Eric Schneiderman

Schneiderman, State AGs And Cities Move To Block Census Question

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with a coalition of fellow state attorneys general, a half-dozen cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors, announced a lawsuit Tuesday intended to block a citizenship question on the U.S. Census.

The question has alarmed immigration questions and spurred fears that whole populations of undocumented residents would be under counted in the 2020 Census, putting federal funding and representation in Congress at risk.

“One of the federal government’s most solemn obligations is a fair and accurate count of all people in the country, citizen and non-citizen alike,” Schneiderman said.

“For decades, administrations from both parties have treated this constitutional requirement with the respect and reverence it deserves. Now, the Trump administration is breaking with that tradition – recklessly abandoning nearly 70 years of practice by demanding to know the citizenship

The lawsuit was filed in the Manhattan-based U.S. Southern District Court.

In addition to Schneiderman, the suit is backed by state AGs in Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, Washington, and the District of Columbia; the cities of New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Providence, San Francisco, and Seattle.

AG Report: Data Breaches Becoming More Prevalent

New Yorkers reported 1,583 data breaches, a record high, in 2017, according to a study released today by the State Attorney General’s Office today. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, D-NY, said 9.2 million people in the state saw their records compromised as a result, which is quadruple the number from 2016.

Schneiderman said the problem continues to get worse. Right now, his office is investigating how a private consulting firm got the records of 50 million Facebook users without their knowledge or consent.

“Thus far they have said they want to be cooperative. They’ve already begun to produce documents so they’re moving pretty quickly,” he said. “Look, we’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

The attorney general said the state needs to do more to defend against breaches. During a press conference in Rochester, he called again for the state Legislature to pass the Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security (S.H.I.E.L.D.) Act.

Schneiderman said the bill, which he originally introduced last year, would close major gaps in New York’s data and security laws.

“It would create an incentive for companies to have this gold-plated set of security policies and then they get a safe harbor from litigation so it’s really a win-win,” he said.

The bill would make companies legally responsible for safe-guarding customer data, expand the types of information that must be reported, and significantly increase penalties. Schneiderman said it is tailored to the size of companies so “mom and pop shops” don’t have the same responsibility as large corporations.

According to the report, social security numbers account for 40 percent of exposed information while 33 percent is financial account information like credit card numbers. Hacking is the leading cause of breaches but 25 percent of them were caused by negligence.

Schneiderman Calls Federal Government ‘A Toxic Volcano Of Bad Ideas’

The New York Attorney General’s office has continued to position itself as a nemesis to President Donald Trump, this week filing two more lawsuits against the administration. Those suits seek to block a reinstated citizenship question on the U.S. census and a proposed rule that would allow business to refuse aspects of healthcare based on religious beliefs, respectively.

Schneiderman’s critics accuse him of wasting taxpayer dollars on publicly funded lawsuits and investigations for political purposes. The attorney general said the litigation has actually saved New Yorkers money.

He said, for instance if the so-called Trump travel ban was in place, it would’ve been devastating for New York’s hospitality, healthcare and tech industries. Schneiderman said he successfully protected cost-sharing subsidies under the Affordable Care Act as well, which if had been eliminated would have resulted in huge cuts in healthcare funding to the state.

“We’re saving New Yorkers money and the reason we have to bring these suits is that the federal government has become kind of a toxic volcano of bad ideas,” he said. “It’s just sort of like blasting these things out on a regular basis.”

Schneiderman also scoffed at the implication he’s posturing in any way. He said he is using a federal system that was set up to give states power.

The attorney general said the nation’s founders realized the potential for a president to become a “demagogue” or “tyrant.” He did not directly call Trump those things.

“I went after the Obama administration when I felt they weren’t doing the right thing and that will be true of any presidential administration and these guys are just generating a little more business,” Schneiderman said.

As for concerns about whether or not the administration could retaliate against the lawsuits by blocking federal funding for projects like the Gateway Tunnel, Schneiderman said he’s not concerned. He said he’s bringing the lawsuits based on the merits of the substantive proposals.

“I’m not attacking the president about his family or his hair or anything else and you won’t see us tweeting at each other. This is not personal. This is just about substantive policy,” he said.

AG Defends Maziarz Plea As Success

From the Morning Memo:

It seemed a bit of a peculiar outcome.

Less than a week before long-time Niagara County Republican power-broker and former state Senator George Maziarz was supposed to stand trial, he agreed to a plea deal with prosecutors. Maziarz was facing five felony charges, and ultimately pleaded guilty to just a single misdemeanor.

To many observers it appeared the former state senator got away with just a slap on the wrist. But don’t tell that to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who vigorously defended the result.

