Gotham Gazette Gotham Gazette is an online publication covering New York policy and politics as well as news on public safety, transportation, education, finance and more. http://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/dan-quart 2019-02-15T21:31:38+00:00 Webmaster webmaster@gothamgazette.com Legislators Pursue Campaign Finance Reform for District Attorneys 2019-02-12T05:00:00+00:00 2019-02-12T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8278-legislators-pursue-campaign-finance-reform-for-district-attorneys Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cy-vance-manhattanda.jpg" alt="cy vance manhattanda" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Cy Vance (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>District attorneys wield nearly unfettered discretion as to whether to prosecute potential defendants, but nothing in the law prevents lawyers for the accused from donating to a district attorney’s election campaign. Most New Yorkers became aware of this glaring blindspot in the state’s campaign finance law in 2017, following news that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s campaign had accepted thousands of dollars from an attorney for Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul who Vance’s office had declined to prosecute after he allegedly groped a woman and was caught on tape seemingly admitting to the act.</p> <p>But the state Legislature could soon make sweeping changes to the rules governing district attorney campaign financing, as Assemblymember Dan Quart and Senator Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, are pursuing legislation to enact stringent restrictions on who can contribute, and how much, to candidates running for district attorney, of which there are 62, one for each county, across the state.</p> <p>“Reforming of our campaign finance laws with respect to how district attorneys and candidates for district attorneys run is critical,” Quart said in a phone interview, “so that the public gets confidence that decisions made by district attorneys are on the merits and free of any conflicts.” Quart is rumored to be considering a run for Manhattan DA in 2021.</p> <p>The proposed legislation would require that all district attorney candidates disclose to the state Board of Elections whether they have accepted campaign contributions from a law firm or an attorney at that law firm representing a criminal defendant in any New York state court. The bill would also mandate that the BOE create a statewide “legal dealings database” with the names of every licensed attorney, law firm or a firm executive who represents an individual or corporation in a criminal proceeding in any state court. The individuals and firms in the database would be restricted to donating only $320 to any district attorney candidate.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests for comment about support for district attorney campaign finance reform. Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement, "The Governor has put forward a comprehensive ethics package in the Executive Budget and we will review any additional legislation if it passes both houses."</p> <p>The proposal was first introduced by Quart in October 2017, shortly after Vance, a Democrat, requested an external, independent review of his campaign finances to rebut allegations that his office gave favorable treatment to Weinstein and other wealthy actual or potential defendants, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., whose lawyers gave to this campaign and who Vance’s office declined to prosecute for alleged criminal fraud in the sale of condos in the Trump SoHo hotel development. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The review was conducted by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia University, which issued <a href="https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/public-integrity/raising_the_bar.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seven recommendations</a> for district attorney candidates to prevent real and perceived conflicts of interest or unconscious bias by prosecutors. They include blind fundraising (so candidates are not aware of donor identities), refusing or limiting contributions from donors with real or perceived conflicts, a strict firewall between a DA’s office and campaign, refusing contributions from one’s own office staff and their spouses, strong donor vetting processes, requiring certifications of eligibility to contribute, and published campaign contribution policies. &nbsp;</p> <p>Quart and Krueger’s bill would establish some of those firewalls. Quart’s legal dealings database is modelled on New York City’s own “doing business” database that logs companies and individuals who have contracts with the city and limits how much they can contribute to candidates in local elections. The $320 limit applies to candidates for borough president, whose districts are equivalent to the jurisdiction of a district attorney in the city. “I took those rules and that principle and applied it to district attorneys’ races,” Quart said.</p> <p>The proposal would apply statewide. So, for instance, a law firm representing a defendant in Suffolk County wouldn’t be able to give more than $320 to a candidate running for Brooklyn District Attorney.</p> <p>"It is vital that every New Yorker be able to trust our judicial system to reach conclusions based solely on the fact of cases, without even the perception that other influences might affect the results,” Senator Krueger said in a statement. “District Attorneys hold a singularly powerful position in our system, and therefore must be held to the highest standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest. This bill will help ensure that in New York, justice remains blind.”</p> <p>The bill doesn’t cover all of CAPI’s recommendations, however. Berit Berger, executive director of CAPI, said the legislation is a “good start” but could go further. “The legislation does not require district attorneys to adopt blinding procedures that shield them from learning their donors’ identities,” she pointed out, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Blinding standards are currently used by candidates running for judicial seats in New York.</p> <p>“As we explained in our report, this approach would most clearly address the conflicts of interest issue and safeguard against any conscious and unconscious bias in favor of campaign contributors,” Berger continued. “While the increased transparency from disclosing contributions from attorneys or firms representing criminal defendants is a great first step, I think more is needed to truly preserve the integrity of this fundraising process.”</p> <p>It’s unclear if the bill will be supported or opposed by the District Attorneys Association of New York. Morgan Bitton, a DAASNY spokesperson, said the association is reviewing the proposal and that its legislative committee is set to meet later this month.