Law & Order
End of the Linen
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman took to the airwaves today to denounce the Defense of Marriage Act on legal grounds, arguing that it will be ruled unconstitutional because it “discriminates” against New York State’s recognition of same-sex marriages. The high-profile case is set to go before the Supreme Court later this week.
“This is something that, without getting too far into the merits of the case, I think the Supreme Court will strike down,” Mr. Schneiderman said this morning on The Brian Lehrer Show. “This is an overreach by the federal government, this is inconsistent with our federalist system and I think this one will definitely fall.”
The Huntley Becomes the Hunted
Earlier this afternoon, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced both the arrest and conviction of Mohanbhai “Mohan” Ramchandani, who pleaded guilty to felony tax-evasion charges. In the press release detailing the case, Mr. Ramchandani was labeled a “prominent tailor,” and indeed he has styled many members of the city’s political class including former mayors Rudy Giuliani (conservative, two-button suit in blue and gray) and Ed Koch (classic, no darts, straight pants and suspender buttons).
nonprofits on notice
Former State Senator Shirley Huntley, who has already plead guilty to federal embezzlement charges, decided to settle her affairs this morning by pleading guilty to separate state-based charges of tampering with evidence during the embezzlement investigation. Specifically, in the words of Attorney General Eric Schneiderman when he unveiled the indictment last summer, Ms. Huntley was accused of “falsifying business records, conspiracy and tampering with an investigation in a scheme to steal taxpayer money using a sham nonprofit that did not provide any services to the public whatsoever.”
Ms. Huntley initially maintained her innocence, including issuing a forceful declaration in an “Emergency Press Conference” on her front lawn. This morning, however, the former southeastern Queens lawmaker reversed course and directly admitted to breaking the law to benefit Parent Workshop, the “sham nonprofit.”
Law & Order
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is keeping an eye on the assorted charities raising money for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. In a statement released today, Mr. Schneiderman announced he sent a letter to 75 Sandy-focused nonprofits requesting information on their fundraising and spending activities, which he intends to post online.
“Our office commends all of the charities, and their volunteers and donors, who have come to the assistance of New Yorkers after Hurricane Sandy,” Mr. Schneiderman said in the press release. “In light of the importance of the recovery efforts, and the enormous amount of money raised in such a short period of time, it is critical that donors know where their money is going, and that funds are spent responsibly. In the name of transparency and accountability, we must ensure that funds raised for Hurricane Sandy relief are used for that purpose.”
Rockin' The Suburbs
As several gas station owners are about to learn, it’s against New York State law to jack up the price of goods like fuel after a hurricane. To wit, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced he is bringing his “first series of enforcement actions” against price gougers in the wake of Superstorm Sandy.
“Today’s action is the first in a series of steps my office will take as we continue to actively investigate the hundreds of complaints we’ve received from consumers of businesses preying on victims of Hurricane Sandy,” the attorney general said in a statement. “We will do everything we can to stop unscrupulous individuals from taking advantage of New Yorkers trying to rebuild their lives.”
Yesterday, it was revealed President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign may have improperly used Greenburgh Town Hall, a government property in Westchester County, to conduct weekly phonebank operations without paying to use the space. Although the partisans, “White Plains for Obama,” agreed to retroactively pay rent after confronted by the New York Post, local Republicans aren’t satisfied. In a statement released this afternoon, the county’s GOP chairman Doug Colety declared Mr. Obama’s campaign was “caught with their hand in the cookie jar” and needs to face the scrutiny of the law.
“The taxpayers of Greenburgh are being ripped off by the Obama campaign and Greenburgh’s Democratic leadership and I am calling on the New York State Attorney General to conduct a full investigation to see if any laws are being violated by this clearly unethical behavior,” he said. “Taxpayers have a right to know that public facilities are not being used for partisan political campaigns and no municipal building should ever be converted into in a campaign headquarters for any party.”
As has been well-reported throughout New York State, Assembly Speaker Shelly Silver is currently in hot water for approving a secret settlement that protected his once-powerful colleague Vito Lopez from sexual harassment allegations. But when additional, credible allegations continued to emerge, Mr. Silver was eventually forced to strip Mr. Lopez of his seniority and urge him to resign from office. Nevertheless, the scandal raised serious questions as to whether a confidentiality provision was ever appropriate, especially one financed by over a hundred thousand dollars of public funds.
The Vallone Zone
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is suing the board of directors for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, a large nonprofit organizations dedicated to taking care of retired thoroughbred racehorses, for failing to take care of the 1,100 retired horses in its herd.
“New York and the nation need the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation to succeed. But unfortunately, TRF’s board has driven this vital organization into the ground, threatening its mission and the very horses it is supposed to protect,” Mr. Schneiderman said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. “Despite my Office’s efforts to encourage reform, TRF’s current directors have proven incapable of turning around the dire situation they have created. The time has come to give new leadership a chance.”
In a post on his Facebook wall last night, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. slammed Attorney General Eric Holder for weighing in on the controversy over the NYPD’s widespread surveillance of the Muslim community. Mr. Vallone cited Mr. Holder’s role in the “Fast and Furious” scandal where the ATF lost guns used in a sting operation and said the attorney general has no business criticizing the NYPD.
“just heard AG Holder is ‘concerned’ about the NYPD . really? you’re concerned about surveillance that anyone with a computer and a car could do but apparently unconcerned that you ‘lost’ 2000 firearms to drug dealers and terrorists to use against the NYPD???,” Mr. Vallone wrote.
Admist monstrous fundraising numbers from Governor Andrew Cuomo this afternoon, two other statewide elected officials released their own totals.
And in the most recent filing at least, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman is outpacing his counterpart, Comptroller Tom DiNapoli. The A.G.’s campaign said that they raised a $750,000 and has $850,000 cash on hand, while Mr. DiNapoli’s reelection effort raised less than half of that, $330,000, and closed the year with a bit over $140,000 in the bank.
Attorney General Shchneiderman’s campaign war chest compares favorably to the last two Attorney Generals at this point in their term. Former Attorney General Andrew Cuomo had $1.1 million dollars on hand in January of 2007, while Former A.G. Eliot Spitzer had $285,000 a year into his first term in 2001.