Gotham Gazette https://www.gothamgazette.com/component/tags/tag/2553 Wed, 16 Oct 2019 13:03:09 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb webmaster@gothamgazette.com (Webmaster) Running for Attorney General, Wofford Promises to Step Up Fighting Corruption, Step Back Fighting Wall Street https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8037-running-for-attorney-general-wofford-promises-to-step-up-fighting-corruption-step-back-fighting-wall-street https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8037-running-for-attorney-general-wofford-promises-to-step-up-fighting-corruption-step-back-fighting-wall-street wofford podium

Kieth Wofford (photo via @Wofford4AG)


Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, appears to have a simple campaign message: he’ll make it harder for corrupt government officials to waste taxpayer money and make it easier for New York businesses to thrive.

The first-time candidate for political office who has made a highly-lucrative career for himself as a attorney says that if elected the state’s top legal officer, he would step back what he calls the over-prosecution of corporations, especially financial institutions that have so often been the focus of the last few New York attorneys general. While in the Democratic primary for attorney general candidates competed over who would be the toughest “Sheriff of Wall Street,” as former Attorney General Eliot Spitzer was known, Wofford wants nothing to do with that title. He’d much prefer to be the Sheriff of State Street, in Albany, home to the governor’s office and state Legislature.

Wofford is competing with Democratic nominee Letitia James, currently the New York City Public Advocate, and several smaller party candidates. While James is favored and has led in the public polling, she is not particularly well-known outside of the five boroughs and Wofford has raised significant funds to air the types of television commercials needed to build his own name recognition, which started at virtually zero.

James has attacked Wofford for his vision for the role of attorney general, particularly as it relates to aggressiveness with big firms, and for voting for President Donald Trump, who is deeply unpopular in New York, though Trump won many, mostly less-populated pockets of the state in 2016. Wofford has explained his vote as due to the promise of Trump helping economically struggling people in upstate New York, including his native Buffalo, while attacking James for her closeness to Governor Andrew Cuomo and other Democratic establishment figures.

Wofford’s campaign message starts around his working class roots in western New York. His father spent 32 years working at a Chevy plant near Buffalo, he explains, and his mother was working retail jobs while taking care of two sons. He says he’s running “because the state’s been great to me, and it’s time to give something back,” as he said during a recent appearance on the Max & Murphy show on WBAI radio. He argues the state has veered off course, largely due to corruption among its elected officials, and that as the attorney general, he would focus on making sure that taxpayers are not being ripped off. He also wants to use the position to help create a better business climate in a state that has seen many factories close and residents leave.

“We had an environment where my dad could get study employment and a great job for 32 years. There were good public schools, great public libraries that I spent a lot of time at with my mom, but those underpinnings are going away or in some cases are gone because we have a government that chases jobs away,” said Wofford. State government has been “hopelessly corrupt,” he said, along with attorneys general chasing jobs away through overzealous and politically-motivated enforcement -- work that the officeholders and their supporters, as well as James and her Democratic competitors this year, have said was done to protect New Yorkers’ rights, enforce the law, and hold powerful entities responsible for wrongdoing.

“Let’s just look at all of the strong-arming and settlements,” Wofford said, when asked how attorneys general have hurt the state economy, and referring to settlements reached with financial institutions in the aftermath of the Great Recession. “We got this crazy law called the Martin Act, and it allows you to accuse companies of fraud, but you don’t have to prove that the company intended to fraud anybody.”

“The statue does not serve to protect the people or companies from being harmed, nor does it provide the necessary enforcement to hold the wrongdoers accountable,” he continued, staking out a stance far different from how Democrats have viewed the Martin Act since Spitzer re-established its use in aggressive fashion. “The law does, however, give the Attorney General intimidation powers which they use to twist the companies’ arms behind closed doors and threaten them with criminal liability and make them pay money.”

The result is a hostile environment that keeps companies from creating jobs in New York. According to Wofford the “combination of the hostility to business plus the unremitting corruption” has made the business community lose confidence in New York.

Wofford argues that he can use existing powers of the attorney general to go after public corruption in a more aggressive way than others have in the role.

“There are a number of ways already on the books” to do it, he told Max & Murphy. “I think you really just have to have a re-emphasis on looking, and asking the right questions, and making sure that you find the red flags and try to get ahead of some of this before it gets to be a problem.”

James has also released an anti-corruption plan, that includes using existing powers while seeking new ones to root out malfeasance in state and local governments. She’s also much more focused on Trump and federal policy than Wofford, making such fights perhaps the main focus of her campaign, while Wofford has largely said his focus would be New York. He has argued that the two New York attorneys general during the Trump presidency have been over-eager to attack the president, but has said there are some lawsuits and investigations worth continuing, like the office’s fight against a citizenship question on the 2020 Census.

James says she plans to work with lawmakers to “reform outdated laws to give the Attorney General civil and criminal authority to go after corruption,” while also pledging to use the existing powers of the attorney general to investigate corruption in state government, and “Trump’s corrupt empire.” Regarding the former, the powers given to the attorney general under “Executive Law 63(12), the False Claims Act,” will allow James to “investigate and prosecute legislators, businesses, and charities involved in self-dealing,” as stated in her corruption plan.

Wofford criticized James for “passing the buck to someone else,” arguing that she does not intend to investigate corruption until she receives permission from both the governor and the Legislature. James has stated otherwise in her plan, saying that “until the legislature takes action, I will use the full powers of the office creatively to find new ways to take on corruption, from Albany to Washington, D.C.” However, even in her Democratic primary, James’ opponents pointed out her closeness to both Cuomo and Democratic members of the Legislature.

In Wofford’s plan he names a few of the existing powers that he believes give the Attorney General legislative and investigative authority. According to the definition provided by Cornell Law School, under the auspices of “parens patriae,” the government, or any authority, are to be regarded "as [the] guardian for those who are unable to care for themselves.” The Attorney General’s office can then use this doctrine “to investigate, and if necessary, commence litigation for the benefit of state residents.” Executive Law 63(12), allows the Attorney General to investigate private entities “who conspire with public officials to take advantage of competing bidders or taxpayers,” Wofford notes. Operation Integrity, also listed in James’ plan is, “a pact between the Attorney General and the Comptroller which allows the Attorney General to investigate pay-to-play.” These serve as “a few examples of existing tools that an independent, energized Attorney General can use to combat corruption.”

As Wofford has previously stated, he believes that it takes someone from the outside to come in and clean up Albany. However, according to James, Wofford’s work at the law firm Ropes and Gray LLP, where he is a partner earning several million dollars per year, and his failure to disclose his client list should raise flags for voters. James, who repeatedly called for Wofford to release his tax returns, which he briefly showed The New York Law Journal last week, has said the Republican nominee should also delineate which of his firm’s clients have had business before the Attorney General’s office. While James views Wofford’s work with the law firm as a conflict of interest, Wofford regards it as preparation for what he would be dealing with as Attorney General.

During his time at Ropes and Gray, Wofford’s focus was on bankruptcy and creditors’ rights. In an interview with WAMC, Wofford summed up his job by saying that he was responsible for getting money back to investors after they’d given it companies that would either send it away, waste it, or use it on projects that later failed. Wofford claimed that this is what is happening to the taxpayers of the state who don’t get to see where their money really goes or how well it is being used.

“A man who makes $4.5 million from a law firm that represents the makers of OxyContin, vulture funds that pillaged Puerto Rico, and big banks that caused the subprime mortgage crisis can’t claim to be independent to tackle corruption,” said James spokesperson Jack Sterne, in a statement to Gotham Gazette. “By turning his back on the Martin Act, Mr. Wofford is ignoring the very abuses and criminal conduct that led to the subprime mortgage crisis -- which cost tens of thousands of New York families their homes. If New Yorkers can’t trust him to hold corporate giants accountable, how can they trust him to take on corruption?”

As James called for him to release his taxes, Wofford was calling on her to agree to debates. She agreed to one, which occurred earlier this week on Spectrum News NY1 and hit most of the talking points that each candidate has been putting forth on the trail for months. Both candidates talked about pursuing criminal justice reforms if elected, though their lists of reforms differ somewhat, with Wofford mostly focused on ensuring speedy trials actually occur as guaranteed in the constitution, while James has a more expansive list including bail reform and outfitting police officers across the state with body cameras.

Wofford’s central policy focus is improving the business climate, and he plans to help small- and medium-sized businesses with the addition of small business liaison or assistance office within the Economic Justice Bureau of the Attorney General’s office. Small businesses would be able to make appropriate filings “without having to hire armies of lawyers,” he said.

“It’s long overdue that there’s someone in the state is on their side. So they can focus on growing jobs and growing business, rather than focusing on paying lawyers and which lawyers to hire,” said Wofford.

Wofford’s platform has also focused on creating a plan to deal with the opioid epidemic; he’s stressed that the attorney general’s office needs to be more active and plans to use the Organized Crime Task Force to investigate individuals suspected of bringing drugs into the state illegally. The Medical Fraud Control unit would serve to carry out the investigations of companies that fail to disclose the risks associated with opioids, and of physicians who overprescribed the drugs, he says.

“Time and again, parents and family members cannot find open beds for their loved ones in need of treatment,” Wofford said his press release, where he spoke about his plans to address the opioid crisis. “By creating a dedicated fund administered through the Attorney General’s Office to invest in additional treatment capacity we can help families escape the horrors of opioid addiction and enable patients to receive treatment close to home where they have their families’ support.”

Wofford is also pledging to better equip law enforcement and first responders, and provide victims with access to better treatment options. A part of the funding would come from settlements reached by his office, such the ongoing lawsuit mentioned in his plan, against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P. Wofford “plans to pursue this litigation [Purdue Pharma lawsuit] aggressively and initiate investigations into those who have profited from opioid addiction.”

“We have to deal with this opioid crisis, it’s a human tragedy, it’s also secondarily, and much less an economic tragedy and it’s a huge problem for our government,” said Wofford. James also has a plan to fight the opioid epidemic.

Wofford’s agenda as laid out during the campaign also touches on criminal justice reform in terms of addressing issues with “speedy trial” assurances.

“We have an affirmative proposal on reform of speedy trial, that we think if there is a bipartisan dialogue on it, together with discovery reform in criminal cases, we can both maintain public safety and maintain an outcome that the D.A., and the cops, and the people protecting our safety can support,” explained Wofford. With some people held for years without going to trial, Wofford says reforms would “get rid of what is currently an unconstitutional situation.”

[Read: In Attorney General Debate, James and Wofford Contrast Careers, Approaches to Cuomo and Trump]

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by Annie Abreu, Gotham Gazette
@GothamGazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this article.

