Dec 2nd - 3:07 pm
A reader with some time on his hands over the extended Thanksgiving weekend went to see “That Hopey Changey Thing,” an off-Broadway play about Democratic politics that currently on stage at the Public Theater. And he was so struck by the experience, that he flagged the production in an email to SoP.
The main character in the play, Richard, works in the New York attorney general’s office, and apparently lived through both the Spitzer and Cuomo administrations there.
The story seems to take place right around the time when former AG Andrew Cuomo is ascending to the governor’s office and handing things over to his replacement, former Sen. Eric Schneiderman, about whom Richard says: “He’s an Albany politician….the politicians like him because he’s a politician.”
I haven’t been able to locate any personal link between Spitzer and the playwright, Richard Nelson. But Nelson has a definite soft spot for the former AG, and he doesn’t seem to think much of his successor or of Albany, writ large.
That much is clear from the brief clip of dialogue that appears on the New York Times website, in which the main character, Richard, says:
“When Eliot resigned – that was a God-awful week – I’d almost gone to the governor’s office with him. I went up two, three times in the transition. You can’t imagine the jokers who are up in Albany. You can’t believe the incompetence, greed, the stupidity.”
“Eliot maybe came on a little too strong, sure, true. But all of us, we’d have walked off a cliff for him. It was harder for those who went to Albany, of course, But it was bad for the rest of us, too. We were crushed. Betrayed? I don’t know.”
“And then Andrew. You see with Andrew, everything is about politics. Celebrity politics. What gets noticed, what makes the impression. And so, he couldn’t forgo the opportunity, and he denigrated Eliot. He just sat on his carcass and ate. And I will never forgive him for that.”
Writes the reader:
“Ironically, despite the professed hatred here, in a later play (it is a series of four) the character is eventually lured to work in the Cuomo administration. Clearly the playwright had a good source (or two or three).”
Nov 20th - 2:39 pm
The case against the husband of Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks will move forward when a grand jury is convened to hear his testimony, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Wednesday.
Brooks’ husband, Robert Wiesner, is one of four men charged this month in an alleged bid-rigging scheme through projects connected with local development corporations in the county.
The attorney general’s office agree to drop the charges against Wienser last week after he wasn’t called to testify, but the charges will be formally presented again once the case is officially dismissed.
“We look forward to and expect to reconvening the grand jury to accept the testimony of the one defendant who has requested to testify,” Schneiderman said in Albany at a news conference. “Tt is unusual for people who are targeted for people to testify because it often works against their self-interest. We welcome that testimony.”
The AG’s office has come under criticism from some Republicans, in part because of the political ramifications of the arrests. Brooks ran unsuccessfully last year for the House seat held by Rep. Louise Slaughter.
Still, the problems at LDCs preceded the Brooks-Slaughter election and were even raised as issues during the campaign.
“It’s clear there is an ongoing, very substantial set of fraudulent schemes in Monroe County,” Schneiderman said. “The facts speak for themselves in the papers that we filed and the facts will speak for themselves at trial.”
As for a press aide being suspended after giving a heads up to the media that the arrests were eminent, Schneiderman said, “Obviously we felt the statement to the press was mishandled.”
Oct 15th - 11:29 am
The Moreland Commission on Public Corruption must remain independent of outside influence in order for it to succeed, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in a radio interview this morning.
Schneiderman, a Democrat who deputized the commission members for the anti-corruption panel created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, told host Susan Arbetter of The Capitol Pressroom that the panel can still succeed and be “an important vehicle for reform.”
“To succeed, the commission has to be independent,” Schneiderman said.
“We should just let the commissioners do what they have to do,” he added.
The panel has come under fire for reportedly halting subpoenas aimed at allies of Cuomo on the Real Estate Board of New York, the Joint Commission on Public Corruption and state Democratic Committee, which has run ads backing the governor’s agenda this year.
