May 8th - 5:50 pm
A spokesman for Attorney General Eric Schneiderman suggested that Sen. Shirley Huntley’s lawyer attempted to gain a measure of revenge by identifying one of the people caught on a federal wiretap as a “former political consultant and associate” of the AG.
Schneiderman, of course, indicted Huntley on corruption charges last year.
The case against Huntley came after Schneiderman’s Republican opponent, Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan, suggested the then-senator wouldn’t be able to prosecute his own colleagues.
The consultant named in court papers released today is Melvin Lowe. As Liz detailed earlier, he is of course, is very much more than that and something of a complicated figure who has popped up on payrolls over the last decade of various Democratic candidates, including Andrew Cuomo’s 2002 campaign, the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and others.
“Throughout his career, Attorney General Schneiderman has demonstrated a commitment to rooting out political corruption,” said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for Schneiderman. “He was the first prosecutor to indict Shirley Huntley last summer. Shirley Huntley’s reference to him in her sentencing statement appears to be an attempt at retaliation against Attorney General Schneiderman, who has never hired Melvin Lowe or used his services. He will continue to use every tool at his disposal to ensure New Yorkers have the open and honest government they deserve.”
Apr 25th - 12:01 pm
The National Football League responded quickly to concerns from state officials that questions of draftees appeared designed to identify whether a player is gay by expanding their collective bargaining agreement, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said in an interview today.
Schneiderman, interviewed on The Capitol Pressroom this morning, said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell (the son of the late U.S. Sen. Charles Goodell) moved quickly to address the issue in negotiations with the attorney general’s office.
Under an agreement reached with the NFL and the Player’s Association, the league’s collective bargaining agreement will be expanded to protect newly recruited players from being asked questions such as whether they like women or have a girlfriend.
Schneiderman’s office was concerned the questions were designed to determine whether a player is gay and potentially block them from being drafted.
At the same time, posters will be added to locker rooms directing players to call the Player’s Association if they suspect there is discrimination.
“These interviews determine the future course of their lives… We’re just making sure the non-discrimination applies to everyone,” Schneiderman said in the interview.
He added the negotiations with the NFL could be a model for future efforts in other sports leagues.
“At least this one league will take the additional steps to make sure no one will be discriminated against,” Schneiderman said.
Schneiderman was confident the NFL would back up the changes.
“The league itself has demonstrated a very strong committment to enforcing this policy,” he said.
Coinccidentally, today is Draft Day for the NFL.
Apr 19th - 2:16 pm
In an interview with WAMC, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman blamed public corruption in part on a “permissive” culture that needs to end.
“I think there is a permissive atomsphere in Albany,” he said. “I think that is pervasive.”
Schneiderman in the interview referenced that as a state senator led the effort to expel fellow Democratic Sen. Hiram Monserrate.
Schneiderman told WAMC’s Brian Shields on Northeast Report that most of the people in government are there for the right reasons and not private gain.
“I think the overwhelming majority of the people in public service are there for good reasons,” Schneiderman said. “But there does tend to be a turn a blind eye attitude at the federal level, at the state level.”
Schneiderman has said in previous interviews that his office should have more power to investigate and prosecute public corruption cases.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo is proposing the creation of a new enforcement counsel at the Board of Elections that would have oversight of campaign-finance violations, a purview that he initially had said he would give to the state attorney general’s office.
Cuomo has said he would use Schneiderman as a “fall back” if the counsel proposal at the Board of Elections fails.
A previous Cuomo proposal would require public officials to report possible corrupt and fraudulent activities, a move the AG supports.
“I do think we have to tighten up the atmosphere in which people tolerate misconduct on the part of others,” Schneiderman said. “That’s something I think is a big mistake.”
He doesn’t think corruption cases are becoming more frequent, however, despite the back-to-back arrests of Sen. Malcolm Smith and Assemblyman Eric Stevenson in unrelated bribery scandals. But it’s a sign that prosecutors are becoming more aggressive, Schneiderman said.
“I think they reflect the fact that you have more prosecutors now being tougher on these cases and less willing to turn a blind eye,” he said.
Apr 19th - 9:47 am
AG Eric Schneiderman, who has seen something of a mini-exodus from his office in recent months, is losing another staffer.
James Freedland, Schneiderman’s director of communications and strategic initiatives, is departing to take a job with another former AG staffer, Neal Kwatra, who left his post as Schneiderman’s chief of staff in February to launch his own consulting firm, Metropolitan Public Strategies.
“James Freedland has been one of my key advisers, and has served the people of New York with distinction, integrity and dedication for years,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
“Although James will be missed at the Office of Attorney General, I look forward to continuing to rely on his strategic counsel – as both an adviser and a friend – for many years to come.”
Freedland, 33, is going to be heading up the strategic communications arm for Metropolitan. His last day in the AG’s office is Monday.
Kwatra was replaced as Schneiderman’s chief of staff by Melissa DeRosa, but she was quickly wooed away by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to serve as his communications director, replacing Allison Gollust, who departed after spending just four months on the job.