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Running for Attorney General, Wofford Promises to Step Up Fighting Corruption, Step Back Fighting Wall Street Thu, 01 Nov 2018 04:00:00 +0000
In Attorney General Debate, James and Wofford Contrast Careers, Approaches to Cuomo and Trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8033-in-attorney-general-debate-james-and-wofford-contrast-careers-approach-to-trump-and-more https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/8033-in-attorney-general-debate-james-and-wofford-contrast-careers-approach-to-trump-and-more james wofford debate

Letitia James and Keith Wofford at NY1 (Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times - pool)


The two leading candidates to become New York State’s next Attorney General faced off in the sole televised debate of the race on Tuesday night, going back and forth about the role of the state’s top legal officer and the degree to which political considerations might affect the way they handle their duties.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James, a Democrat, is the frontrunner in the race competing against Republican Keith Wofford, a Buffalo-native attorney who is attempting his first run for elected office. The seat became open in May when then-Attorney General Eric Schneiderman resigned in the wake of allegations of physical abuse by multiple intimate partners. His replacement, Attorney General Barbara Underwood, said upon her appointment by the Legislature that she would not seek election.

The hour-long debate, hosted by Spectrum News NY1 and moderated by Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis and Capital Tonight anchor Liz Benjamin, saw James reiterate her history of public service, addressing the camera directly throughout as she repeated practiced lines from her campaign stump speeches. Wofford, on the other hand, spoke in more relaxed fashion and in the direction of the moderators as he sought to make the case that the next attorney general should not be a career politician but an independent professional. Both candidates are African-American, meaning that whichever wins would make history as the first African-American elected attorney general in New York. Other candidates who will be on the ballot, including Green Party nominee Michael Sussman and Reform Party nominee Nancy Sliwa, were not invited to the debate.

Unlike recent debates in the races for governor and comptroller, Tuesday’s one-on-one faceoff did not take any particularly nasty turns, though there was significant disagreement between the two, and also a few occasions for consensus.

James, who led Wofford by 14 points in the most recent public poll of the race from early October, drew a sharp contrast between her own experience and her opponent’s, pointing to his work as a corporate lawyer, his support for President Donald Trump, and his representation of clients on Wall Street who have an interest in seeing an attorney general’s office less interested in prosecuting financial crimes. “I live by one simple message and that is this, I believe in justice. Simple justice,” James said in her opening statement.

The two candidates differed on whether New York’s attorney general should challenge the policies of the Trump administration, which Schneiderman took an active role in and which Underwood has continued on multiple fronts. James promised to continue each of the lawsuits currently being pursued by the attorney general’s office, while Wofford did not.

“The key issue...is to look at how the policies impact the sovereignty and freedom of New York as a state and the state’s people,” Wofford said, emphasizing that he sees political motivations in many of the lawsuits initiated by Schneiderman and that the office should instead focus on areas that have a legal and economic impact on New Yorkers. For instance, he said the attorney general’s lawsuit against the nonprofit Trump Foundation “pales in comparison to the size and significance” of the potential wrongdoing in Trump’s financial and tax history, as enumerated in a recent New York Times investigation, which he said merits greater attention. He later also said he would drop the office’s lawsuit against ExxonMobil, which he said was an inappropriate use of taxpayer money to protect the company’s shareholders.

James insisted that the Trump Foundation lawsuit, as with others against the Trump administration and Trump family, is “not based on politics, they’re based on violations of the law.” She pledged to further pursue the ExxonMobil suit as well.

Coming so close on the heels of the mass shooting at The Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, James and Wofford also faced questions about whether it would be appropriate to call for the death penalty for the alleged perpetrator and about the president’s role in fomenting hatred across the country.

James struggled with the question. “I oppose the death penalty but in situations like this it’s difficult...to oppose the death penalty,” she said. She said she based her decision in this instance “purely on emotion because my heart is heavy...as a result emotionally I feel the death penalty is the answer, but legally and professionally I oppose the death penalty.” She insisted, however, that New York should not reinstate the practice. And she later blamed Trump’s rhetoric for emboldening white supremacists. “The president should take some responsibility,” she said.

Wofford said it would be “consistent to have the death penalty in the same circumstances that the federal death penalty is allowed.” And though he agreed that Trump should tone down his rhetoric, he downplayed the president’s role in inciting division. “I disagree with putting it at the hands or the feet of the president...Certainly hate groups and white supremacist groups and anti-semitic groups long predate any particular politician on the scene today,” he said.

On the questions of independence and tackling corruption in Albany -- which James faced in the primary and that have largely formed the basis of Wofford’s campaign -- the two presented different visions. Wofford believes the office of attorney general can investigate corruption unilaterally while James has said referrals for many investigations must come from the governor’s office and that she will demand a standing referral to investigate public corruption if elected, while also pursuing legislation to further empower the attorney general.

Wofford listed several ways he would approach the issue, including in partnership with the state comptroller and district attorneys, and said he would also preemptively tackle corruption through the office’s civil authority rather than wait for criminal prosecution. He also criticized James for being the governor’s “hand-picked” candidate who could not sufficiently hold him and his administration accountable. “The fact of the matter is that my opponent Tish James is not going to go after her brethren and sisters who are Democrats, career politicians who have been riding around in limousines, benefiting their contributors and ripping off the public for years,” he said.

James, who insisted that rooting out government corruption is one of her top priorities, has emphasized that she would work with the governor and Legislature to enact ethics and campaign finance reforms, enhance the public integrity office under the attorney general, and work with the comptroller and district attorneys. She said the attorney general’s criminal jurisdiction is “circumscribed” and that she understands the office better than Wofford, having worked there previously. “All of my life, I’ve represented the powerless,” James said. “Mr. Wofford, all of your life you’ve represented the powerful.”

There were a few areas of agreement between the two, even if they argued on the details.

For instance, they both agreed to continue the state’s lawsuit over the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census and agreed that President Trump could not end birthright citizenship through an executive order, as he has threatened.

But James is a staunch supporter of immigrant rights who pledged to uphold protections for undocumented immigrants and fight Trump’s “regressive” policies. “We have to say loud and clear that immigrants are welcome here,” she said. Wofford, however, expressed clear concerns about illegal immigration and raised questions about the state risking the loss of federal funding by putting in place sanctuary policies to protect the undocumented by refusing coordination between state and federal law enforcement, as has been proposed in the state Assembly. “My view as the top law enforcement officer for the state is that you have to deal with public safety issues first,” he said.

Halfway through the debate, the candidates were given an opportunity to ask each other a question. James, specifically citing Trump’s ‘birther’ lie about President Obama, his bragging about sexual assault on tape, and calling Mexicans “rapists” when he launched his campaign, asked Wofford why he voted for the president. Wofford said his “simple reason” was that Trump spoke of increasing jobs and economic opportunity in struggling parts of America like his native Buffalo. At the same time, he attacked the “out of touch” coastal billionaires that he said largely fund the Democratic Party.

Wofford asked James whether she believes Cuomo’s denials about knowledge of the pay-to-play scandals that have marred his signature Buffalo Billion economic development program, and if she would investigate Cuomo’s administration if elected. James did not have a simple answer. “Andrew Cuomo is not running for attorney general,” she initially said, before defending her independence yet again. “I will follow corruption and I will follow the facts and the evidence wherever it leads me, to the White House, to the State house and to municipal governments all across the state of New York without fear and or favor,” she said, never directly answering the question.

The two also argued over the Martin Act, which gives the attorney general broad jurisdiction over Wall Street fraud and has been used liberally by New York’s recent attorneys general. James said earlier that the law should be strengthened and went after Wofford for taking large donations from Hank Greenberg, a Wall Street executive who has in the past run afoul of the Martin Act and is working to undermine it through the courts.

Wofford dismissed that those donations created any conflict, saying Greenberg’s case was long resolved and that the Martin Act had been used and abused by publicity-seeking officeholders who, instead of fighting for restitution for actual victims of fraud, had instead sought to make a name for themselves. Wofford has previously expressed concerns that recent attorneys general have contributed to a negative business climate in New York, driving away jobs and top earners.

James faced questions about whether she would apply that law to the real estate interests who have donated to her campaign for attorney general. James insisted, in response, that most of her donations have come from small donors and labor unions and pointed to her work as public advocate in taking on bad landlords in New York. She also said she would voluntarily ban donations from individuals with business before the attorney general’s office.

Wofford pounced on her answer, insisting that she already has donors who overlap with the governor and who have business with the state. “Career politicians do this all the time and the voters aren’t buying it,” he said.

Near the tail end of the debate, the two faced a lightning round of questions from the moderators. James said police disciplinary records should be released while Wofford said they should not. Wofford opposed supervised injection sites for those addicted to heroin and opioids, while James simply said she had concerns about them.

On criminal justice reform, the two also held varied positions. James said that cash bail should be restricted or eliminated, while Wofford said it should be reformed but with an eye towards the “dangerousness” of a defendant. Asked about their positions on Kalief’s Law, a form of speedy trial reform -- named for Bronx youth Kalief Browder, who spent years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime and later died by suicide -- they both seemed to agree on its intent. But while James said it was a step in the right direction, Wofford said he opposed the law because it did not go far enough and should be replaced with a more comprehensive, bipartisan legislation.

Earlier this year, the Legislature passed and the governor signed a first-in-the-nation bill to create a prosecutorial conduct commission, a move beset with legal questions given opposition from the district attorneys association. James said she supported the bill and that the Legislature could resolve any issues in the upcoming legislative session in January. Wofford mused at the notion. “I think that saying you’re gonna pass a law unconstitutionally and then undo the unconstitutionality is a fool’s errand,” he said.

James and Wofford shared similar views on the recent sexual harassment bills passed by the state Legislature and Cuomo this year. They both said said the new laws were inadequate and that the state should hold public hearings to solicit the input of survivors of harassment and assault to implement stronger protections; hearings that Cuomo and legislative leaders have shown no interest in.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 6.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

This story has been corrected with the accurate names of the Attorney General nominees for the Green and Reform parties.

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In Attorney General Debate, James and Wofford Contrast Careers, Approaches to Cuomo and Trump Tue, 30 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Attorney General Nominee Keith Wofford https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7985-max-murphy-podcast-republican-attorney-general-nominee-keith-wofford https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7985-max-murphy-podcast-republican-attorney-general-nominee-keith-wofford mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


October 10, 2018 - Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Attorney General Nominee Keith Wofford

keith wofford wbai 277Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for Attorney General, joined the show to discuss his platform for assuming the role of the state's chief legal officer, outlining a vision very different from his main rival, Democratic nominee Letitia James. A first-time candidate for office, Wofford explained his resume and his top priorities for the job of Attorney General.

Listen to the conversation and let us know what you think -- we're on Twitter @TweetBenMax and @JarrettMurphy. You can listen to the show through the embedded audio below or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts, under "Max & Murphy," and listen to Max & Murphy live on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. on WBAI radio, 99.5FM or wbai.org

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by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Republican Attorney General Nominee Keith Wofford Wed, 10 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
A Lifelong Democrat and Famed Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman Runs for Attorney General as a Green https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7976-a-lifelong-democrat-and-famed-civil-rights-attorney-michael-sussman-runs-for-attorney-general-as-a-green https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7976-a-lifelong-democrat-and-famed-civil-rights-attorney-michael-sussman-runs-for-attorney-general-as-a-green peace exist sussman

photo via Sussman campaign on Twitter


A 19-year-old from Flatbush, Brooklyn sat in the Iron Forge, a middle-eastern restaurant on Q Street in Washington, D.C., and looked around. He had started his internship with the Democratic National Committee, and was given the opportunity to choose from a group of candidates whose campaign he wanted to work on. He saw the men around him, who he would work with in the coming months, the fall of 1973: Georgians Hamilton Jordan, Jodi Powell, Bert Lance, and Griffin Bell, along with the governor, Jimmy Carter.