Allegations that Cuomo’s staff has meddled with the process of issuing subpoenas have also surfaced, which the governor has denied, though he has said his staff has worked with commission members.
The Moreland Commission was created in July by the governor after a string of corruption arrests this spring.
The panel is composed district attorneys and legal scholars selected by Cuomo and Schneiderman.
An effort to obtain more information on legislators’ outside income and legal clients was rebuffed by attorneys for the Assembly and the Senate, while the panel so far has declined to subpoena sitting lawmakers themselves.
Cuomo is also reportedly seeking something of an escape hatch from the messy situation, and good-government advocates believe the panel may close up shop early and suggest a constitutional amendment for public financing of political campaigns.
Updated: And the state GOP is renewing its call to have Schneiderman recuse himself from “any and all investigations” involving the commission.
From spokesman David Laska:
“We’re glad that Eric Schneiderman agrees that the Moreland Act Commission needs to be independent in order to succeed. Of course, one of the Commission’s foremost obstacle to independence is … Eric Schneiderman. Rather than review and quash the Commission’s subpoenas, the Attorney General should recuse himself from any and all investigations. We repeat our call for him to do so immediately.”
Jul 12th - 5:21 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will report raising $1.87 million over the last six months, a source familiar with the filing said this afternoon.
The Democrat is expected to report $4.2 million in cash on hand, having spent $460,000 in the last reporting period.
His report is expected to go public on the Board of Elections site on Monday.
Schneiderman, a first term attorney general elected out of the state Senate in 2010, report raising $1.3 million in January. At the time, he had $2.7 million in the bank.
A potential Republican challenger to Schneiderman in 2014 is former U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia.
Jun 21st - 2:39 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has put creation of a Moreland Act Commission on the fast track since the Legislature declined to pass his ethics and campaign finance reform package. According to a source familiar with these talks, his preparations have included discussions about bringing the state attorney general into the mix to bolster the commission’s clout and avoid any potential balance of power issues.
An administration official did not rule out the possibility of Cuomo seeking AG Eric Schneiderman’s assistance with the commission, but also said the governor is talking with many members of the law enforcement community – including district attorneys and US attorneys – and it’s “premature to speculate” what approach he will ultimately take.
Cuomo himself said this morning on The Capitol Pressroom that there will be an executive order establishing a Moreland Act Commission “very, very soon; we’re talking a matter of days.”
Several observers, including former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, have questioned the legality of a Moreland Act Commission investigating the Legislature as Cuomo seems intent on doing.
In a HuffPo essay published yesterday, Brodsky noted that the 1907 act empowers the governor to convene a commission to “examine and investigate the management and affairs of any department, board, bureau or commission of the state.” Under the auspices of the state Constitution, boards, bureaus and commissions do not extend to include the Legislature itself.
Brodsky noted that the Feerick Commission – formally known as the Commission On Government Integrity – convened by former Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1987 to investigate the state’s campaign finance system employed a double-barrel approach that involved deputizing the chairman, Fordham Law School Dean John Feerick, as a deputy attorney general.
This gave the Feerick Commission more powers than it would have had on its own. If done again through a referral by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to Schneiderman, could enable this new commission to specifically target the Legislature – and perhaps even individual lawmakers.
Brodsky also noted that Cuomo would lose full control over the commission if he went with the hybrid approach, and that’s something this governor isn’t likely going to be too keen on.
While he was AG, Cuomo advocated giving more power to his office to beef up its ability to investigate public corruption. But since he became governor and inherited the power to actually make that happen for his successor, he has declined to do so.
Apr 19th - 9:47 am
AG Eric Schneiderman, who has seen something of a mini-exodus from his office in recent months, is losing another staffer.
James Freedland, Schneiderman’s director of communications and strategic initiatives, is departing to take a job with another former AG staffer, Neal Kwatra, who left his post as Schneiderman’s chief of staff in February to launch his own consulting firm, Metropolitan Public Strategies.
