Pataki Patronage

The Guv's Attempt to Name a Prosecutor Lays Bare His Own Scandal

Among the other lawyers who were paid by the Pataki committee were Rod Lankler ($77,634), Elkan Abramowitz ($95,856), Austin Campriello ($46,716), Tom Puccio ($53,900), and Leo Kayser ($27,691), all of whom were involved in the parole probe. O'Mara, who ran D'Amato's Senate campaign upstate as far back as 1980 and was Pataki's Public Service Commission chair until recently, was simultaneously picking the U.S. attorney and orchestrating a legal campaign against the same office. Prior federal appointments have always been reviewed by a real panel of prestigious attorneys named by the state's two senators, but Pataki has allowed O'Mara alone, who used to be a member of D'Amato's panel, to make the recommendations.

In a Voice interview, Senator Schumer said he "was not choosing" the Brooklyn prosecutor, merely "setting a bar or standard" that nominees must meet. When he recently declared that he was "troubled" that Pataki's candidate for U.S. attorney in Manhattan—the governor's own counsel, Jim McGuire—had no federal prosecutorial experience, the White House declined to send the name to the Senate. "I'm also troubled by this one," he told the Voice, referring to Mauskopf's lack of federal credentials. But Schumer said he has not made up his mind on confirming or opposing her. She is scheduled to meet with him in the next two weeks.

There is little about her background to engender confidence. Over her 13 years in Morgenthau's office, she tried two major cases, convicting a lawyer (who represented himself) of stealing millions from his clients. In the other case, heavyweight boxer Ray Mercer was acquitted on all counts after she charged him with trying to fix a fight. The jury, who fell asleep during her summation, reached a unanimous verdict in less than five hours. She credits herself with playing a major role in the prosecution of a mob trucking cartel in the garment district, but it was State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer who led that probe when he was a young assistant in Morgenthau's office.

Will his chairmanship of a powerful Senate subcommittee protect New York from a soiled appointment?
photo: Frances M. Roberts
Will his chairmanship of a powerful Senate subcommittee protect New York from a soiled appointment?

Similarly, Carl McCall, the state comptroller, has slammed the management of Mauskopf's inspector general's office in an audit, calling her "unqualified" to be U.S. attorney. Schumer will decide if she's good enough for him.

Research assistance: Jesse Goldstein, Martine Guerrier, Lauren Johnston, Peter G.H. Madsen, Jess Wisloski

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