</p> <p>If the bill passes into law, Quart believes it could be in place for the 2021 elections. If he runs for Manhattan District Attorney that year, it would put him in contest with Vance, who will be up for reelection but has not declared whether he will run again or not. “My dissatisfaction with Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney is well known,” Quart said, insisting that he had not made any decisions about his own political future yet. “I have said that whether this legislation passes or not, I would self-police in a way if I were a candidate in 2021.”</p> <p>Whether Vance decides to seek reelection or not, the 2021 race could be a crowded one. This year, with no incumbent running, the race to be the next Queens District Attorney features more than half a dozen Democratic hopefuls, while races in the Bronx and on Staten Island with incumbents running again have sparse fields.</p> <p>For his part, Vance, a former DAASNY president himself, supports Quart’s proposal. “As DA Vance said last year when he announced the most restrictive voluntary campaign finance limits of any elected prosecutor in New York, ‘legislative action is the surest way to achieve lasting, mandatory campaign finance reform,’” said a spokesperson for his campaign, who also noted Vance’s support for a public matching funds program for DA candidates, which is not part of the Quart-Krueger legislation, but could potentially be included in any broader public campaign finance system that Democrats in Albany hope to pass this year. Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, has reintroduced <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a1674" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> this year that would establish such a public financing system for candidates for district attorney and supreme court justices.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Vance spokesperson did say the Legislature should consider the feasibility of the legal dealings database proposal, which would be far more vast than New York City’s doing business portal. “As Columbia’s report notes with regard to the City database, ‘the class of individuals subject to Doing Business restrictions in New York City is relatively small, and is limited to senior company executives, major stakeholders, and registered lobbyists’ – as opposed to the vast and fluid population of lawyers who represent criminal defendants in New York State,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Assemblymember Tom Abinanti reintroduced a bill on public financing for district attorneys and supreme court judges. &nbsp;</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2019/cy-vance-manhattanda.jpg" alt="cy vance manhattanda" width="600" height="407" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Cy Vance (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>District attorneys wield nearly unfettered discretion as to whether to prosecute potential defendants, but nothing in the law prevents lawyers for the accused from donating to a district attorney’s election campaign. Most New Yorkers became aware of this glaring blindspot in the state’s campaign finance law in 2017, following news that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s campaign had accepted thousands of dollars from an attorney for Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood mogul who Vance’s office had declined to prosecute after he allegedly groped a woman and was caught on tape seemingly admitting to the act.</p> <p>But the state Legislature could soon make sweeping changes to the rules governing district attorney campaign financing, as Assemblymember Dan Quart and Senator Liz Krueger, both Manhattan Democrats, are pursuing legislation to enact stringent restrictions on who can contribute, and how much, to candidates running for district attorney, of which there are 62, one for each county, across the state.</p> <p>“Reforming of our campaign finance laws with respect to how district attorneys and candidates for district attorneys run is critical,” Quart said in a phone interview, “so that the public gets confidence that decisions made by district attorneys are on the merits and free of any conflicts.” Quart is rumored to be considering a run for Manhattan DA in 2021.</p> <p>The proposed legislation would require that all district attorney candidates disclose to the state Board of Elections whether they have accepted campaign contributions from a law firm or an attorney at that law firm representing a criminal defendant in any New York state court. The bill would also mandate that the BOE create a statewide “legal dealings database” with the names of every licensed attorney, law firm or a firm executive who represents an individual or corporation in a criminal proceeding in any state court. The individuals and firms in the database would be restricted to donating only $320 to any district attorney candidate.</p> <p>Spokespeople for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins did not respond to requests for comment about support for district attorney campaign finance reform. Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokesperson for Governor Andrew Cuomo, said in a statement, "The Governor has put forward a comprehensive ethics package in the Executive Budget and we will review any additional legislation if it passes both houses."</p> <p>The proposal was first introduced by Quart in October 2017, shortly after Vance, a Democrat, requested an external, independent review of his campaign finances to rebut allegations that his office gave favorable treatment to Weinstein and other wealthy actual or potential defendants, including Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., whose lawyers gave to this campaign and who Vance’s office declined to prosecute for alleged criminal fraud in the sale of condos in the Trump SoHo hotel development. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The review was conducted by the Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia University, which issued <a href="https://www.law.columbia.edu/sites/default/files/microsites/public-integrity/raising_the_bar.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener">seven recommendations</a> for district attorney candidates to prevent real and perceived conflicts of interest or unconscious bias by prosecutors. They include blind fundraising (so candidates are not aware of donor identities), refusing or limiting contributions from donors with real or perceived conflicts, a strict firewall between a DA’s office and campaign, refusing contributions from one’s own office staff and their spouses, strong donor vetting processes, requiring certifications of eligibility to contribute, and published campaign contribution policies. &nbsp;</p> <p>Quart and Krueger’s bill would establish some of those firewalls. Quart’s legal dealings database is modelled on New York City’s own “doing business” database that logs companies and individuals who have contracts with the city and limits how much they can contribute to candidates in local elections. The $320 limit applies to candidates for borough president, whose districts are equivalent to the jurisdiction of a district attorney in the city. “I took those rules and that principle and applied it to district attorneys’ races,” Quart said.