.”

Scheniderman this month requested Gov. Andrew Cuomo issue an executive order granting him the special prosecutors role.

So far, Cuomo has said he’s reviewing the request, but raised questions with how broad the scope of those investigative powers should be.

The poll found that 55 percent of New Yorkers believe the grand jury should have made an indictment in the case, which has set off a wave of protests across the country and sparked a discussion over criminal justice reform legislation at the state level.

Meanwhile, most New Yorkers 52 percent to 35 percent believe the state’s criminal justice system does not treat people of color fairly.

Broken down politically, Republican voters by a 2-to-1 margin believe the grand jury was correct in not indicting Garner.

“Similarly, large majorities of Democrats, New York City voters, blacks, Latinos and younger voters want the Feds to bring civil rights charges, while Republicans are opposed, and upstaters, suburbanites, white and older voters are closely divided,” Greenberg said.

Cuomo himself has suggested he will push for a variety of criminal justice reforms, including greater transparencies for grand juries as well as strengthening police training and requiring some officers to wear body cameras.

The governor’s administration this week moved to ban hydrofracking in the state, but the poll found New Yorkers remain divided on the natural gas drilling issue.

Thirty-eight percent of voters say they are opposed to fracking, while 35 percent of those polled back the drilling method.

“Fracking has closely divided New Yorkers for several years. And while it has the intuitive partisan divide with Democrats opposing and Republicans supporting, from a regional perspective the results might be a little counterintuitive as New York City and upstate voters narrowly oppose fracking and a plurality of downstate suburbanites support it,” Greenberg said.

Similarly, New Yorkers are split on the DREAM Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. Forty-four percent of New Yorkers back the measure, while 48 percent do not. Cuomo will likely once again be under pressure from liberals in the Legislature to include funding for the DREAM Act in his state budget proposal.

A broad majority of New Yorkers continue to support Cuomo’s two-year-old gun control law known as the SAFE Act, but they are split along partisan lines.

By a margin of 58 percent to 33 percent, New Yorkers back the law, which Cuomo has said remains a significant legislative achievement for him.

The measure has the support of 69 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents, 67 percent of voters from New York City and 61 percent from the downstate suburbs. Fifty-eight percent of Republicans oppose the law.

And not surprisingly, there is widespread opposition to a pay raise for state lawmakers: 63 percent of those polled do not believe the Senate and Assembly should receive their first salary increase since 1998.

That sentiment cuts across party, geographic, gender and ideological lines.

Cuomo has said he is sympathetic to lawmakers who are pushing for the pay hike from the current $79,500, but has sought to have them enact sweeping ethics and campaign finance legislation, including the creation of a system of public financed campaigns and curtailing outside income.

For now, there has been no significant move to have lawmakers return to Albany in a special session to take up that legislation and vote themselves a raise.

The Siena College of 639 voters was conducted from Dec. 11 through Dec. 16. It has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

SNY1214 Crosstabs by Nick Reisman

WFP Sides With AG on Special Prosecutor Ask

From the Morning Memo:

The labor-backed Working Families Party, which just closed another tumultuous chapter in its relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is backing Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s request for the power to investigate and prosecute unarmed civilian deaths at the hands of police officers.

WFP leaders have been outspoken in their opposition to the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to bring charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of Eric Garner this past summer.

Last night, WFP State Director Bill Lipton sent an email to party supporters, urging them to sign an online petition calling on Cuomo to grant the AG’s request for an executive order that would give his office authority over a small number of police abuse cases.

“It’s a sensible and critical first step to help make sure victims of police violence in New York and their families receive the justice they deserve,” Lipton wrote.

“…The failure of grand juries to indict the officers under investigation both in this case and in Ferguson demands that we take action.

We need major changes to our criminal justice system, but we also can’t wait months for the state legislature to reconvene and consider them.”

“That’s why Attorney General Schneiderman has asked for temporary authority from Gov. Cuomo to investigate cases involving the killings of unarmed civilians by police. Doing so would be a critical first step in ensuring fair investigations, and helping to build confidence while we all continue the fight for more far-reaching reforms.”

