Apr 17th - 4:04 pm
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.
Apr 16th - 11:03 am
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.
Apr 15th - 3:16 pm
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.
Mar 16th - 6:15 pm
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.”
Mar 13th - 7:06 am
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.
Mar 12th - 6:42 pm
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.
Mar 12th - 3:57 pm
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has decided to scrap the controversial 90-day email purge policy put in place by his predecessor, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is now taking considerable heat from good government advocates, editorial boards and state lawmakers for instituting the policy across all executive agencies.
“Attorney General Schneiderman is committed to openness, transparency and restoring the trust of New Yorkers in their government,” the AG’s chief of staff, Micah Lasher, wrote in a memo distributed to all members of the office staff this afternoon.
“Consistent with that commitment, he has decided to suspend, effective immediately, the policy that was first put in place in the Attorney General’s office in 2007 of automatically deleting most office emails after 90 days. He has directed his Counsel to formulate, in short order, a new document retention policy.”
We here at SoP reported earlier this week of the existence of this policy in the AG’s office.
The drumbeat in opposition to Cuomo’s embrace of this policy continues. Earlier today, Assemblyman Danny O’Donnell and Sen. Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, introduced their highly anticipated bill that wold create an email retention policy for state government and effectively block the 90-day purge.
The proposal is based on the federal government’s email retention policy and would create standards for permanent preservation of records generated by statewide public officials, state lawmakers and those in senior agency positions. The emails would be preserved for at least seven years.
Also today, Bronx Democratic Assemblyman Jeff Dinowitz introduced legislation that would set a seven-year minimum for email retention and require officials to use government addresses for emails, not personal ones. And Republican Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin is expected to also introduce a seven-year timetable bill as well.
Schneiderman’s move ups the ante on Cuomo, with the AG not-so-subtly siding with critics of this policy. The AG and the governor have long had a rather rocky – not to mention competitive – relationship, so it will be interesting to see how the governor responds to this.
Mar 9th - 8:28 am
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office is busy downplaying the governor’s controversial 90-day email purge policy, saying the practice has been in place in the executive chamber – albeit not enforced across executive agencies – since 2007.
In other words, since before Cuomo took office in January 2011.
That would mean this policy was established under former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was elected in 2006 and knew a little something about the power of an email trail from his days in the AG’s office.
And speaking of the AG’s office, it turns out the executive branch isn’t the place where the 90-day purge policy exists.
The NYS Department of Law, currently headed by AG Eric Schneiderman, adopted that selfsame policy way back in 2007 – in other words, the year Cuomo succeeded Spitzer in the AG’s office.
An AG office source confirmed Schneiderman opted to keep the email deletion policy put in place by Cuomo. According to this source, the office maintains “any emails that may be relevant to litigation – including the discovery process of a potential or ongoing case.”
Asked how the AG’s office determines which emails, exactly, are going to be pertinent in yet-unknown future lawsuits, and what is kept, the source replied:
Anything that could constitute as evidence in the discovery process – emails from clients regarding a case, minutes of meetings, documents that initiative or complete a business transaction, final reports. It’s not an automatic ‘hold’ per se, but the lawyers follow this closely – otherwise their investigations and cases would be hampered.
Meanwhile, the state comptroller’s office is also reviewing Cuomo’s 90-day purge policy with an eye toward determining if any of its functions – namely, investigations and audits – will be negatively impacted.
State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli’s spokeswoman Jennifer Freeman noted that email trails are often used by investigators to catch government officials engaged in wrongdoing, and if those trails are no longer available, it could curtail corruption-busting probes.
DiNapoli’s office does not have an email purge policy, and has “no intention” of following Cuomo’s policy, Freeman said.
Any email deleted by a staffer in the comptroller’s office is backed up for two weeks, and all executive and senior staff members have been afforded “extensive” amounts of storage space to avoid having to delete anything that might be of value sometime down the road.
“There’s no way storage is an issue,” Freeman said. “It’s cheap.”