</p> <p>The proposal would apply statewide. So, for instance, a law firm representing a defendant in Suffolk County wouldn’t be able to give more than $320 to a candidate running for Brooklyn District Attorney.</p> <p>"It is vital that every New Yorker be able to trust our judicial system to reach conclusions based solely on the fact of cases, without even the perception that other influences might affect the results,” Senator Krueger said in a statement. “District Attorneys hold a singularly powerful position in our system, and therefore must be held to the highest standards to avoid potential conflicts of interest. This bill will help ensure that in New York, justice remains blind.”</p> <p>The bill doesn’t cover all of CAPI’s recommendations, however. Berit Berger, executive director of CAPI, said the legislation is a “good start” but could go further. “The legislation does not require district attorneys to adopt blinding procedures that shield them from learning their donors’ identities,” she pointed out, in an email to Gotham Gazette. Blinding standards are currently used by candidates running for judicial seats in New York.</p> <p>“As we explained in our report, this approach would most clearly address the conflicts of interest issue and safeguard against any conscious and unconscious bias in favor of campaign contributors,” Berger continued. “While the increased transparency from disclosing contributions from attorneys or firms representing criminal defendants is a great first step, I think more is needed to truly preserve the integrity of this fundraising process.”</p> <p>It’s unclear if the bill will be supported or opposed by the District Attorneys Association of New York. Morgan Bitton, a DAASNY spokesperson, said the association is reviewing the proposal and that its legislative committee is set to meet later this month.</p> <p>If the bill passes into law, Quart believes it could be in place for the 2021 elections. If he runs for Manhattan District Attorney that year, it would put him in contest with Vance, who will be up for reelection but has not declared whether he will run again or not. “My dissatisfaction with Cy Vance, the Manhattan District Attorney is well known,” Quart said, insisting that he had not made any decisions about his own political future yet. “I have said that whether this legislation passes or not, I would self-police in a way if I were a candidate in 2021.”</p> <p>Whether Vance decides to seek reelection or not, the 2021 race could be a crowded one. This year, with no incumbent running, the race to be the next Queens District Attorney features more than half a dozen Democratic hopefuls, while races in the Bronx and on Staten Island with incumbents running again have sparse fields.</p> <p>For his part, Vance, a former DAASNY president himself, supports Quart’s proposal. “As DA Vance said last year when he announced the most restrictive voluntary campaign finance limits of any elected prosecutor in New York, ‘legislative action is the surest way to achieve lasting, mandatory campaign finance reform,’” said a spokesperson for his campaign, who also noted Vance’s support for a public matching funds program for DA candidates, which is not part of the Quart-Krueger legislation, but could potentially be included in any broader public campaign finance system that Democrats in Albany hope to pass this year. Assemblymember Tom Abinanti, a Democrat, has reintroduced <a href="https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/bills/2019/a1674" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a bill</a> this year that would establish such a public financing system for candidates for district attorney and supreme court justices.&nbsp;</p> <p>But the Vance spokesperson did say the Legislature should consider the feasibility of the legal dealings database proposal, which would be far more vast than New York City’s doing business portal. “As Columbia’s report notes with regard to the City database, ‘the class of individuals subject to Doing Business restrictions in New York City is relatively small, and is limited to senior company executives, major stakeholders, and registered lobbyists’ – as opposed to the vast and fluid population of lawyers who represent criminal defendants in New York State,” the spokesperson said.</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note - This article has been updated to note that Assemblymember Tom Abinanti reintroduced a bill on public financing for district attorneys and supreme court judges. &nbsp;</p>
Cy Vance and Jeff Sessions Versus Your Privacy 2018-05-30T04:00:00+00:00 2018-05-30T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7699-cy-vance-and-jeff-sessions-versus-your-privacy Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justice-unlockit-police.jpg" alt="justice unlockit police" width="600" height="261" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Vance leads a press conference (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>As an elected member of the state Assembly, one of my main priorities is to ensure New Yorkers have a government that works with them to protect their rights and their safety. That’s why I’ve become increasingly concerned by the steps Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has taken to undermine digital privacy through his weak position on encryption protection.</p> <p>Americans are rightfully worried about the confidentiality of their electronic information, from financial documents and medical records to simpler things like texts and emails. That fear is confirmed every time a major company or government agency has its system breached.</p> <p>But DA Vance, along with President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, wants unfettered access to the data and information stored on our smartphones by forcing manufacturers to weaken the privacy protection technologies they’ve created and to install so-called “backdoors” into the devices.</p> <p>What they want is the ability to bypass the encryption technology that allows only the sender and the recipient of a message - like a text - to see it. They argue that these backdoors will help law enforcement solve certain crimes, but the reality is the very small percentage of cases that could be helped is far eclipsed by the danger of weakening encryption for the rest of us. &nbsp;</p> <p>They describe these backdoors as small, but in truth they are a wide-open front door for a hacker or foreign government to gain access to almost any smart phone in America. Vance and Sessions are naive if they believe that once a technology is created, only “good guys” will use it. Rogue hackers or hostile foreign governments will use the same tactics.</p> <p>Vance and Sessions must look for real solutions that protect our privacy and do not involve undermining the security of our data.