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Cyrus Vance Is a Product of Dangerous One-Party Rule

When elected officials regularly run unopposed, there's no democratic accountability.

Erik Mcgregor/ZUMA Press/NewscomErik Mcgregor/ZUMA Press/NewscomIt's been a bad month for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. First there were reports that he declined to indict Ivanka Trump and her brother Donald Jr. for allegedly misleading prospective real estate buyers, but not til after Vance had received a large donation from Donald Sr.'s lawyer. Then Vance turned out to have had the same damning audio recording of Harvey Weinstein admitting to groping a woman's breasts that The New Yorker published Tuesday, yet he declined to pursue the case.

The Manhattan DA's office has more than 800 investigators on its payroll and took in more than $12 billion from asset forfeiture since 2009. It was more than capable of doing the work that Ronan Farrow did for The New Yorker, but it didn't.

In a normal election, this kind of two-punch October Surprise would be more enough to sink a candidate. But New York City doesn't have normal elections. Republicans offer largely token opposition in citywide races, and most of the borough-wide races (save for Staten Island) are the same way.

While New York City allows "fusion tickets," where a candidate runs on the line of more than one party, no third party has taken advantage of this recently to mount a credible challenge to Democratic rule.

This is the result: A district attorney faces serious questions about his ethics and his prosecutorial decisions, in a case that's getting massive attention in the news cycle, yet he has little fear of it costing him his job at the ballot box in a few weeks. (A write-in challenger is now trying to mount an effort against Vance, but the task seems close to impossible.)

Last year Vance's office handled 80,000 cases, according to its annual report. That includes 67,246 arrests for misdemeanors and violations—touted as a victory because it represented a 27 percent drop from 2010, when there were 92,585 arrests for misdemeanors and violations.

The DA's office also touted its work on "crimes against women." Needless to say, that didn't mean investigating powerful men who abuse their positions; it meant analyzing "online advertisements placed by prostitution services, which enables prosecutors to identify patterns which lead to the discovery of both victims and perpetrators of human trafficking."

Cyrus Vance was first elected in 2009. He ran against a number of other candidates in that year's Democratic primary, but he has not faced any real opponents since then. That kind of lack of opposition makes accountability exceedingly difficult. Vance's 2016 annual report insisted he was committed to criminal justice reform, but without the pressures and checks of competitive politics, that's hard to verify.

Vance's strong job security also undermines his excuses for taking money from lawyers tied to subjects of his investigations. He has denied any quid pro quo, insisting the contributions were "unfortunately, a part of running for office." But they're not. Even in competitive races, it's morally bankrupt to argue that you have to take money from everyone because your opponent is raising money too. When an incumbent faces no serious opposition, it's beyond preposterous.

But why would Vance worry about saying something patently ridiculous? It's not like New Yorkers have any other choice.

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  • paranoid android||

    This never would have happened on Jack McCoy's watch.

  • josh||

    Plus...hotter ADA's!

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  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Harvey Weinstein admitting to groping a woman's breasts that The New Yorker published Tuesday, yet he declined to pursue the case.

    Palin's Buttplug rejects your reality and replaces it with his own. BREITFART!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    but without the pressures and checks of competitive politics, that's hard to verify.

    By the way, I hear what you're saying, but sometimes running with opposition isn't all that much better, especially when the opposition candidates essentially agree with each other on 100% of the issues, but merely promise to do whatever they're promising to do, but harder and better-er than the opposition.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    But why would Vance worry about saying something patently ridiculous? It's not like New Yorkers have any other choice.

    Is it possible New Yorkers don't have any other choice because the political establishment knows they'd summarily reject any other choice?

  • AB1979||

  • John||

    No, it just shows how money and power will always seek each other and corrupt. This is why you have as few laws as necessary and limit the power of the government in any way. Plenty of places have vibrant two-party systems and competitive elections, and the DA's in those places are still corrupt assholes and the law that is applied to those with wealth and connections is different than the one applied to those who do not.