The young Brooklynite took that fall semester off from college as he transferred from the University of Chicago to Amherst College, immersing himself in politics, and went on to work on Carter’s campaign for president, meeting Ralph Nader, a well-known political activist and attorney credited with pushing consumer protection legislation such as the Clean Water Act, Freedom of Information Act, Whistleblower Protection Act, and more. He learned from Nader, and worked with him and Mark Green, later the New York City Public Advocate, on environmental issues, and went on to do his own public-interest work as a civil rights lawyer, including in the Department of Justice and for the NAACP. His most famous work came in Yonkers, New York, where he won a landmark case aimed at tearing down the city’s racial segregation, among other cases, and where he organized his fellow Democrats, holding rallies, and speaking at many public events on a variety of causes over decades.

Now 64 years old, Michael Sussman is running for Attorney General of New York as the Green Party candidate, his first run for statewide elected office after decades of political and legal work advancing progressive causes. He’s abandoned the Democrats for the Greens, he says, because “leading Democrats in the state have failed to advocate strongly enough for the interests that I care about, and I think that in some cases they’ve failed to do that because of personal interests and corruption.”

He’s running for attorney general because “from corruption to public health to the environment...these areas are all of huge and critical importance and I think you need someone as attorney general who has life experience as a litigator.”

He’s promising if elected to investigate Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is favored to win a third term this fall, and he’s pulling few punches when it comes to the frontrunner in his race, Democratic nominee Letitia James, currently the New York City Public Advocate, who has Cuomo’s full backing.

“I was a Democrat for 45 years,” Sussman said at a recent candidates event in Yonkers, addressing the crowd just after James spoke. “I ran for county executive of my county, I’ve done some of the most significant civil rights and environmental cases of my generation, but I refused in 2017 to run as a Democrat in New York State for Attorney General, for one good reason: the duopoly of corrupt practices.”

“We cannot have someone running on the slate with Mr. Cuomo expected to vigorously prosecute Mr. Cuomo and political corruption in our state -- it’s an inherent conflict,” Sussman said, “and until and unless we recognize it frontally and say we need an independent attorney general, someone like me who has 40 years of experience litigating, in every court -- Supreme Court of the United States, 400 arguments in the Court of Appeals in New York, a thousand cases in federal court...I don’t want to depend on the Trump Justice Department to clean up political corruption in New York. I want an attorney general in New York who is independent enough to clean up corruption, it’s very simple.”

If he can somehow get enough New Yorkers to hear his message and consider voting Green, Sussman believes he would be the clear choice for attorney general among voters who are overwhelmingly Democratic. He’s traveling the state, walking local communities from Brooklyn to Buffalo, he says, posting short videos to his Twitter feed, and proposing things like strengthening the public integrity unit of the attorney general’s office and imposing “a sweeping public finance law to disconnect big money from state politics.”

Lou Young, Sussman's communications director, tweeted, “If he could meet every voter in person he would win in a landslide. Michael Sussman just needs to he heard to be believed. It's that simple.”

He won’t meet every voter and it may not be that simple even if he did, of course, given the strength of James’ candidacy, which includes the powerful backing of Cuomo and the state party he controls, not to mention challenges raising money and name recognition.

While the odds of him pulling off a victory that would shock New York, and beyond, are quite long, Sussman is the type of “third party” candidate who may garner significant attention in a political atmosphere where voters on the left are frustrated with what many perceive as a corrupt and disconnected gubernatorial administration and state Legislature. But how many of the hundreds of thousands of voters who backed Cynthia Nixon for governor or Zephyr Teachout for attorney general in their respective Democratic primaries are willing to consider Sussman is an open question, especially given James’ progressive bona fides (she would also be the first woman of color to win a statewide position).

But with the question of independence from Cuomo still hanging over the attorney general race, which also includes Republican nominee Keith Wofford, among others, and given his decades of relevant experience, Sussman believes more voters should take a look at his campaign.

Roots
Sussman, born in 1954 the son of an accountant father and music teacher mother, is unsure exactly where his interest in civil rights first began. Perhaps from his father, who had done work with African-Americans in the discriminatory south but emphasized to his son that the north was no different, or from his grandmother, a radical socialist. But Sussman points to something simpler.

“I always had a feeling in the playground for the underdog,” Sussman said in an hour-long interview. “When we chose teams to play ball and I was 6, 7, 8 years old, I was a fairly good athlete then and would always take the kids on my team that the good athletes didn’t want on their team. It’s something that I can remember back a long way, feeling an affinity for people who are viewed as either nonconforming or not functional at the same level — whatever that level was — of others, and otherwise being excluded from the game so to speak. So I guess my life’s work has been about that subject in a general sense and consistent for a very long time.”

“For whatever reason and however it happened,” Sussman says, his upbringing “imprinted on me a sense of obligation that even though we were not a wealthy family, we were a middle-income family, that our job was essentially to give back.”

Sussman says he decided at age 12 he would do this by becoming a civil rights lawyer. Although he would go on to represent people of color in countless cases, Sussman says he grew up in a monoracial Flatbush. The only black person he knew was his mother’s maid, he said, adding that having a maid was “somewhat usual for even middle-income people in those days.”

“I remember trying to understand the experience of, Esse was her name, as even though she lived in New York City, in the same borough we were in, it seemed like miles away, centuries away,” Sussman said.

Later, while attending the University of Chicago as an undergraduate, Sussman had his internship with the DNC, meeting Jimmy Carter. Yet Carter’s early presidential campaign was not the most historic event he was being exposed to — his uncle, Barry Sussman, was then an editor at the Washington Post, Michael Sussman recounts, and it was in Barry’s home that the now famous Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein began their investigation.

“So I was able to see the origins of the Watergate case as it was developed in their basement in Barry’s house in Potomac, Maryland, and then during the days I worked with Jimmy Carter,” Sussman said about his 1973 experience.

Sussman says he’s sought to surround himself with people doing great things.

“I’ve always told my children, I have seven children, ‘Try to find yourself amongst the people who are doing what you think is important,’” Sussman said. “I think that you have to see what your capabilities are, you have to see who is doing work that you emulate and that you admire, and I think you have to try and put yourself in a position to learn from greatness, really.”

While Sussman is not a household name himself, he became a prominent civil rights lawyer with an acclaimed show on HBO, “Show Me a Hero,” about his most famous case.

Resume
Sussman graduated in 1978 with honors from Harvard Law School, where he was in the same class as now-CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who Sussman says “was not a stellar student.” After graduating, Sussman took his most well-known case, the aforementioned, representing a local chapter of the NAACP in Yonkers that sued the city for its segregated school districts. After 26 years of legal proceedings that went all the way to the Supreme Court, the 2007 result was $300 million in funding to desegregate schools and build affordable housing.

Out of law school, Sussman had been working at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in October of 1978, during Carter’s presidency. He worked on efforts to stop school segregation and housing discrimination. However, Sussman says this changed in 1981 when Ronald Reagan became president. According to Sussman, William French Smith, Reagan’s attorney general, said that the Civil Rights Division needed to focus on elevating the rights of white people. Sussman says he “made a fuss internally,” speaking to a former debate partner of his from University of Chicago and the man he was working under, Deputy Attorney General Edward Schmults. After getting no response, Sussman left the Justice Department, and was offered a job with the NAACP.

“I met the major forces in American Civil Rights Law at that time: Joseph Rowl, William Taylor, Thomas Atkins, Nathaniel Jones, lawyers from generations older than mine who were doing the major work as I thought,” Sussman said, “and I became friends with them and they viewed me as someone that could carry on the work. So, I was blessed to be offered a job as assistant general counsel at the NAACP national office in New York City.”

It was then that Sussman began work on the case, which had been filed by a local chapter of the NAACP in 1980. The case accused the city of Yonkers — including city officials, lawyers and judges — of being discriminatory and engaging in housing segregation, which caused school segregation. To diminish said segregation, the city and school board would have to work together to reorganize the school system and create housing opportunities for low-income people that were not in “ghettoized areas,” as Sussman put it.

Believing the Reagan administration’s stance on civil rights made it unreliable in defense, the national office of the NAACP saw an opportunity to become involved and secure a victory. Still, it was 2007 before a ruling in the case, with Judge Leonard B. Sand ruling in favor of the NAACP and ordering Yonkers to build 200 public housing units and allow 600 houses to go to low-income families in the majority middle-class and white east side of town.

Sussman’s civil rights career unfolded alongside that case, with some cases taken on behalf of friends but most dedicated to advancing certain causes, he says. He has represented a Pace University student who was shot by police in 2010 — although the Justice Department decided not to charges against the officer involved — and won $6 million for the family, and won a $45 million settlement against the state for black and Hispanic workers in a discrimination case, for example.

Sussman now lives in Orange County, where his law firm, Sussman and Associates, is based in the town of Goshen. While he’s mainly worked in Washington, Yonkers, and Orange County, Sussman has also opened “empowerment centers” designed to help underprivileged people in Liberty, Monticello, and Port Jervis.

Sussman has also worked defending students suspended by their schools, including Elzie Coleman, then a potential Olympic sprinter who was suspended for getting in a fight. Sussman argued that suspending Coleman violated his due process and would cause “immediate and irreparable harm” as it would impact Coleman’s ability to qualify for scholarships necessary for him to go to college. Sussman used this same argument in a variety of cases against school districts. He also represented Putnam County District Attorney Adam Levy in a case of defamation, after the sheriff of the county accused him of harboring an undocumented immigrant, among other things — Sussman won the case, reaching a $150,000 settlement.

In a case of sexual harassment, Sussman represented an Orange County Health Department worker who accused her boss of making sexual advances, and firing her after she refused them. Sussman says his work was mainly centered around certain causes, while he occasionally took work due to relationships with clients.

“There are situations where people will come to and out of personal loyalty or out of the feeling that there is some important issue that is being raised in their case, I will defend them, if you will,” Sussman said. “Most of the work I’ve done is not based on that. Most of the work I’ve done is based on what I might call cause-driven lawyering. That is, I’m known to do cases of employment discrimination, sexual harassment, education law.”

In some cases Sussman found him defending those accused of sexual harassment, rather than the other way around. In 2002, when a coworker accused forensic scientist for the New York State Police John Graziano of sexual harassment, her complaint did not lead to any punishment, as despite human resources finding probable cause, it did not go to trial. After this, women working with Graziano started treating him poorly, and so he filed a lawsuit alleging they harassed him due to his gender, suing under Title IX. Sussman defended him in this case, which was dismissed.

