Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. will have an outside independent auditor review how his office handles campaign donations, the DA announced in an op-ed published late Sunday in the New York Daily News.
Vance said the Columbia Law School-based Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity will conduct a 90-day review of donations and present the office with a recommendation for how to handle them moving forward.
The move was in response to the “firestorm” experienced in the wake of recent revelations that Vance’s office declined to pursue charges in two separate incidents where attorneys involved were financially connected to his campaigns for office, the DA said.
The first revelation, published in The New Yorker on Oct. 4, involved an investigation, beginning in 2010, into Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.’s potentially misleading prospective buyers of housing units in Trump SoHo. The siblings were represented by their father’s longtime lawyer, Kasowitz Benson Torres name attorney Marc Kasowitz. According to the report, Kasowitz, a Vance donor, met with Vance directly about the investigation, which ultimately never led to charges. Six months after, Kasowitz helped raise $50,000 for Vance.
After the story broke, Vance said he was returning $32,000 donated directly by Kasowitz.
The second revelation, reported on Oct. 10 by The New Yorker, was that Vance’s office declined to bring charges against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in 2015. An Italian model went to police, claiming Weinstein had groped her. The next day, wearing a wire, she met with him at a hotel, where she confronted him over why he grabbed her.
“I’m used to that,” he told her.
Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello name attorney Elkan Abramowitz, a former law partner of Vance’s, was retained by Weinstein, according to The New York Times. Ultimately, Vance’s office declined to pursue charges, even as legal observers have said the office brings similar charges against less well-known parties with even less evidence on a regular basis.
According to state campaign finance filings, Abramowitz has personally donated more than $26,000 to Vance’s election efforts since 2008.
In his op-ed, Vance restated his position that donations from those involved in legal actions have no influence on the decisions of his office.
“Over the past few days, I’ve learned that it’s not enough for me to have confidence in my independence from donors,” he said.
Vance stated that, “notwithstanding New York’s lax campaign finance laws and sky-high contribution limits” in New York state, he was “prepared to dramatically restrict who can donate money to our campaign — including lawyers — and the amounts that our contributors are able to give.”
“At the end of the day, I don’t expect people to agree with every call that we make,” he said. “But I want them to have faith that we make those calls without fear or favor, based on the merits alone.”
A spokeswoman at CAPI could not be reached for comment.