“James Freedland has been one of my key advisers, and has served the people of New York with distinction, integrity and dedication for years,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
“Although James will be missed at the Office of Attorney General, I look forward to continuing to rely on his strategic counsel – as both an adviser and a friend – for many years to come.”
Freedland, 33, is going to be heading up the strategic communications arm for Metropolitan. His last day in the AG’s office is Monday.
Kwatra was replaced as Schneiderman’s chief of staff by Melissa DeRosa, but she was quickly wooed away by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to serve as his communications director, replacing Allison Gollust, who departed after spending just four months on the job.
Both Kwatra and Freedland are expected to maintain their ties to Schneiderman through Metropolitan, which is likely to keep the AG as a client as he gears up for his first re-election campaign in 2014.
Freedland has been overseeing day-to-day operations of the AG’s communications department, while also handling media outreach, strategic initiatives, speechwriting and rapid response.
In 2010, he served as chief spokesman for Schneiderman’s AG campaign, which included a hard-fought five-way primary battle. Freedland also worked in Schneiderman’s Senate office, and prior to that, managed media relations at the ACLU.
Freedland received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville and a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Apr 18th - 2:01 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in an interview this afternoon that expanding the jurisdiction of his office to go after public corruption would “put another cop on the beat”
Schneiderman told Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom that the measures proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to strengthen anti-bribery laws would add to his ability and other prosecutors around the state to go after corrupt activities.
“I do support the bills that were introduced last week that would make it easier to prosecutre bribery — that benefits my office and all other prosecutors in the state,” Schneiderman said.
But the attorney general added that in addition to expanding his office’s power, redesigning the whole electoral system through independent redistricting in order to promote competition is just as important.
“The debate is just on now for the next round of reforms and I think it’s important to understand that one aspect of that is strengthening our ability to fight corruption, strenghtnening the hand of prosecutors like my office,” Schneiderman said. “The other though is cleaning up the election system. The system is deisgned so the major check on bad action by elected officials is that they have to stand before the voters with an opponent with an incentive and the ability to challenge them and bring scrutiny to their activities.”
“We don’t have many competitive elections,” he added.
Cuomo has proposed the creation of a new Board of Elections enforcement counsel who would oversee election law and campaign finance violations. Cuomo, who previously supported giving the attorney general’s office this power, would nominate the counsel, who would then be subject to Senate confirmation.
Cuomo this week painted that proposal as one that keeps the enforcement officer shielded from politics. The governor said the attorney general’s office would be a “fallback” if the counsel post isn’t approved.
Apr 11th - 1:14 pm
ICYMI: This was today’s morning memo…
Back when Andrew Cuomo was state attorney general, he issued a scathing report on the so-called Troopergate scandal, condemning then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s botched use of the State Police to smear his political rival, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno.
The scandal dragged on for months (actually, it outlived the tenures of both Spitzer and Bruno), with the Senate Republicans milking every last drop of publicity possible from the mess.
Part of the GOP’s strategy to extend Troopergate was a series of hearings convened by now former Sen. George Winner. At one of these little get-togethers, a trio of top Cuomo aides appeared to testify, making a plea for more power in the AG’s office to prosecute public corruption cases.
“If we had subpoena power, this investigation would be over,” Cuomo’s former chief of staff, Steve Cohen, told the senators, noting the AG’s office does have that ability in some cases – environmental cases, Medicaid fraud cases, securities cases (via the Martin Act, which was used to the fullest extent by Cuomo’s predecessor, Spitzer) – but not when it comes to public integrity.
“This is one of those problems that the more you look at it the more you realize that this is a glaring hole in our arsenal, and the more you realize that, unlike in most cases, the fix is not that complicated,” Cohen continued.
“…What you really want is to have one regulatory body, or more, but at least one, that has the ability to pursue cases wherever they think it’s necessary. It would seem to me that the appropriate place to vest that power…is in the statewide attorney general’s office.”