One of the students Sussman represented was suspended for allegedly having sex with two girls on school property, but separately accused of forcing another student to touch him sexually. Sussman focused on the cases of sexual activity, and claimed that the school punishing him much more severely than the girls involved was a Title IX violation. He won the case.

“It posed an issue of gender stereotyping that I think is interesting and important,” Sussman said. “[The student] was engaged in what the school district defined as consensual sexual activity with two girls in school, separately, and the two girls were slapped on the wrist and he was suspended for a school year basically and I thought that was absurd.”

According to a press release announcing his 2018 run for attorney general, the Green Party highlighted that from 2006 to 2010, Sussman represented “a class of 4,700 African American and Hispanic state workers [against the Attorney General’s office] in a lawsuit challenging the promotional test used by the State of New York for civil service promotions” and that the “cae ended in a settlement of $45,000,000 for the class.”

One apparent blemish on Sussman’s record came in 2002. In 2014, the New York Post reported that in 2002 Sussman had had his law license suspended for a year for “commingling personal and client funds.”

Running for Attorney General
It is in the areas he’s focused his legal career that Sussman believes the state should be enforcing laws more strictly. He argues his experience makes him uniquely suited to do so if elected as attorney general, and should cause voters to take notice of his candidacy to become the state’s top legal officer, charged with upholding laws, defending the state in legal action, and other responsibilities.

“I feel that there needs to be vigorous enforcement of our state’s laws in those regards and I’m aware that laws are not self-enforcing,” Sussman said. “I’m also aware that there are not many civil-rights lawyers in our region that have expertise like I have in the courts.”

“It’s shameful that both in regards to civil rights laws and environmental laws and laws protecting health and safety in our state, the AG office has made, from my perspective, minimal contributions over the last 30 or 40 years, despite so-called progressive people running the office,” he continued. “Either they don’t understand the laws or they’re not really interested in enforcing them to the extent necessary in our state.”

Sussman, who had previously been on his town board as a Democrat, and ran for county executive of Orange County as one, says his shift to the Green Party in November came due to frustration over issues of corruption and failure to act by Democrats in New York.

“First of all, I feel that Mr. Cuomo is corrupt, I feel that Mr. Schumer is in the pocket of Wall Street,” Sussman said of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and U.S. Senator from New York Charles Schumer, the minority leader. “I feel that leading Democrats in the state have failed to advocate strongly enough for the interests that I care about, and I think that in some cases they’ve failed to do that because of personal interests and corruption. So I don’t see the Democratic Party right now as being the answer.”

Sussman gave an example of a Competitive Power Ventures gas-fired power plant being approved in his county despite residents being outspoken concerning the potential environmental and human health risks from large emissions of carbon dioxide, carcinogens, neurotoxins, and other dangerous chemicals. In this case, Sussman says neither Democrats nor Republicans would talk to protestors when trying to prevent the plant from getting approved. Yet, now that it has started operating, both Democrats and Republicans are against the plant. Both Democrats and Republicans, he believes, are seen by many as representing a politics-first mentality.

“Part of that increasing alienation is that people think both parties represent the same thing, and I think that’s true,” Sussman said. “Particularly for the attorney general race, I see a perpetuation of the same patterns of clubishness and I don’t think that’s going to solve anything.”

Sussman has been critical of James, the Democratic nominee, as seeking the attorney general position only to increase her chances of becoming governor in the future, of which there is little evidence, in part given James’ own background as a public defender and assistant attorney general. Recently, he has said that Republican nominee Keith Wofford also sees the position as a way to reach higher office, an assertion there’s also little support for as Wofford, a corporate attorney, runs for office for the first time.

“I genuinely believe that the Democratic Party candidate wants to be governor, which she has every right, but I don’t see this position as a stepping stone,” Sussman said. “With that sort of ambition, what ends up happening, is that people don’t do what they need to do in this office because of looking over their shoulder.”

At the Yonkers candidates’ event, Sussman both praised James’ work as public advocate and said that her use of the office as a litigator has been wanting, given that she has been kicked off of a number of suits for lack of standing. He said the two agree on almost every social issue, from taking on the NRA to protecting immigrants, but said that the deciding factors for voters must be his resume as an attorney and the contrast between his and James’ relationships with Governor Cuomo.

“I am ready from day one to litigate -- whether it’s Donald Trump or whether it’s Andrew Cuomo,” Sussman said. “And guess what, it’s going to be Andrew Cuomo.”

Cuomo’s shuttering of the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption was “insulting to every citizen in New York State,” Sussman said, speaking just after James. “I didn’t hear my opponent say one thing about him, nor would I expect to, she’s running on the same ticket. You can proclaim independence, but you can’t be independent if that’s your running mate, it’s simply impossible.”

On Wofford, Sussman said in the interview, “The Republican candidate is not someone who has experience with public law, he’s chosen other career paths, and I don’t think that you start in public law as attorney general of New York.”

“This is it for me, and if I get the position, against all odds, then I would use the office and the lawyers in that office, 672 of them, to the fullest extent I could do enforce the laws I see in New York that deal with discrimination and environmental degradation, health threats,” Sussman said, pointing to the powers of the attorney general to uphold certain laws in New York, along with the office’s responsibilities to defend state government. But on the latter, Sussman says, “I would do much less knee-jerk defense of state agencies, which engage, unfortunately, in ongoing patterns of segregated behavior, discriminatory behavior.”

Sussman has litigated against the state on multiple occasions, and believes that a 45-day review period should be put in place for every case filed against the state, allowing the attorney general’s office to decide if the state had committed whatever alleged infraction the suit claims. Sussman says if he were to find that the behavior is as it’s alleged and if it is lawless, he would not defend it — instead, he would “settle the case, resolve the issue, take action against the individuals and agencies responsible and clean up the state.”

“I would not just knee-jerk defend them in state or federal court. I would force those agencies to comply with the law,” Sussman said. “Again, no attorney general has ever said that or done that. Certainly my opponents in this race are not saying that or doing that. Tish James was with the state attorney general’s office and was involved in the defense of many discrimination cases, which is quite the contrary to my feelings and philosophy.”

Sussman continually asserted his advantage in experience over his competition, which also includes Libertarian Christopher Garvey and Nancy Sliwa of the Reform Party, and said that if elected he would begin to clean the state of the stains of corruption by pushing public campaign financing and prosecuting those who use their positions for their own gain.

“I feel that they don’t have the depth of my experience in public law, they don’t have the depth of my experience as an advocate,’ Sussman concluded about his opponents, “they don’t have the depth of my life experience, that’s just how I feel about it.”

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by Victor Porcelli, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

Ben Max contributed to this story.

Note: this article has been updated to clarify Lou Young's relationship to Sussman and Sussman's graduation status from Harvard Law School, which had been misrepresented to do a Gotham Gazette error.

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A Lifelong Democrat and Famed Civil Rights Attorney, Michael Sussman Runs for Attorney General as a Green Mon, 08 Oct 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7957-post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7957-post-primary-campaign-finance-filings-show-cuomo-s-already-spent-28-million govandrewcuomo office

Photo: Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)


Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat running for reelection to a third term, successfully claimed the Democratic Party nomination earlier this month after a bitter primary battle against actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon. But the victory came at significant cost as Cuomo spent more than $20 million this year alone, nearly ten times what Nixon spent in total as she attempted to unseat him.

Cuomo, who won with 64.4 percent of the vote to Nixon’s 34.4 percent in the September 13 primary, is headed into the general election with roughly $11.6 million at his disposal, according to the latest campaign finance disclosures filed with the State Board of Elections.

In the three weeks covered by the filing, between September 1 and September 21, Cuomo’s campaign spent more than $5 million and raised about $567,000. About $1.9 million was spent on television ads through the firm Media Fortitude Partners, and the campaign also transferred about $2.4 million to the New York State Democratic Committee, which Cuomo controls and which has been boosting his campaign with ads of its own, while also supporting Cuomo-aligned candidates, especially Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul and attorney general nominee Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate.

So far, in this four-year election cycle, Cuomo has raised more than $36 million and spent more than $28 million. Not all of Cuomo’s spending thus far went directly toward the primary alone -- even prior to defeating Nixon, he had begun spending on ads targeting Republican gubernatorial nominee Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive. Cuomo received a total of 964,883 votes, spending about $29 per vote, while Nixon got 508,125, spending roughly $4.4 per vote.

Nixon raised $2.7 million in total for her campaign and spent about $2.2 million in her first-time bid for office, as of this post-primary filing. Her relatively lean campaign relied mostly on small-dollar individual donors rather than wealthy corporate ones and LLCs, which funded Cuomo’s deep coffers. Nixon only ran ads in the last few days before the primary and was unable to overcome Cuomo’s significant incumbency advantages, any issues Democratic voters had with her candidacy, and the governor’s two-term resume.

Hochul, Cuomo’s running-mate who has now joined him on the general election ticket, also beat her own primary challenger, Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams. Though Williams had far fewer resources for his campaign, the race was fairly tight. Hochul won with 53.3 percent against Williams’ 46.7 percent.

Hochul spent about $318,000 in the last few weeks and raised $251,000. Her campaign has another $323,000 left. She raised a total of $2.3 million this cycle and has spent nearly $2.2 million of it.

Williams stumbled with his fundraising early on and only raised a total of $322,000 and spent about $278,000 over the entire campaign. He has just over $20,000 left in his account, which he could transfer to another city or state campaign account if he decides to run for another position before he is term-limited out of his current office in 2021.

Cuomo and Hochul will face the joint Republican ticket of Molinaro and lieutenant governor nominee Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member and recent state senate candidate. Other general election contenders include the Green Party’s Howie Hawkins, Libertarian Larry Sharpe, and Stephanie Miner, the former Syracuse mayor who is running as an independent, and their respective lieutenant governor running-mates.

In the four-way contest for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, James emerged as the victor, setting her up to face Republican Keith Wofford, Green Party nominee Michael Sussman, and the Reform Party’s Nancy Sliwa. The seat was vacated by former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing allegations of physical abuse by multiple intimate partners.

James raised $2.2 million and spent about $1.9 million in total for her successful campaign, which got her 40.6 percent of the vote in the primary. She had about $275,000 left for the general election as of the post-primary filing, but is heavily favored in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one and no Republican has won statewide since 2002.

Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout came in second in the race, with 31 percent, after running a grassroots campaign that also received the backing of several newspaper editorial boards. At times, Teachout’s opponents appeared to view her as the frontrunner rather than James, who had the backing of Cuomo and the state’s Democratic establishment. Teachout raised about $1.9 million and spent about $1.85 million in total.

Democratic Congressional Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney campaigned fairly lightly but doled out massive amounts of cash to blanket the airwaves with ads. Utilizing funds raised for his congressional reelection, Maloney raised nearly $3 million to run for attorney general and spent more than $5 million, but finished third with 25 percent of the vote.

Leecia Eve, a Verizon executive who has served as an aide to Cuomo, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, came in last with 3.4 percent. She raised about $408,000 and spent $417,000 on the campaign.

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

Read more by this writer.

