Eric Schneiderman

Schneiderman Pledges To Handle Police Cases With Independence

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman will be appointed a special prosecutor in cases involving police-related deaths of unarmed civilians after Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers failed to reach a broader agreement on criminal justice reform measures.

Schneiderman first called on Cuomo to issue the executive order in December after a grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict a police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

Now, Cuomo will be issuing an executive order that will grant Schneiderman that power for 12 months with an eye toward potentially reaching an agreement next year.

“My office will handle these cases with the highest level of care and independence, while we continue to work with lawmakers, District Attorneys, advocates and other experts in criminal justice reform on a long-term legislative solution to this critical matter of law and policy,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “All of us who care about the great State of New York must redouble our efforts to strengthen the ties between communities and the police officers and prosecutors who devote themselves so honorably to public protection.”

The lack of an agreement comes after Assembly Democrats sought a number of measures designed to change criminal justice procedures, including a special prosecutor to handle certain cases as well as new requirements for grand jury transparency when an indictment is not issued.

Senate Republicans had always been hesitant to approve the changes and instead this year held a series of hearings on police safety, spurred in part by the assassinations of two New York City police officers.

Schneiderman, in the statement, said he was disappointed by the lack of action.

“This order was to remain in effect only until the Governor and the Legislature enacted statutory reforms to address this critical issue in a permanent and considered fashion,” he said. “I am disappointed that, six months later, we did not see such statutory action — part of a broader failure to achieve meaningful reform on a range of issues in this legislative session.”

Schneiderman Knocks ‘Opaque’ Albany Process

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a radio interview on Monday knocked the “opaque” process in the end-stage negotiations on the extension of rent control and the renewal of the 421a tax abatement.

In the interview with Susan Arbetter on The Capitol Pressroom, Schneiderman said he was opposed to straight extension of both rent control and 421a and that both measures need to be reformed.

At the same time, Schneiderman knocked the push to link the education tax credit to the strengthening of rent control, a move that’s backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“Everyone has known they’re expiring for years by these deadlines and the idea that they can’t get this done, I think this is the old Albany,” Schneiderman said. “This is opaque, anti-democratic, and I agree with the Assembly speaker who spoke about rent, rent regulations, that is an important issue for millions of people and it should stand all on its own. It shouldn’t be linked to the school tax credit or something like that, people should have to take a position on this and vote for it.”

Deal making at the end of the legislative session isn’t new and often disparate issues are linked together in a final compromise.

But Assembly Democrats have been especially vocal about tying both the tax credit — which is backed by private and parochial school supporters and opposed by the teachers unions — to expanding or enhancing rent control, which is opposed by Senate Republicans.

Schneiderman, a former state senator, believes all should be handled separately.

“In what universe is it good public policy to have, you know, 4 or 5 or 6 different things that are unrelated tied together in a package so that a legislator can say look, I really didn’t want to do that bill, wouldn’t have gotten this bill that I liked,” he said. “So, it gives them an excuse for voting and for breaking promises to their constituents and for voting in ways different than they claim to want to. I think that rent should stand on its own. It’s ridiculous that we don’t have good legislation out there; they’ve had plenty of time for 421a. And the school tax credit issue should be taken up separately as well.”

Schneiderman Unveils Ethics Package

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman outlined a broad ethics and campaign finance overhaul proposal on Wednesday by introducing legislation that would change much of how the Legislature does business.

Schneiderman unveiled the omnibus package at the Tweed Courthouse in New York City — the same spot in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched his 2011 campaign for governor and promised to rid the Capitol of public corruption.

Since then, the parade of state lawmakers led out in handcuffs continues unabated.

Schneiderman’s omnibus package would:

  • Ban outside income of state lawmakers, save for payment from military service, royalties or pension income from previous employment
  • Ban per diem and switch to a reimbursement system
  • Give the attorney general’s office the jurisdiction to prosecute public corruption
  • Create new crime for undisclosed self-dealing such as using an official position to enrich oneself and strengthens anti-bribery laws
  • Shift the Legislature from a two-year term to a four-year term
  • Creates a 6-to-1 public donor matching system for political campaigns and caps matching funds for a candidate to receive in primary and general elections
  • Lowers political giving limits for candidates both in and out of the public financing system, with a statewide cap of $5,000 for the primary and general elections each.
  • Ends the practice of unlimited giving through limited liability companies and eliminates housekeeping or “soft money” accounts
  • Enacts lobbying reforms that would ban lobbyists from seeking donations for a public official or party and lowers the cap on personal contributions from a lobbyist to $250.
  • Adds clothing and tuition payments to the list of banned items that can be spent using campaign funds

Schneiderman had previously announced in an op/ed in The Times Union posted online Tuesday he would introduce the legislation this week.

