OK

The past few weeks have been hard. There have been many tragedies that have rightly occupied the news and public discourse. I don’t like the feeling of being powerless in the face of all this. So I decided that I must act where I can try to make a difference, and I have seen the opportunity in my home state of New York. We have a Democratic primary for Governor coming up in just a few short weeks. Does anyone realize that? Does anyone know who is running against Andrew Cuomo? One person, Andrew Cuomo,  must be delighted in all of the attention being focused on the Ukraine, the Middle East, Gaza, Ferguson Missouri and even the tragic passing of beloved performers. His opponent, Zephyr Teachout, is fighting hard to achieve visibility at a time when traditional media is jammed with news on a national and international level. Little attention is being paid to the candidate that Larry Lessig called, “The most important anti-corruption candidate in America today.” Who is he to make such a claim? He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law and Leadership at Harvard Law School, director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and author of “Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Our Congress -- and a Plan to Stop It.”

But there is news emerging. Teachout received a significant labor endorsement this past Thursday from the Public Employees Federation (second largest public employee union in the state), an endorsement from the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, and personal endorsements not only from people like Larry Lessig, but also from author and education policy expert Diane Ravitch, who said, “I support [Teachout] for two reasons: one is because she has the skills and integrity to be a great governor. The other is because Andrew Cuomo does not.”

There is a beginning of media coverage, mostly found online. The primary vote is slated for September 9th.  Perhaps, because this is a rapidly developing story that has a very short shelf life and also has major competition from national and international stories, traditional media seems reluctant to invest much in this story.

This past Friday, an article appeared in the online magazine, “The Gothamist” (no author listed - http://gothamist.com/... ). The following question and response from the article shows Zephyr’s knowledge of both City and Upstate issues, good enough on its own. Her response also demonstrates an agile mind that can see the linkages between the issues of the City and Upstate:

[Author] What's your position on taxing the ultra-rich who park their wealth in real estate in midtown Manhattan without ever actually living there?
[Zephyr] A genuine question: Is there an existing proposal on this?

[Author] Serious people have offered proposals but no lawmakers have put anything in writing yet.

[Zephyr] Right. I'm a serious person and I want to look at the particular proposal. It's a huge issue. I guess I'm broadly in favor of the principle. I want to take a look at the proposal, that's where my hesitancy comes from. It's clearly something the state can weigh in on. Across the state, you'll hear different language, but people are experiencing the same thing. Upstate it's "property taxes are too high," or "my house is getting improperly foreclosed on." And downstate it's "the rent's too high". These are all variations on the same story. People are having the same experience, whether you're rural and your property taxes are too high or you're living in Queens and you're rent's going up too fast. It's that there are these subsidies for luxury buildings, yet you can't afford to live where you live. Once you put those two things together, you know something is deeply out of whack in the economy and the priorities of the state.

On the same day, an excellent article by Sarah Jaffee appeared on the blog of The Nation Magazine. (http://www.thenation.com/...) In the article, a detailed portrait of Zephyr Teachout is presented, along with the answers to many of the “Why?” and “How?” questions that every underdog candidate faces. The answers point to a principled, intelligent person, who is well schooled in the workings of government and (I sense) retains a practicality borne of her farm upbringing. The article also touched upon the reason I feel that this candidacy is so important. Andrew Cuomo set up the Moreland Commission to investigate the corruption in New York State government. Before they had time to finish their investigation and issue their report, Cuomo shut the commission down. Many think that happened because the commission was looking too closely at the governor and his inner circle. From The Nation article:
…campaign-season scandals are hardly new, but the fact Teachout is about to publish a book about just this type of political corruption—Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United—and is considered a leading scholar of corruption has injected her campaign with a powerful sense of relevancy. Of all candidates, few have formulated as robust a critique of today’s politics of corruption as Teachout.

Cuomo is “a symptom of what’s happening in politics and a very disturbing one, when politics loses its representative nature and it loses its leadership,” Teachout told me. “He’s fundamentally, actually, working for private power.”

So. Okay. A corruption scandal. What, another one? Have we become so inured to corruption scandals that they no longer have any meaning for us? Corruption scandals are about more than corruption. They are about the effects of corruption, and those who are affected.  From the same article:
Michael Kink, executive director of the Strong Economy For All coalition, a union-backed group that fights for progressive economic policy in New York State, explained “These billionaires got property tax breaks for their hundred-million-dollar penthouse in the sky condominium, at a time when working class people cannot afford their modest houses in working-class suburbs. When the Moreland Commission investigated the specific billionaire real estate developers who had donated to Governor Cuomo and then got tax breaks in exchange, that’s not just about good government, it’s about economic fairness,” he says. “The two are inextricably linked.”
With all this going for her, why doesn’t Zephyr Teachout have more mayors, state representatives and state senators lining up to endorse her? I think that the Benjamin Siegal interview for the online outlet of ABC News is revealing. (http://abcnews.go.com/...)
Siegal: Has he [New York City Mayor DiBlasio] supported your campaign?
Teachout: He supports the governor. In New York, we have a really powerful governor who uses his budgetary power to punish and reward. It’s very hard for politicians, without hurting their own constituents, to support a challenger to the governor. I’m not talking about DiBlasio, in particular, but more broadly. But there are an increasing number of brave individuals who are joining us.
In the end, this election boils down to one thing. In The Nation article, Zephyr’s running mate Tim Wu summed it up quite succinctly:
“To a degree we’re figuring out whether we’re a party of voters or a party of donors. 'Which?' is a delicate question.”
So what can you do? Learn more. Go to the Teachout-Wu campaign website at http://www.teachoutwu.com/ If you are a registered Democratic voter in New York, head to the polls. If you know someone who is a registered Democratic voter in New York, share the article links included in this diary. For that matter, November 4th will be here before you know it, so tell every New Yorker you know that if they want their state government to represent all of the citizens of the State of New York, if they are sick of bullies and corruption, they should vote for Zephyr Teachout.
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