Note - This article has been updated to note the amount that Cuomo and Nixon spent per vote. 

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Post-Primary Campaign Finance Filings Show Cuomo’s Already Spent $28 Million Tue, 25 Sep 2018 20:47:05 +0000
Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7940-republican-slate-seeks-to-end-statewide-drought https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7940-republican-slate-seeks-to-end-statewide-drought molinaro julie keith john

Molinaro, Killian, Wofford, Trichter (l-r)


With the primary election over and the Democratic statewide ticket in clear view, attention across the state shifts to the general election, with the November 6 vote fewer than 50 days away. Republicans fought no statewide primaries and have had a slate of candidates ready and raring to take on their Democratic opponents. Those GOP nominees have been raising money and campaigning but somewhat crowded out of the conversation as Democrats waged highly contested races for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General, with a good deal of intraparty fighting that now must be repaired and can offer some fodder for opponents in the weeks ahead.

Governor Andrew Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, both incumbents up for reelection, won their separate primaries on Thursday and now form a ticket to face Republicans Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess county executive, and his lieutenant governor running-mate, former Rye City Council Member Julie Killian.

State Comptroller Tom DiNapoli did not have a primary challenger but will now face Jonathan Trichter, who recently changed his registration from Democrat to Republican and is promising to run the office without political or ideological influence.

In the attorney general race, which will make history no matter the result, Public Advocate Letitia James beat three other Democrats to claim the party’s nomination and must now confront Keith Wofford, a Republican from Buffalo. Both of the major party candidates are African-American, meaning New York is all but assured to have its first black attorney general come January.

In all three statewide contests for state-level seats, there are smaller party candidates running as well, including gubernatorial candidates Howie Hawkins (Green), Larry Sharpe (Libertarian), and Stephanie Miner (Serving America Movement), their lieutenant governor running-mates, as well as candidates for comptroller and attorney general.

Though they face significant headwinds due to New York’s heavy Democratic enrollment advantage and apparent anti-Trump enthusiasm among Democrats, the Republican statewide candidates have been preparing for this roughly seven-week spring to Election Day.

An overview of the Republican statewide slate follows, with additional profiles of the candidates and coverage of their campaigns to follow as November approaches.

Marc Molinaro
Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor, has served as Dutchess County Executive since 2012 and was a member of the State Assembly for five years before that. He was nominated unanimously at the State Republican Party convention in May, after Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb and State Senator John DeFrancisco withdrew from the race as support of party leaders coalesced around Molinaro.

Molinaro has spent his entire adult career in politics, beginning with election to the Tivoli Board of Trustees in 1994. He was elected mayor of Tivoli one year later; at 19, he was the youngest mayor in America at the time. In 2000, he was elected to the Dutchess County Legislature, where he served for six years concurrently while also serving as mayor of Tivoli. In 2006, he stepped down as mayor and county legislator to run for the Assembly. Five years after that, he ran for County Executive and won with 62 percent of the vote.

In a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans two-to-one, Molinaro has mostly eschewed conservative firebrand rhetoric in favor of criticizing Cuomo on a broad range of issues, including mismanagement of the MTA, taxes he says are too high, and a culture of corruption he says Cuomo is at the center of, highlighting the Buffalo Billion scandal in particular. Molinaro has outlined only a few detailed policy proposals, including regarding government ethics and the MTA, promising more to come soon, highlighted by a tax reform package he says will shake up the state.

The GOP nominee appears to mix moderate and conservative principles, while promising that his approach to government is a bipartisan one focused on bringing all voices to the table and finding solutions that make sense, no matter where they might fall on the ideological spectrum. He regularly promises that as governor he would only show allegiance to New Yorkers, not donors or political supporters.

Molinaro has called for term limits for elected officials, ending “pay-to-play” politics, and closing the LLC loophole, though he himself has taken LLC money in this election cycle, in conjunction with other campaign finance reforms. He also says that JCOPE has “no integrity,” and sued it this summer to find out whether it is investigating Cuomo for ethics violations. Molinaro has backed calls for public hearings on sexual harassment in Albany, calls that have been ignored by Cuomo and legislative leaders, including the Republican Senate majority leader, as those top officials designed new anti-harassment laws behind closed doors and passed them with no public review during the most recent budget.

On education, Molinaro has critiqued the culture of high-stakes standardized testing but nonetheless believes the SHSAT should remain in place for entrance to the city’s top high schools. In the Assembly, he voted against raising the cap on charter schools in 2010 along with other Republicans, but his current position on charter schools appears more open. Molinaro supports fracking, which Cuomo banned in the state in 2014, but is an issue that could play well in upstate communities with high unemployment. On the MTA, Molinaro backs New York City Transit President Andy Byford’s “Fast Forward” plan, but also thinks that the state needs to go after bloated union contracts and bring down construction costs.

Like most Republicans in the state, Molinaro lists one of his top priorities as reducing property taxes, which he says are driving away businesses and individuals who might otherwise locate in New York.

Molinaro has said he has changed his stance since he voted against marriage equality while in the Assembly and said he opposes expansion of abortion rights, but is not supportive of trying to overturn Roe v. Wade or undo current New York laws, which pre-date Roe and further limit choice. He has taken a somewhat vague stance on gun control, criticizing Cuomo’s signature SAFE Act as going too far, but hesitating to discuss what changes he would pursue if elected.

While the Cuomo camp has worked to tie Molinaro to President Donald Trump, referring to him as a “Trump mini-me,” the Republican nominee has tried to distance himself from the president, whom he says he did not vote for. Molinaro supports the president’s tax reform law but has criticized its slashing of the state-and-local tax deduction, and has taken a far less hostile tone toward immigrants. He called for an end to the Trump administration’s immigrant-family separation policy, though he is not in favor of New York becoming a “sanctuary state.”

In order to win, Molinaro will have to persuade a combination of Republicans, independents, and moderate Democrats to choose him over Cuomo and others on the ballot. No Republican has won statewide since Governor George Pataki won a third term in 2002.

Julie Killian
Julie Killian, a former Rye City Council member, became the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor shortly after losing a special election for State Senate in Westchester to Democrat Shelley Mayer. She had unsuccessfully challenged now-Westchester County Executive George Latimer in 2016 for the same Senate seat, which Latimer held at the time.

Like Molinaro and many Republicans in the state, Killian is focusing heavily on what she characterizes as the state’s burdensome taxes, which she says are causing a “brain drain” from New York to Connecticut and the south. Like Molinaro, Killian has been critical of the cultures of corruption and sexual harassment in state government.

Keith Wofford
A native of Buffalo with a working class background, Wofford is a Harvard-educated attorney and co-managing partner at Ropes & Gray, an international white-shoe law firm based in New York City. He previously worked as a senior securitization analyst at Moody's Corporation.

Wofford became the first African-American Republican nominee for attorney general at the May convention. “The first thing the next attorney general has to do is to get the corruption in government under control,” Wofford said in a campaign video released Monday. “The corruption we tolerate in our state government is holding us back.” Just last week, the night of the Thursday primary, Wofford’s campaign launched its first television ad, part of a $3.25 million ad buy which will air statewide. The ad buy is indicative of Wofford’s strong early fundraising, possibly helping him compete against James, the Democratic nominee, who had to spend much of her initial haul on a tough primary.

A first-time candidate with little name recognition across the state, Wofford indicated in Monday’s video that he wants to use the office of attorney general “to make sure that we have an environment, legally, that makes it possible for jobs and business to grow in this state.” He also wants the office to focus on “the big villains, the people who are doing real damage to citizens and taxpayers,” though he did not explain who those villains are.

Painting himself as an outsider to he political system, he said he doesn’t have to cut deals to be elected, which could be seen as a dig at James, who won her primary with help from Cuomo and the Democratic establishment. Wofford has also promised to tackle the opioid epidemic, leveraging the office’s power to investigate opioid manufacturers and distributors.

In interviews, Wofford has signalled a far different approach than the current office has taken to respond to federal policies under Trump. “The last attorney general [Eric Schneiderman, who resigned earlier this year amid domestic abuse allegations] talked about resisting the federal government and it was clear...that was motivated to establish a partisan political position,” he told the Watertown Daily Times last week.

On Tuesday Wofford announced his intention to, if elected, immediately begin investigating what his campaign called “systemic corruption involving state and local government officials across the state.” In doing so, Wofford sought to distance himself from James, who has said she will seek legislative approval of the authority to broadly investigate public corruption, which she and others have said the attorney general does not currently have.

“Unlike Democratic candidate Letitia James who has said she must receive the Legislature’s authorization to investigate corruption, the law is clear that the People’s Lawyer has both the constitutional and statutory duty and right to represent the people’s interests,” Wofford said in a press release. “From day one as New York State Attorney General, I will use every tool at my disposal to fight corruption and protect taxpayers.”

Jonathan Trichter
Trichter was until recently a registered Democrat who worked for Eliot Spitzer’s successful attorney general campaign in 1998. He had to obtain special permission from the state Republican Party to run on its line against Democratic incumbent Tom DiNapoli.

By trade an investment banker who once worked for JP Morgan, Trichter has been actively involved in government and politics, with broad experience. A public finance expert, he was the policy director for Harry Wilson, the Republican businessman who ran for state comptroller against DiNapoli in 2010. Trichter later worked for Wilson’s corporate restructuring firm, MAEVA.

In his campaign launch video, Trichter described the comptroller as a Superman of sorts, with “an office that could be more powerful in Albany than a locomotive and could leap tall buildings in a single bound.”

Trichter has pledged to release detailed policy papers laying out his positions. He has already published four papers that dive deep into the state’s pension system, which he believes has been underfunded and mismanaged while DiNapoli has been in office.

His strategy for victory, laid out on his campaign website, seems to also rely on linking DiNapoli to the disgraced former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who first led the appointment of the comptroller to his seat to fill a vacancy brought about by public corruption. Trichter has promised to bring a cold eye of data analysis and no political interests to the office, only focusing on what is best for taxpayers.

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by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette
     

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Republican Slate Seeks to End Statewide Drought Tue, 18 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Inside the Democratic Attorney General Candidates’ July Campaign Finance Filings https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7818-inside-attorney-general-candidates-july-campaign-finance-filings https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7818-inside-attorney-general-candidates-july-campaign-finance-filings sean pat maloney5

Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (photo: @RepSeanMaloney)


The race for state Attorney General appears to be the most wide open in the 2018 New York election cycle, at least among statewide races. In the wake of former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s shocking resignation, four Democrats have jumped into a competitive primary that will be decided on September 13, with the winner automatically seen as the frontrunner to win the general election against Republican nominee Keith Wofford and Green Party nominee Michael Sussman.

Recently released campaign finance filings with the state Board of Elections shows candidates’ financial pictures heading into the crucial final weeks of the primary race. Funding numbers not only show what financial resources candidates have to spend to get their messages out, but give indication of the kind of support they are receiving from individuals, corporations, special interests, and so on.

