2010 CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
DEMOCRATIC RURAL CONFERENCE
Candidate’s name and home address: John P. “Sean” Coffey, 3 Plateau Cir. E, Bronxville NY
Position for which you are a candidate: New York State Attorney General
Address for all DRC Correspondence: Sean Coffey for Attorney General
P.O. Box 4533 Grand Central Station
New York, NY 10163
Telephone: 212.557.6100 Cell Phone: 914.536.7975
Fax: 212.557.6102 E-mail: SeanCoffey@coffey2010.com
When do you wish to schedule your interview: April 10 at 1:00 PM in Schenectady
Staff liaison with DRC: Cassie Prugh, 518.423.9153 (cell), Cassie@coffey2010.com
List your qualifications for this office including but not limited to other offices you have held,
educational background, etc.
Chaminade High School, Mineola, NY (1974)
United States Naval Academy, Annapolis, MD (1978) (B.S. in Ocean Engineering, with merit)
Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, D.C. (1987) (J.D., magna cum laude)
Legal Career: I have extensive experience in each of the three principal roles played by the Attorney
General: criminal prosecutor (Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York (1991-95));
defense lawyer (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind Wharton & Garrison (1987-91) and Latham & Watkins (1995-98)
(as counsel and partner); and affirmative litigator (Bernstein Litowitz Berger & Grossmann (1998-2009)
(as partner and eventually co-managing partner).
I handled complex cases where billions of dollars were at stake (e.g., the WorldCom, Lehman, and Nortel
securities fraud cases); represented clients victimized by the fallout of the largest non-profit bankruptcy
(Baptist Foundation of Arizona) and largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history (WorldCom); defended
Xerox Corporation against a lawsuit that imperiled the future of operations (and employment) at its
facility in Webster, NY; pursued claims against corporate officers who had engaged in manipulation of
accounting in order to mislead investors, fraudulent “upcoding” of medical bills, and deceit regarding
mortgage securitizations. As an Assistant U.S. Attorney I worked closely with state and federal law
enforcement agencies in prosecuting narcotics and violent crimes and conducted several significant white-
collar criminal investigations.
In addition to obtaining historic recoveries by taking two of the most notable fraud cases in recent
memory to trial (WorldCom ($6.15 billion – the largest in history at the time) and Baptist Foundation of
Arizona ($217 million – the largest ever paid by accounting firm Arthur Andersen)), the teams I led
frequently extracted settlement concessions that effected positive change in corporate behavior, for
example, requiring more shareholder input regarding corporate compensation, requiring more
transparency in how companies reported their financial health to the investing public, and facilitating
more effective response to employee whistle-blowing. I am particularly proud of the fact that in the
WorldCom case we made the top officers and (for the first time ever) outside directors personally pay
millions of dollars as part of the settlement.
In virtually every major case I handled over the past decade my adversaries were powerful companies
represented by the biggest, most well-funded law firms in the country – law firms that are routinely hired
when companies find themselves under scrutiny by the New York Attorney General. My reputation
among those firms as an advocate to be reckoned with would undoubtedly inure to the benefit of New
York. As recounted in many news articles, I have particular expertise in taking on misconduct on Wall
Street and was dubbed “Wall Street’s New Nemesis” by Bloomberg News in 2005. As a prospective
lawyer for New York State it is noteworthy that I routinely represented a host of governmental clients,
including the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, and the
Mississippi and Ohio Public Employees’ Retirement Systems.
Lifetime of Public Service. I took the oath of office at Annapolis at age 17. After approximately eight
years on active duty, I continued to serve in the Navy as a reservist for another eighteen years,
notwithstanding the demands of a legal career in New York City. My annual duty assignments included
armed flights in support of the embargo of the former Yugoslavia and counter-narcotic patrols over Latin
America and the Gulf of Mexico. I was selected to command one of the Navy’s elite reserve P-3 Orion
squadrons and awarded the Meritorious Service Medal for my service as skipper. I was promoted to
Captain and selected to command the reserve component of the Enterprise carrier battle group staff. I
then worked for the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon, concentrating on issues relating to the stresses
imposed on our reservists by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I retired from the Navy in 2004 after thirty
years of service. My other military decorations include the Joint Service Commendation Medal, the
National Defense Service Medal, and the Navy Pistol Expert Medal.