</p> <p>***<br /> Dan Quart is a member of the New York State Assembly representing Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/AMDanQuart"> @AMDanQuart</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2018/justice-unlockit-police.jpg" alt="justice unlockit police" width="600" height="261" /></p> <p>Manhattan DA Vance leads a press conference (photo: @NYPDnews)</p> <hr /> <p>As an elected member of the state Assembly, one of my main priorities is to ensure New Yorkers have a government that works with them to protect their rights and their safety. That’s why I’ve become increasingly concerned by the steps Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance has taken to undermine digital privacy through his weak position on encryption protection.</p> <p>Americans are rightfully worried about the confidentiality of their electronic information, from financial documents and medical records to simpler things like texts and emails. That fear is confirmed every time a major company or government agency has its system breached.</p> <p>But DA Vance, along with President Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, wants unfettered access to the data and information stored on our smartphones by forcing manufacturers to weaken the privacy protection technologies they’ve created and to install so-called “backdoors” into the devices.</p> <p>What they want is the ability to bypass the encryption technology that allows only the sender and the recipient of a message - like a text - to see it. They argue that these backdoors will help law enforcement solve certain crimes, but the reality is the very small percentage of cases that could be helped is far eclipsed by the danger of weakening encryption for the rest of us. &nbsp;</p> <p>They describe these backdoors as small, but in truth they are a wide-open front door for a hacker or foreign government to gain access to almost any smart phone in America. Vance and Sessions are naive if they believe that once a technology is created, only “good guys” will use it. Rogue hackers or hostile foreign governments will use the same tactics.</p> <p>Vance and Sessions must look for real solutions that protect our privacy and do not involve undermining the security of our data.</p> <p>***<br /> Dan Quart is a member of the New York State Assembly representing Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter<a href="https://twitter.com/AMDanQuart"> @AMDanQuart</a>.</p> <p>

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The Next Step to Reform District Attorney Campaign Finance 2018-01-25T05:00:00+00:00 2018-01-25T05:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/130-opinion/7440-the-next-step-to-reform-district-attorney-campaign-finance Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/vance_w_4_das.jpg" alt="Cy Vance District Attorney" width="600" height="348" /></p> <p>Four NYC DAs&nbsp; (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>For the past four months, the people of Manhattan have grappled with accusations of their District Attorney cultivating a pay-to-play culture in which the rich and powerful skate by serious criminal charges -- if their lawyers contribute sizable donations to DA Vance’s campaign. In a public display of penance for allowing the appearance of corruption to permeate, Vance requested The Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School to investigate ways to better insulate our elected prosecutors from the influence of donors. The CAPI recommendations make for a good headline after months of bad PR for the DA, but will not change the status quo.</p> <p>Following the report, Vance said he will adopt the ‘blind’ practice used for judicial candidates who are raising money for their campaigns. Unfortunately the failings of this model are widely known, and are surely no secret to Vance himself. It follows a legal fiction that removing the DA from the fundraising eliminates the potential conflict. That is absurd.</p> <p>It is pure fantasy to suggest a candidate will have no knowledge of who is donating to their campaign. Full transparency is an ideal all elected officials should be striving for in our electoral system, especially when it comes to the funding of campaigns. That is why the records of who has donated to candidates are fully public, easily obtained by the click of a button. There’s no ‘blind’ approach to raising money when the names, addresses and amount of money donated are so easily accessed by the public, press, campaign, and candidates. Especially for a DA like Cy Vance who has been in office for almost a decade and has built a donor list based on strong relationships with certain criminal defense lawyers and law firms. &nbsp;</p> <p>Then we come to the donor cap recommendations -- riddled with far too many loopholes. By restricting the $320 donation cap to only attorneys appearing before the DA office, the policy is extremely limited, allowing many other non-appearing attorneys from the same law firm to donate individually up to $3,850. Undoubtedly, high-profile wins for firms are good for business. Perhaps that’s why Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, had his coworkers raise over $18,000 for Vance just a few months after the DA chose not to prosecute the Trump children. Under the CAPI recommendations, this could continue to happen. In fact, under Vance’s new self-imposed fundraising rules, he would only have to wait six months after a case is resolved to accept donations from the exact lawyers who appeared before his office.</p> <p>Even with the cap from partners and some lawyers, there are a multitude of ways that law firms with an attorney or attorneys who appear before the DA office can donate significant amounts of money to the DA. It will just take some creativity. This permits the existence of the conflict that CAPI admits exists -- attorneys donate to create "positive relationships" with the DA's office, "which, could, in theory inspire some of them to become contributors to the DA's campaign." An understatement to say the least.</p> <p>The CAPI recommendations represent an incomplete addition to the conversation of reforming the way we fund our DA races, something the report acknowledges. This report should not signal the tidy conclusion of how the rich and powerful were seemingly able to curry favorable treatment through campaign donations by their lawyers. We need true comprehensive reform to make our system one New Yorkers can confidently rely on. I have legislation that will bring us one step closer to this by forbidding large donations to DAs from criminal defense lawyers or their law firms. Let’s get this passed and move toward a fairer system for all.</p> <p>***<br /> Dan Quart is a member of the New York State Assembly representing Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AMDanQuart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AMDanQuart</a>.</p> <p>

