Assemblyman splits with party over lawyer

Albany

We want our own lawyer, thanks very much.

That’s the message of at least one Assembly Republican who is offended that majority Democrats were able to pick a lawyer to represent the entire chamber before the Moreland Commission, which is probing possible corruption in the campaign finance system.

“How is that not a gigantic conflict?” Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin said in reference to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s decision to hire the New York City firm of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman to represent the Assembly before the panel, created in July by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

McLaughlin said he’s heard similar anger from some of his fellow GOP lawmakers, who have noted that the Kasowitz firm is a major Democratic donor.

“Maybe we do need an attorney as Republicans,” added Jim Tedisco, another GOP assemblyman. He compared the Democrats’ decision to hire the prominent firm to “the fox guarding the henhouse.”

But their leader, Brian Kolb, isn’t planning to get a lawyer for his conference at this time, said his spokesman, Mike Fraser.

“As of right now, the minority doesn’t have any plans to retain an attorney,” Fraser said. “The majority has informed us that their services are available to both conferences.”

The firm’s managing partner, Marc Kasowitz, and his wife have since 2010 contributed $373,000 to Cuomo and Kathleen Rice, the Democratic district attorney in Nassau County and co-chair of the Moreland Commission.

Kasowitz didn’t return a call for comment. Silver’s decision to hire the firm was first reported earlier this month in the Daily News.

After lawmakers last session rebuffed calls to institute stiffer ethics laws, Cuomo set up the commission under the Moreland Act, a century-old law that gives the panel wide-ranging powers to investigate and subpoena people connected with state government.

The commission in August sent letters to lawmakers who were paid more than $20,000 last …read more

Source: Albany Times Union – State Capitol

    

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