Eric Schneiderman

Maziarz Speaks Out About Schneiderman

From the Morning Memo:

Republican former state Sen. George Maziarz believes the public may finally be seeing now-former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman the way he has for years.

Maziarz, a Niagara Falls Republican, described Schneiderman as a “media darling,” but said he knew the Manhattan Democrat as a man with a violent temper who often used his public office as a vehicle for retribution. He said he was framed as the bad guy when the ex-prosecutor charged him with five felony Election Law violations last year.

Now, with the public narrative turning against his political rival, Maziarz said he believes he might be able to turn around how people view his own case. In the end, the Niagara County GOP powerbroker took a deal, pleading to one misdemeanor.

Schneiderman called it a victory, arguing he had successfully reduced Maziarz’s outsized political influence by wrenching a public admission of misconduct from the former lawmaker.

Not surprisingly, Maziarz saw it differently, arguing the attorney general’s case fell apart because he had no proof any actual wrongdoing and could not demonstrate that the money exchanged had any connection to him.

“When you look at where and started and where it ended, it was very clear that it was just political retribution,” Maziarz said. “He got an admission from me that I wanted to get on with my life and get it over with and move on.”

However, Maziarz said, in looking at the discovery the prosecution provided him, it was clear Schneiderman overlooked “numerous serious violations” committed by others, in exchange for evidence or testimony. He said he plans on releasing that discovery material in the near future.

The former senator implied that there were indeed convictions to be had if Schneiderman had not focused solely on taking down a political opponent and someone who would provide the most headlines.

“When you look at the fact that Eric spent four years and over a million dollars of taxpayer money investigating myself and others and the result was a minor misdemeanor charge, it was clearly political retribution,” Maziarz insisted.

Whether any of those alleged crimes can still be prosecuted, ultimately might be up to whoever becomes the new attorney general, Maziarz said. In the short term, he maintains that he just wants the general public to understand the whole story.

Former Assemblyman on Schneiderman: ‘My Instincts Were I Didn’t Trust Him”

Former Democratic Assemblyman and current Buffalo Comptroller Mark Schroeder has never been a fan of Eric Schneiderman, although he struggled to articulate a specific reason why.

The two were members of the state Legislature at the same time, with Schneiderman in the Senate. Schroeder said his worst experiences in Albany were when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2009.

Schneiderman had a leadership role at the time. Schroeder said while they may have been members of the same party, they did not have common goals.

“These are all Democrats from New York City and in my opinion, I hope things have changed, but back then they had an absolute disdain for Western New York, Upstate and for Buffalo,” he said.

In 2010, Schneiderman emerged the winner of  a Democratic primary for Attorney General. Schroeder had endorsed his Assembly colleague Richard Brodsky but he said he did meet with Schneiderman first, and came away feeling uncomfortable about the candidate.

“I made a decision that I would never support him only because my instincts were I didn’t trust him,” he said.

Schroeder said eight years ago he appeared at one governmental press conference with the attorney general but they have not stood together since. He said he actively chose not to go to a fundraiser in Buffalo late-last month where Schneiderman was the guest of honor.

Schroeder was also a major critic of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. He said Silver and Schneiderman were cut from the same cloth, part of an Albany club that seemed to insulate and even promote corruption and wrongdoing.

“Stay away from them,” he said of the the two men, “Because they think they are so powerful and that they can do whatever they want to do whenever they want to do it.”

The former assemblyman said if the allegations against Schneiderman are true, he’s not taking any pleasure in being proven right. Rather he said he’s praying for the attorney general and his family.

In the meantime, he said the Legislature has a golden opportunity to appoint somebody who can stablize the office and restore some of the luster it may have lost over the last 24 hours.

WNY Reactions to Schneiderman Resignation

From the Morning Memo:

Many people in Western New York were surprised by the allegations of violence toward women lobbied against Attorney General Eric Schneiderman which led to his resignation Monday night.

Others that knew him didn’t seem altogether shocked.

Buffalo City Comptroller Mark Schroeder’s tenure in the state Assembly overlapped with Schneiderman’s in the state Senate from 2005 to 2010, but he was never a fan of the fellow Democrat.

In fact, while many lined up behind Schneiderman for Attorney General eight years ago, Schroeder supported another colleague, Richard Brodsky for the seat.

“I served with him in the Legislature but I did not support him for AG for the same reason I never supported (former Assembly Speaker Sheldon) Silver,” Schroeder said. “I didn’t trust him.”

The now-former prosecutor was sometimes accused of allowing personal grudges to influence the cases he pursued (something he consistently denied). The most recent example was election law charges brought against current and former Republican state Senators George Maziarz and Rob Ortt. The charges against Ortt were ultimately dismissed, but the senator clearly has not forgotten about the ordeal.

“Under our justice system and in the court of public opinion, the Attorney General deserves a presumption of innocence. But because Mr. Schneiderman has repeatedly shown himself time to be more interested in political grand-standing and his own self-aggrandizement than he is in pursuing justice, I do not believe there is any doubt that he or his office would be able to fairly investigate these allegations of misogynistic assault, death threats, and drug use,” he said.

Schneiderman certainly had allies in Western New York as well. As recently as April, the Erie County Democratic Committee hosted a fundraiser featuring the Attorney General.

Still, party chair Jeremy Zellner said his resignation was appropriate.

“The AG has done the right thing by putting the interest of the people of NY before all other considerations,” Zellner wrote on Twitter. “As a result of his resignation, the important work of the AG’s office will go forward, unimpeded by personal impropriety.”

He suggested President Donald Trump should resign as well though, “in light of his own many alleged and self described actions.”

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.