Schneiderman said there were plenty of repercussions for Maziarz – including the loss of his influence, elected post and reputation – when he admitted to engaging in misconduct in court.

“I don’t think if you asked George Maziarz, he would say, ‘Oh boy, this was a good experience for me,'” Schneiderman said. “Look, it’s important to take on cases that are more challenging cases.”

Schneiderman said a case like the one against Maziarz – a complicated pass-through scheme to circumvent campaign finance rules – never would have been pursued in the past. A recent partnership with the state Board of Elections and the state comptroller’s office has allowed the AG’s office to expand its focus on public corruption.

Schneiderman said they’ve been able to obtain more than 75 dispositions from “corrupt officials and their cronies,” as a result.

“We continue to bring cases all across the state against Democrats and Republicans. Corruption is a bipartisan enterprise and I’m proud of the work we did in that case,” he said.

The attorney general noted this effort continues, pointing to the recent indictment of the mayor of Mount Vernor, Richard Thomas, on charges he used campaign cash to pay for personal expenses.

AG: Weinstein Co. Probe Ongoing

From the Morning Memo:

State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman kept his comments brief yesterday when asked about the status of a probe into The Weinstein Company – a New York based multimedia company that co-founded by Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul accused of numerous incidents of sexual assault and harassment.

Schneiderman subpoenaed internal harassment and discrimination claims from the company last month, but said the investigation is ongoing.

He said that compared to other cases, including a recent class action suit that was filed in California and named the producer personally, his office is looking at the company as a whole.

“Our case is really about the company itself and whether they were following the laws about sex harassment and sex discrimination, and that’s a relatively recent inquiry,” Schneiderman said. “I have no comment beyond that.”

Schneiderman said investigators are seeking to enforce civil rights laws and make “absolutely clear” that no one should have to suffer sexual harassment or discrimination in the workplace.

“That’s something where the law is crystal clear,” he said. “Going beyond any act of any individual offender, it’s also up to the companies involved, whatever industry they’re in, to ensure that everyone is safe and that no work place engages in sexual discrimination of any kind.”

Attorneys General Launch Multi-State Opioid Crisis Investigation

Attorneys general from 41 states across the country are working together on a comprehensive investigation into the opioid crisis. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced the coalition during a Tuesday press conference in New York City.

“We know that the system is broken but there’s never been as comprehensive an effort as the one we are launching now by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general to get to the bottom of it,” Schneiderman said.

He said investigators have demanded information and documents from manufacturers and distributors to see if there were any illegal marketing or selling practices.

“Our subpoenas and letters seek to uncover whether or not there was deception involved, if manufacturers misled doctors and patients about the efficacy and addictive power of these drugs.”

So far the coalition has served subpoenas to four pharmaceutical companies; Endo International, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceuticals Industry and Allergan Inc. It has also demanded information from three other corporations that manage roughly 90 percent of the nation’s opioid distribution.

“There’s no doubt that there simply are too many prescriptions for too many opioids in America right now,” Schneiderman said.

The attorney general said the main goal of the investigation is to initiate change and some companies have already indicated willingness to cooperate.

“We hope that this will lead to some reforms by the industry itself. There may be cases to be brought if there’s any fraud or deception.”

Schneiderman said opioid distribution alone is a $500 billion business annually.

Schneiderman Makes Post-Equifax Scandal Data Inquiries

Elected officials are rushing to respond to the Equifax data hacking scandal in which the personal details of up to 143 million Americans was exposed – potentially one of the biggest data breaches in U.S. history.

Yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state Department of Financial Services, one of the nation’s toughest banking regulators, would extend its reach to include overseeing credit-reporting firms.

AG Eric Schneiderman has already opened an investigation into the Equifax breach – an effort in which he is not alone, as Congress is also looking into the incident.

Today, the AG went a step further, announcing his office has sent has sent formal inquiries regarding data security to Experian and TransUnion, the two other major credit reporting agencies.

Specifically, Schneiderman has asked the companies to detail the security measures that were in place before they learned of the Equifax breach, as well as steps they have taken since learning of the latest hacking mess to ensure that they haven’t already suffered similar intrusions and won’t experience breaches moving forward.

The AG also wants to know how the companies plan to assist consumers in protecting their personal information going forward.

“The Equifax breach has left millions of New Yorkers vulnerable to identity theft and major financial issues,” Schneiderman said in a press release.

“Credit reporting agencies have a fundamental responsibility to protect the personal information they’re entrusted with. As we continue our investigation into the Equifax breach, it’s vital to ensure that consumer data at the other major credit reporting agencies is safe.”

Schneiderman reminded New Yorkers to take action to protect themselves post-Equifax breach by checking their credit reports for activity that could indicate identity theft at annualcreditreport.com, monitoring accounts closely for unauthorized charges, and considering placing a credit freeze on their files.

