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Cuomo for the prosecution

A Newsday editorial from 1988.

A Newsday editorial from 1988. Credit: Newsday Archive

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Daily Point

Singas gets a new job

The profile of Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas got quite an elevation Thursday as she appeared with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and her regional counterparts, Manhattan’s Cyrus Vance and Suffolk’s Tim Sini, to express their support for Singas taking control of the investigation of Eric T. Schneiderman.

At a news conference that started out with the awkward body language of Vance and an unsmiling Sini, both of whom had actual jurisdiction over the allegations against the former attorney general, Cuomo explained why he used his power to assign the case to Singas, citing her extensive background in prosecuting domestic violence and sexual abuse cases.

“You want to avoid even the appearance of the perception of a conflict,” said Cuomo, noting the concern swirling around Vance’s office over not filing charges against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Vance is investigating a second Weinstein case, and Cuomo has asked Schneiderman’s office to review what happened in the handling of the first probe. Their offices had been sniping at each other ever since The New Yorker published its story Monday night that chronicled physical abuse allegations of four women against Schneiderman.

But by the end of the packed news conference Thursday, the tension seemed to ease. Singas praised Vance “as a giant in the field of criminal justice” and an adviser and a friend, while Cuomo lavished praised on the Manhattan DA’s office, noting that he worked there at the start of his career. Cuomo even got Sini to smile when the governor described him as newly elected, “but getting older by the hour.”

But Singas, who has spent almost all of her 27-year career specializing in such cases, made the best argument for why she should lead the probe: “These cases are the most troubling and gut-wrenching and complex cases . . . because of the relationships, emotional investment and codependence” between the victims and perpetrators.

“Being a voice for the vulnerable is my passion,” said Singas, who at one point seemed to be talking directly to the women who told their stories to The New Yorker. “I have assembled a team of extraordinarily talented prosecutors with a collective 125 years of experience. I urge anyone with information to come forward.”

Rita Ciolli

Reference Point

#ThrowbackThursday — White House hiring

Perhaps the president “is only getting what he deserves for hiring such a bunch of sleazeballs to run the country.”

That was the harsh judgment of Newsday’s editorial board — 30 years ago, on May 10, 1988. The president was Ronald Reagan, and the reason for the board’s observation was a rash of tell-all books from former members of Reagan’s administration.

The board chastised people including former Budget Director David Stockman, former White House aide Michael Deaver and former chief of staff Donald Regan for not waiting to publish their books until Reagan left the White House, while also recounting some tales — like former White House spokesman Larry Speakes writing that preparing Reagan for a news conference was like “re-inventing the wheel.”

One admonition from the board is as appropriate now as it was then: “. . . this flood of self-serving, president-bashing books should stand as a warning to future executives to select people who view public service as an end — not as a means to private fortunes, whether in publishing, lobbying or whatever.”

If you’re thinking the horse is long out of the barn on that one, especially with the current administration, consider the conclusion of the board back in 1988 as it contemplated the unflattering light being shone on both the authors and their subjects:

“Either way, it’s not a pretty picture.”

Michael Dobie

Talking Point

Reality vs. new era of campaign funds for child care

Congressional candidate Liuba Grechen Shirley was in a celebratory mood Thursday after the Federal Election Commission approved her use of campaign funds for child care.

Grechen Shirley, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to oppose Rep. Peter King, had deftly turned her request into a political and feminist cause. The issue drew national headlines and support from Hillary Clinton, among other political stars.

In a conference call with reporters on Thursday, Grechen Shirley, of Amityville, called the ruling “groundbreaking” and a “landmark” she hoped would usher in a new era when women can more easily run for office.

The reality of the ruling is more narrow. Grechen Shirley’s child-care expenses could be covered “to the extent those expenses are incurred as a direct result of the candidate’s campaign activities, because such expenses would not exist irrespective of the candidate’s election campaign,” wrote FEC spokeswoman Judith Ingram. Grechen Shirley had worked from home and cared for her children before the campaign, so she had to forgo income and hire a caretaker to be a candidate. “If a candidate were to have different circumstances, it would be advisable to request an advisory opinion,” wrote Ingram.

But the new advisory opinion seems to provide precedent for former work-from-home parents running for office, and it could be a building block for future candidates and future opinions leveling the playing field.

“[I]n the future a candidate who leaves her/his job to run for office may be able to make the case that their childcare costs should be covered,” Russ Haven, general counsel to the nonprofit New York Public Interest Research Group, wrote to The Point. “Since in 2018 women continue to disproportionately bear childcare responsibilities, it should help open the door for more women running for office.”

“It’s a first step,” Grechen Shirley said on the conference call when asked about whom the ruling would help. “It’s a necessary first step.”

Mark Chiusano

Pencil Point

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