Jan 30th - 2:41 pm
Michael Battle, a former US attorney for the Western District of New York and one time director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, is considering a possible run for state attorney general on the GOP line, sources familiar with his thinking said.
Battle has expressed interest in challenging Democratic AG Eric Schneiderman this fall to state GOP Chairman Ed Cox, according to a Republican source. Battle, who is now in private practice at the firm of Schlam Stone & Dolan, has so far not returned a call seeking comment. A state party spokesman also declined to comment.
An Ithaca College and Buffalo Law School grad, Battle was appointed in 1995 by the last Republican AG, Dennis Vacco, as an assistant AG in charge of the Buffalo Regional Office. In 1996, he was appointed by then Gov. George Pataki (and was subsequently elected) to the Erie County Family Court bench.
Interestingly, Pataki’s former top aide and current law partner, John Cahill, is also interested in running for AG this year, and has been talking with leaders in both the Republican and Conservative parties about a potential campaign.
Both he and Battle are relative unknowns in New York and would have to work hard to raise their name recognition with voters. Than again, polls have consistently shown that a majority of New Yorkers don’t know who Schneiderman is, despite the fact that he has held statewide office since January 2011.
Another former US attorney, Michael Garcia, has also been mentioned as a possible GOP candidate to challenge Schneiderman. But he seems to have fallen off the radar screen. Plus, any political run by him would be complicated by the fact that he represented the Senate GOP in its legal battle with the Moreland Commission.
Schneiderman will no doubt be able to count on his friends on the left – especially in the labor community – to assist him no matter who challenges him this fall. And the Democrats will have ample opposition fodder to use against Battle if he’s chosen to be the GOP’s AG candidate.
After six years as a judge, Battle was appointed by President George W. Bush to the US attorney post, which he held from 2002 to 2005. In 2005, Bush promoted Battle to be director of the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, where he had administrative oversight of all 93 US attorneys and served as liaison between them and the Justice Department and other federal agencies.
Battle played a role in a December 2006 controversy in which seven US attorneys received midterm dismissals – an unprecedented move – and were replaced with interim appointees under provisions of the Patriot Act reauthorization. Battle was charged with informing the seven that their services were no longer needed.
Subsequent congressional investigations focused on whether the DOJ and the White House were using the US attorney positions for political advantage. Some of the attorneys who lost their jobs were allegedly fired to impede ongoing investigations of Republican politicians or due to their failure to launch probes that targeted Democrats. As Congress began issuing subpoenas in the matter, Battle resigned on March 5, 2007.
There was also some controversy during Battle’s term as US attorney for the Western District, where he was responsible for the case of Benamar Benatta, who was held without trial for five years following his forcible rendition from Canada one day after the Sept. 11 attacks. The FBI determined Benatta was innocent, but he remained behind bars. A federal magistrate judge concluded Battle had conspired with the FBI and immigration agents to make it seem as if Benatta was being held for immigration violations.
Battle dropped the charges against Benatta in October 2003, but he wasn’t released until 2005.
Jan 16th - 12:03 pm
1st-term achievements: held big banks accountable, helped struggling homeowners, closed gun show loophole. Oh yeah, and great #eyelashes.
— Eric Schneiderman (@AGSchneiderman) January 16, 2014
Jan 3rd - 3:01 pm
A coalition of gun-rights groups have filed a notice of appeal of a federal judge’s ruling upholding certain aspects of the the 2013 gun control law known as the SAFE Act.
The filing, made Friday, came after U.S. District Court Judge William Skretny upheld most of the year-old law save for the seven-round limit for magazines. As of now, there’s been no indication of whether the state will appeal that decision.
UPDATE: AG Eric Schneiderman’s spokesman Matt Mittenthal emailed the following statement:
“We will vigorously defend New York’s SAFE Act in the Court of Appeals. This week’s decision upheld most of New York’s SAFE ACT, and we will forcefully defend that ruling and appeal those parts of the decision that struck down portions of the law.”
The move was expected by the groups, which includes the Albany-based Rifle and Pistol Association, following the Tuesday ruling.
Gun-rights groups filed a legal challenge in March to the gun control law, a measure that has been a centerpiece for Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The law was approved less than a month after the shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut, marking the nation’s first gun control law to pass since the incident.
There’s also been some confusion as to whether the ruling from Skretny applies only to western New York.
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.