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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Attorney General Endorsement: Drink Coffey

Next Tuesday there is a primary for New York State Attorney General among Democratic Party voters. Crime, Politics and Policy endorses Sean Coffey for the party nomination.

Among the five candidates running, Coffey holds the most promise of being a reformer. He has the best claim to being an outsider, having never run for elective office nor been appointed; his previous public employment was as an assistant Manhattan federal prosecutor. He is by far the most likely to be able, and willing, to use the powers of the office to investigate wrongdoing as opposed to merely prosecuting what others have found.
Coffey shows no inclination to play political hopscotch, as he has ruled out running for governor. These sentiments indicate he will use the office to uproot wrongdoing, as opposed to pursuing headlines and possibly misusing the office's powers and abusing -- or even ruining -- innocent people. This is a key change from the regime of Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, whose shoot first-ask questions later produced some questionable results (see: AIG chief Hank Greenberg and most especially, former stockbroker Theodore Sihpol). As a result, Coffey may be welcomed by business interests -- not just Wall Street -- who simply want a fair shake and a government which does not prejudge businesses and entrepreneurs as prospective criminals.

Coffey's "fairness" card illustrates why former Spitzer deputy AG Eric Dinallo is not the best candidate. Attorneys general should be judged by fairness and the justice they uphold. This is the standard which Spitzer failed the most, even more than the fidelity-to-one's-spouse standard which Client 9 breached with abandon. Dinallo suffers from a taint by association which he has not adequately explained.

Kathleen Rice is an ambitious Nassau County district attorney and seems to be a permanent candidate. Her recent suggestion to make criminal luring a crime is an example of the mistaken mindset that the solution to crime is more laws (and a resulting reduction in the scope of our liberty, since any increase in the definition of what is "illegal" will always reduce the scope of what is "legal.") There are plenty of laws on the books to enforce, and a preventative approach stops crime before it happens. The approach of let's-pass-a-new-law requires a victim. It doesn't stop crime; it almost encourages it, since a law's proponents almost invariably look to justify its existence with results. Here, that means victims. This approach is just wrong.

Finally, Richard Brodsky and Eric Schneidermann are career state legislators who happen to be attorneys. They are not the best choice and are tainted by their Albany careers.  And Brodsky's poorly-conceived, proposed bill making organ donations automatic for any registered New York State driver unfortunate enough to die in the state was already the subject of serious criticism

We urge New York Democrats to vote for Coffey.

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