Rice, Goo-Goos Knock Coffey On Donations

Following a report in the Wall Street Journal today that details how attorney general candidate Sean Coffey gave $150,000 to elected officials who later awarded his law firm with legal work, Nassau D.A. Kathleen Rice is calling on Coffey to disclose all instances where he received legal work from an elected official that he contributed to.

“Mr. Coffey has spent the last eight months talking about the need for transparency and the need to end the pay-to-play culture that dominates Albany politics,” said Jeffrey Stein, Rice’s campaign manager. ” At the same time, he knew he had given more than a hundred thousand dollars to candidates across the country and that the recipients of those donations then awarded him work that has made him a multimillionaire. He just went from the race’s unknown candidate to just another rich insider running for office.”

The article details how Coffey gave nearly $20,000 to New York comptrollers Carl McCall and Alan Hevesi, who then hired his law firm, Bernstein, Litowitz, Berger & Grossmann, to represent the state pension fund in three major cases. In 2008, Coffey and his wife each gave $1,000 to the Rhode Island general treasurer Frank Caprio after Caprio announced that the state was looking for a new law firm.

Caprio ultimately returned the money.

Coffey also gave money to elected officials in North Carolina, Ohio, and Mississippi.

Coffey has said that he gave the money because he was committed to getting Democrats elected to office.

His spokesman, Tammy Sun, told the Journal, “Sean is also the most effective investor-advocate attorney in America, having delivered top-notch results for retirees who were cheated by corporate criminals-in part by forcing guilty executives to pay tens of millions of dollars personally for the first time in history,” said Tammy Sun, a spokeswoman for Mr. Coffey’s campaign. “So the fact that his previous law firm represented defrauded investors in several high-profile corporate corruption cases should come as no surprise. Any distortion of Sean’s lifelong commitment to Democratic core values and, separately, the impressive results he delivered for defrauded investors is political game-playing.”

But a good government types seem to be siding with the Rice campaign. The Politicker reached out to Susan Lerner of Common Cause, who said, “this kind of thing ought to be out and out barred because it just looks bad.”

She blamed a system that permitted, if not encouraged, this kind of political gift-giving, but also said, “I think he has to explain. I think he has to come clean with the public. It raises questions. Are you willing to outlaw what you did? Where do you feel the line should be drawn? Yes, what you did was legal. Is it right? How do you explain to somebody that it looks like buying influence?”