The felony corruption case against former state Sen. George D. Maziarz fizzled out last month after he pleaded guilty to a single misdemeanor violation of election law and paid a $1,000 fine.
But the man who brought the charges, state Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman, makes no apologies for how things ended, despite more than four years of investigating.
“We’re confident, in the case of Maziarz and his cronies, we essentially broke up their machine and I don’t think he would view that as a positive experience,” Schneiderman said. “I think the consequences for him were serious.”
Schneiderman was in Buffalo for a series of engagements this week and sat down with The Buffalo News Editorial Board on Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including the Maziarz case and Schneiderman’s continued efforts to tackle political corruption.
“We’re obviously in some deep territory here in Erie County with Steve Pigeon and others, so we’ll continue to pursue that,” Schneiderman said, referring to the former Erie County Democratic chairman and longtime political operative facing corruption charges. “If you look at the history of sort of the Niagara and Erie county machines, how long did they go on without anyone going after them? That’s an important part of our philosophy.”
Schneiderman argues that his office has had a lot of success taking down political figures both big and small across New York, despite weaknesses in state law. He said he’ll continue to push for reform.
“I’ve been banging my head against this wall for a long time,” Schneiderman said.
“We have a proposed reform package for cleaning up a lot of problems with the situation in Albany, and part of that involves the expansion of both my jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of district attorneys to go after these cases,” Schneiderman said, adding that politicians of both parties are often loath to strengthen laws that might be used against them. “It’s decades of bipartisan work in Albany to ... make these cases harder and make the remedies often weaker than they should be.”
“I’m not sure how to get to this,” he said, “but we have to take the public sort of disgust at all this corruption and turn it into a real reform movement to keep the pressure on.”