Both Kwatra and Freedland are expected to maintain their ties to Schneiderman through Metropolitan, which is likely to keep the AG as a client as he gears up for his first re-election campaign in 2014.
Freedland has been overseeing day-to-day operations of the AG’s communications department, while also handling media outreach, strategic initiatives, speechwriting and rapid response.
In 2010, he served as chief spokesman for Schneiderman’s AG campaign, which included a hard-fought five-way primary battle. Freedland also worked in Schneiderman’s Senate office, and prior to that, managed media relations at the ACLU.
Freedland received a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville and a Masters in Public Policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
Apr 9th - 3:36 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman gave the thumbs up to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s anti-corruption package introduced today, calling the bills a “step forward” in fighting public wrongdoing and fraud.
“New Yorkers rightly expect their government to work for them. The time has come to end the parade of scandals that has have given voters the sense that the system is rigged. Building on legislation I proposed as a lawmaker, these changes are a step forward that will toughen our state’s public corruption laws and help give New Yorkers the government they deserve. We need to end this culture of corruption, and restore confidence that our elected representatives work for all the people of this state.”
Cuomo today announced a trio of bills aimed at strengthening bribery laws, expanding anti-fraud provisions and requiring public officials to report corruption.
Then-state Sen. Eric Schneiderman in 2010 introduced similar legislation that was backed by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, incudling the fraud prevention measure and the enhancement of the anti-bribery statute, though the new proposal goes farther to enhance penalties.
Cuomo, who held Schneiderman’s job from 2007 through 2011, said today the anti-corruption legislation was a first step and that a broader reform package was on the way.
Absent from the announcement today was any plans to enhance the attorney general’s office to investigate public corruption, though Cuomo has proposed expanding the office’s investigative powers both as AG and as a candidate for governor for campaign finance violations as well as member item abuse.
Cuomo said giving Schneiderman a broader role in corruption cases was under consideration and that the attorney general could be be “helpful” when it comes to issues like campaign finance violations.
Apr 9th - 2:14 pm
Gov. Andrew Cuomo just unveiled Step One in what will be a multi-pronged reform proposal in the wake of last week’s back-to-back corruption cases: Empowering local district attorneys to better ferret out and prosecute wrongdoing by dirty elected officials at all levels of government in New York.
Cuomo said he had decided to start here because the DAs are essentially the first line of defense in busting bad pols. Increasing penalties and creating new crimes – like making it a misdemeanor to fail to report bribery – through the Public Trust Act, as the governor has dubbed it, is also arguably the low-hanging fruit when it comes to getting legislative support.
The governor has said he wants to strike while the iron is hot, and believes state lawmakers are ”receptive” to approving reforms in light of recent events. But more political efforts, like doing away with fusion voting and creating a publicly funded campaign finance system, could still be a tough sell.
Notably left off Cuomo’s law enforcement proposal today was any mention of the state attorney general, who has repeatedly asked for more power when it comes to investigating public integrity cases.
Most notably, the AG lacks subpoena power in corruption cases, which hamstrings him considerably – so much so that AG Eric Schneiderman has resorted to teaming up with state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli, who does have suboena power, to prosecute the misuse of public funds.
Asked (by NY1′s intrepid Zack Fink) why the AG isn’t part of his proposal, Cuomo said his quest is to “maximize all political offices” when it comes to corruption busting, adding that the attorney general has “an important role” to play.
That’s a very different tune than the one Cuomo himself was singing back when he was AG.
In the wake of the so-called Troopergate scandal, in which Cuomo issued a scathing report on then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s botched attempt to use to the State Police to smear his political rival, Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno, Cuomo’s top aide, Steve Cohen, said the following at a Senate GOP hearing:
“This is one of those problems that the more you look at it the more you realize that this is a glaring hole in our arsenal, and the more you realize that, unlike in most cases, the fix is not that complicated…What you really want is to have one regulatory body, or more, but at least one, that has the ability to pursue cases wherever they think it’s necessary. It would seem to me that the appropriate place to vest that power…is in the statewide attorney general’s office.”
At the time, the Senate Republicans were calling on Spitzer to make Cuomo a special prosecutor with the subpoena power so he could take a deeper dive into investigating Troopergate.
They even drafted legislation that would require the state inspector general to refer cases to the AG, and confer subpoena power to that office in the process, any time a conflict of interest arises in a case – as it did in Troopergate, pitting the executive and legislative branches against one another.
Needless to say, Spitzer did not heed that call, and the bill in question never went anywhere.
Mar 26th - 11:30 am
As the U.S. Supreme Court today hears arguments in what could be two landmark cases for same-sex marriage, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman today is calling for an overturn of the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
In addition to striking down DOMA, Schneiderman called on the court to also invalidate California’s proposition 8 law that bans same-sex marriage in the state.
