Attorney General - General Election

Endorsed Candidate
  
(photo from NYS Senate website)

ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN - DEM, WF
   
Eric Schneiderman's Questionnaire
Age: 55; Occupation: Senator, NYS Senate
Education: Amherst College (B.A.), Harvard Law School (J.D.)
Campaign website: http://www.ericschneiderman.com

A long-time advocate on reform issues, Eric Schneiderman hopes to utilize his legal expertise obtained as a public interest lawyer and state senator to leverage the attorney general’s office to restore public confidence in both government and the state’s large public and private institutions.  Schneiderman, a state senator representing parts of Washington Heights and Riverdale since 1998, believes the state is at a critical juncture where a window of opportunity exists to achieve significant reform.  Having been at the center of the peaks and valleys of the reform movement over the last two decades, Schneiderman casts himself as best suited to take advantage of that opportunity to meaningfully reshape Albany through the attorney general’s office.

More than any other candidate in the race for attorney general, Schneiderman has experienced firsthand the dysfunction of Albany.  Mired in the Democratic minority in the senate for a decade, Schneiderman conveyed how “collegiality at the expense of the public interest” relegated his service to introducing bills that went nowhere.  Schneiderman indicated how he took action against the status quo arrangement between parties in the legislature that put preservation of incumbents above all else, launching a coup against the Democratic minority leader.  Schneiderman’s willingness to push for reform ultimately led to his district’s boundaries being redrawn to increase the likelihood of his electoral defeat.  It failed, and instead Schneiderman and the Democrats took the majority in the senate in 2008. 

According to Schneiderman, this legislative experience has shaped his understanding of the imperative for an independent redistricting process along with a host of other reforms.  He counts as among his most significant accomplishments the rules reform in 2009 that allowed for rank and file members of the senate to more easily put bills on the floor and on committee agendas, something they previously had virtually no ability to do in a system that continues to be largely dominated by a strong leader.  Schneiderman also cites his leadership of the bipartisan committee that expelled Senator Hiram Monserrate following his misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence as indicative of his commitment to changing behavior in Albany. 

As attorney general, Schneiderman believes he can apply the authority of the office to more effectively continue the ongoing struggle for reform.  His ideas include aggressively expanding use of the False Claims Act, which Schneiderman strengthened in the legislature this past session, to engage whistleblowers to hold those accountable who defraud the state or local governments.  If elected, Schneiderman will also place a public integrity officer in each regional office of the attorney general to root out local wrongdoing.  Schneiderman is also a forceful advocate for pushing the governor to grant original jurisdiction to the attorney general to investigate and prosecute political corruption cases, showing zeal on the issue that was matched by few of his competitors.  He also intends to push the many reforms he advocated for in the legislature through the attorney general’s bully pulpit and ability to introduce program bills, including public financing of campaigns and giving the attorney general the ability to permanently enforce election and campaign finance law.

Beyond government reform issues, Schneiderman plans to closely monitor dramatic changes at the federal level related to health care and finance laws, and to weigh in on federal rules as they develop while keeping a close eye on the industry to ensure they play by the rules during a time of transition.  He also stated that he would build on his experience related to criminal issues, establishing an Innocence Unit in the Criminal Division of the attorney general’s office.  Schneiderman also drew on his own legal experience in proposing new efforts to extend the capacity of the office, utilizing more pro bono lawyers and decentralizing offices to less expensive localities throughout the state.

Citizens Union feels that Schneiderman has been a consistent and independent force for change in state government, regardless of whether he was in the minority or majority party in the State Senate. A champion for a more transparent and accountable government that treats all New Yorkers with dignity and respect, Senator Schneiderman has not just talked about reform these past few years, but forcefully - and at times successfully - challenged the status quo, even when there were political risks.  As such, his experience in state government is not a liability, but a valuable source of knowledge to better navigate in an office with expanded powers to more greatly advance the reform agenda. Citizens Union believes that Eric Schneiderman would be dynamic and assertive as Attorney General, using the office as it has been by its recent predecessors in creative and innovative ways, not only to address public corruption but to shape sweeping changes in the finance and health care industries, as well as in state government.  It is for these reasons, Citizens Union supports Schneiderman for attorney general.
 

 

  
(photo from facebook.com)

DAN DONOVAN - REP, CON


Dan Donovan's Questionnaire
Age: 53; Occupation: Staten Island District Attorney
Education: St. John’s University (BA); Fordham University School of Law (JD)
Campaign website:
http://www.dandonovan.org/

Dan Donovan is the District Attorney for Staten Island and is running his first statewide election.  He believes that he is the right person for the Office of Attorney General, as he has no higher aspirations for political office and thus can continue to act independently. As District Attorney, Donovan has been a respected advocate for the public, and cites his high conviction rate as evidence of this success, noting that the office went from last in the City to first in conviction rates when he entered office in 2004.  He also notes his record of improving the administrative operations of the office, such as evaluating the effectiveness of satellite offices and hiring lawyers and staff who were fluent in Spanish and other languages. 

He had previously served as the Deputy Borough President of Staten Island from 2002-03, the Chief of Staff for Borough President Guy Molinari from 1996-2002, and began his career as a prosecutor under Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau where he prosecuted major narcotics cases throughout the city and served as senior trial counsel.  Donovan believes that his over twenty years of executive management experience demonstrates his leadership abilities and distinguishes him from his competitor, Eric Schneiderman.

Donovan plans to make public corruption his number one priority for the office, and believes his independence best positions him to effectively root out corruption.  He notes his recusal from a case involving the relatives of his former boss, James Molinaro, and his refusal to accept the Independence Party line in this race while his office was investigating the party as examples of putting the integrity of the office over political advancement.  He is critical of how the Office of Attorney General has been used in the past to advance political careers, and has vowed not to run for higher office within two years of ending his service as attorney general.

In order to effectively prosecute public corruption, like Schneiderman, Donovan will seek original jurisdiction for the office to investigate and prosecute political corruption.  Donovan would centralize the investigation of public corruption cases, believing local district attorneys are under-resourced and too often have ties to the local party leaders that limit their ability to prosecute corruption.  Donovan also believes investigations are too often fragmented across state entities, as was the case in the Troopergate scandal, and should be consolidated under the attorney general.  Donovan believes he can use the charities bureau’s regulation of non-profits to require legislators to sign affidavits regarding their relationships with those non-profits that they fund with member items.  He also states that he would utilize the “Tweed Law” to pursue recouping public funds which are misspent by elected officials.

On other reform issues, Donovan believes state legislators should more fully disclose their outside income, citing the City’s conflict of interest laws and rules as a model, and adds that there should be generally no exclusions for lawyers’ clients.  . Donovan also supports expanding the SEC’s rules on donations for state comptrollers to the Office of Attorney General, and expanding the window where a company cannot do business with the offices when contributions are made from two to five years. Donovan has also stated that he would issue legal opinions to determine that public authorities rife with corruption and patronage have the “attributes of an agency” and would be subject to having its contracts approved by the State Comptroller. On campaign finance reform, Donovan is opposed to public financing of campaigns at this time because of the economic recession, but supports reforms to lower contribution limits and require disclosure of contributors’ employers and occupations, as well as any third-party intermediaries.  Donovan has, for his own campaign, set up a committee resembling a blind trust so he does not know who is contributing to his candidacy.  However, the committee has accepted contributions that were over the limit, and Donovan has pledged that they will be returned. 

Citizens Union believes that Donovan has demonstrated a great deal of independence through his actions as district attorney and would bring to the position an admirable integrity.  We further believe Donovan has good ideas and that coupled with his management experience, he would serve capably as attorney general should he be elected.