We here in New York City have an election coming up Tuesday, Oct. 1. If you follow me here, you know that I've been blogging on behalf of Public Advocate candidate Letitia "Tish" James. I've been trying to make my case as positively as possible, which is pretty easy given that she is an excellent candidate and extremely well suited for the job by experience, by personality and by character.
However, during a televised debate last week, her opponent, Daniel Squadron, attempted to smear her with some very misleading allegations, questions that had long since been addressed, and did so in an extremely condescending manner. Therefore, I feel it necessary to discuss some of Mr. Squadron's background here, and why it makes him only the second-best candidate for this office. Please come below:
Mr. Squadron has close and long-standing ties with the true rulers of New York City, its real-estate developers. This is hardly a good omen for a prospective Public Advocate. While he loudly proclaims that he accepts no corporate PAC money, he has no problem accepting donations in the maximum allowable amount from private individuals with significant ties to the real estate industry, such as the following people connected to Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner, the developer of the widely-opposed Atlantic Yards project:
Ellen Ratner (sister of Bruce) and her spouse Cholene Espinoza (resident of Cleveland, OH), $4950 each
Forest City Ratner VP Mary Anne Gilmartin, $200
He is also a flip-flopper. After running for the State Senate on a promise to prevent housing from being built in then-developing Brooklyn Bridge Park, Squadron assented to a deal that allowed luxury housing to be built there.
Among his donors are the following promoters of luxury housing in city parks:
Richard Moore of Day Pitney LLP, and wife Barbara ($6000 in late 2012, $7450 in 2013)
William Rifkin of JP Morgan Investnment Banking and wife Susan($5000 in 2012, $1000 in 2013)
Henry Guttman of Simpson Thatcher Bartlett and wife Carolyn ($4500 in 2012, $7425 in 2013)
Timothy Ingrassia of Goldman Sachs & Co, Co-Chairman Global Mta and wife Stephanie ($2500 in 2012, $9350 in 2013)
Others of note include:
Library sell-off promoter NY Public Library Chief Operating Officer David Offensend and wife Janet ($2100 in 2012, $5325 in 2013)
Fred Wilpon (owner of the New York Mets ) and wife Judith Wilpon, $4550 each
Helena Durst VP of The Durst Organization, $4950
The Winkelvoss twins, $4950 each
You can learn more about his donor base on the NYC Campaign Finance Board Searchable Database “Election cycle: 2013”. You can compare Letitia James' donor base on the same site, here.
James has about $800,000 from 3659 donors. Squadron has about $1,750,000 from 5309 donors, many more of which are maximum quantity donors ($4950) than are James’ donors. Daniel Squadron has 3.5 times as many contributors of the maximum $4950 as does Letitia James (58 to 16).
James’ support is more widespread, as she has endorsements from most of the unions, local papers, democratic organizations, any many churches. While she does not have so many major donors, a recent fundraiser netted over $10,000 from about 100 fervent supporters.
Squadron, who must have small donors as well, made fundraising pitches directly to major law firms, including Davis, Polk; Becker, Glynn; and Wolf, Haldenstein. Tradition has it that donations from members of such firms are often refunded to the donors in the form of bonuses.
Background is not an inarguable diagnostic of character, but consider the following: Squadron is a product of the exclusive Fieldston School and Yale. His political company revolves around Chuck Schumer and the circle of young men who were, or are, his proteges, including Anthony Weiner and TLC Commissioner David Yassky. When he ran for State Senate, in 2008 at the age of 28, he apparently had 200K in annual income from his trust fund. His defense is that he no longer has the trust fund, since his family's fortune was invested, and lost, with Bernie Madoff. But the fact that he no longer has it is less important than that during his formative years he had one.
While I know that there were some small investors who were put into the Madoff crosshairs by wealthier relatives or employers (as a favor!), the vast majority of the people who lost money to Madoff were exceedingly wealthy. That, combined with his support from the Wilpons, also very wealthy people who lost their shirts to Madoff, gives me some idea of the company he keeps. It's not a crime or a sin to feel you should be advancing the interests of your friends, but Squadron's friends have had plenty of advancement these last twelve years. I don't want my interests guarded by someone who was endorsed by Emperor Bloomberg in his last campaign. It's time for some advancement for ordinary New Yorkers.
Tish James, on the other hand, is the child of a janitor and an office-maintenance worker. She made her way through New York City public school, Lehman College, Howard University Law School and into the bar on her own hard work, intelligence and determination.
Letitia James understands that the primary function of the office to which they both aspire is, in the words of Finley Peter Dunne, "to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable". I have a hard time believing that anyone whose life has been as comfortable as Squadron's could be as determined to accomplish those ends as Tish James, daughter of the people.
(h/t to Steve Ettlinger for the link to the NYCFB database, and his invaluable editorial advice - thanks, Steve!)
Update: It has come to my attention that Squadron's campaign, or someone else acting on his behalf, has been posting the following flyers in the Norwood section of the Bronx: