NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — It looked like it was just another day outside the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office on Hogan Place — except it wasn’t.
District Attorney Cyrus Vance had just done something quite unusual for someone seeking re-election. He ordered a halt to his campaign fundraising in the face of embarrassing questions about some of the people who have ponied up to keep him in office.
“Over the past few days, I’ve learned that it’s not enough for me to have confidence in my independence from donors. The people of New York have to be confident about it as well,” he said in an op-ed piece announcing an independent review of his fundraising apparatus.
As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer explained, it came as the long time prosecutor — running unopposed — found himself in the eye of an ethics storm.
He’s been questioned about not bringing charges against public figures accused of crimes; Harvey Weinstein, Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr, Bill de Blasio, and questioned about contributions from their legal teams or their firms.
“There’s never been a campaign contribution that influenced my thinking,” he said.
Apparently that wasn’t enough.
“There’s certainly a cloud over the district attorney’s office,” Assemblyman Dan Quart (D-Manhattan) said.
Quart introduced legislation to limit the money that district attorneys can accept from lawyers and law firms that represent criminal defendants.
Vance has raised about $620,000 for this elections, and published reports indicate at least $178,000 came from legal defense.
New Yorkers need to have faith that their district attorneys are making decisions on the facts and merits and nothing else.
Susan Lerner of good government group ‘Common Cause’ said independent review is a good thing.
“We need to be having a conversation about how elected officials involved in the criminal justice system are raising private money,” she said
Lerner suggests another way to deal with the problem –public financing, not just for DAs, but for every elected official in the state from governor on down.
Meanwhile the Vance this storm has prompted two men to wage write-in campaigns against him.