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GOP women: Schneiderman should donate $8.5M campaign funds

Pleas for the cash to go to anti-domestic violence programs.

State Sen. Elaine Phillips, seen on Jan. 12,

State Sen. Elaine Phillips, seen on Jan. 12, 2017, is among Republican women in the State Senate who have called on Eric T. Schneiderman to give his campaign fund to anti-domestic violence programs. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

ALBANY — Republican women in the State Senate on Wednesday called on former New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman to turn over his entire campaign fund — $8.5 million — to anti-domestic violence programs.

Their demand came on the heels of Schneiderman’s resignation late Monday, after The New Yorker magazine revealed that four women had accused Schneiderman of choking, slapping and threatening them.

For years, Schneiderman “portrayed himself as a supporter of the #MeToo movement and a champion of women,” the seven female Republicans in the State Senate said in a statement. “This was a lie — he was a fraud and a hypocrite.”

The lawmakers noted that Schneiderman had recently made headlines by filing a lawsuit against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein over alleged sexual assualts.

“This is a man who stood out in front on this issue,” Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill), a coalition member, said in an interview on Wednesday at the State Capitol. “He was prosecuting individuals, accusing individuals . . . He is sitting on millions of dollars of campaign funds — do the right thing, buddy.”

New York campaign finance laws do not place heavy restrictions on how funds like Schneiderman’s can be used. Several recently indicted politicians — such as former Senate leader Dean Skelos or ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — have used campaign funds to pay for criminal defense fees.

Schneiderman hasn’t been charged with any crime, but at least two district attorneys have begun investigations into the actions described in The New Yorker. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

One longtime New York watchdog said it’s unlikely Schneiderman could use his campaign funds for any legal expenses because, at this point, there is no indication that his alleged conduct had a connection to his official duties.

“If there are legal costs, they stem from his personal activities,” said Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group. “As far as we know, the allegations were in no way related to his role as a public official.”

Sonia Ossorio, president of the New York chapter of NOW, endorsed the Republicans’ suggestion that Schneiderman donate the funds to anti-domestic violence groups. “I think it’s a great idea,” she said. “It feels like the only just answer.”

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