NOVEMBER 23, 2009
A big-state attorney general well known for running a fraud-infested federal agency as a member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet has taken tens of thousands of dollars from law firms representing clients being investigated or charged by his office.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Clinton’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary, has evidently continued his old boss’s tradition of corruption as the Empire State’s top law enforcement officer. A national news outlet reports that a chunk of the $18 million Cuomo has raised in the last few years came from lawyers across the nation with cases before his office.
The cash keeps pouring in because Cuomo is running for New York governor next year and his already bulging campaign coffers are swelling by the week. So far, close to $1 million has come from major law firms defending notable individuals or companies in legal actions against Cuomo’s office.
The New York law firm representing American International’s (AIG) chief executive in a fraud case against the state gave Cuomo $35,000 this year, the attorneys defending computer manufacturer Dell in a deceptive advertising case donated $18,000 to the attorney general and a California law firm defending a Philadelphia-based life insurer in a major fraud case against the state gave $7,500. Countless others gave a few thousand here and few thousand there.
The attorney general claims the donations are perfectly ethical because he makes sure the contributors sign a statement saying they have no matter pending with him personally. The laughable measure conveniently doesn’t extend to “attorneys representing persons or entities with matters before the NYS Attorney General’s office.” In other words, Cuomo’s subordinates in the agency he heads.
Cuomo is just keeping alive a tradition at the attorney general’s office. Eliot Spitzer, who went on to become governor, also took tens of thousands of dollars in donations from those with cases before his office when he was New York Attorney General. Spitzer was forced to resign as governor in 2008 when he got caught in a major hooker scandal.
Cuomo has some serious political baggage of his own. As Clinton’s Housing Secretary, inept and corrupt investors for years cheated loan programs aimed at turning rundown buildings into affordable housing, leaving taxpayers with a $250 million cleanup bill. Cuomo knew about the fraud for years yet took no action, according to congressional records and a HUD Inspector General report.
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