Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance is facing questions regarding the ethics of some of his campaign donations. And in an exclusive interview with NY1, Vance said he would have done things differently. Our Zack Fink has the story.
District Attorney Cy Vance says he regrets taking campaign money from defense attorneys with cases before his office.
"I certainly, with hindsight being 20/20, I would perhaps have done things different in terms of receiving contributions," Vance told me. "And since I'm prepared to not accept contributions from lawyers, I would have done things different."
But it's the type of clients that are drawing extra scrutiny. Vance declined to prosecute President Trump's two oldest children for fraud in 2012 over a real estate deal.
And he did not pursue sexual misconduct charges against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in 2015. Weinstein has been accused of being a serial sexual predator by numerous women.
Vance took money from attorney Elkan Ambramowitz prior to the Weinstein case, which is now drawing him criticism.
"It is the kind of potential conflict that I would address," Vance said. "Elkan is an exceptional lawyer, respected by many. I don't think he had contributed close in time necessarily to the representation he was involved with. But yes, I would certainly be prepared to say that if Elkan came before the office, that I should not be able to receive campaign funds from Elkan."
Vance acknowledges the legal community is small and friendly, but denies money buys access to him or his office.
"We operate, obviously in a community of New York County lawyers," Vance said. "And it's entirely understandable that I would see lawyers at functions around the town, and in some cases these are lawyers I've known for years. That can't be eliminated."
The district attorney is bringing in a third party to review all campaign contributions he receives to set a new policies going forward. He has stopped taking donations from defense attorneys in the interim. Vance is running for re-election unopposed next month.
"I did not anticipate those events to become the major news items that they were," Vance said. "And the timing of them was just the way the world works."
At least one assemblyman has introduced legislation to limit the amount of money district attorneys can take from defense attorneys. But given the fact that Vance is waiting on recommendations, that bill or something like it could be part of a broader reform package that comes out of Albany.