  • Tony||

    " This is why you have as few laws as necessary"

    It's not illegal corruption if it's not illegal!

  • John||

    Jesus Christ, you are stupid Tony. I mean you are really stupid. If you have fewer laws and the government has less power, the effect of the inevitable corruption is less. That is not a hard concept to grasp if you have an IQ above room temperature.

  • Myshkin78||

    Socialism requires a police state. The more laws the better if that's the goal. Personally, I'd prefer good, old-fashioned liberty.

  • AB1979||

    There's no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren't enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.

    -Ayn Rand

    It's not hard for anyone with a shred of dignity or intellect to understand....which suggests exactly why Tony would struggle with the sentiment expressed.

  • John||

    If the Trumps were really guilty of real estate fraud, why didn't the US Attorney bring charges? Defrauding investors is a federal as well as a state crime. Did Trump's lawyer pay off the Obama DOJ?

  • Tony||

    "We want them for treason, not this pissant real estate fraud stuff."

  • John||

    Yes Tony, you want to murder your political enemies. We know that.

  • AB1979||

    I think you would have been perfectly happy to pull an Eliot Ness on Trump and get him on whatever charges you could...then sentence him to an improbably long term. To pretend that the prosecutors would only charge him if they can get him for one of the most serious crimes rather than get the same results by charging him with something much less dramatic ignores pretty much all of human history.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Then Vance turned out to have had the same damning audio recording of Harvey Weinstein admitting to groping a woman's breasts that The New Yorker published Tuesday, yet he declined to pursue the case.

    It's kind of like the 21st century version of Operation Eagle Claw.

  • Sevo||

    "When elected officials regularly run unopposed, there's no democratic accountability."

    I live in CA; this is not a surprise to me.
    When I get a suggestion to contact my representative, I laugh and laugh.

  • CE||

    You know who else was a product of dangerous one party rule?

  • Rhywun||

    Veronica Sawyer?

  • Rat on a train||

    Lambda Lambda Lambda

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    So Vance won't dance if you give him money??

    https://youtu.be/wjpAYfCFmJ4

  • Jerryskids||

    Damn, I'm old if nobody but me realizes that Cyrus Vance is not just the product of one-party rule. He had a father, you know.

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • GeneralWeygand||

    What, pray tell, was his name? /sarc

  • Unicorn Abattoir||

    Squirrel Vance

  • Inigo Montoya||

    Not that old. The name sounded familiar. Cyrus Vance had something to do with the Carter administration, right?

    I guess that must be this guy's father.

    I guess when the "family business" is politics and you follow your elder's footsteps, it's a lot like being a child of a mafia family, except that at least most mobsters are honest about being crooks, whereas politicians add hypocrisy to their thieving and brutality.

  • ||

    Yeah, seeing the name took me back, I thought Cyrus Vance died years ago. And apparently the one I remembered did. That is the one who was SecState in the Carter administration who's accomplishment as most incompetent was only overtaken by "Mad" Albright (who was then overtaken by Hillary Clinton as the most incompetent SecState EVER).

    Unfortunately American political life is full of stories of connected or otherwise hyped incompetents reaching high office - JFK, oops did I just say that?

  • Myshkin78||

    Bagger Vance?

  • josh||

    What's important is they're pretending to do something NOW.

  • Uncle Jay||

    RE: Cyrus Vance Is a Product of Dangerous One-Party Rule
    When elected officials regularly run unopposed, there's no democratic accountability.

    Since when was there any accountability for anyone?

  • mtrueman||

    "Since when was there any accountability for anyone?"

    He's accountable to those who've paid for his lavish election expenses.

  • Sevo||

    mtrueman|8.30.17 @ 1:42PM|#"
    "Spouting nonsense is an end in itself.

  • Carter Mitchell||

    Well, the bottom line is: they're New Yorkers. If Washington is a swamp, New York is a cesspool. Anyone foolish enough to live there deserves what they get. What they won't get is any sympathy from me.

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