Schneiderman has said he only wants this power temporarily, and believes it will “compel” the Legislature and Cuomo to act on long term reforms of the criminal justice system.

On the day the AG issued his call, Cuomo’s office said only that his request was being reviewed.

Yesterday, the governor made his first public comments on the matter, and seemed lukewarm on Schneiderman’s idea, saying there are many unanswered questions about how a special prosecutor would operate.

“What power? When? That’s an option, but you have to answer the first questions first,” Cuomo said of the AG’s request.

“When? Shootings?…What about Eric Garner, he wasn’t shot. Well, anytime someone dies. So, beatings don’t count? It has to be thought through thoroughly.”

“If anything, I think the AG’s proposal was narrower. He was saying only in cases of shootings or death,” Cuomo continued. “I could argue that you want to go broader. Why just shootings? It doesn’t cover the Eric Garner case?”

To be clear, the AG’s request does not cover only shootings by police.

Earlier this week, Cuomo’s office confirmed he had either met with or talked to rap and hip hop moguls Jay Z and Russell Simmons to discuss criminal justice reform.

But despite Simmons’ claim to the contrary, Cuomo insisted no decisions have yet been made about appointing a special prosecutor to handle alleged police brutality cases.

Simmons and Cuomo have a long-standing relationship that dates back to the days when they were both lobbying for Rockefeller Drug Law reform. (That would be during Cuomo’s rebuilding phase – after his failed 2002 gubernatorial bid, but before his successful 2006 AG campaign).

Simmons actually came to the state Capitol via helicopter in 2003 for a lengthy closed-door meeting on the subject with then-Republican Gov. George Pataki, then-Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Simmons’ drug law reform efforts drew scrutiny, and also sparked a lawsuit following an inquiry into his organization’s actions by the (now defunct) Lobbying Commission.

It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time since the elections that the WFP has clashed with Cuomo.

The party was not shy is expressing its disappointment with the governor for – in its opinion – failing to live up to his end of their endorsement deal by helping the Democrats retake the Senate majority. (That’s a charge Cuomo has denied).

The WFP recently teamed up with Cuomo’s Democratic primary opponent, Fordham Law Prof. Zephyr Teachout, in a campaign against the wealthy hedge fund managers/charter school backers who spent millions to help the Senate GOP win control of the chamber and also donated generously to Cuomo.

AG Backs Special Session For Police Reform Action

From the Morning Memo:

Though he is seeking short-term jurisdiction over cases in which unarmed civilians are killed by police officers, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he believes the governor and lawmakers should act sooner rather than later to reform the entire criminal justice system.

“I think a special session would be great,” the AG said during a CapTon interview last night. “I think it’s important to show that we take this seriously, to address it.”

“We are ambitious and we have been for a long time,” Schneiderman continued. “I think it’s important for us to show leadership on this issue…this is not a situation where we don’t have empirical evidence on what criminal justice policy is. We have it; we just have to follow it.”

Schneiderman later said he sees the current conversation sparked by the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases as a “national movement” for change, adding: “I think we need clarity, and I think we need action. And this is action we can take now.

Schneiderman has said that the executive order he’s seeking from Cuomo giving his officer the power to investigate and prosecute these cases should expire when the governor and legislative leaders reach a reform agreement.

The AG said that he believes the changes should be widespread because “the law in this area is messed up beyond what most New Yorkers understand.”

But he declined to say specifically what should be done, refusing to take a position on any of the bills that already exist or legislation floated in the wake of the Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges against an NYPD officer in Garner’s chokehold death.

The AG also refused to say whether he supports the grand jury decision.

“I’m passing no judgement on that, and honestly, I think it’s unfair for anyone to pass judgement on that because we don’t know what happened in the grand jury,” he explained.

Schneiderman said his request, which Cuomo’s office has under review, will “compel the Legislature to act,” though he also noted change is often slow to come to Albany – especially on controversial issues like police training and oversight.

The AG said communication between himself and the governor on this issue has so far been limited to the staff level. He also defended his decision not to give a heads-up to the state’s district attorneys before going public with his request, insisting that he did not intend to offend or impugn them.