At the moment, there appears to be very little appetite for passing new ethics legislation at the Capitol, despite the arrests of both legislative leaders this session in separate corruption cases (The arrest of now former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver did lead to new disclosure requirements for outside legal clients as well as curtailing some uses of campaign money).

Still, the measure is winning praise from good-government reform organizations upset that the needle does not seem to be moving much on ethics reform in the waning days of the session.

“The corruption we’re seeing in New York State government takes power from the hands of regular New Yorkers and taints the honorable work being done by the lion’s share of public officials. New Yorkers have had enough of so-called ethics reform that tinkers around the edges—what we need now is bold reform that gets to the root of corruption, equips law enforcement with the tools needed to fight it, and professionalizes our state legislature,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “It’s time to end the parade of prosecutions and restore people’s faith in their government.”

Schneiderman Denies Interest In Running For Governor

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement on Monday insisted he isn’t planning a run for governor in 2018.

At the same time, Schneiderman said he had “no interest” in challenging incumbent Gov. Andrew Cuomo and will run for re-election as attorney general instead.

“Being able take on powerful interests in order to protect New Yorkers is the greatest job I’ve ever had and my plan for 2018 is to run for re-election. I am not thinking about or planning to run for Governor, and I have no interest in challenging an incumbent Democratic governor who shares my views on virtually every issue.”

The statements comes the same day as The Daily News reported Schneiderman is considering running for governor when the office is open again in 2018.

Cuomo earlier today strongly suggested he would be seeking a third term as governor.

Cuomo and Schneiderman are said to have a frosty personal relationship at best and the two have tangled over a variety of issues, including the power to go after public corruption (Cuomo later gave Schneiderman a role in deputizing members of the Moreland Commission).

Schneiderman has taken a more assertive approach in dealing with Cuomo this year and nudged him both pushing for a stronger ethics package with the Legislature as well as suspending an email deletion program.

Schneiderman, a former state senator, was first elected attorney general in 2010 and defeated Republican John Cahill for re-election.

The attorney general remains popular with liberals and other left-leaning advocates. Cuomo, meanwhile, continues to be broadly popular, but faces skepticism from liberal advocacy organizations.

Schneiderman: Cuomo ‘Same Guy He Was Six Months Ago’

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman brushed off a question on Friday about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s upstate favorability rating and potential future as a candidate for re-election in 2018.

“We just got through running for re-election,” Schneiderman said during a news conference in Syracuse. “I just ran as a runningmate with the governor six months ago. He’s the same guy he was six months ago. Ups and downs in the polls don’t effect my thinking about this. I’m looking forward to working together for the next four years and as long as we’re working together after that.”

Cuomo is yet to declare whether he will run for a third term, though his campaign committee this month was renamed Andrew Cuomo 2018.

At the same time, his former top aide, Larry Schwartz, said in a statement sent to Capital Tonight shortly after that he expected the governor to run again.

Still, Schneiderman is seen as a potential candidate for the Democratic nomination in his own right and has staked out a more assertive posture when it comes to the governor on a variety of issues, ranging from the mass deletion of emails to increasing the state’s minimum wage through the Department of Labor.

Cuomo, meanwhile, has a difficult year both with the state budget and continued estrangement from the political left in the state. A Time Warner Cable News/Siena College poll released this week found 61 percent of upstate voters have an unfavorable view of the governor. Statewide, his favorable rating is much higher, standing at 58 percent.

Schneiderman is due to speak before the Democratic Rural Conference this evening, a key upstate constituency for any statewide Democratic official. The DRC backed Cuomo’s unsuccessful 2002 run for governor.

