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Teachout Tells the Truth

Zephyr Teachout challenges Cuomo on Democratic line

Who is Zephyr Teachout?

Zephyr Teachout is a Fordham law professor running on the Democratic line against Andrew Cuomo for Governor of New York. At the recent Working Families Party convention, Teachout received 41 percent of the delegate votes.

As the Online Organizer for the Howard Dean 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign, Teachout utilized technology in creative ways to mobilize a passionate grassroots effort for the Dean campaign.

Teachout has been involved with some interesting government reform efforts such as serving as the national director of the Sunlight Foundation, Washington, D.C., where she worked on policy issues to make government more transparent and information more accessible to citizens.

As a law professor Teachout focuses on constitutional law and government corruption. The title of Teachout’s soon to be released book is “Corruption in America”.

Teachout Tells the Truth

As part of her campaign effort Teachout promises a “Summer of Democracy”. At her campaign announcement Teachout stated:

“Four years ago, Andrew Cuomo stood on the steps of a courthouse named after Boss Tweed and promised to clean up corruption in New York State. But he, as Gov. Cuomo, has become the problem that candidate Cuomo promised to fix. The political system is still corrupt and rigged and Andrew Cuomo is not only part of the broken system, he has made it worse.”

“He has never done anything that would irritate his wealthy donors. What I see is somebody who serves himself and his donors. And that is the most basic Democratic crime in a sense.”

“It really boils down to favors, to tax breaks for a wealthy few,” she said of Cuomo’s policies in his last four years in office.

Cuomo’s Money Machine

Andrew Cuomo has amassed an astonishing campaign war chest of $33 million. That amount of money comes with a lot of IOU’s.

Cuomo has amassed the largest war chest among all Governor’s in the nation. After Cuomo, Governor Brown in California is a distant second with $10 million in his campaign account.

Cuomo likes to portray himself as the man of the people concerned about your average citizen, but the fact of the matter is that Cuomo is bankrolled by wealthy special interests that all want something in return. The New York Public Interest Research Group’s analysis of Cuomo’s campaign contributors found the following:

• More than 80 percent of Cuomo’s money has come from donors who have given totals of $10,000 or more.

• Only 0.69 percent of Cuomo’s money has come from individuals who have given less than $1,000.

• 242 donors have given Cuomo $40,000 or more.

Cuomo’s top 10 donors consisting primarily of real estate developers are:

1) Leonard Litwin $800,000

2) The Richman Group Inc. $264,000

3) Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Feldman $200,000

4) Extell Development $200,000

5) Cablevision $165,000

6) H.J. Kalikow & Co LLC and Peter Kalikow $150,000

7) Alvin Benjamin and the Benjamin Companies $150,000

8) Empire Merchants LLC $121,000

9) Katz, Adams & Holdings $121,542

10) Comcast/NBC $121,500

Let’s connect the dots. Running for office is expensive and politicians spend huge amounts of their time seeking cash. Wealthy special interests are willing to provide cash to politicians but they expect something in return. Believe it or not New York State doles out $7 billion per year in grants and tax breaks to corporations under the guise of creating jobs. The next best thing to money for politicians is cutting ribbons on business projects. Study after study by the New York State Comptrollers Office and others shows that the number of jobs promised for projects receiving tax dollars and tax breaks rarely come close to reality.

The money train continues because it si the only way politicians from town supervisors to Governors can raise the cash needed to obtain and maintain the power they so desperately seek. This is how the game is played. Cuomo has mastered it well. Government decisions should not be made based on political contributions. We all know that patronage hiring decisions and government contracts have a lot to do with returning favors for support and political contributions.

Zephyr Teachout is passionate about reforming a system that in her words is “rigged” and she is not shy about telling the truth.

Teachout’s Platform

Teachout’s platform can be viewed at her web site Teachout’s web site contains her thoughts on the following issues:

• Money in Politics

• A Fair and Democratic Economy

• Education

• 21st Century Internet

• Infrastructure

• Immigration

• Criminal Justice

• Health Care

• Timothy Wu Running for Lt. Governor

Tim Wu is a Columbia law professor, who was named as one of America’s most influential attorneys in 2013. Wu is a recognized expert in laws pertaining to the Internet and media.

Wu stated the following at his campaign announcement:

“New York is a first rate state, but our politics are third rate. In fact our politics are so embarrassing that many people I know just choose to ignore state politics because everything they pick up the newspaper they’re reading about another corruption.”

At the campaign kick-off said there was an “unholy alliance” between corrupt business and corruption politicians in New York.

We Need More Primaries

Incumbent politicians and political party chairs do not like primary election contests. One of the favorite sayings I have heard from several elected officials is “the best race is no race”. Elected officials in general fear losing their positions, no matter how far ahead in the polls they obsess about their challengers.

Very few districts are fairly drawn so that a challenger from another party has a shot at winning. In many races the November general election is not a close contest because the game is “rigged” before hand by drawing the district lines so that an incumbent Democrat or Republican is pretty safe.

We need more independent candidates willing to fight the Democratic and Republican machines from within the party. Teachout and Wu are taking on a fight as huge underdogs. I hope people will take the time to hear and think about the important points they are raising. Take the time to learn about other challengers as well at the local level.

Consider Third Parties As Well

There is more to life than Pepsi or Coke and there are more political parties than Democrat and Republican. All too often third party’s support candidates from the Democratic or Republican Party based on political deals and not on issues but there are exceptions.

Every debate should be open to all of the candidates that are running for a particular position, including third party candidates. I like to see candidates that are registered as Conservative, Green, Working Families, Libertarian etc. who are passionate enough about their viewpoint to seek public office. We need more candidates, more competition, and more issue debates in our elections. We need bolder leaders who are willing to buck the status quo and we need voters open minded enough to consider candidates who are not Party backed and who are not Democrats or Republicans.

Paul Wolf is the president of the Center ror Reinventing Government:

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