Ken Lovett passes on some gossip about a quickened pace of departures in Eric Schneiderman’s AG shop:
The latest set to leave is press officer Michelle Duffy, who is going to work for Cuomo. She follows press shop alumni Danny Kanner and Dani Lever, who both left to join the Obama campaign, Jennifer Givner, who went to work for the Cuomo administration, and Lauren Passalacqua, who joined lame-duck Mayor Bloomberg’s press shop.
In addition, Blake Zeff, a former Hillary Clinton aide, quietly left recently to write about the presidential race, and several lawyers have also departed or are in the process of doing so, insiders said.
Several sources cited low morale in the office stemming from Schneiderman’s hard-charging chief of staff Neal Kwatra as at least a factor in some departures. But others said most who left went on to better or higher-paying jobs.
This is definitely true about the communications shop. I’ve worked in the past with Lauren Passalacqua and Danny Kanner, both of whom have left. I wouldn’t call that completely abnormal; press aides move around all the time. But there is some behind-the-scenes here worth sharing.
Andrew Cuomo was the previous occupant of the AG’s office. And he not only took a lot of his own people when he moved up to the Governor’s mansion, but he created a new office in Albany, the Department of Financial Services, to cover a lot of the same territory as the AG’s shop, the often-described “Sheriff of Wall Street.” So Schneiderman was behind the eight-ball from day one in terms of staffing. He had to bring in his own people quickly.
Kwatra didn’t work on Schneiderman’s campaign, though he did help out in the primary. In the general election in 2010, he ran Cuomo’s field operation, coming from the hotel workers’ union UNITE Here and the Hotel and Motel Trades Council in New York. So he didn’t come right out of Schneiderman’s legislative office.
I have had my run-ins with Kwatra before, explained at too much length on this site. The claim that his style has alienated members of Schneiderman’s office doesn’t come from me, but from the Daily News.
I’ll say this. Much like a winning sports team, everyone wants to be part of a winner and nobody wants to be part of a loser. If there’s a perception that things are getting done in a political office, and that the office is rising to prominence, in a general sense people want to associate themselves with that. Maybe these staff departures have their particular reasons, and maybe they’re just climbs up the political ladder. The mayor of New York City or the Obama campaign or the New York Governor may be perceived as a step up from the New York Attorney General. I don’t know how Blake Zeff’s departure “to write about the presidential race” fits with that explanation, or all the lawyers leaving. But if the office was nailing corrupt actors left and right and gaining a reputation for toughness and accountability, I just don’t think this would be happening.