Public Advocate Letitia James, endorsed by Governor Andrew Cuomo and the State Democratic Party, leads the pack with $1.16 million raised for the attorney general race, and $991,000 cash on hand as of mid-July. On the other hand, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, who challenged Cuomo in the 2014 gubernatorial primary and won 34 percent of the vote, touted over 10,000 different donations as a show of grassroots support. She is also repeatedly reminding the public who and what she is not taking money from: corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), and calling on her competitors to do the same.

U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney is another candidate in the race, and while he has mostly been continuing with his work in Washington, D.C. as opposed to being on the campaign trail, he brought in a little more than $1 million for his attorney general campaign, and has about $3 million in his congressional campaign account, which he says he can use, but that interpretation is open to question.

Leecia Eve, a former aide to both Governor Cuomo and then-Senator Hillary Clinton, and the fourth candidate in the primary, has raised the least money of the group.

Wofford, the GOP nominee, raised over $1 million, giving Republicans a sense that he can be a contender against whomever emerges from the Democratic primary.

Democratic candidates in the race have largely been promoting the percentage of the number of contributions they’ve received, not of their total hauls, that have come from small donors, typically meaning those giving under $250. In a similar vein, Cuomo came under fire this week for claiming that 57 percent of his contributions were from small, individual donors rather than the PACs and corporations he is known to solicit. Though the 57 percent number is accurate, the percentage of Cuomo’s total fundraising that the small donations constituted is just 1 percent. Cuomo has over $31 million in the bank, after raising and spending about $6 million over the past several months.

A closer look at the Democratic attorney general candidates’ campaign finance filings shows more about where their support is coming from.

Tish James
James, the New York City Public Advocate, has raised $1,165,897.55, and has $991,480.51 cash on hand as of the July filing. She has raised the most money and has the most cash on hand of any Democratic AG candidate, slightly edging out Maloney on each metric.

James’ largest contributors have been labor unions, with whom James has had a close relationship throughout her political career. Contributions include $65,100 from the New York State Conference of the International Union of Operating Engineers, $26,500 from the Transport Workers Union (both national and local), $25,000 from Communications Workers of America District 1, $22,500 from the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, $21,100 from the Hotel Trades Council and Unite Here Local 6, $21,000 each from the Teamsters’ DRIVE Committee, Mason Tenders, 1199 SEIU, and the New York State Laborers’ PAC, and $20,000 from 32BJ SEIU.

Other contributions include $15,000 from Cablevision, $15,000 from Opportunity Ed PAC, an education reform organization, and $21,000 from the MedMen Opportunity Fund, a cannabis venture capital firm. James also has received ample donations from real estate and law firm contributors, including $10,000 from Two Trees and $10,000 from Slate Property Group, and $5,000 from Renew New York, a PAC controlled by former Republican U.S. Senator and lobbyist Al D’Amato.

Last week, the James campaign told the New York Times that it had raised about $416,000 from individual donors, and about $555,000 from PACs, unions, and corporations. In a press release, James touted that 60 percent of her campaign’s donors gave $200 or less, with 50 percent giving $100 or less.

“I am deeply humbled and proud of the grassroots support I have received from New Yorkers from all walks of life - a true testament to the work we have accomplished and the power of our mission forward. As Attorney General, I will always put New Yorkers’ first and will never be afraid to challenge Donald Trump or anyone who tries to deny our fundamental rights,” James said in the statement.

Zephyr Teachout
Teachout, who also ran for Congress in 2016, losing narrowly to now-Rep. John Faso, has raised $551,347.94, and has $314,058.55 cash on hand.

Teachout, unlike the other candidates in the Democratic primary, has pledged not to take corporate donations, and her July disclosure lists only individual contributors, with no corporations, unions, or PACs listed as having contributed. Her largest donors are Philadelphia attorney Daniel Berger, tech investor Brad Burnham, and Boston venture capitalist Vincent Ryan, all of whom donated $21,000 to the Teachout campaign, which is just under the individual donor maximum for the primary.

Teachout has $148,675.59 in unitemized contributions, or about 27 percent of her fundraising total, far in excess of any other candidate. Contributions of under $99, or an aggregate of contributions from an individual totaling under $99, are not required by the Board of Elections to be itemized with the contributor’s name, address, and amount contributed.

In a press release, Teachout said that 97 percent of her contributors gave less than $200, and that her campaign has received more than 10,000 individual donations.

“This campaign is about people having a legal voice against powerful interests. I'm proud to be 100% corporate free, with the highest percentage of low dollar donors of any candidate for Attorney General. We do not have to accept the cynicism of the status quo, people can have the politics we deserve and demand,” Teachout said in the statement.

Sean Patrick Maloney
Maloney, who represents New York’s 18th Congressional District -- encompassing Orange and Putnam Counties, and parts of Dutchess and Westchester -- has raised $1,127,155.62, and has $981,385.86 cash on hand in his attorney general campaign account.

Maloney’s largest donor is the Lewis family, the founders of Progressive Insurance. The children of Progressive founder Pete Lewis -- Adam, Jonathan, and Ivy -- have donated a total of $135,200 to Maloney’s campaign, with Adam and Jonathan each donating $65,100 and Ivy donating $5,000. Adam’s wife Melony also donated $44,000.

Other donors include Indiana commercial real estate developer David Simon and his wife Jacqueline, who each donated $21,100 to the campaign. The Real Estate Board PAC donated $5,000. Several real estate LLCs donated to the campaign, with the largest being $20,000 from MHTC Development.

While Maloney’s haul is eclipsed slightly by James’, his campaign believes that it can transfer money from his federal congressional account into his state campaign account, which would boost his campaign coffers by up to $3.1 million. The legality of this maneuver is questionable. Maloney, who is simultaneously running for AG and reelection to Congress, won the Democratic primary for his seat last month with the intention of returning to Congress should he not win the AG race. Since the primaries on are different days, it is a move he could attempt.

Maloney ran for attorney general in 2006, losing the primary to Andrew Cuomo, who went on to win the general election as well.

In a press release, Maloney said that 90 percent of his donations were $200 or less, with more than 50 percent being $10 or less.

“I'm the only candidate with the experience and independence to be the AG our state needs - someone who will fight corruption in Albany, in Washington, and in corporate suites - and I'm proud that so many New Yorkers have joined my campaign,” Maloney said in the press release.

Leecia Eve
Eve, who serves on the Port Authority board and works as a governmental relations executive for Verizon, formerly helped lead Empire State Development under Cuomo, and has worked for Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, has raised $299,416.14, and has $250,719 cash on hand for her attorney general bid.

Eve’s largest donors have been herself and her family. Eve has donated $35,656.59 to her campaign, in 95 separate donations, the largest of which was $10,000 and the smallest $5.43. Her father, former Assemblymember Arthur Eve, and her mother, Lee, each donated $10,000, while her brother Eric has donated $16,000 and her brother Malcolm has given $525.

Additionally, a consulting firm called Ichor Strategies, of which Eric Eve is CEO, has donated $20,000 (Eric Eve is serving as Leecia’s campaign manager).

Other donations include $21,000 from attorney Patrick Dunican and $5,000 from the Real Estate Board PAC. In a statement, the Eve campaign said that the filing portended good news for the campaign.

“Today’s filing shows we are well positioned to communicate our message throughout all corners of New York State. We are inspired by the level of grassroots support that we have received, and we look forward to continuing to share Leecia’s vision for how she will be a fearless and effective champion for all New Yorkers,” said Maggie McKeon, a spokesperson for the Eve campaign.

Keith Wofford
Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for AG, has raised $1,048,801.38 and has $1,023,847.76 cash on hand.

His largest donor is the New York Republican State Committee, which has given Wofford $150,000. Other large contributions include $20,000 from consulting firm Simier and Partners LLC, $44,000 from New York State GOP Chairman Ed Cox, and $44,000 each from Jonathan Gill, Stephen Moeller-Sally, and Mark Somerstein, all of whom are partners at the law firm Ropes & Gray, which Wofford is managing partner of.

Wofford has spent $25,000 on the campaign trail thus far. He has no primary challenger, and is facing an uphill battle in an overwhelmingly Democratic state, pending the winner of the Democratic primary, as well as Green Party nominee Michael Sussman, who has raised about $14,000.

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Inside the Democratic Attorney General Candidates’ July Campaign Finance Filings Fri, 20 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7810-statewide-candidates-file-july-fundraising-numbers https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7810-statewide-candidates-file-july-fundraising-numbers Cuomo check

Gov. Cuomo at a funding event (photo: The Governor's Office)


With less than two months till the September 13 primary election, candidates running for state office filed campaign financial disclosure reports with the New York State Board of Elections by the Monday deadline, showing fundraising and expenditures from a six-month period between January 16 and July 16.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, the two-term incumbent Democrat who is running for reelection, continues to maintain an overwhelming funding advantage with more than $31 million in his campaign coffers. Cuomo raised more than $6 million since January and spent about $5.3 million in the same period.

Cuomo’s campaign attempted to tout the number of small-dollar donations it received, likely a response to criticism of the governor’s reliance on wealthy donors and contributions from Limited Liability Companies (LLCs). The campaign said 57 percent of the number of donations received were for less than $250. But those donations only added up to less than $64,000, eliding the fact that nearly 99 percent of the total value of the fundraising came from big donors, including $500,000 in corporate donations and $2.5 million from LLCs and PACs. Cuomo also received 69 separate contributions from the same individual, Christopher Kim of Long Island City, which his primary opponent Cynthia Nixon, the actor and education activist, called an attempt to “astroturf” his campaign (New York Times reporter Shane Goldmacher found that Kim shares an address with a Cuomo aide; several other Cuomo aides, relatives of aides, and long-time associates gave Cuomo small donations in an apparent attempt to inflate his small-dollar numbers).

Nixon, who has staked her campaign on small donors, has been issuing scathing critiques of Cuomo’s fundraising practices that she says are a symptom and cause of a pay-to-play culture in state government. Nixon brought in about $500,000 in the last six months, paling in comparison with Cuomo’s haul, and spent about $274,000. Her campaign has noted that she received more than 30,000 individual contributions since she launched her campaign, and that 97 percent of those were small-dollar contributions. She has just under $658,000 in cash-on-hand.

Marc Molinaro, the Republican nominee for governor who doesn’t have a primary challenger, raised more than $1.1 million and has spent $250,000, leaving him with $887,000 with four months to go until the November 7 Election Day. Molinaro’s general election competition will become more clear after the Democratic primary is settled, but there are several smaller party and independent candidates running. His running-mate, Julie Killian, does not appear to have filed her discloure yet, but Molinaro's campaign filing shows a $45,000 loan from Killian herself, as reported by Nick Reisman of Spectrum News.

Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins brought in $24,000 and spent $7,000 in the filing period, leaving him just under $17,000 in his campaign account.

Former Democratic Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner, who only jumped into the governor’s race last month and is running as an independent, and her running mate Republican Michael Volpe, the mayor of Pelham, together raised $409,000, spent $247,000 and have $162,000 in cash on hand. The two plan a general election ticket on the Serve America Movement ballot line, for which they are petitioning with the help of the organizers of the new movement.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Larry Sharpe, who, like Miner, is petitioning his way onto the general election ballot, has raised $115,000, but his expenditures amounted to $154,000, leaving him with a negative balance of just above $13,000.

Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat seeking a second term alongside Cuomo, faces New York City Council Member Jumaane Williams in the primary, which will be Thursday, September 13. Hochul reported an intake of $1.25 million and had only spent $150,000 in the same time. She has about $1.24 million at her disposal. Williams’ fundraising report was delayed in being published to the Board of Elections website, something the campaign said was over "technical issues" and Hochul criticized him for.

"Our campaign's financial disclosure report was filed on time Monday evening but there were technical issues that we are working with the Board of Elections to immediately address," said William Gerlich, a spokesperson for Williams' campaign, in a Tuesday statement. Gerlich said Williams had raised nearly $200,000. When the report was finally published, it showed Williams having raised $183,469.62 and spending $137,967.13, to leave a balance of $45,502.49. However, the campaign appeared to take in several corporate contributions over the limit, and a subsequent need to refund several thousand dollars.

Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor run separately in a primary and on a joint ticket in the general.

Four candidates are competing for the Democratic nomination for attorney general, in a spirited race that has seen several of them posting strong fundraising numbers.

New York City Public Advocate Letitia James was chosen as the Democratic Party’s designee at its state convention. Before her disclosure was posted to the BOE website, her campaign claimed it had raised more than $1.1 million in just two months, and nearly 60 percent of the contributors gave $200 or less. According to the actual filing, James raised exactly $1,165,897.55 and spent $174,417.04, leaving her campaign $991,480.51 in the bank.

Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor who unsuccessfully challenged Governor Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary, is running for attorney general, pledging to refuse corporate, LLC, and PAC donations. Teachout showed about $551,000 in fundraising from more than 10,000 individual donors -- 97 percent of her funds came from donors who gave less than $200 -- and has spent about $284,000. She has $314,000 in cash on hand.

Former Cuomo and Hillary Clinton aide Leecia Eve raised $300,000 in total for her bid for attorney general and spent about $50,000. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney reported a $1.1 million haul and spent $145,000, but his campaign told The New York Times last week that he has another $3.1 million in funds raised for his congressional reelection that he believes he can use in the statewide race. He is running for both offices simultaneously, with the state AG primary set to determine whether he stays on the November ballot for congressional reelection.

The latest filings also revealed that former Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who resigned after facing accusations of physical abuse by several romantic partners, triggering the Democratic primary, returned $982,000 to campaign contributors. He still has several million dollars in the bank.

Keith Wofford, the Republican nominee for attorney general, raised more than $1 million in total and has only spent about $25,000 since entering the race. He is not facing a primary.

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, an incumbent Democrat, isn’t facing a primary opponent this year either. He reported raising $683,000 since January and spent $351,000. He has about $2.6 million in his campaign account, eclipsing his two general election opponents.

John Trichter, until recently a registered Democrat, received the Republican Party’s nomination for comptroller. Trichter has only raised $156,000 and spent $18,500. He has about $138,000 in his campaign chest. The Green Party’s Mark Dunlea is also running for comptroller and has $5,000 in campaign cash.

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

Read more by this writer.

Note: This article has been updated with comment from a spokesperson for Jumaane Williams' campaign and additional information.

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Statewide Candidates File July Fundraising Numbers Tue, 17 Jul 2018 04:00:00 +0000
Teachout Launches Attorney General Campaign with Focus on Trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7714-teachout-launches-attorney-general-campaign-with-focus-on-trump https://www.gothamgazette.com/state/7714-teachout-launches-attorney-general-campaign-with-focus-on-trump zephyr teachout AG launch trump tower

Zephyr Teachout at her campaign launch (photo: Ben Brachfeld)


Zephyr Teachout, Fordham Law professor and 2014 Democratic gubernatorial candidate, officially launched her campaign for New York State Attorney General on Tuesday near Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan, promising to take a hard line on the “unconstitutional” policies of President Donald Trump while also taking on corruption in Albany and on Wall Street.

The announcement capped off nearly a month of exploration and initial campaigning by Teachout after the post was suddenly vacated by Eric Schneiderman, who resigned in May amid allegations, reported by The New Yorker, that he had physically and emotionally abused four women.

Teachout, who stepped down from her post as treasurer for the Cynthia Nixon campaign for governor to run for attorney general, listed her top four priorities in seeking to become the state’s top legal officer: “fighting Trump, taking on Albany corruption, fighting corporate scams and corporate monopolies, and spearheading the moral argument against mass incarceration,” but she largely focused her kickoff remarks on how she plans to take on the president.

“I have been in the legal fight against Trump’s lawless actions from the moment he was elected, and I am fully ready to lead that fight for the people of New York,” Teachout said. “I will be relentless, independent, ethical, and swift, acting without fear or favor. I will use law as a sword, not just a shield.”

In the wake of Trump’s election, Schneiderman constructed a national reputation as a crusader against the Trump administration, suing the administration in court over such policies and actions as the Muslim travel ban, EPA regulatory rollbacks, and the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, to name just a few.

But Teachout says that Schneiderman did not do enough, and that he did not use the strong anti-corruption and anti-fraud laws at the disposal of the New York Attorney General to prosecute Trump personally at the state level for activities related to his businesses. She said she spoke with Schneiderman twice, asking him to join a lawsuit against Trump on the basis of the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, and the fact that the alleged crimes occurred in New York. She says that Schneiderman declined, and that he adopted a “defensive” litigation strategy instead of a more aggressive one targeting Trump personally.

“New York, which should have been the lead on a parallel suit, did not bring a case,” Teachout said.

Trump has controversially declined to divest from his businesses as president, raising constitutional questions due to foreign investment involved in his business empire, which includes real estate holdings in numerous countries. Teachout hopes to obtain a court order mandating that Trump divest. “The president and his businesses are not above the law,” she said.

“We will not wait to investigate. We will aggressively investigate violations of these laws and others,” Teachout said, referring to the state level anti-fraud laws, “digging into every file cabinet, finding every report tacked to the back of a real estate filing, always being ready to use our full criminal and civil powers to protect the rule of law for the people of New York.”

Teachout also differentiated herself in the Trump fight by saying she would go after New York real estate and finance, which she said was the “conduit” through which Trump was able to commit his alleged crimes.

“Trump’s power didn’t grow out of nothing,” she said. “It grew out of New York finance and New York real estate. So investigating his real power, his businesses, means being ready to look under the hood at New York finance and New York real estate.”

“It is through the Trump Organization, headquartered here in New York,” she said, “that he has turned the presidency into a personal ATM, engaging in business deals aimed at funneling money from foreign governments into his own pockets. Here, he has turned our democracy into a kleptocracy.”

Teachout officially joins a Democratic primary featuring Letitia James, the New York City Public Advocate, who has won the endorsement of the State Democratic Party, Governor Andrew Cuomo, and several labor unions, as well as Leecia Eve, a former candidate for lieutenant governor and advisor to Hillary Clinton, and, likely, U.S. Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, who is widely expected to enter the race.

The winner of the Democratic primary will face Republican Keith Wofford and other candidates from smaller parties in the general election.

The Working Families Party (WFP), the progressive third party that endorsed Nixon for governor, announced its intention to stay neutral in a primary involving James and Teachout, two candidates that the party has ties to. James, who won her first elected office on the WFP line, said soon after launching her campaign that she would not seek the endorsement of the WFP, which is locked in battle with Cuomo due to its endorsement of Nixon and the contemporaneous flight of Cuomo-linked labor unions from the party. The WFP hopes to give its ballot line to the winner of the Democratic primary and help that candidate win the general.

The gulf in policy positions between James and Teachout is also not as clear-cut as that between Cuomo and Nixon, and the campaign is in an earlier stage than the gubernatorial primary. Thus far, James and Teachout have avoided criticism of each other.

Teachout used the launch to bolster her credentials, highlighting her intimate familiarity with the law and her role in the Emoluments Clause lawsuit.

“Even before Donald Trump took office,” she said during a question-and-answer session with reporters after her prepared remarks, “I was in the fight against his coming corruption and lawlessness. I helped build the legal team and was on the legal team that brought the lawsuit against Donald Trump three days after he took office. When I talk to New Yorkers, one of the things they tell me is they want New York to stand tall for the rule of law, to be the living counter-argument, and not merely to be defensive as this threat comes towards us.”

Teachout’s campaign rhetoric suggests that she would continue the recent tradition whereby the New York Attorney General’s office is a bully pulpit from which to challenge entrenched power in both government and the private sector. Schneiderman and his two immediate predecessors, Cuomo and Eliot Spitzer, used the once sleepy office -- which has many less-headline grabbing responsibilities -- to loudly prosecute Wall Street and corporate malfeasance, and policies of the federal government that the office viewed as unconstitutional.

Teachout’s tweets of late have suggested that she would do those things, and also focus on state-level crime in the capital. She has made it clear that she would pursue an anti-corruption agenda in New York government, attempting to root out what has been a pernicious problem.

A series of tweets by Teachout on Tuesday morning urged voters to “care about your State AG” if they care about climate change, workers’ rights, “fraud, scams, and privacy violations,” “the crisis of mass incarceration and law enforcement accountability,” and if voters “want new, fearless 21st century trustbusting.”

Teachout has twice lost elections in recent years. In 2014, she ran and lost the Democratic primary for governor to Cuomo, though she unexpectedly won 34 percent of the primary vote against the incumbent governor, despite having little name recognition, funding, or media coverage.

In 2016, Teachout, with the endorsement of Senator Bernie Sanders, ran for Congress in New York’s 19th District, a seat being vacated by Republican Chris Gibson. Teachout lost to Republican John Faso in the general election, 54 to 46 percent.

Despite these setbacks, Teachout was taking on something of a role of progressive icon in New York elections before launching her attorney general campaign. She endorsed Nixon almost immediately after she launched her campaign, and she recently endorsed Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for Congress in the 14th District. Ocasio-Cortez is attempting to oust Joe Crowley, the head of the Queens Democratic Party who has been spoken of as a potential future Speaker of the House. The two campaigns may also now be advantages as she attempts to win a statewide primary, given that she has built some name recognition with voters, an extensive campaign email list, and ties to a variety of Democratic clubs and organizations.

Teachout said that she hopes to run a grassroots-oriented campaign, with the campaign’s “beating heart” consisting of volunteers. “In our first week, before I even announced publicly, we literally had thousands of contributions,” she said.

And, Teachout is running for attorney general while pregnant, joining a number of women to do so in both this election cycle and past.

“As many of you know, I am in the middle of my first pregnancy,” she said on Tuesday. “I have the future growing inside me, and with every kick I become more determined, and with every stretch I become more committed to fighting for freedom and justice.”

