Elected as New York State Attorney General in 1994, Dennis C. Vacco was the first attorney from western New York elected to the position in over 75 years. As Attorney General, Dennis Vacco expanded the traditional role of the office by resurrecting the long dormant criminal prosecution powers of the Office. Using these powers, Attorney General Vacco created a-first-in-the Nation internet child pornography unit which targeted online child predators. The expansion of the powers of the Attorney General which Mr. Vacco presided over has been employed by his successors to prosecute a wide range of alleged abuse in the financial services sector. Additionally, Attorney General Vacco expanded the Office’s consumer protection role by creating the Health Care Bureau in order to serve as an advocate for healthcare consumers; assisting them to resolve disputes between the patients and their HMOs and other health insurers.
In 1997, Dennis Vacco personally argued the case of Vacco vs. Quill before the United States Supreme Court. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals had previously ruled that the Constitution protected the right of an individual to end one’s life by means of physician-assisted suicide. The issue and case received substantial media attention and the United States Marshall proclaimed on the day of the argument that the Court had never hosted so many spectators. In June of 1997 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the State of New York, by proclaiming that physician-assisted suicide was not a right protected by the Constitution. Vacco’s role in this important decision was applauded by organizations representing the elderly and disabled.
In 1998 Mr. Vacco served as one of the lead negotiators seeking to resolve the multi-state lawsuits against the tobacco industry. Through his efforts, New York State was awarded the single largest share of the $200 billion settlement awarded to the States.
Prior to being elected as Attorney General, Mr. Vacco was appointed as the United States Attorney for the Western District of New York State by President Ronald Reagan. He continued to serve in that capacity under President George H. Bush and he resigned his position at the request of President Clinton. While United States Attorney, Mr. Vacco served as the Chairman of the Advisory Committee to the Attorney General on Environmental Enforcement, and created the first environmental task force in the nation which joined State, local and Federal resources in an effort to combat environmental crime.
Since December of 2009 Mr. Vacco has been a Partner in Buffalo law firm of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman, LLP. Mr. Vacco’s practice is directed toward commercial matters focusing on litigation and transactions. In addition Mr. Vacco’s practice also concentrates on government affairs and regulatory compliance. Mr. Vacco has appeared in state and federal courts throughout the country including an argument before the Nevada Supreme Court.
Prior to his Senate confirmation as United States Attorney in 1988, Mr. Vacco served as an Assistant District Attorney in Erie County, New York. Vacco, who was hired by the District Attorney upon graduation from the University Of Buffalo School Of Law in 1978, was promoted to Grand Jury Bureau Chief in 1982. In the District Attorney’s Office Vacco was well known for his trial work. He lead the investigation into the 1987 double homicides of two Roman Catholic priest and ultimately tried the case which lead to the conviction of one of the defendants.
In February of 1999, Mr. Vacco was recruited by Waste Management Inc to become vice president for government affairs in the northeast and Canada. In July of 1999 he was promoted to become the president of Waste Management of New York, LLC a subsidiary of the parent company. With no formal degree in business management, Dennis Vacco was responsible for a company which had over seven hundred and fifty million dollars in gross revenue. Due to the size of the investment which the company made to acquire large holdings in New York City, Mr. Vacco was in regular contact with the CEO and the Board of Directors. At the time of his promotion in July of 1999, the company was loosing over twenty-five million dollars a year through it’s New York City operations. As a result of a strategy which Vacco’s team prepared and he presented to the Board of Directors, those losses were reversed and in his last year with the company the New York City operations netted a three and a half million dollar profit, which improved the profit margin of the entire New York state region by over twenty-eight million dollars.
In 2004 Mr. Vacco formed full service government affairs consulting firm based in Albany, New York. Mr. Vacco’s clients included businesses in the insurance, gaming, environmental, healthcare and educational sectors of the economy.
In April of 2008 Mr. Vacco left the consulting firm in order to concentrate his law practice on serving various companies as outside general counsel. In December of 2009 he joined the law firm of Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman.
Mr. Vacco previously served on the Board of Directors of Welch’s and the National Grape Cooperative and presently serves on the Board of Directors of American Coradius International, LLC.
Mr. Vacco earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics from Colgate University in 1974 and his Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the University Of Buffalo School Of Law in 1978. He resides in Boston, New York with his wife Kelly, who is also an attorney, and their two teenage sons.