At least one member of the state Legislature is also looking to get in on the Equifax response. State Sen. David Carlucci, chair of his chamber’s Consumer Protection Committee, announced he plans to hold a public hearing on cyber security later this month, and has invited the head of Equifax to attend.

Schneiderman Sues Trump Over Fuel Efficiency Penalties

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, D-NY, has filed another lawsuit against the Trump administration. This time the fight’s over fuel efficiency standards.

This summer the administration delayed a federal rule set to take effect in July, that increased the penalty for automakers who built vehicles that did not meet minimum fuel efficiency standards.

“Fuel efficiency standards are common sense, protecting Americans’ pocketbooks and reducing the emissions that undermine public health and drive climate change,” Schneiderman said. “Yet again and again, the Trump administration sides against New Yorkers and our environment. State Attorneys General have made clear: we won’t hesitate to act when those we serve are put at risk.”

Attorney generals from California, Vermont, Maryland and Pennsylvania are also participating in the suit. Under the rule the penalty would be raised from $5.50 to $14.00 for every tenth of a mile per gallon.

Schneiderman said without sufficient penalties, automakers lack incentive to produce fuel efficient vehicles. He said the indefinite delay buy the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is illegal because the agency acted without notice or public comment and violates the 2015 Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act.

Schneiderman Defends Actions Against Trump

From the Morning Memo:

A pattern has emerged when it comes to the relationship between the Trump administration and the state Attorney General’s office. From healthcare to immigration to methane emissions, AG Eric Schneiderman has consistently voiced his opposition to the president by filing or simply threatening litigation.

Schneiderman, in Buffalo yesterday, said the lawsuits aren’t about him, but rather an effort to protect sound public policy from what appears to him to be a reckless administration hell bent on destroying it.

“I don’t view this as at all political; I view this as my effort to protect the people of the state of New York,” he said.

The AG told reporters he’d be happy to explain his reasons for lawsuits on any number of issues. He also pointed out he’s not the only one opposing Trump in this manner.

Schneiderman said a number of prominent Republicans are speaking out, and so are other attorney generals across the nation.

For instance, he said, there are 16 states involved in his latest effort to protect the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, otherwise known as DACA, from repeal.

“This is not anything that has to do with President’s personality,” Schneiderman, an outspoken liberal, insisted. “This has to do with public policies that would hurt New Yorkers. We bring our cases on the merits. There just happens to be a lot of merits with this particular administration but I’m not going to back down from defending New Yorkers.”

When asked about the cost of all the lawsuits, Schneiderman said it’s significantly less than the cost to New Yorkers if they lose their healthcare, for example, or if those protected under DACA are deported.

 

Judge Rules Email Evidence In Pigeon Case Obtained Illegally

The State Attorney General’s Office appears to have been dealt a major blow in its case against Western New York political operative Steve Pigeon. State Supreme Court Justice Donald Cerio has ruled that email evidence in the case should be suppressed moving forward.

Pigeon is accused of nine felonies associated with allegedly bribing a state Supreme Court judge. The judge, John Michalek, has already pleaded guilty.

On May 27, 2015, federal and state investigators executed search warrants at Pigeon’s condo and the homes of two other men. As part of the raid, investigators asked Google to deliver Pigeon’s emails.

Judge Cerio agreed with the defense that although the search warrants were delivered to Google within the 10-day window allowed by the state, law enforcement was not able to examine the emails until at least 22 days after the warrants were executed.

“While the courts have found that undue delay in filing the return with the court is a ministerial act which will not effect the integrity of the warrant, the execution of the warrant within the prescribed time period is strictly construed,” Cerio wrote in his decision.

The judge said in order to avoid the situation, investigators could have gotten an extension. He said the court had no issue with the time prosecutors have taken in analyzing the records.

“It is the finding of this court that the People acted in good faith at all times with respect to the analysis of the defendant’s email records. However, the issue is not with respect to how long the process of analysis took place or whether the People acted in good faith but, rather, when the information was actually received from Google by state law enforcement with respect to the warrants at issue,” Cerio wrote.

The judge had previously ruled against Pigeon’s attorney, Paul Cambria, on this decision but changed his ruling only after deciding to allow the defendant to re-argue the decision. It is unclear what the impact on the case which is set to go to trial in September.

“We respectfully disagree with the court’s decision regarding this technical issue and will soon determine how to best move this important prosecution forward. We appreciate the court stating that our office has proceeded in good faith at all times on this matter,” AG spokesperson Amy Spitalnick said.

Cambria would only say he believes the judge made the right decision and he is now waiting for Schneiderman’s office to decide how to move forward.

Pigeon Emails by Ryan Whalen on Scribd