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<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2017/vance_w_4_das.jpg" alt="Cy Vance District Attorney" width="600" height="348" /></p> <p>Four NYC DAs&nbsp; (photo: @ManhattanDA)</p> <hr /> <p>For the past four months, the people of Manhattan have grappled with accusations of their District Attorney cultivating a pay-to-play culture in which the rich and powerful skate by serious criminal charges -- if their lawyers contribute sizable donations to DA Vance’s campaign. In a public display of penance for allowing the appearance of corruption to permeate, Vance requested The Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity at Columbia Law School to investigate ways to better insulate our elected prosecutors from the influence of donors. The CAPI recommendations make for a good headline after months of bad PR for the DA, but will not change the status quo.</p> <p>Following the report, Vance said he will adopt the ‘blind’ practice used for judicial candidates who are raising money for their campaigns. Unfortunately the failings of this model are widely known, and are surely no secret to Vance himself. It follows a legal fiction that removing the DA from the fundraising eliminates the potential conflict. That is absurd.</p> <p>It is pure fantasy to suggest a candidate will have no knowledge of who is donating to their campaign. Full transparency is an ideal all elected officials should be striving for in our electoral system, especially when it comes to the funding of campaigns. That is why the records of who has donated to candidates are fully public, easily obtained by the click of a button. There’s no ‘blind’ approach to raising money when the names, addresses and amount of money donated are so easily accessed by the public, press, campaign, and candidates. Especially for a DA like Cy Vance who has been in office for almost a decade and has built a donor list based on strong relationships with certain criminal defense lawyers and law firms. &nbsp;</p> <p>Then we come to the donor cap recommendations -- riddled with far too many loopholes. By restricting the $320 donation cap to only attorneys appearing before the DA office, the policy is extremely limited, allowing many other non-appearing attorneys from the same law firm to donate individually up to $3,850. Undoubtedly, high-profile wins for firms are good for business. Perhaps that’s why Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, had his coworkers raise over $18,000 for Vance just a few months after the DA chose not to prosecute the Trump children. Under the CAPI recommendations, this could continue to happen. In fact, under Vance’s new self-imposed fundraising rules, he would only have to wait six months after a case is resolved to accept donations from the exact lawyers who appeared before his office.</p> <p>Even with the cap from partners and some lawyers, there are a multitude of ways that law firms with an attorney or attorneys who appear before the DA office can donate significant amounts of money to the DA. It will just take some creativity. This permits the existence of the conflict that CAPI admits exists -- attorneys donate to create "positive relationships" with the DA's office, "which, could, in theory inspire some of them to become contributors to the DA's campaign." An understatement to say the least.</p> <p>The CAPI recommendations represent an incomplete addition to the conversation of reforming the way we fund our DA races, something the report acknowledges. This report should not signal the tidy conclusion of how the rich and powerful were seemingly able to curry favorable treatment through campaign donations by their lawyers. We need true comprehensive reform to make our system one New Yorkers can confidently rely on. I have legislation that will bring us one step closer to this by forbidding large donations to DAs from criminal defense lawyers or their law firms. Let’s get this passed and move toward a fairer system for all.</p> <p>***<br /> Dan Quart is a member of the New York State Assembly representing Manhattan’s East Side. On Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/AMDanQuart" target="_blank" rel="noopener">@AMDanQuart</a>.</p> <p>

***
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Manhattan GOP Sees Hope on Upper East Side 2016-08-26T04:00:00+00:00 2016-08-26T04:00:00+00:00 http://www.gothamgazette.com/state/6497-manhattan-gop-sees-hope-on-upper-east-side Ben Max <p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Harary_AD73.jpg" alt="Harary AD73" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Rebecca Harary with supporters (photo via @TeamHarary)</p> <hr /> <p>When it comes to the New York State Legislature, most electoral attention is paid to the Senate, which Republicans control by a thin majority and only because an elected Democrat caucuses with them and they have a power-sharing agreement with a five-member faction of breakaway &ldquo;independent&rdquo; Democrats. This November&rsquo;s elections will determine control of the chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the State Assembly, however, the balance of power is not close. Republicans have been at a massive disadvantage. The Democrats have a stranglehold on the house, which is unlikely to drastically shift come November - Democrats <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/reports/rwservlet?cmdkey=nysboe_incumbnt" target="_blank">currently hold</a> 104 seats to the Republicans&rsquo; 44 (one seat is held by a Working Families Party member and there is one vacancy in the 150-seat chamber). This holds particularly true for seats in New York City, a liberal bastion that helps make New York an overwhelmingly blue state. There are currently only two Republican Assembly members, both from Staten Island, representing New York City&rsquo;s 66 <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/voters/maps.shtml" target="_blank">Assembly districts</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But come November, the Manhattan GOP believes it can make inroads and put not one, but two of their own in Assembly seats on the Upper East Side where Republicans believe that registered Democrats won&rsquo;t necessarily vote along the party line.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Republicans are banking on voting trends from 2013, when Mayor Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s landslide victory wasn&rsquo;t reflected on the <a href="http://www.electionatlas.nyc/mapimages/pdf/2013generaldeblasio.pdf" target="_blank">Upper East Side</a> and he lost the neighborhood to his GOP opponent, Joe Lhota, by double digits.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Upper East Side is very Bloomberg-centric,&rdquo; said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, insisting that the neighborhood tends to vote along more conservative lines. &ldquo;The Upper East Side is not a progressive spot,&rdquo; she said. The neighborhood is predominantly white and relatively affluent, and has historically supported Republican mayoral candidates. Malpass hopes her party can tap this sentiment in the upcoming election, and win the 73rd and 76th Assembly districts by defeating Democratic incumbents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two districts run side by side on the East Side: District 73 extends from 34th Street to 94th Street, bounded by 5th avenue on it&rsquo;s west side. On the east, it reaches the river in certain sections but mostly stops at 3rd Avenue where District 76 begins. District 76 stretches from 61st to 92nd Street, and includes Roosevelt Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">While it may be an uphill battle - incumbents are exceedingly difficult to beat - Republicans see some reason