“The Supreme Court should strike down the federal law that undermines the efforts of New York, eight other states and the District of Columbia to provide equal rights and protection under the law for same-sex couples, as well as the California law that took away marriage equality that had previously existed in that State. The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cemented our State’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will work every day to fight discrimination and defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”
Schneiderman last month penned an amicus brief to the court, which was later signed on by several other attorneys general, calling for DOMA to be overturned. And this month, former President Bill Clinton, who signed DOMA, now says in a Washington Post op/ed that it was the wrong thing to do.
Schneiderman is no stranger to defended same-sex marriage. The AG’s office successfully defended a lawsuit seeking to overturn New York’s gay marriage law, passed in June 2011.
Schneiderman will be a guest on Capital Tonight this evening at 8 and on the replay at 11:30.
Mar 13th - 3:52 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman in a statement this afternoon said a state Supreme Court justice’s ruling correctly tossed an injunction to block the state’s new gun control law.
The court ruling coincided with yet another mass shooting, this time in two Mohawk Valley villages that killed four people and injured two.
Schneiderman, who is defending the state in the legal challenges to the law, said his office will “continue to fervently defend” the measure.
“The court rightfully rejected an attempt to halt the State’s efforts to reduce gun violence and prevent the tragedies that result from the use of military style weapons and high capacity ammunition devices. The SAFE Act is a comprehensive law that enacts significant reforms designed to increase the safety of all New Yorkers, while ensuring constitutional protections to responsible gun owners. There are multiple lawsuits challenging the SAFE Act on numerous grounds, and our office will continue to fervently defend the protections embodied in the law.”
Gun-rights advocates and Republican lawmakers opposed to the law have said challenges to the measure in court are the best avenue to take to overturn it.
Feb 28th - 5:06 pm
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced today he assembled a 16-state coalition to overturn the federal Defense of Marriage Act as the Supreme Court considers several same-sex marriage cases this term.
“The federal Defense of Marriage Act clearly violates the principle of equal justice under law as enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, and improperly intrudes on the traditional role of states in regulating marriage and promoting equality. We urge the Supreme Court to overturn this discriminatory law,” Schneiderman said in a statement. “The State of New York has long recognized out-of-state same-sex marriages, and the enactment of the Marriage Equality Act further cemented our State’s position on this critical civil rights issue. My office will fight every day to defend the fundamental guarantee of equal protection under law for all New Yorkers.”
Schneiderman’s brief, filed jointly with Massachusetts AG Martha Coakley, was signed on to by California, Connecticut, Delaware, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington and the District of Columbia/
It is the second high-profile Supreme Court case that Schneiderman, a darling of the national left for his aggressive stance in the nationwide mortgage settlement case, that he’s taking a prominent position on.
The White House announced today it had also filed a brief urging the court overturn the measure as well.
Schneiderman yesterday penned a brief supporting the preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court is always hearing this term.
Feb 28th - 1:10 pm
A Bronx man has pleaded guilty to charges that he embezzled more than half a million dollars from two taxpayer-funded Bronx charities founded by state Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. over an eight-year period, AG Eric Schneiderman announced today.
Clement I. Gardner pleaded guilty to the felony charge of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree. That count alleged he stole approximately $560,000 in public and charitable assets while serving as fiscal officer for two related Bronx not-for-profit corporations: Christian Community Benevolent Association, Inc. and Christian Community in Action.
“The defendant used two publicly funded Bronx organizations like his personal piggy bank, diverting more than a half million dollars earmarked for services for needy New Yorkers in little over eight years,” the AG said. “My office has zero tolerance for those who abuse the public trust for personal gain, and will continue to prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.”
Between December 31, 2003 and February 12, 2012, Gardner wrote numerous checks to himself from CCBA and CCIA bank accounts and then falsified business records to conceal his crimes, Schneiderman said.
Part of the money was taxpayer-funded member item grants directed to the charities by Diaz Sr., who has not been implicated in this case. He’s not mentioned in Schneiderman’s press release.
Diaz Sr. directed close to $495,000 to CCBA between 2006 and 2007. The Bronx Democrat founded the organization in 1977 in the basement of the Church of God on Seward Avenue, according to his official Senate biography, and served as its executive director until shortly before his election to his current post in 2002.
In exchange for his guilty plea, Gardner will be sentenced on March 20 to two to six years in state prison. At sentencing, acting state Supreme Court Justice Steven Barrett will enter an order of restitution for $560,000.
Gardner was arrested last March. Until then, he served as fiscal officer for both CCBA, which provides recreational and educational opportunities to Bronx children and seniors, and CCIA, which provided home health services to the disabled and elderly.
Gardner managed the finances of both organizations, maintained their expense records, and administered their bank accounts, according to the AG.
Following Gardner’s arrest, Schneiderman’s office said the investigation was ongoing, and Diaz Sr. expressed “shock” that his onetime “close ally“ could have done such a thing. As for any question about whether the senator himself was somehow involved, Diaz Sr. said:
“If I ever lost my salvation, which I doubt it, it would not be for money, because I am in the business of giving, not in the business of taking.”