Schneiderman Pushes Cuomo On Minimum Wage

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman nudged Gov. Andrew Cuomo on to increase the state’s minimum wage himself in a Daily News op/ed published on Thursday.

In the op/ed, Schneiderman writes that Cuomo can convene a wage board through the Department of Labor that could hike the state’s minimum wage, which is due to increase to $9 by the end of the year.

“While the statewide minimum wage is set by the Legislature and the governor, state law endows the state’s commissioner of labor with the authority to investigate and increase the minimum wage for any occupation if the commissioner determines that a substantial number of employees ‘are receiving wages insufficient to provide adequate maintenance and to protect their health,'” Schneiderman wrote.

The call will likely embolden minimum wage advocates and labor groups to push Cuomo on creating the wage board for a broader increase.

Cuomo previously convened a wage board to consider a minimum wage increase for tipped workers, which was ultimately approved.

A minimum wage increase as proposed by Cuomo — called “modest” by Schneiderman in the op/ed — was not approved in the state budget this year.

Cuomo had proposed a two-tier wage for New York City at $11.50 and $10.50 elsewhere in the state.

The call for the wage board from Schneiderman comes after rallies and protest nationwide for a $15 minimum wage.

Schneiderman also notes from a tactical point of view, a wage board could spur state lawmakers into action.

“As a practical matter, faced with the real prospect of action by the commissioner of labor, legislators would be much more likely to pass an increase that could otherwise be held up for years,” he wrote. “Lawmakers zealously guard their prerogatives and, as much as some might oppose a minimum-wage increase, they will not want to see the issue taken out of their hands.

The op/ed continues an increased emphasis from Schneiderman not just on issues friendly to liberals in New York, but a more aggressive posture toward Cuomo, which has come to include urging him to take a bolder approach on ethics measures.

Schneiderman late last year sought to have Cuomo grant him power to probe police-related deaths involving unarmed civilians, a call that came after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer in the choke hold death of Eric Garner.

Schneiderman Urges BoE To Restrict LLC Donations

Allowing a flood of political contributions through limited liability corporations has a “substantial” impact on campaigns and should end, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote in a letter to the state Board of Elections.

Schneiderman, like good-government organizations and left-leaning advocacy groups, is urging the commissioners at the Board of Elections to close what’s considered to be a loophole in campaign finance regulations that allow single contributors to donate far above the legal limited through a network of LLCs.

At the same time, the attorney general decried the lack of transparency with LLC contributions, with the entities often having vague-sounding names that provide little insight as to who is making the contribution.

The letter comes as the Board of Elections is set to consider revising the regulation at its meeting on Thursday following a sustained campaign from a coalition of organizations urging the board end the practice, which it set in motion itself in 1996.

In his letter, Schneiderman wrote that after an ethics agreement in the state budget that did not address the LLC issue, the board can and should act.

“With the prospects of real reform on hold indefinitely, the BOE must not squander this chance for progress,” Schneiderman wrote in the letter. “Last month, I publicly advocated closing the LLC loophole in remarks to the government reform community. Today, I do so again — to the agency with the power to implement this vitally needed reform on its own authority.”

The Business Council, however, argued in its own letter released today the board does not have the authority to rewrite the regulation and should leave it up to the Legislature as to how LLCs are classified in state campaign finance law.

4 15 Letter to SBOE Re LLC Loophole- w Signature by Nick Reisman

Schneiderman To Cuomo: Don’t Compromise On Ethics

In speech at Citizens Union in New York City on Monday evening, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman urged Gov. Andrew Cuomo to not compromise on ethics reform in the state budget, saying a late spending plan “would be a small price to pay.”

And as Cuomo seeks to tie spending to his ethics measures — which would require new disclosure for state lawmakers as well as have them submit receipts for travel reimbursement — Schneiderman is calling the tactic perfectly legal.

“The Governor has proposed to enact some reforms through this year’s State budget,” Schneiderman said in the speech, according to his prepared remarks. “We should support his leadership in using this perfectly constitutional mechanism. In fact, I would urge the Governor to hold out for even bolder reforms, including the proposals I have outlined tonight. In doing so, he would have the support of both the Constitution and the people of the State of New York.”