for optimism. "The Upper East Side is where we have the best odds of winning a seat this election, but it can't be done without your support and involvement," Malpass recently wrote in an e-newsletter to Manhattan GOP subscribers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 73rd district is represented by Assemblymember Dan Quart, who has held the seat since winning it in a special election in 2011. He&rsquo;s being challenged by Rebecca Harary, a community activist with a long history of nonprofit work. She founded a school for children with autism and a high school for teenagers with mild learning disorders. She is currently the &nbsp;founding executive director of the Propel Network, an organization that helps Jewish women enter the workforce. She is a mother of six and grandmother of seven, she said in an interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 76th district, first-term Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, elected in 2014, will face off against Jon Kostakopoulos, a writer for financial news website The Street and former director of field operations for John Catsimatidis&rsquo; 2013 mayoral campaign. Kostakopoulos is also Catsimatidis&rsquo; godson and the supermarket magnate is set to host a fundraiser for Kostakopoulos in late September.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two challengers believe they have a solid chance to make these races competitive by focusing on a few core issues -- quality of life, public safety, transportation and education -- and they aren&rsquo;t worried that the Democrats have an <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">enrollment advantage</a> over Republicans in Manhattan. Active registered Democrats in the borough outnumber Republicans 8 to 1, but that ratio in the 76th district is only about 3.3 to 1, and in the 73rd district it's even closer at 2.5 to 1.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have an absentee Assemblyman,&rdquo; said Rebecca Harary about Quart, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;His silence is deafening, and that speaks volumes about the leadership in this district.&rdquo; Democrats, she said, and particularly Mayor Bill de Blasio, are responsible for rising homelessness and worsening quality of life in the district and across the city. Her opponent, she said, is a company man like most incumbent Democrats. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re just going to vote the company line and make no waves,&rdquo; she said, insisting that there&rsquo;s a need for an independent voice in the district. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s time to ask the real questions,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Her top priority, besides public safety, is education. She supports charter schools and believes the state should offer tuition tax credits, with increased income thresholds, to parents who choose to send their children to private and parochial schools. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember Quart doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about the challenge from Harary. &ldquo;I look forward to November,&rdquo; he said. His plan is to run on the successes of the last five years, he said, pointing to improvement of air quality in the district, sponsoring and passing legislation on criminal justice issues and helping secure $1 billion in additional funding to the MTA Capital Plan for the Second Avenue subway line. &ldquo;By any objective measure, I&rsquo;ve been successful in helping my constituents,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I run on my record,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;The politics will work itself out.&rdquo; Quart has a significant fundraising advantage over his opponent. He has raised more than $335,000 for the race compared to Harary&rsquo;s $59,000. (Quart also has a city campaign account with $104,375 in it for a possible future race, but he said he does not intend to run for any city office in 2017.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Fellow Democrat Rebecca Seawright is also confident about her prospects, although she&rsquo;s not being complacent about the race. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a full-time legislator, I take this job very seriously,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette, alluding to the fact that state legislators are technically part-time and allowed to earn outside money, which has gotten some into trouble.</p> <p dir="ltr">Seawright said she&rsquo;s had a successful first term in the Assembly majority. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve passed 10 pieces of legislation and seven have been signed into law by the governor,&rdquo; she said, also touting her 100 percent attendance record.</p> <p dir="ltr">Refutes Republicans&rsquo; assertion that quality of life is decreasing in the district, Seawright said, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m extremely proud of the progress that&rsquo;s been made. We&rsquo;re constantly picking up the phone and reaching out to city agencies about getting the homeless into shelters, picking up garbage.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Seawright is also confident that with Hillary Clinton on the top of the Democratic ticket, voter turnout will be robust on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which falls in her district. One aspect strongly in Seawright&rsquo;s favor is her opponent&rsquo;s late entry into the fray. Kostakopoulos started his campaign only a few weeks ago - he&rsquo;s holding a campaign launch event September 8 - and has yet to raise any money. Seawright has just short of $100,000 in the bank.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kostakopoulos told Gotham Gazette he got into the race because Seawright would otherwise have been uncontested, and that during her tenure, quality of life, particularly the issue of homelessness, has become abysmal in District 76. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been there my entire life and I&rsquo;ve never seen it so bad,&rdquo; he said in a phone interview, mentioning homelessness specifically.</p> <p dir="ltr">He doesn&rsquo;t intend to make an ideological appeal to voters, however. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not running as a Republican or a Democrat even though I&rsquo;m on the Republican line,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m running as a resident of the 76th district.&rdquo; Calling himself a &ldquo;New York Republican&rdquo; like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said he appeals to voters on the Upper East Side who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, he intends to advocate for quicker completion of the Second Avenue subway, which he said has been perennially delayed under Assembly Democrats. &ldquo;These career politicians have had enough time,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Someone&rsquo;s got to be held accountable.