***
by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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Teachout Launches Attorney General Campaign with Focus on Trump Tue, 05 Jun 2018 04:00:00 +0000
The Max & Murphy Podcast https://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/max-murphy-on-politics https://www.gothamgazette.com/podcasts/max-murphy-on-politics mxm logo

Ben Max, left, of Gotham Gazette, and Jarrett Murphy, right, of City Limits


"Max & Murphy" is a podcast hosted by Ben Max of Gotham Gazette and Jarrett Murphy of City Limits that began in 2016 as a brief discussion on the latest in housing policy but quickly expanded to lengthier discussions of a wide variety of political and policy issues, including interviews with candidates for office, elected and appointed government officials, advocates and other experts. In 2017 the show was an important stop for candidates for top city offices and in 2018 for candidates for state offices. Also in 2018, the podcast was picked up by WBAI radio, where the show initially airs on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. Portions or full episodes of the show are then posted to the podcast streams, and to the Gotham Gazette and City Limits websites. 

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Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito Public Advocate Candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito — February 13, 2019
 
The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel The Future of NYCHA with City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel — February 7, 2019
 
State Senator Alessandra Biaggi State Senator Alessandra Biaggi — February 7, 2019
 
jrich 400px Public Advocate Candidate Jared Rich — January 30, 2019
 
byee 400px Public Advocate Candidate Ben Yee — January 30, 2019
 
Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst Public Advocate Candidate Nomiki Konst — January 23, 2019
 
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim Public Advocate Candidate Ron Kim — January 23, 2019
 
dawn smalls 400 Public Advocate Candidate Dawn Smalls — January 16, 2019
 
danny odonnell 400b Public Advocate Candidate Danny O'Donnell — January 16, 2019
 
michael blake 400px Public Advocate Candidate Michael Blake — January 16, 2019
 
Max & Murphy Podcast: Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich Public Advocate Candidate Eric Ulrich — January 9, 2019
 
Gov Andrew Cuomo 2019 agenda 100 days Should Andrew Cuomo Run for President? — January 02, 2019
 
rafael espinal 1 2 wbai 400 Public Advocate Candidate Rafael Espinal — January 02, 2019
 
mxm logo 400px Top Stories of 2018 & What to Watch in 2019 — Decemeber 26, 2019
 
wbai 12 19 kathy hochul 400 Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul on 2019 Priorities — Decemeber 19, 2018
 
wbai 12 19 scott stringer 400 Comptroller Scott Stringer — Decemeber 19, 2018
 
Gustavo Rivera and Bill Hammond Will Single-Payer Health Care Come to New York? — Decemeber 12, 2018
 
wbai hirsh jw 400b De Blasio Finishes Year 5 & The Push for 'Fair Elections for New York' — Decemeber 5, 2018
 
gr mp 400px Homelessness & Affordable Housing Development — November 28, 2018
 
Max & Murphy Podcast: Congestion Pricing & the MTA in 2019 Congestion Pricing & the MTA in 2019 — November 21, 2018
 
latrice walker wbai 400 Bail Reform with Assemblymember Latrice Walker — November 14, 2018
 
asc andreastewartcousinswbai 400 Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — November 14, 2018
 
Analyzing 2018 Election Results & Looking Ahead to 2019, with Alyssa Katz of The Daily News Analyzing 2018 Election Results & Looking Ahead to 2019, with Alyssa Katz of The Daily News — November 7, 2018
 
Election Day Live Show with Special Guests including Jumaane Williams & Errol Louis Election Day Live Show with Special Guests including Jumaane Williams & Errol Louis — November 6, 2018
 
voting line in brooklyn 'Minor Party' Candidates for Comptroller & Attorney General — October 31, 2018
 
Cuomo-Molinaro Debate Analysis Cuomo-Molinaro Debate Analysis — October 23, 2018
 
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan — October 23, 2018
 
Michael Gianaris Thomas Doherty WBAI Battle for Control of the State Senate — October 10, 2018
 
larry sharpe wbai 400 Larry Sharpe, Libertarian nominee for Governor — October 10, 2018
 
keith wofford wbai 400 2 Republican Attorney General Nominee Keith Wofford — October 10, 2018
 
tom dinapoli 400 Comptroller Tom DiNapoli — October 3, 2018
 
john trichter 130 Jonathan Trichter, Republican nominee for Comptroller — October 3, 2018
 
stephanie miner 400px Stephanie Miner, Serve America Movement Nominee for Governor — September 26, 2018
 
Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor Howie Hawkins, Green Party Nominee for Governor — September 26, 2018
 
marc molinaro pod400 Marc Molinaro, Republican Nominee for Governor — September 19, 2018
 
rebecca katz 400 Primary Post-Mortem with Top Cynthia Nixon Strategist — September 19, 2018
 
primary day sept 400 Primary Day Is Here — September 12, 2018
 
Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary between Kathy Hochul & Jumaane Williams Final Days of the Lieutenant Governor Primary between Kathy Hochul & Jumaane Williams — September 5, 2018
 
Intense Queens Senate Primary Centers on Delivering for Immigrant Communities, with Jessica Ramos & State Senator Jose Peralta Intense Queens Senate Primary Centers on Delivering for Immigrant Communities, with Jessica Ramos & State Senator Jose Peralta — August 30, 2018
 
christine greer 400 Race & Politics in Ten Years Since Obama's Nomination — August 22, 2018
 
mara gay 400 Preparing for Primary Day — August 22, 2018
 
myrie hamilton 400 Central Brooklyn Senate Primary Tests IDC Awareness (with Zellnor Myrie and Senator Jesse Hamilton) — August 15, 2018
 
Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrats
(with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) Queens State Senate Rematch Features Different Kinds of Democrats (with Senator Tony Avella and challenger John Liu) — August 8, 2018
 
Attorney General Candidate Sean Patrick Maloney Attorney General Candidate Sean Patrick Maloney — August 8, 2018
 
marisol alcantara robert jackson state 400 Manhattan State Senate Rematch Centered on Breakaway Democrats — August 1, 2018
 
leecia eve 400px Attorney General Candidate Leecia Eve — July 25, 2018
 
tish james 400px Letitia James & the Attorney General Primary — July 18, 2018
 
zephyr teachout 400 Attorney General Candidate Zephyr Teachout — July 9, 2018
 
rosenthal holtzman pod 400 The Long Fight for New City Sexual Harassment Laws — June 25, 2018
 
gelinas 477 A New Era at The MTA? with Nicole Gelinas — June 21, 2018
 
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul — June 14, 2018
 
fortune society reps for 400 Criminal Justice Reform in New York — June 5, 2018
 
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins — June 1, 2018
 
mxm logo 400px State Party Conventions & Nominations — May 25, 2018
 
pod steph miner 400 163 Stephanie Miner — May 15, 2018
 
joe borelli podcast map 400 City Council Member Joe Borelli — May 7, 2018
 
eric adams m m pod 400px Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams — May 1, 2018
 
Stanley fritz citizen action 400px Political Purity Tests in New York — April 25, 2018
 
susan lerner cc ny 400px Reforming Special Elections & More in Albany — April 17, 2018
 
suing nycha 400 Suing NYCHA — April 10, 2018
 
Marc Molinaro Launches Campaign for Governor Molinaro Launches Campaign for Governor — April 2, 2018
 
Chirlane McCray First Lady Chirlane McCray — March 26, 2018
 
michelle de la uz 400 City Planning Commissioner Michelle de la Uz — March 19, 2018
 
ross barkan senate A Journalist Runs for State Senate — March 13, 2018
 
De Blasio's Progress Fighting Homelessness De Blasio's Progress Fighting Homelessness — March 5, 2018
 
ramos jackson podcast IDC Challengers Robert Jackson & Jessica Ramos — February 26, 2018
 
Jumaane Williams Lieutenant Governor Candidate Jumaane Williams — February 23, 2018
 
feb14 podcast Analyzing De Blasio's State of the City Address — February 14, 2018
 
Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany Deconstructing De Blasio's Visit to Albany — January 30, 2018
 
bdb mayor hearing 400px De Blasio's 2nd Term Focus on Education — January 30, 2018
 
alex matthiessen move ny 400 Congestion Pricing with Alex Matthiessen of Move New York — January 22, 2018
 
ritchie torres 400px City Council Member Ritchie Torres on The New Council & His New Role — January 17, 2018
 
rivera brannan 400x167 New City Council Members Justin Brannan & Carlina Rivera — January 10, 2018
 
bdb400px Big Political News to Start 2018 — January 3, 2018
 
melissa mark viverito alatriste podium400 City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito — December 15, 2017
 
eric koch 400 Eric Koch, former City Council communications director — December 15, 2017
 
Shola Olayote NYCHA CEO Shola Olatoye — December 7, 2017
 
liz crowley podcast 400 City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley — December 5, 2017
 
bill de blasio 2nd term 400px Previewing de Blasio's 2nd term — November 27, 2017
 
bdb voting sign in 400 Analyzing the 2017 Election Results — November 9, 2017
 
mayor bdb 400 10 Things to Think About on Election Day — November 7, 2017
 
mayoral candidates 400 Resetting the Mayoral Race after the Final Debate — November 3, 2017
 
3 mayors stream Akeem Browder, Aaron Commey & Mike Tolkin are Running for Mayor — October 23, 2017
 
brigid at debate nyc votesstream Analyzing the Public Advocate & Comptroller Debates — October 19, 2017
 
debate stage400 Analyzing the First General Election Mayoral Debate — October 11, 2017
 
tish james400 Public Advocate Letitia James — October 2, 2017
 
Michel faulkner Comptroller candidate Michel Faulkner — September 29, 2017
 
jcpolanco 400 Public Advocate Candidate JC Polanco — September 18, 2017
 
gifford miller city council 400px Gifford Miller, former Speaker of the City Council and mayoral candidate — September 11, 2017
 
brigid bergin and ben max400px Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio — September 5, 2017
 
Joseph Viteritti De Blasio Author Joseph Viteritti — August 30, 2017
 
Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach Public advocate Candidate David Eisenbach — August 28, 2017
 
azi paybarah tv 400px167px Azi Paybarah — August 17, 2017
 
Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell Representative vs. Substantive Representation, with Dr. Christina Greer and Alexis Grenell — August 15, 2017
 
max murphy katz fullington res The Mayoral Race with Top Political Strategists — July 31, 2017
 
bo dietl Mayoral Candidate Bo Dietl — July 24, 2017
 
nicole malliotakis Republican Mayoral Candidate Nicole Malliotaki — July 13, 2017
 
eric phillips Eric Phillips, press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio — July 5, 2017
 
sal albanese Democratic Mayoral Candidate Sal Albanese — June 26, 2017
 
paul massey 

Republican Mayoral Candidate Paul Massey — June 19, 2017 (note: Paul Massey dropped out of the mayoral race on June 28, though the episode is still worth listening to)

 
bob gangi Democratic Mayoral Candidate Bob Gangi — June 12, 2017
 
mxm logo 400px Election Season is Here! — June 1, 2017
 


A variety of earlier episodes of the Max & Murphy Podcast, through the archive, often focused on New York housing policy and politics — see all episodes from the start February 12, 2016 to May 25, 2017

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