Freeman said DiNapoli has both private and state-issued emails accounts, and sometimes uses the former for public business. When the comptroller first took office, he was issued a public account and was “blasted” with emails, Freeman explained. As a result, multiple email accounts were established for the comptroller, with some of his work emails monitored by his assistants.
Jan 5th - 1:16 pm
AG Eric Schneiderman is starting the new year with a couple of holes to fill on his staff.
The DN’s Ken Lovett reported this morning that Andrew Friedman, who has served as Schneiderman’s deputy communications director for less than two years, is departing to take a job at the influential political consulting firm BerlinRosen. Friedman started his new job today at the New York City-based firm, which has strong ties to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Shortly after noon, the Albany-based lobbying and law firm Malkin & Ross announced that another Schneiderman staffer, Justin Berhaupt, has jumped ship to join its ranks. Berhaupt, an Albany Law School grad and Delmar resident, had served as the AG’s legislative advisor.
While working for Schneiderman, Berhaupt , who is also a former Assembly staffer and Senate counsel, was the strategist behind I-STOP – the real-time database of controlled substance prescriptions as a means to reduce addiction and diversion – and the Nonprofit Revitalization Act of 2013, which reformed and modernized the Not-for-Profit Corporation Law for the first time since the 1970’s.
“Justin’s knowledge of the Legislature will be invaluable to our clients, as well as his experience in private law practice and on the campaign trail,” said Artie Malkin, co-founder of M&R.
Both BerlinRosen and Malkin & Ross (or M&R, as it’s also known), are generally Democrat-leaning firms, which represent “progressive” candidates, issues and elected officials.
UPDATE: The AG only has one hole to fill – the one left by Friedman’s departure. Kate Powers, who spent the past four years as legislative director for Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky, is replacing Berhaupt.
Dec 10th - 5:20 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday met with rapper and record producer Jay Z to discuss potential reforms to the state’s criminal justice system, a spokeswoman confirmed.
“Governor Cuomo and Shawn “JAY Z” Carter had a productive conversation about doing a top to bottom review of the Criminal Justice system and how we can all work together to pass a reform package that ensures equality in the eyes of the law,” said Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa.
The meeting comes as Cuomo has said he supports potential reforms to the grand jury process in the state and the criminal justice system as well as new police training.
Cuomo plans to push for these measures after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, setting off a wave of protests in New York City and around the country.
Cuomo has said he wants to perform a “soup to nuts” review of the criminal justice system.
Governors meeting with rappers-turned-moguls is not unprecedented.
In 2003, then-Gov. George Pataki met privately with Russell Simmons, the co-founder of the Def Jam record label in order to discuss changes to the state’s Rockefeller Drug Laws.
UPDATE: Apparently, Jay Z wasn’t the only music industry bigwig Cuomo has been chatting with about the Garner case and its fallout. DeRosa has issued another statement effectively confirming a New York Observer report that the governor also spoke with Simmons about this issue, though she didn’t address the hip hop mogul’s claim that Cuomo pledged during their conversation to soon issue an executive order appointing a special prosecutor to handle alleged police abuse cases.
“Governor Cuomo has said he wants a comprehensive review of the current criminal justice system and has been talking with interested parties to discuss just that,” DeRosa said. “Over the last week, he has personally spoken with members of the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic and Asian Legislative Caucus, PBA President Pat Lynch, community activists including Russell Simmons and Shawn ‘Jay Z’ Carter, and district attorneys from across the state and looks forward to continuing this dialogue with additional stakeholders in the coming days and weeks.”
Simmons also said that he and other advocates also met with AG Eric Schneiderman to ask him to bring an indictment against Pantaleo. Earlier this week, Schneiderman called on the governor to issue an executive order giving the AG’s office the power to investigate and prosecute unarmed civilian deaths at the hands of police officers. The AG said he only wants that power temporarily – until the governor and legislative leaders reach an agreement on permanent reform package.