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Republicans are hoping to see a repeat of the results of the 2013 mayoral race and Manhattan party Chair Malpass is rallying the troops on that message. In an email blast to subscribers, she laid out the strategy and outlined five upcoming events for the candidates, including Kostakopoulos&rsquo; campaign launch and fundraiser.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What we accomplish between now and Election Day will lay the groundwork for winning the Mayor's race in 2017 and making Bill deBlasio [sic] a one-term Mayor,&rdquo; the email reads. They intend to reach out to independents and moderate Democrats and will use &ldquo;cutting edge campaign technology&rdquo; to do so, including merging their voter rolls with internet services and online publications for targeted ads and narrowing down specific buildings and districts to directly reach voters online. It is important that they are funded to do the work, the party wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">But relying on the 2013 mayoral voting numbers may be problematic. Steve Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center, pointed out that just the next year (2014), in both the 73rd and 76th districts, the Democratic candidates won with overwhelming majorities. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see how the mayoral results have anything to do with the likelihood of a Republican winning either seat,&rdquo; he said of the Assembly races, pointing out that Democrats have won these districts all the way back to 2000. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s just a reality of the New York City electoral patterns,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There tends to be a vast difference between municipal elections and state elections, and executive branch results and legislative branch results.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;If the Republican candidates are trying to pin their hopes on the results of the 2013 mayoral election,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;they&rsquo;ll be sadly mistaken and they should rethink their strategy.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>
<p><img src="http://www.gothamgazette.com/images/graphics/2014/03/Harary_AD73.jpg" alt="Harary AD73" width="600" height="450" /></p> <p dir="ltr">Rebecca Harary with supporters (photo via @TeamHarary)</p> <hr /> <p>When it comes to the New York State Legislature, most electoral attention is paid to the Senate, which Republicans control by a thin majority and only because an elected Democrat caucuses with them and they have a power-sharing agreement with a five-member faction of breakaway &ldquo;independent&rdquo; Democrats. This November&rsquo;s elections will determine control of the chamber.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the State Assembly, however, the balance of power is not close. Republicans have been at a massive disadvantage. The Democrats have a stranglehold on the house, which is unlikely to drastically shift come November - Democrats <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov:8080/reports/rwservlet?cmdkey=nysboe_incumbnt" target="_blank">currently hold</a> 104 seats to the Republicans&rsquo; 44 (one seat is held by a Working Families Party member and there is one vacancy in the 150-seat chamber). This holds particularly true for seats in New York City, a liberal bastion that helps make New York an overwhelmingly blue state. There are currently only two Republican Assembly members, both from Staten Island, representing New York City&rsquo;s 66 <a href="http://vote.nyc.ny.us/html/voters/maps.shtml" target="_blank">Assembly districts</a>.</p> <p dir="ltr">But come November, the Manhattan GOP believes it can make inroads and put not one, but two of their own in Assembly seats on the Upper East Side where Republicans believe that registered Democrats won&rsquo;t necessarily vote along the party line.</p> <p dir="ltr">Manhattan Republicans are banking on voting trends from 2013, when Mayor Bill de Blasio&rsquo;s landslide victory wasn&rsquo;t reflected on the <a href="http://www.electionatlas.nyc/mapimages/pdf/2013generaldeblasio.pdf" target="_blank">Upper East Side</a> and he lost the neighborhood to his GOP opponent, Joe Lhota, by double digits.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;The Upper East Side is very Bloomberg-centric,&rdquo; said Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan Republican Party, insisting that the neighborhood tends to vote along more conservative lines. &ldquo;The Upper East Side is not a progressive spot,&rdquo; she said. The neighborhood is predominantly white and relatively affluent, and has historically supported Republican mayoral candidates. Malpass hopes her party can tap this sentiment in the upcoming election, and win the 73rd and 76th Assembly districts by defeating Democratic incumbents.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two districts run side by side on the East Side: District 73 extends from 34th Street to 94th Street, bounded by 5th avenue on it&rsquo;s west side. On the east, it reaches the river in certain sections but mostly stops at 3rd Avenue where District 76 begins. District 76 stretches from 61st to 92nd Street, and includes Roosevelt Island.</p> <p dir="ltr">While it may be an uphill battle - incumbents are exceedingly difficult to beat - Republicans see some reason for optimism. "The Upper East Side is where we have the best odds of winning a seat this election, but it can't be done without your support and involvement," Malpass recently wrote in an e-newsletter to Manhattan GOP subscribers.</p> <p dir="ltr">The 73rd district is represented by Assemblymember Dan Quart, who has held the seat since winning it in a special election in 2011. He&rsquo;s being challenged by Rebecca Harary, a community activist with a long history of nonprofit work. She founded a school for children with autism and a high school for teenagers with mild learning disorders. She is currently the &nbsp;founding executive director of the Propel Network, an organization that helps Jewish women enter the workforce. She is a mother of six and grandmother of seven, she said in an interview.</p> <p dir="ltr">In the 76th district, first-term Assemblymember Rebecca Seawright, elected in 2014, will face off against Jon Kostakopoulos, a writer for financial news website The Street and former director of field operations for John Catsimatidis&rsquo; 2013 mayoral campaign. Kostakopoulos is also Catsimatidis&rsquo; godson and the supermarket magnate is set to host a fundraiser for Kostakopoulos in late September.</p> <p dir="ltr">The two challengers believe they have a solid chance to make these races competitive by focusing on a few core issues -- quality of life, public safety, transportation and education -- and they aren&rsquo;t worried that the Democrats have an <a href="http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/enrollment/county/county_apr16.pdf" target="_blank">enrollment advantage</a> over Republicans in Manhattan. Active registered Democrats in the borough outnumber Republicans 8 to 1, but that ratio in the 76th district is only about 3.3 to 1, and in the 73rd district it's even closer at 2.5 to 1.