Dennis Vacco

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Dennis C. Vacco
Dennis C. Vacco.jpg
Vacco in March, 2015
62nd New York State Attorney General
In office
January 1, 1995 – December 31, 1998
Governor George Pataki
Preceded by G. Oliver Koppell
Succeeded by Eliot Spitzer
Personal details
Born (1952-08-16) August 16, 1952 (age 63)
Buffalo, New York, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Kelly Vacco
Children Alex, Connor
Residence Buffalo, New York
Alma mater Colgate University
University at Buffalo Law School
Profession Lawyer

Dennis C. Vacco (born August 16, 1952) is an American lawyer and politician. He graduated with a B.A. from Colgate University in 1974, a J.D. from the University at Buffalo Law School in 1978, and was admitted to the bar in 1979.


Vacco was born in Buffalo, New York, and was raised in Western New York State.

Political career[edit]

As Erie County Assistant District Attorney[edit]

Vacco was an Assistant District Attorney of Erie County from 1978 to 1988, and US Attorney for the Western District of New York from 1988 until the beginning of the Clinton administration in 1993.

As New York State Attorney General[edit]

Vacco was New York State Attorney General from January 1, 1995 to December 31, 1998.

1994 election[edit]

In 1994, Vacco defeated Karen Burstein, the Democratic nominee. One week before the election, Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari announced that Burstein was not qualified to serve as attorney general because she was a lesbian. The combination of Molinari's remarks, a strong national Republican showing, and the win of George Pataki in the governor's race, led to Vacco narrowly defeating Burstein.[1] The New York Times called Molinari's remarks, "gutter politics."[2]

Selected cases[edit]

Vacco brought national attention through a series of prosecutions brought against ISPs, including Dreamscape Online for distributing child pornography. The principal defendant, Buffnet, eventually pled guilty to a charge of fourth degree facilitation of a felony and was fined $5,000.[3]

Vacco played a prominent role in Mayor Rudy Giuliani's attempt to require Time Warner Cable to carry the Fox News Channel. An attempt by Vacco to bring an anti-trust violation charge against Time-Warner failed.

As Attorney General, Vacco also argued the landmark assisted suicide case Vacco v. Quill before the United States Supreme Court. He successfully defended the state's ban on the practice, winning the case by a 9–0 vote.

1998 Election[edit]

In 1998, Vacco was defeated in his bid for re-election by future New York Governor Eliot Spitzer by approximately 0.6% of the total votes cast.[4] He is the only attorney general since 1925 not be re-elected to a second term.

Electoral history[edit]

Dennis Vacco (Seated on Main Stage, Front, Far Left End) at 1996 Dole-Kemp Rally at the University at Buffalo, NY

Vacco's electoral history has been tracked, online, at Our Campaigns, and it has been reflected here.[4]

New York Attorney General Election 1998
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Eliot Spitzer 2,084,948 48.2 +.82
Republican Dennis Vacco (inc.) 2,059,762 47.62 -1.66
Independence Catherine Abate 81,439 1.88 +1.07
Right to Life Robert W. Dapelo 60,399 1.40 -.36
Libertarian Daniel A. Conti, Jr. 19,864 .46 +.05
Green Johann L. Moore 18,984 .44
New York Attorney General Election 1994
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Karen S. Burstein 2,206,188 47.38 -1.90
Republican Dennis Vacco 2,294,528 49.28 0
Independence Thomas M. Hartman 37,500 0.81 -48.47
Right to Life Alfred I. Skidmore 85,649 1.84 -47.44
Libertarian Dan Conti 19,202 0.41 -48.86
  • Also in this election, Nancy Rosenstock received 13,416 votes (0.29%) for the Socialist Workers Party.[4]
  • Vacco also ran on both the Conservative Party of New York and Tax Cut Now tickets in this election.[4]

Post-political career[edit]

After leaving the Attorney General's office, Vacco was a lobbyist in New York State.[5][6] He was identified as having made inconsistencies in filings that he made in that position.[5][6] In April 2006, after a six-month investigation, Vacco was cleared of allegations that he violated lobbying regulations in New York State.[7] The investigation "centered on whether Vacco’s firm had an illegal contingency-fee contract with a Rochester businessman in exchange for helping him win a casino deal with an Oklahoma tribe.[7] In October 2005, Vacco’s lobbying firm agreed to pay the state $50,000 in connection with the questionable contract, but it was not required to admit wrongdoing."[7]

After being a lobbyist, Vacco worked as Vice-President for New York Operations of Waste Management, Inc. In 2007, he was a member of former Erie County Executive Chris Collins' executive transition committee.[5][6] An article in the New York Times of February 19, 1999, raised the issue of his joining Waste Management in a "Quid-pro-quo" arrangement in which he represented New York State against Waste Management in a negotiated anti-trust settlement. He moved to Waste Management several weeks after he negotiated a settlement with them for New York State. When asked about the apparent conflict, he replied that "I joined Waste Management because of the company's commitment to sound business practices and to being a good corporate citizen." In response to questions about the settlement and the job offer, Mr. Vacco said "Any interpretation or suggestion that this settlement - which included the United States Department of Justice - was connected to my employment by Waste Management - is preposterous and false."[8]

Currently, Vacco is a partner in the Buffalo, New York law firm, Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, LLP.[9][10]


  1. ^ One candidate's lifestyle becomes other's ax to grind, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, IL: Tribune Newspaper, 17 October 1994, Quindlen, A., Retrieved 11 November 2013
  2. ^ Opinion: Guy Molinari, from the gutter The New York Times, New York, NY: The New York Times Company, 12 October 1994, Retrieved 11 November 2013
  3. ^ ISP guilty in child porn case,, New York, NY: Conde Nast, 16 February 2001, Sheeres, J., Retrieved 11 November 2013
  4. ^ a b c d e Vacco, Dennis, Our Campaigns, 1998 & 1994, Retrieved 8 January 2014.
  5. ^ a b c "Collins adds 10 to transition team". Buffalo News\Berkshire Hathaway (Buffalo, New York). 21 November 2007. 
  6. ^ a b c "Collins adds 10 to transition team". McClatchy - Tribune Business News (Washington, DC). 21 November 2007. 
  7. ^ a b c Mob boss' son boasted of hook in Albany, New York Post, New York, NY: The New York Post, 25 January 2007, Smith, K.C., Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  8. ^ New York Times, Feb. 19, 1999 by Clifford J. Levy
  9. ^ Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, LLP: Business Experience: Dennis Vacco,, Buffalo, NY, Retrieved 11 November 2013
  10. ^ Watchdog report: Vacco's work on LDCs costs $167k, Democrat and, Buffalo, NY: Gannett, 8 November 2013, Riley, D., Retrieved 11 November 2013

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
G. Oliver Koppell
New York State Attorney General
Succeeded by
Eliot Spitzer