But aside from siding with Cuomo over his scuffle with state lawmakers over his budgetary tactics, the speech from Schneiderman was a call for not compromising on reforming Albany as ethics
continue to dominate the political landscape at the Capitol.

“The people of this great state demand comprehensive, fundamental reform,” Schneiderman said. “They deserve nothing less.”

Calls for more ethics reform were renewed this year following the arrest of longtime Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on corruption charges.

A host of reform measures have been called for, ranging from term limits to capping outside income of state lawmakers as well as strengthened disclosure requirements.

Meanwhile, the attorney general also laid out his own vision for stemming the tide of corruption in state government and politics.

In the address, Schneiderman calls for four-year legislative terms for state lawmakers as opposed to two-year terms.

He endorsed a complete ban on outside income, along with a pay raise for legislators “between what New York City Council members and members of Congress are currently paid.”

Schneiderman called for an end to per diem payments and a cap on travel reimbursements as well as equitable office allocations for lawmakers and staff.

On campaign finance reform, Schneiderman called for a ban on unlimited political giving through limited liability corporations, ending soft money or “housekpeeing” committees and public matching funds for campaigns.

He also spoke derisively of previous ethics reform efforts that have fallen short, including an agreement in last year’s state budget that created new anti-corruption laws as well as an independent enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections.

“It looks, to the people of New York State, like one charade after another,” Schneiderman said. “Sadly, every time incremental reforms have been called ‘sweeping’ or ‘groundbreaking’—billed as a solution to the problem—those words have been proven false. In fact, the primary impact of many highly touted, marginal reforms has been to allow business as usual to continue.”

Schneiderman as a state senator sought to pass an ethics package which was ultimately vetoed by then-Gov. David Paterson who asserted it didn’t go far enough.

“This bill does nothing but good,” he said at the time. “To veto it because it doesn’t do everything sends the wrong message.”

But much of today’s remarks, which included praise for U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, appeared aimed at Cuomo, who has over the last five years touted his ability to compromise with state lawmakers on just about any issue, including ethics reform legislation.

The lack of compromise on ethics legislation in 2013 led to the formation of the Moreland Commission On Public Corruption, which was disbanded less than a year later following an agreement on anti-corruption measures in the budget.

Bharara has opened an inquiry on the circumstances of the commission shutting down and Cuomo’s office has come under scrutiny for its reported involvement in the commission. The U.S. attorney has been subsequently critical of Albany’s budget-making process and the “three-men-in-a-room” meetings.

The speech will likely do little to further the chilly relationship between Cuomo and Schneiderman, who have publicly disagreed over a variety of issues in the last five years.

Schneiderman pointedly makes note of Cuomo declining to grant the attorney general’s office broader power in going after public corruption.

“I have asked Governor Cuomo to grant a general referral: a standing order to investigate and prosecute any case of public corruption, which he supported when he was Attorney General, and which, as Governor, he can grant me with the stroke of a pen,” Schneiderman said. “My request was denied.”

AG Backed Email Purge Policy Before Rejecting It

Also from the Morning Memo:

AG Eric Schneiderman raised eyebrows and won praise yesterday after he decided to suspend the controversial 90-day email purge policy that has existed in his office since at least 2007 (or maybe even longer) and directed his counsel to come up with a new email retention policy.

The announcement came after several state lawmakers introduced legislation that would create a new email retention policy for the state, requiring that online communications be preserved for at least seven years – much like how the federal government currently operates.

About two hours after news of Schneiderman’s suspension broke, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s chief spokeswoman, Melissa DeRosa, issued a statement announcing the governor will “convene a meeting” with representations from the Legislature, and the AG and state comptroller to come up with a uniform email and FOIL policy that applies to all state officials and agencies.

Cuomo did not, however, follow Schneiderman’s lead in suspending the current – and much-maligned – purge policy, which he has implemented across executive agencies, while he and other officials try to figure out a better way to address the retention issue.

There has been a lot of finger pointing involved with this issue – especially as the subject of preserving emails and making them public has become a very hot topic, thanks to the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server based in her Westchester County home to conduct public business while she was secretary of state.

While it appeared that Schneideman’s office was merely continuing a policy put in place by his predecessors, internal documents obtained through a FOIL request indicate that’s not actually the case.