Schneiderman is not alone is saying this issue should be dealt with in a special session – should one occur between now and the regularly scheduled session in January.

Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins yesterday said she hopes no special will take place without addressing grand jury and police reforms – an about-face from her comments on CapTon last week, when she said she didn’t believe there was enough time to put together any agreements.

The Senate Democrats have proposed appointing a special prosecutor to review any deaths of unarmed civilians involving police officers. They are also calling for additional funding in the 2015-16 budget for police body cameras.

Stewart-Cousins said she could support the AG’s request for jurisdiction until a long-term legislative solution can be found.

Schneiderman Wants Power To Probe Deaths By Police

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman formally requested on Monday the “interim” power to investigate and pursue deaths of unarmed civilians by police officers, a move that requires approval from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The power to investigate such cases would be a temporary move and be “prospective” to future incidents and not cover the circumstances surrounding the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man killed after he was put in a chokehold by a police officer.

Instead, Schneiderman said at a news conference in New York City that the move would apply some pressure to Albany lawmakers potentially opposed to criminal justice reforms as laid out by Cuomo last week.

Senate Republicans are signaling opposition to potential changes to the grand jury procedure such as potential appointments of special prosecutors in certain cases as well as enhanced transparency.

“This crisis of confidence is long in the making and has deep roots. But it is not a problem without a solution,” Schneiderman wrote in a letter sent to Cuomo, dated Monday. “A common thread in many of these cases is the belief of the victim’s family and others that the investigation of the death, and the decision whether to prosecute, have been improperly and unfairly influenced by the close working relationship between the county District Attorney and the police officers he or she works with and depends on every day. It is understandable that many New Yorkers feel that it is unfair to charge a local District Attorney with the task of investigating and prosecuting those officers when they are accused of a serious crime committed in the course of their duties.”

The attorney general’s request to be granted the power to investigate deaths comes after elected officials and advocates have pointed to potential conflicts of interest by Staten Island prosecutors in the grand jury proceedings.

Schneiderman was joined at a news conference flanked by a host of New York City elected officials, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James.

The attorney general stressed that his request to probe deaths caused by police officers of unarmed civilians was not meant as a criticism of either district attorneys or law enforcement.

“This is not anti-DA, this is certainly not anti-NYPD,” Schneiderman said. “I have the highest respect for them.”

He added that Staten Island District Dan Donovan, whose office presented evidence to the grand jury that ultimately declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s death, is “a friend.” Donovan and Schneiderman ran against each other for attorney general in 2010.

The request also comes after Cuomo declined over the summer to appoint a special prosecutor in the Garner case despite calls from minority lawmakers in new York City.

The attorney general today said his request was aimed at addressing — and calling attention to — the shortcomings in the current grand jury procedures.

“There is a problem that the state of the law even where DAs are not allowed to request that somebody replace them,” Schneiderman said.

Schneiderman to Cuomo 12-08-14 by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman Files For 2018

Newly re-elected Attorney General Eric Schneiderman already has an eye on 2018.

The Democrat, re-elected to a second term after defeating Republican John Cahill last month, filed a “Schneiderman 2018″ campaign account, according to the Board of Elections.

Schneiderman is believed to harbor the ambition of running for governor one day, though has insisted he’s focused on the current job he has.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, should he seek a third term, is up for re-election in 2018, as is Schneiderman’s AG job.

Schneiderman is one of a handful of Democrats who would be looked to as potential successors should Cuomo not run again.

 

Schneiderman’s Post-Election Analysis

From the Morning Memo:

Democratic state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is savoring his win on Tuesday night, especially in light of the fact that his race with Republican John Cahill was widely viewed as the most competitive statewide contest of this election cycle.

Schneiderman received about 55.5 percent of the vote to Cahill’s 41.6 percent.

“Since May, the State Republican Party tried desperately to spin a narrative that Schneiderman was vulnerable,” a post-election memo prepared by the AG’s campaign and obtained by CapTon states.

“Republican Super PACs were supposed to spend millions and the polls were supposed to narrow,” the memo continues.

