District Attorneys ignore political corruption just as much as police corruption

In the wake of the failure by District Attorney Daniel Donovan (R-Staten Island) to return a grand jury indictment in the chokehold homicide of Eric Garner, advocates for police reform have seized on the apparent failure to hold New York Police Department officers accountable for homicides they commit to call for either a special prosecutor or a new commission empowered to both investigate and prosecute cases of corruption and misconduct against the NYPD.

Based on a long string of similar failures by district attorneys to investigate and prosecute cases of political corruption, government reform activists should press the state legislature to either appoint a special prosecutor or to create a permanent commission empowered to both investigate and prosecute cases of political corruption.

Of course, we saw how the Moreland Commission was sabotaged by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-New York).  Just because Gov. Cuomo obstructed the work of the Moreland Commission until he finally pulled the plug on it doesn't mean that we still don't need such a commission similarly empowered.

As Progress Queens has reported, some of the players, who had a role in creating, funding, or supervising the now-defunct non-profit, Corona-Elmhurst Center for Economic Development, created conflicts of interest for the Queens District Attorney's Office.

Apparent conflicts of interest may explain why District Attorney Richard Brown (D-Queens) did not investigate or prosecute any case of mismanagement following controversies at the Center for Economic Development.

In 2009, The New York Daily News reported that then New York State Assemblymember José Peralta (D-Queens) raised $500,000 in taxpayer funds for the Center for Economic Development, but the non-profit was an inactive organisation that never reported how it used its funding.  Approximately half of that money was funded by appropriations obtained U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) and Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York).

For Queens District Attorney Brown to have investigated the Center for Economic Development, the Queens District Attorney would have had to put one of his key political supporters into a potentially, politically embarrassing situation.

In order to first run for office and to keep running for reëlection, the Queens District Attorney must run with the approval of the chair of the Queens Democratic Party.  This is due to the fact that the Democratic Party is the dominant force in Queens politics.  Conflicts of interest for the Queens District Attorney may also arise through the various campaign consultants and lobbyists employed by other politicians, who share such relationships with the chair of the Queens Democratic Party, some government reform activists say.  The chair of the Queens Democratic Party is U.S. Rep. Crowley.  In the past, Rep. Crowley has also employed the services of The Parkside Group, a group, which, in the past, has also provided campaign services to Senator Peralta and others.

Parkside, as Progress Queens has also reported, was the preferred campaign consultant for the New York State Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, or the DSCC, further potentially putting the Queens District Attorney's Office in a position that would be adversarial to high-ranking state Democratic Party officials, perhaps explaining why the Queens District Attorney's Office has remained mum as several news publications, including Progress Queens, have raised questions about Parkside's relationship with the DSCC,  providing further support for the need of an independent prosecutor or commission that would tackle cases that otherwise conflict district attorneys.

Even though efforts to pass reforms out of Albany are complicated by the corrupt relationships between State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan), Gov. Cuomo, and the power-sharing agreement between Republicans and Democrats in the State Senate, voters must continue to demand reforms, including the appointment of either a special prosecutor or the creation of a permanent commission empowered to both investigate and prosecute cases of political corruption -- on top of police corruption and misconduct.

  -- Progress Queens