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New York attorney general says he will stay out of state politics

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he will not give any endorsements or become involved in local races.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said he has made a decision to stay out of politics for now, due to a climate of corruption and ongoing investigations by his office.

Schneiderman said he will not be endorsing or appearing with any candidates any more, as statewide office holders sometimes do. Both former leaders of the legislature face federal corruption trials next month and the attorney general’s office has, along with the state comptroller, probed the actions of dozens of elected officials, some resulting in charges and convictions.

“I am not doing any endorsements or getting involved in any local races, because we’ve ramped up our public integrity investigations,” Schneiderman said in an interview with public radio and television. “Since 2012, my office has gone after more than 70 public officials and their cronies.”

The attorney general has held this policy for some time, though he has not talked about it in public. Schneiderman can’t talk about on going investigations, but said there are more continuing probes that have not yet been made public.

The attorney general, who was a long time member of the New York State Senate, said it’s a difficult decision because he still has many friends in office who have asked for his help in their campaigns.  Schneiderman said he wants to make sure that his actions are not misconstrued as “favoritism” or having “a political axe to grind."

Dick Dadey, with the reform group Citizens Union, said the attorney general has made a wise decision.

“It’s a very smart move,” Dadey said. “Because you don’t know who’s going to be indicted next. But, I think that  he does given his access to information.”

The attorney general said his decision to stay out of politics for now is one reason why he has not signed on to a new minor party created by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Women’s Equality Party.  That party has faced numerous legal challenges because the majority of statewide office holders, including Schneiderman, have refused to formally endorse the new party.

“It’s not appropriate for me to get involved in the inner workings of the Democratic Party or any other party,” Schneiderman said.

The attorney general predicts that there will be more indictments, arrests and even convictions of state lawmakers if the Senate and Assembly do not fundamentally reform their rules on outside income.

He said unless outside income is banned, “in the 21st Century, it’s virtually impossible to ensure that there’s no taint of any kind."

Schneiderman said lawmakers, who earn a base salary of around $80,000 a year, should get a pay raise in exchange for also giving up their travel allowances. Abuses of what’s known as per diem payments to legislators has also led to arrests and jailing.

Dadey said he hopes Cuomo will also take up the cause in the upcoming legislative session.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.