ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – Donald Trump asked a state court to light a fire under an ethics commission that failed to respond to – or even to acknowledge – his allegations of misconduct against New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
In a petition in Albany County Supreme Court, Trump claims the “failure and/or refusal” of the state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics to take action on his December 2013 filing “is contrary to the stated purpose of the commission, namely, enhancing the public’s trust and confidence in government and its elected officials through the prevention of corruption, favoritism, undue influence and abuse of official position.”
Trump, on behalf of himself and his business, The Trump Organization, seeks an order to compel a formal response from JCOPE, as the commission is known.
The December filing contended that Schneiderman – elected attorney general in 2010 – violated state public officers’ law by soliciting campaign contributions and favors from Trump, his daughter Ivanka, her husband and others associated with the Trump Organization.
Trump claims the alleged misconduct occurred even as the attorney general’s office launched an investigation into Trump University, a onetime provider of real estate sales courses that Schneiderman sued in 2013, alleging deceptive business practices.
Under state law, JCOPE has 45 days from receipt of a complaint to decide whether to open an investigation, according to Trump. That meant the commission should have voted on whether to pursue his allegations by Jan. 17 this year, he says.
More than six months later, “the commission has never even voted on the complaint,” Trump says, nor confirmed its receipt in writing.
The December filing accused Schneiderman of “relentlessly” pressing Trump and those around him for campaign contributions and favors, including introductions to wealthy acquaintances and private dinners with Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, a real estate developer and owner of the New York Observer.
Schneiderman’s overtures occurred both before and after the November 2010 election – right up until a few months before the attorney general sued Trump and Trump University in 2013, according to the filing.
Meantime, “Mr. Schneiderman, on his own initiative, repeatedly approached members of Trump Org. at different fundraising and social events to assure them, unsolicited, that the investigation into TEI [Trump Entrepreneurial Institute, as Trump University was renamed shortly before it closed in 2010] was not something they needed to worry about and that it would eventually go away on its own,” the December filing claimed.
But, it said, on Aug. 24, 2013 – a Saturday – after negotiations between his office and TEI broke down, Schneiderman sued Trump, TEI and others for deceptive business practices and sought $40 million in restitution.
Schneiderman subsequently engaged in “a defamatory, unstatesmanlike and, ultimately, jury-pool-poisoning media campaign to publicize the lawsuit,” Trump claimed in December. The attorney general also made the circuit of cable and broadcast news shows and used his official Twitter account to “publicly vilify Mr. Trump,” according to the December complaint.
Trump claimed that Schneiderman’s conduct “represents precisely the type of behavior that undermines public confidence in government, a value the commission was established to protect.”
Trump added: “a full and impartial investigation into Mr. Schneiderman’s conduct is warranted.”
The New York Daily News portrayed Trump’s latest lawsuit as a tit-for-tat between “The Apprentice”/”Celebrity Apprentice” star and the attorney general’s office.
The News reported that Schneiderman’s office characterized Trump’s December filing with JCOPE as an attempt to distract attention from the action it had filed against Trump University/TEI last summer.
That action accused Trump and several related organizations of violating state law by using the word “university” without being chartered as one and of engaging in a bait-and-switch scheme with real estate seminars focused more on “upselling” to costlier courses than on teaching skills. Thousands of participants were duped, Schneiderman claimed.
JCOPE spokesman John Milgrim could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Alan Garten, executive vice president and general counsel, represents the Trump Organization and Donald Trump.
- Steven Price v. Uber Technologies Inc.
- Modern Art