Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s association with the state’s controversial Moreland Commission is now dominating the challenge by Republican opponent John P. Cahill.
Cahill held a news conference outside Schneiderman’s downtown Buffalo office Wednesday to again lambaste the incumbent’s performance on the panel that investigated public corruption, this time demanding that he return all campaign contributions made by anyone subpoenaed by the commission.
Because Schneiderman had a role in the commission created and abruptly disbanded nine months later by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and because he deputized members of the commission as assistant attorneys general, Cahill said, the attorney general faces a conflict by accepting campaign contributions from people and groups subpoenaed by his deputies.
“I’m calling on Eric Schneiderman to return the money from those that were the subject of the investigation,” he said, pointing to the Manhattan law firm of Weitz & Luxenberg as well as the Real Estate Board of New York and other entities that collectively or individually contributed about $70,000 to the attorney general’s campaign and were investigated by the Moreland panel.
“How do you maintain the integrity of your office when, on one hand, you are undergoing an investigation of these entities and, on the other side, you’re soliciting campaign contributions?” said Cahill, who called his opponent “fundraiser-in-chief and chief investigator.”
“The Attorney General’s Office has to be independent and has to be run with integrity,” Cahill said. “If you’re soliciting campaign funds from the same groups you’re investigating, you’re clearly compromising your office.”
The Moreland Commission, which was disbanded by the governor at the close of this year’s legislative session after legislators agreed to some new laws aimed at ethics reform, has endured criticism in recent weeks after a New York Times investigative report alleged interference by Cuomo officials when the probe involved contributors and other allies of the administration.
While Cuomo’s Democratic primary and general election opponents have emphasized the governor’s role in their own campaigns, Cahill is trying to focus the same attention on Schneiderman. In July, the former top aide to Gov. George E. Pataki, who also served as environmental conservation commissioner, appeared in Buffalo to allege that Schneiderman either “did not follow the law” or “was out of the loop” in failing to recognize instances of alleged political interference in his role with the panel.
Schneiderman’s campaign did not directly address Cahill’s accusations or respond to questions about whether he planned to return the contributions. Spokesman Peter Ajemian pointed to the attorney general’s own anti-corruption efforts and labeled the latest Cahill accusations a “distraction.”
And Damien LaVera, the attorney general’s official spokesman, noted that the Moreland Commission is under investigation by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan and would therefore offer no comment.
Cahill, meanwhile, appeared Wednesday at a fundraiser hosted on his behalf by Erie County Republican Chairman Nicholas A. Langworthy and others at a downtown restaurant.