Daniel L. Feldman

Schumer Suffers, and Hates

In NYC Politics on October 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Many years ago Schumer, then a member of Congress, told a friend of mine that the three people he hated most in the world were Liz Holtzman, Steve Solarz, and me. I had excellent reason to dislike him; why did he dislike me? The following may explain his dislike of Holtzman, who had tragically, in my view, lost her campaign for the U.S. Senate by less than one percent of the vote to Republican Alphonse D’Amato, but in 1981 became Brooklyn District Attorney. I will leave to others the explanation of his dislike for Solarz.

Shortly after Schumer won his primary for Congress on the same day I won mine for the Assembly, and by an even bigger margin, with 78 percent of the vote against two members of the City Council, Schumer became the target of a federal investigation. The Village Voice had run an article in December charging that Schumer had used his legislative employees to work on his congressional campaign, and the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York launched an investigation on that basis. Schumer asked me to recommend a criminal defense attorney, and I suggested Paul Rooney, an excellent solo practitioner who had been a key prosecutor in Robert Morgenthau’s office when he was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District. Schumer engaged Rooney for a while, but then turned to Arthur Liman, a partner at the Paul Weiss law firm with strong political connections as well as great legal skills.

I saw no evidence that Schumer used taxpayer dollars to pay for campaign work. Certainly my own case strongly suggested the contrary. If the time I spent representing him at community events counted as campaign work, taxpayers certainly had not been shortchanged, since I was putting in at least fifty hours a week, and often more, on the investigative work the State paid me to do. But, as a reporter close to the matter told me, and as an article in New York Magazine strongly implied, with Schumer as the obvious source of the implication, Schumer was convinced that I had “dropped the dime” on him to the Village Voice, and was therefore responsible for his torment.

In actuality, as the reporter told me much later, one of our committee staff members, Bob O’Melia, had in fact made the allegations to the Voice. We had hired O’Melia, a former U.S. Marine with a Ph.D., because he had impressed us with his earnestness and intellect, and seemed likely to be a good investigator. As time went on, he did begin to seem somewhat eccentric, but I certainly had no idea that O’Melia would do or had done such a thing as to attack Schumer in such manner until the reporter told me.

I was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury investigating Schumer, and told them exactly what I knew – that in fact I had never seen a shred of evidence that Schumer had shortchanged the State by using committee employees for campaign work.

Nonetheless, Schumer remained convinced that I was the villain responsible for his suffering. And his suffering must have been intense. It took more than three years for the investigations by two successive U.S. Attorneys and then by Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman to conclude. Whatever his faults, he deserves considerable credit for sustaining the tremendous energy with which he pursued his congressional and political interests while under such agonizing psychological pressure.

Why blame me? I speculate as follows. As explained in previous postings, on the basis of the vast differences in our personal style, Schumer had probably concluded, prior to my successful Assembly campaign, that I had minimal ability as a politician. In fact, compared with him, I did lack many of the important political traits. When I won, however, he may have reassessed, and concluded that I resembled him more than he had thought. On that basis, he may have come to a wrong conclusion.

Had Schumer just won the Assembly seat, with me having won the congressional seat – the next higher rung on the political ladder – he would undoubtedly have taken the opportunity to destroy me in order to clear a path for himself. He may well have been persuaded that I had “ratted” on him on the basis of his conclusion that I must resemble him more than he had imagined. In this he would have been mistaken.



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