1. ABILITY TO LEAD THE ENTIRE STATE – What contact and experiences have you had with
parts of the state, other than where you currently reside, which demonstrate your recognition of the
geographic, demographic and economic diversity of the state and your ability to provide leadership
on behalf of all New Yorkers?
I have lived my entire life in New York State, excluding my time at Annapolis and on active service with
the Navy. I was born in the Bronx but lived in Niagara as a child while my father, a union carpenter,
helped build the Niagara Power Project. I went to grade school and high school on Long Island, lived
briefly in Manhattan as a junior lawyer, and have lived in Westchester for the past sixteen years with my
wife Anne and our three children.
I am proud of the role I played as a defense lawyer representing Xerox Corp. I spent a great deal of time
in Rochester and at Xerox’ facility in Webster, where operations would have likely shut down (and
hundreds of jobs lost) had Xerox lost the suit. I took the lead case to trial in 1998 and obtained a directed
verdict for Xerox mid-trial, after my cross-examination of the plaintiff.
I think that one life experience pivotal to my personal development enhances my understanding of our
rural economy: seven summers working on my family’s farm in Ireland. My parents emigrated from
Ireland, met in New York, and raised seven children. Starting when I was nine years old, my parents sent
me (their oldest child) to Ireland for three months each summer to work on the farm where my mother
was raised. I learned farm labor first-hand, from milking cows to plowing fields, cutting silage,
harvesting barley, and thinning sugar beet by hand. I witnessed how farmers’ finances are often subject
to the whims of the market, and how quotas can affect farming decisions.
Four of my siblings are graduates of SUNY institutions. I understand the importance of the SUNY
system to our State, in terms of producing capable graduates for the job market, and to many of our rural
counties, which depend heavily on the jobs and intellectual capital at SUNY schools.
I have demonstrated leadership ability throughout my life. As a young naval officer, I was one of a
handful of Lieutenants (junior grade) in the entire Navy designated as a patrol plane mission commander
and authorized to drop a nuclear weapon. As a junior lawyer at Paul Weiss, my peers elected me as chair
of the Associates Committee (loosely akin to a labor union). The Navy selected me to be an intern to the
Joint Chiefs of Staff, personal military assistant to a Vice President, and commander of a squadron and
the reserve component of a carrier battle group staff. As a senior lawyer, I led teams of lawyers in
sprawling litigation involving billions of dollars, and served as co-managing partner of one of the most
respected litigation firms in the United States.
2. KNOWLEDGE OF THE ISSUES – What issues do you believe are of most concern to voters in
rural counties, and what will be your message in addressing those issues?
I believe the issue of most concern to all New Yorkers, and most especially rural voters, is reforming
Albany. I intend to fight in Albany for the same two principles I fought for so successfully on Wall Street:
transparency and accountability. I will pursue ethics reform and campaign finance reform (for example,
public financing for Attorney General and Comptroller candidates). I believe that rural voters will
support my efforts to reduce what I call the “public corruption tax” – the extra money taxpayers pay for
services and contracts because of sweetheart deals and business-as-usual in Albany. I also believe that
rural voters want our next Attorney General to have a demonstrated ability to curb Wall Street excesses,
which we felt State-wide through the loss of tax revenues and jobs. No one is better qualified than I to
hold Wall Street accountable and deter misbehavior. Rural voters also want the next Attorney General to
be tenacious in ensuring that economic development proceeds with due regard to the environment (e.g.,
the Marcellus Shale).
