Eric Schneiderman, captain of the ExxonKnew ship before it hit an iceberg, tormentor of the pipelines and tiny pro-gas towns, has intriguing playmates.
The Daily Caller just revealed something very ugly about New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Their article, “Anti-Exxon NY AG Raked In $264,000 From Some Of The Company’s Biggest Rivals” lays it all out. They reported donations from the Rockefeller tribe, George Soros and family and this:
Schneiderman has [political donations] received from lawyers with the class action law firm Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll who could have directly benefited from another state investigation into Exxon.
I was intrigued by this and decided to see who else was donating to this nasty little tyrant’s next campaign (2018). What I found explains exactly how endemic cronyism is to New York government.
According to New York State records, Eric Schneiderman has already raised over $6.4 million for a campaign two years from now. A little over $1 million of that is left over from his 2014 campaign, the rest raised from new donors. Topping the list is Roberta Schneiderman, his step-mother, who gave $100,000 in June, 2015 and another $50,000 in January of this year. The second biggest giver is Playboy’s 2010 Playmate of the Year, Hope Dworaczyk Smith. She gave $65,100 on January 13 of this year.
This interesting tidbit sparked a story in the New York Post, where it was revealed she is the wife of Robert F. Smith, the founder of Vista Equity Partners. This Robert Smith had already given $60,000 to the Schneiderman campaign on December 11, 2015, meaning the big-spending couple gave the AG a total of $125,100 in 33 days. The Post story further reveals this:
Her hubby is the founder of Vista Equity Partners, which has attracted nearly $1 billion in investments from the New York Common Retirement Fund over the last seven years. He donated over $150,000 to Schneiderman during that period.
That last bit appears to be somewhat out of date given the size of the recent contributions. The part about the New York Common Retirement Fund is also now old news. Just this May the monthly report of investment transactions by the Fund reports this:
Vista Equity Partners, Vista Foundation Fund III, L. P. – $400 million commitment. Vista Foundations III will focus on enterprise software companies that provide mission-critical solutions to various end markets. The funding of capital calls will come from cash. Vista is an existing relationship with the CRF. No placement agents were involved in this transaction. This investment closed on May 19, 2016.
There was preceded by two similar announcements made in March of this year for a total of $700 million. That’s a total of $1.1 billion in new lending to Schneiderman’s playmates just since the news of Hope Smith’s donation to his campaign. Robert F. Smith is a very big player when it comes to his friends in New York. He was also feted at a conference put on in February by the Office of State Comptroller, which oversees the Fund.
Now, there’s nothing necessarily illegal about Vista Equity Partners using the New York Common Retirement Fund as its private piggy bank. But, Eric Schneiderman has the power to make some equity investors untouchables for such a public investor. When he went after other private equity funds with one of his investigations in 2012 he effectively eliminated some of the competition for that retirement fund cash. Some, including Forbes, have defended Schneiderman, but only examined the matter from the standpoint of why Vista Equity Partners was excluded from the investigation. The impact on the competition for retirement money wasn’t considered.
Another story, from the NewYorkCourtCorruption blog, did consider that angle and quoted a former Maine Attorney General and current director of Columbia University’s National State Attorneys General Program:
…there are real concerns about the appearance of conflicts of interest when hedge fund and private equity donors could benefit greatly by attorney general investigations into their competitors.
No one is saying Eric Schneiderman is violating the law here by taking so much money from the Smith’s, but it clearly stinks of cronyism that defines New York State politics. Smith is using public employee retirement money to make himself fabulously rich making private equity deals. His investment in Schneiderman may be entirely genuine but it also happens to ensure there will be fewer competitors for that public piggy bank money.
This cronyism practiced and enabled by Schneiderman is also found in the way he has made himself the water boy for the NRDC gang. We’ve written about that many times before and don’t need to do so again here, but it’s that cronyism that is stopping Upstate New York from getting a pipeline and the Southern Tier from getting fracking to revitalize a dying economy. Meanwhile, Schneiderman’s playmates from Texas (where Hope Smith comes from) and San Francisco (which Robert Smith cites as his address) access a cool $1.1 billion of New York State public money to finance deals allowing them to have John Legend serenade the bride at their Villa Cimbrone wedding.