&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;We have an absentee Assemblyman,&rdquo; said Rebecca Harary about Quart, in a phone interview with Gotham Gazette. &ldquo;His silence is deafening, and that speaks volumes about the leadership in this district.&rdquo; Democrats, she said, and particularly Mayor Bill de Blasio, are responsible for rising homelessness and worsening quality of life in the district and across the city. Her opponent, she said, is a company man like most incumbent Democrats. &ldquo;They&rsquo;re just going to vote the company line and make no waves,&rdquo; she said, insisting that there&rsquo;s a need for an independent voice in the district. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s time to ask the real questions,&rdquo; she said.</p> <p dir="ltr">Her top priority, besides public safety, is education. She supports charter schools and believes the state should offer tuition tax credits, with increased income thresholds, to parents who choose to send their children to private and parochial schools. &nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr">Assemblymember Quart doesn&rsquo;t seem worried about the challenge from Harary. &ldquo;I look forward to November,&rdquo; he said. His plan is to run on the successes of the last five years, he said, pointing to improvement of air quality in the district, sponsoring and passing legislation on criminal justice issues and helping secure $1 billion in additional funding to the MTA Capital Plan for the Second Avenue subway line. &ldquo;By any objective measure, I&rsquo;ve been successful in helping my constituents,&rdquo; he said.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;I run on my record,&rdquo; he added. &ldquo;The politics will work itself out.&rdquo; Quart has a significant fundraising advantage over his opponent. He has raised more than $335,000 for the race compared to Harary&rsquo;s $59,000. (Quart also has a city campaign account with $104,375 in it for a possible future race, but he said he does not intend to run for any city office in 2017.)</p> <p dir="ltr">Fellow Democrat Rebecca Seawright is also confident about her prospects, although she&rsquo;s not being complacent about the race. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m a full-time legislator, I take this job very seriously,&rdquo; she told Gotham Gazette, alluding to the fact that state legislators are technically part-time and allowed to earn outside money, which has gotten some into trouble.</p> <p dir="ltr">Seawright said she&rsquo;s had a successful first term in the Assembly majority. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve passed 10 pieces of legislation and seven have been signed into law by the governor,&rdquo; she said, also touting her 100 percent attendance record.</p> <p dir="ltr">Refutes Republicans&rsquo; assertion that quality of life is decreasing in the district, Seawright said, &ldquo;I&rsquo;m extremely proud of the progress that&rsquo;s been made. We&rsquo;re constantly picking up the phone and reaching out to city agencies about getting the homeless into shelters, picking up garbage.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Seawright is also confident that with Hillary Clinton on the top of the Democratic ticket, voter turnout will be robust on the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, which falls in her district. One aspect strongly in Seawright&rsquo;s favor is her opponent&rsquo;s late entry into the fray. Kostakopoulos started his campaign only a few weeks ago - he&rsquo;s holding a campaign launch event September 8 - and has yet to raise any money. Seawright has just short of $100,000 in the bank.</p> <p dir="ltr">Kostakopoulos told Gotham Gazette he got into the race because Seawright would otherwise have been uncontested, and that during her tenure, quality of life, particularly the issue of homelessness, has become abysmal in District 76. &ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been there my entire life and I&rsquo;ve never seen it so bad,&rdquo; he said in a phone interview, mentioning homelessness specifically.</p> <p dir="ltr">He doesn&rsquo;t intend to make an ideological appeal to voters, however. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not running as a Republican or a Democrat even though I&rsquo;m on the Republican line,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m running as a resident of the 76th district.&rdquo; Calling himself a &ldquo;New York Republican&rdquo; like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he said he appeals to voters on the Upper East Side who are socially liberal and fiscally conservative.</p> <p dir="ltr">If elected, he intends to advocate for quicker completion of the Second Avenue subway, which he said has been perennially delayed under Assembly Democrats. &ldquo;These career politicians have had enough time,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;Someone&rsquo;s got to be held accountable.&rdquo;</p> <p dir="ltr">Republicans are hoping to see a repeat of the results of the 2013 mayoral race and Manhattan party Chair Malpass is rallying the troops on that message. In an email blast to subscribers, she laid out the strategy and outlined five upcoming events for the candidates, including Kostakopoulos&rsquo; campaign launch and fundraiser.</p> <p dir="ltr">&ldquo;What we accomplish between now and Election Day will lay the groundwork for winning the Mayor's race in 2017 and making Bill deBlasio [sic] a one-term Mayor,&rdquo; the email reads. They intend to reach out to independents and moderate Democrats and will use &ldquo;cutting edge campaign technology&rdquo; to do so, including merging their voter rolls with internet services and online publications for targeted ads and narrowing down specific buildings and districts to directly reach voters online. It is important that they are funded to do the work, the party wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">But relying on the 2013 mayoral voting numbers may be problematic. Steve Romalewski, director of the CUNY Mapping Service at the Center for Urban Research/The Graduate Center, pointed out that just the next year (2014), in both the 73rd and 76th districts, the Democratic candidates won with overwhelming majorities. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t see how the mayoral results have anything to do with the likelihood of a Republican winning either seat,&rdquo; he said of the Assembly races, pointing out that Democrats have won these districts all the way back to 2000. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s just a reality of the New York City electoral patterns,&rdquo; he said. &ldquo;There tends to be a vast difference between municipal elections and state elections, and executive branch results and legislative branch results.&rdquo;</p> <p>&ldquo;If the Republican candidates are trying to pin their hopes on the results of the 2013 mayoral election,&rdquo; he said, &ldquo;they&rsquo;ll be sadly mistaken and they should rethink their strategy.&rdquo;</p> <p>

***
by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

</p> <p>Note: this article has been updated.</p>