3. PARTY BUILDING – How have you expressed and demonstrated a commitment toward
building our party statewide and what are your ideas for future party building, specific to rural
The political environment this year, especially Upstate, is volatile; voters are angry and rightfully so. I
believe our party has to work hard to turn out our base in the Primary and General elections. We should
embrace the experience of our rural county partners in the party – the DRC – to excite and grow our
party. We should build off of the success of the last several elections where we have seen strong new
Democratic members from rural communities get elected to office. (Before contemplating a run for
Attorney General I was proud to support financially the efforts to turn several Upstate “red” seats in
Congress to “blue” (including Dan Maffei, Eric Massa, and Bill Owens), and to retain several key “blue”
seats (including Scott Murphy and John Hall).) These newly elected Democrats have built organizations
through personalization and education of their communities. I would like to see a program modeled off of
neighbor-to-neighbor grassroots campaigns where personal contact is stressed and campaigns listen and
understand our neighbors’ concerns. In addition, we need to support party building through voter
registration and GOTV for Democratic candidates.
One very effective way to grow the party would be to have on the state-wide ticket a candidate who will
attract independents for vote for the Democratic slate. I respectfully submit that, this year, the best
candidate would have attributes akin to mine. New York needs someone who is not a career politician;
who demonstrated a deep commitment to public service via military service; who went from humble roots
to success through education and hard work; and whose experience and success as a lawyer closely
corresponds to the demands of the office of Attorney General.
4. In the event of a primary for the office you are seeking, will you support the winner of the
Democratic primary? (This calls for a YES or NO answer only.)
5. FAIRNESS IN SHARING POLITICAL POWER - How have you and how will you defend and
further the rights of small counties to be represented in the decision making process and in
governmental and political positions?
I have spent my career fighting on behalf of people who would otherwise be unrepresented, and would do
so on behalf of small counties as your Attorney General. In the coming months I hope to persuade you
that my experiences as a successful attorney, experienced prosecutor, and decorated Naval Officer make
me best qualified to serve as the “people’s lawyer”, dedicated to fighting political corruption in Albany,
making sure banks play by the rules on Wall Street, and holding accountable those who prey on our most
vulnerable citizens and working families.
6. INCLUSION – If elected, how would your administration include the people from DRC counties
and address the issues of concern in those counties?
When travelling the state I talk to voters about how I would model my Attorney General’s office after the
U.S. Attorney’s office in which I served. I’d like to see a greater diversification of staff in the regional
Attorney General’s offices, which will make direct contact between rural communities and divisions
within the Attorney General’s office more efficient.
7. VOTER APPEAL – What qualities or experiences do you have that would attract support from
voters in DRC counties, not just from Democrats but also from non- enrolled voters and cross-over
I believe that my roots demonstrate experiences that voters in the DRC counties can relate to. Growing up
I understood the struggles of a growing family trying to survive and a shrinking wallet. As our economy
changes we’ve seen friends and families move out of Upstate New York to other areas to find work, my
family did the opposite when my parents moved us to Niagara Falls to work on the power project so my
Dad could find work. As a teenager on Long Island my mother wanted to keep me out of trouble so she
sent me to Ireland for summers to work our family’s farm in Cork where I milked cows and heard from
my cousins how lucky I was to live in the United States. I joined the Navy so that I might obtain a free
college education and service my county. I went to law school at night while on active duty. My father
on his death bed told me that he had lived the American Dream because he got the opportunity to come to
America with nothing and sent seven kids to college. Because of my background, experience and drive, I
believe that I will be able to energize voters from all walks of life.
8. CAMPAIGN IN DRC COUNTIES – How would you campaign in DRC counties? Will you
personally appear with local candidates?
Absolutely, I will campaign in DRC counties. As a State-wide Democratic candidate, I believe it’s my
responsibility to help foster the growth of our party in New York – and part of that responsibility means
that I need to demonstrate a commitment to the rural character of New York by supporting and appearing
with local candidates. I will do so.
9. OTHER CRITERIA – Please set forth anything else you want us to consider?
March 22, 2010
Date Signature of the Candidate
THE COMPLETED QUESTIONNAIRE MUST BE POSTMARKED ON OR BEFORE March 22, 2010
and mailed to Phil Jones, 19 Elm Street, Geneseo, NY 14454 or e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
INTERVIEWS WILL BE ARRANGED THEREAFTER. Please indicated your preferred date and time.