Each attorney general of New York has shaped the powerful office to fit the needs of the time. Guardian of the environment, sheriff of Wall Street and protector of consumers. The next officeholder must be a determined prosecutor of official corruption. The next attorney general should be Dan Donovan.
The Republican district attorney of Staten Island for seven years, Donovan has the experience and independence to untangle the web of conflicts of interest and self-dealing that has so embarrassed New Yorkers and stained state government. He would start by consolidating toothless investigative and ethics boards and requiring lawmakers to pledge, at risk of perjury, that they receive no financial benefit in awards of state money.
To curb corruption, Donovan will need enhanced powers. With few exceptions, an attorney general can't initiate a criminal investigation of a government official unless asked by the governor. The legislature has refused to cede such powers, but the next attorney general will need that jurisdiction.
While rooting out corruption is the top priority, Donovan understands that he must continue the important initiatives of his predecessors, especially as a vigorous protector of the environment. He must be a strong partner, with federal regulators, of the financial services industry that is the lifeblood of the region. That means policing it but not impeding it.
His opponent, Democrat Eric Schneiderman of Manhattan, is a capable state senator with a zeal for creatively using government to help those whose rights are being trampled. He is dynamic and insightful. Schneiderman says he is the better choice to clean up Albany because he has seen the ugly wheeling and dealing up close. Our fear, however, is that he is still too entangled with the legislature and many of the power players in Albany to provide a detached view.
That was confirmed late last week after the state's inspector general released a devastating critique of how Senate Democratic leadership mishandled the awarding of a gaming contract for Aqueduct Raceway. Schneiderman was not implicated. How-ever, he said he will return $76,000 in campaign donations from the three senators in the Democratic leadership, of which he is a part, who were involved in the tawdry bidding process.
Equally troubling is Schneiderman's perspective. He dismisses his remarks about giving an organization run by the Rev. Al Sharpton "an annex" in Albany as an "inartful choice of words." But it's really about a lot more than vocabulary. Just as disturbing are Schneiderman's ads that claim Donovan, who personally opposes abortion and same-sex marriage, wouldn't honor his oath to enforce the law. We accept Donovan's pledge that he would.
Restoring the public's trust in state government must be the next attorney general's top priority. Donovan has the experience and disposition to do it. Newsday endorses Donovan. hN