First – a word about the timeline on the 90-day purge policy. According to the AG’s office, it had been in place since 2007, which was the first year Cuomo served as AG.

But a 2007 memo to members of the AG staff on email retention and disposition policy indicates the effort to manage email retention actually dates back to at least 2005, which was when Eliot Spitzer was in charge of the office.

That same memo says the AG’s office was guided by general policies established by the state Archives and then-Gov. Spitzer, whose former top aides have (anonymously) disputed that a policy permanently deleting emails after a 90-day period ever existed.

“Former Attorney General Spitzer attempted to streamline the system in 2005 by reducing allowable megabytes. That method proved too difficult to implement,” the memo states.

“As Governor, he is now modernizing the e-mail communication system by imposing a 90-day time limit for retention of e-mails. We are conforming our policy to match that of the Executive.”

At the time, officials were concerned that saving too many emails would result in an “overloaded and underproductive” system and a volume that “overwhelms the capacity of our technology.”

Considerable advancements have been made on that front, with nearly unlimited storage space for online documents now readily available and also affordable.

According to a 2014 memo, the AG’s office took a hiatus from the 90-day purge policy that lasted about three years, thanks to a switch from GroupWise to Microsoft Outlook.

In May 2014, the office decided to re-implement the policy, noting that agencies statewide had adopted it under now-Gov. Cuomo, and the AG’s office was “ready to move back to this best practice.”

“Although retaining emails in Outlook can be a convenient way to store information for future reference, it is not a sustainable document management approach,” reads the memo to the AG’s staff from his chief operating officer, Shanti Nayak.

“Today, OAG is storing vast amounts of email data on our servers. This is difficult to manage at both the individual and organizational level, is slowing down our email systems and is causing us to retain many emails that do not need to be preserved under law.”

Nayak’s memo also notes that under this system, all litigation holds – automatically preserved by the AG’s IT department without action necessary by individual users – would continue.

Cuomo to Convene Email & FOIL Policy Confab

In the wake of AG Eric Schneiderman’s announcement that he is suspending the controversial 90-day email purge policy put in place by his predecessor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the governor’s spokeswoman announced he will “convene a meeting” with representatives of the Legislature and fellow statewide elected officials to come up with a uniform email and FOIL policy that applies to all of them.

Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa reminded everyone in a statement released early this evening that the email policy in question – for which the governor has been weathering considerable criticism – was put in place in 2007 by then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and “expanded” to include the AG’s office (held by Cuomo at the time) that same year.

“We believe the policy should honor transparency while maintaining efficiency,” DeRosa continued. “To that end, as the Attorney General and the legislature appear open to revising their policies, the Governor’s office will convene a meeting with representatives from the legislature, the Attorney General and the Comptroller to come up with one uniform email retention and FOIL policy that applies to all State officials and agencies.”

(For the record, while the AG’s office did adopt the purge policy, the state comptroller’s office did not, and, according to his office, neither storage nor slowness caused by too many emails clogging the system has never been a problem).

Hours before Schneiderman’s announcement, several members of the Legislature introduced email retention policy legislation – most of it based on the federal government’s policy, which requires emails to be preserved for at least seven years.

The Cuomo administration has suggested that if this issue is going to be broached, it should also include discussion of making the Legislature subject to FOIL, which it currently is not. The bill proposed by Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell and Sen. Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, does just that.

Another bill proposed by Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz, a Bronx Democrat, addresses issues raised by the Hillary Clinton email scandal by requiring state officials to use government email accounts – not personal accounts – for official business.

DeRosa did not set a timeline for the email/FOIL meeting. But the governor is clearly trying to get out from under an issue that has generated a lot of negative attention, thanks in part to the greater-than-usual interest in all things email-related, thanks to the revelation that Clinton used a private server based in her Westchester County home for emails when she was serving as secretary of state. Earlier this week, Clinton finally held a press conference to address the controversy, and revealed she and her team had deleted some 30,000 emails deemed “private and personal.”

Clinton said that she had used her private system out of “convenience,” and admitted that using two different phones – one for private communication, the other for business (and, in her case, national security matters) – would have been smarter. “I thought one device would be simpler; obviously, it hasn’t worked out that way,” she said.