“But the polls never tightened to a point of actual consequence, and Super PAC money never materialized because institutional supporters knew it would be a worthless investment: Attorney General Schneiderman was too strong.”

Schneiderman was viewed as vulnerable in some corners due to his low name recognition and failure to win the sort of national accolades garnered by his larger-than-life predecessors, Eliot Spitzer and Andrew Cuomo.

A number of newspaper editorial pages endorsed Cahill, expressing disappointment with what they viewed as Schneiderman’s failure to fully exercise the power of his office.

But the truth is, Cahill, who also suffered from low name recognition – a problem compounded by his lack of campaign cash – never really came close to closing the double-digit gap between himself and Schneiderman.

And once the AG launched his multimillion dollar TV ad campaign, it was hard for Cahill to compete – though he made a serious go of it at the duo’s lone televised AG debate, hosted by TWC News.

In the end, Schneiderman got more votes and a bigger margin of victory than Cuomo’s 54 percent win over Rob Astorino, though state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli – in an ironic twist, given his own vulnerability in 2010 – bested them both with 60 percent of the vote over Onondaga County Comptroller Bob Antonacci’s 36.6 percent.

According to the Schneiderman campaign memo, the AG won by a slightly wider margin this year than in his first election, which took place in a good year for Democrats.

In 2010, Schneiderman defeated his GOP opponent, Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, by 13 percentage points. This year – a year that saw losses across the country for progressive Democrats like Schneiderman – he beat Cahill by 14 points.

This year, the memo notes, Schneiderman won Erie County, 52-45, while he lost it 44-45 four years ago. He also added several other counties to his “win” column, including Nassau, Dutchess, Orange and Richmond, (which tends to trend more conservative, though Cuomo carried for the second time this year, albeit by a smaller margin than in 2010).

The memo insists Schneiderman’s win wasn’t solely about money, though it admits the AG’s cash advantage enabled his campaign to tell voters about his record.

Considering his disadvantages, though, Cahill ran a strong race without any significant missteps or career-ending errors. He gained a lot of traction for a virtual unknown former gubernatorial staffer (to ex-Gov. George Pataki) who was running his first-ever campaign for public office.

Giuliani Robos For Cahill

Republican former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani has recorded a robocall for John Cahill, the former top aide to Gov. George Pataki running for attorney general.

“I’ve known John in tough times and good times,” Giuliani says in the call. “He’s a man who can handle any crisis.”

Cahill is running to unseat Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman, who is seeking a second term on Tuesday.

Cahill has sought to make the election a referendum, in part, on Schneiderman’s efforts to combat corruption, as well as his involvement in the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption.

Giuiliani’s call hints at that stance, though the script is kept relatively generic.

“John has what it takes to tackle the crime and corruption in our state and put New York back on the right track,” Giuiliani says in the call. “He will work tirelessly for all New Yorkers.”

It’s interesting that Giuliani is recording the call. Twenty years ago, Giuliani backed then-Gov. Mario Cuomo for a fourth term over Cahill’s former boss-turned-law-partner, Pataki, then a state senator.

Pataki that year would go on to defeat Cuomo in an upset.

This year, Giuliani is remaining noticeably quiet on the race for governor.

The former mayor, who has spoken positively of the current governor, Andrew Cuomo, has not endorsed Republican challenger Rob Astorino.

Debate Deconstruction

If you didn’t catch last night’s TWC News/NY1 debate in Hamburg between the two major party candidates for state attorney general – the only time they’ll face off before next Tuesday’s election – you missed quite the show.

It was a verbal slap-fest between Democratic incumbent Eric Schneiderman and his GOP opponent, former Pataki administration official John Cahill, with the two trading barbs over everything from ethics and campaign contributors to abortion rights and gun control.

As has been widely reported, I had a tough time controlling these two, who were more interested in talking over one another and getting their jabs in than answering questions posed by myself and the members of our panel.

We did, however, manage to learn some key information during our lightning round, such as the fact that Cahill doesn’t appear to know what BuzzFeed is, and has never taken one of the site’s infamous quizzes, whereas Schneiderman has (though he didn’t elaborate, so we’ll never know which Weasley he is).

