Just two days after the GOP pushed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s handling of his Moreland Commission into campaign headlines, it now aims at Democratic Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman.
Republican John P. Cahill, who will challenge Schneiderman in November, charged in Buffalo on Wednesday that, as a member of the panel probing public corruption in New York, the attorney general either “did not follow the law” or “was out of the loop” in failing to recognize instances of alleged political interference.
“We haven’t heard a word, not a peep, from the attorney general about his role ... in what continues to be ongoing concern about how we run our government,” Cahill said, noting the “extraordinary powers” that Cuomo’s executive order creating the commission gave to the attorney general.
Because Schneiderman was empowered to deputize all 25 members as assistant attorneys general with subpoena power and other capabilities, Cahill argues that his opponent became an independent member of the panel. As a result, Cahill said during a news conference outside the Attorney General’s Office in downtown Buffalo that Schneiderman could have and should have recognized several instances of alleged interference by the Cuomo administration as outlined last week in a New York Times story.
“So either the attorney general was well aware of political interference with his deputies, political interference with the issuance of subpoenas, or he is completely out of touch with the people who were supposed to report to him,” Cahill said.
Cahill, a former top aide to former Gov. George E. Pataki who also served as commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation, added that a “man of integrity would have stood up.”
“The attorney general has to stand up and be held accountable about what he knew, when he knew it, and what did he do about the political interference of his office,” he said, adding that Cuomo “in essence fired” the deputized attorneys general when he ended the commission’s operations at the end of this year’s legislative session.
Cahill emphasized that the unique role assigned to Schneiderman by the governor in creating the commission obligated him to ensure the commission continued investigating corruption and work toward reform.
The candidate was joined by two fellow Republicans, Assemblyman Raymond W. Walter of Amherst and Cheektowaga Councilwoman Angela Wozniak, who is a candidate for the Assembly seat formerly held by Democrat Dennis H. Gabryszak.
“The attorney general cannot hide out in his bunker in Manhattan,” Walter said. “He’s got to address this issue.”
Schneiderman’s campaign responded by noting his prosecution of 40 officials who “abused the public trust,” including Democratic legislators. While noting the attorney general’s accomplishments, however, spokesman Peter Ajemian did not specifically address Cahill’s charges.
“Just last week, Attorney General Schneiderman sentenced a politically well-connected nonprofit leader to years in jail for looting state funds,” Ajemian said. “He’s done all this despite the absence of original jurisdiction covering public corruption – a statutory weakness he’s fought to change – and helped overcome that constraint through an innovative and unprecedented partnership with the state comptroller, Operation Integrity.
“All of which leaves one to ask, simply: Where on earth has John Cahill been on any of these issues?” he added.
During his news conference, Cahill stopped short of insisting the attorney general should investigate the charges of interference with the commission. But he suggested that Schneiderman cannot use the excuse of being unable to comment on an “ongoing investigation” of the charges now under way by U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of Manhattan.
“He had plenty of comments on the investigation when it was ongoing,” he said of the commission. “Now that it’s over, he won’t comment.”
He also noted that Cuomo’s executive order creating the commission has not been rescinded and that Schneiderman still has the power and authority to continue investigating the charges of interference.