New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Thursday his office should be given more power to investigate public corruption -- without having to wait until cases are referred to him.
But Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo hasn’t included this idea in his recommendations to clean up state government after the high-profile arrests of elected officials on bribery and other charges earlier this month.
Currently, the attorney general can pursue corruption if a matter is legally referred to him. Cuomo in 2010, as attorney general and a gubernatorial candidate, said he backed the idea of giving the attorney general authority to chase cases without having to wait for a referral. Now as governor, Cuomo proposed creating a new position of election-law enforcement counsel – appointed by the governor.
Schneiderman, speaking on a public-radio program, said that the attorney general’s office already has the ability to launch certain investigations – into Medicaid and securities fraud, for example – without referrals. He said the power to independently pursue public corruption would be “another tool in the tool kit” to battle corruption.
“Our office has proposed standing referrals,” Schneiderman said, meaning independent authority. He wasn’t asked specifically about Cuomo’s proposal.
A day earlier, state Republican Chairman Ed Cox ripped Cuomo’s plan, saying he’d rather grant authority to an independently elected attorney general – even if he/she is Democrat – than someone appointed by the governor.
Cuomo has defended the proposal. He said all prosecutors come with political backing. District attorneys are elected and federal prosecutors effectively are appointed by U.S. senators, he said.