For the record, Cahill is a quick study. He Tweeted a photo of himself “catching up on BuzzFeed quizzes” at a Buffalo-area bar after the debate.

We also know that when Schneiderman finishes up another stressful day at the AG’s office, he likes to kick his feet up and unwind with a nice historical drama film – preferably about WW II.

Schneiderman revealed the last movie he watched was “Diplomacy,” a Franco-German film that premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival last February. It was directed by Volker Schlöndorff and adapted from the play Diplomatie by Cyril Gely.

Cahill also has a taste for historical dramas. He said the last movie he saw was “Lincoln” – the 2012 film directed by Steven Spielberg and starring Daniel Day-Lewis as the nation’s 16th president.

If you want to learn more about the candidates – their likes and dislikes, habits, and even a little on policy – you can catch the full debate here.

Thanks again to both candidates for participating, to our panel members for their insightful (if not always answered) questions, to Hilbert College for hosting and to our live audience members for (mostly) following my instructions to hold their applause until after the debate was over.

Schneiderman Endorsed By Tonko, Distances Himself From Moreland

Democratic Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Wednesday in a radio interview insisted he kept the Moreland Commission To Investigate Public Corruption at arm’s length.

Schneiderman, talking to Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom this morning, said he felt it was important to deputize the commission members in order to help them fight corruption.

But after that, the commission to him was an independent entity, Schneiderman said.

“After that, I treated it as an independent commission,” Schneiderman said in the interview.

The attorney general’s Republican opponent, John Cahill, has sought to tie Schneiderman to the reported involvement in the commission by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose office sought to block or direct subpoenas from the commission.

The handling of the commission by the governor’s office, as well as any information the panel generated, is not the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. attorney’s office.

Schneiderman would not answer whether he was aware the commission was set up so Cuomo could exact a degree of leverage over state lawmakers in order to have them agree to new ethics and anti-corruption laws.

“I’m not going to jeopardize a criminal investigation by commenting,” he said.

Meanwhile, Schneiderman will be endorsed today by Rep. Paul Tonko, who represents the Capital Region.

“New Yorkers have been well served by Eric Schneiderman as their Attorney General,” Tonko said in a statement. “Eric’s commitment to holding Wall Street accountable and ensuring fair and sound settlements for families impacted by the mortgage crisis is without equal. Eric has also proven that a hands-on approach, working with local law enforcement and understanding the needs of our communities can lead to stronger outcomes in reducing crime and improving quality of life for all New Yorkers. I am proud to support Eric for re-election as the peoples’ lawyer.”

Both Schneiderman and Cahill will debate on Thursday on Time Warner Cable News and NY1 at 7 p.m.

NOW-NYS Gives Late Nod To Schneiderman

The National Organization for Women New York State (NOW-NYS) is poised to announce its support today for Democratic state AG Eric Schneiderman, saying he has been an “incredibly strong defender of women’s rights.”

“From introducing the Reproductive Rights Disclosure Act, to expanding clinic buffer zones, to investigating so-called ‘crisis pregnancy centers’, Eric has taken on tough fights for the women of New York State,” said NOW-NYS President Zenaida Mendez.

“Meanwhile his opponent has an extreme anti-choice record that’s simply wrong for New York. That is why NOW-NYS is proudly supporting Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s re-election.”

This is a continuation of a theme that Schneiderman and his allies have kept up throughout the campaign – that Republican AG candidate John Cahill, a practicing Catholic who personally opposes abortion, is too extreme to be the state’s top attorney.

Cahill has repeatedly said that despite his personal beliefs, he will uphold and defend all of New York’s laws if he’s elected on Nov. 4.

To bolster the NOW-NYS endorsement, Schneiderman’s campaign is releasing a new online video that features young women slamming Cahill for his opposition to abortion rights and what they deem his “anti-choice” record while serving as a top official in the administration of former GOP Gov. George Pataki.

Pataki, for the record, is a moderate Republican who at times got into hot water with conservative supporters by describing his own position on abortion as “pro-choice.”

However, he has said he opposes the abortion-rights plank in Cuomo’s 10-point Women’s Equality Act, which Cahill also does not support.