That was then.
It’s worth noting, by the way, that the biggest corruption-busting case brought by Cuomo while he was AG felled former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi. When it comes to putting away crooked state lawmakers, the prize goes to US Attorney Preet Bharara.
Fast forward to 2011, when Cuomo has become governor and former Sen. Eric Schneiderman – a man widely known not to be Cuomo’s first choice as a successor – had won a crowded and hard-fought primary and general election to make it to the AG’s office.
Schneiderman told the TU he had unsuccessfully raised the issue of a so-called “blanket referral” from the governor’s office via an executive order that would enable him to investigate public corruption cases.
Apr 9th - 3:36 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the thumbs up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption package introduced today, calling the bills a “step forward” in fighting public wrongdoing and fraud.
“New Yorkers rightly expect their government to work for them. The time has come to end the parade of scandals that has have given voters the sense that the system is rigged. Building on legislation I proposed as a lawmaker, these changes are a step forward that will toughen our state’s public corruption laws and help give New Yorkers the government they deserve. We need to end this culture of corruption, and restore confidence that our elected representatives work for all the people of this state.”
Cuomo today announced a trio of bills aimed at strengthening bribery laws, expanding anti-fraud provisions and requiring public officials to report corruption.
Then-state Sen. Eric Schneiderman in 2010 introduced similar legislation that was backed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, incudling the fraud prevention measure and the enhancement of the anti-bribery statute, though the new proposal goes farther to enhance penalties.
Cuomo, who held Schneiderman’s job from 2007 through 2011, said today the anti-corruption legislation was a first step and that a broader reform package was on the way.
Absent from the announcement today was any plans to enhance the attorney general’s office to investigate public corruption, though Cuomo has proposed expanding the office’s investigative powers both as AG and as a candidate for governor for campaign finance violations as well as member item abuse.
Cuomo said giving Schneiderman a broader role in corruption cases was under consideration and that the attorney general could be be “helpful” when it comes to issues like campaign finance violations.
Mar 27th - 4:09 pm
Keeping the federal Defense of Marriage Act in place would continue to restrict the rights of same-sex marriage couples in New York, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in an interview on Capital Tonight.
The legal challenge to DOMA — with arguments heard today at the U.S. Supreme Court — comes from New York woman Edith Windsor who owes taxes on her spouse’s estate that she otherwise wouldn’t have to pay if their marriage was recognized by the federal government.
Schneiderman’s office crafted an amicus brief this month seeking to overturn DOMA, one of two legal challenges to same-sex marriage rights being heard by the court this term.
“This is not just discrimination against individuals,” Schneiderman said in the interview. “This is discrimination against the state of New York. This is discrimination against our ability against our marriage laws frome treated equally and fairly.”
New York, of course, has had a same-sex marriage law in place since July 2011, but the Defense of Marriage Act, signed in 1996, does not extend federal benefits to married gay couples.
Schneiderman says the sea change he’s witnessed over the LGBT rights debate in the last decade is dramatic. The AG, a former state senator, remembered the hostile debate in the chamber back in 2002 over the SONDA bill.
The tone and rhetoric from the opposition has changed, he said.
“The arguments have shifted so dramatically there was not one mention of religion,” Schneiderman said. ”No one is trying to argue the merits based on anyone’s religion.”
He credited advocacy groups for pushing the issue into the public arena and presenting the argument. Indeed, it’s been the public that has come around same-sex marriage, forcing politicians to do the same, he said.
“It reflects how fast public consciousness and public awareness is changing on this issue. and you have to give credit to folks in the marriage equality movement. The people who are moving this along. The trajectory towards American justice is always towards equality and inclusion. How fast that motion takes place really depends upon the activists. I think the folks in the marriage equality movement have had a big influence on this. The trajectory since we took on into New York state in 2002 has really taken off.”