I have known about Zephyr Teachout ever since 2014 when she mounted a quixotic Democratic party primary challenge against Andrew Cuomo in New York. She bloodied his nose then, but lost. One of the key charges that she leveled against him was his hamstringing and then premature shutdown of a state commission on corruption. A NY Times investigation at the time substantially supported her allegations.
That fall, I read a glowing review of her book, Corruption in America, by David Cole in the NY Review of Books. The review was titled “How Corrupt Are Our Politics?” and in it Cole calls the book “…an eloquent, revealing, and sometimes surprising historical inquiry…” in which “…Teachout convincingly argues that corruption, broadly understood as placing private interests over the public good in public office, is at the root of what ails American democracy.” The headlines this week about Trump, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort certainly underscore that premise.
A year later, Teachout spoke, along with Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig, on Political Corruption and the “Economy of Influence” – Confronting Causes, Measuring Costs, and Identifying Solutions at the NYU center where I teach. I was sold that night on her brains, her energy, her skills, and her commitment. (Lessig, by the way, has endorsed her run.)
She’s running now to be the Democratic candidate for NY State Attorney General. My wife and I have been enthusiastic supporters since she jumped in the race after Eric Schneiderman flamed out. We gathered petition signatures for her, have contributed some money, and will be out canvassing between now and Primary Day, September 13.
As you may know, Teachout received a big boost this week with the NY Times endorsement. The editorial cites the problem of corruption in our state and, of course, the “antidemocratic president,” as well as “a federal government indifferent to environmental and consumer protection.” The Times writes that “…the best candidate is Zephyr Teachout, an independent-minded lawyer unusually well prepared to curb abuses of power and restore integrity and pride to this office.” The endorsement concludes “New York needs a great lawyer. We believe that Democrats who are seeking a means of standing up to the Trump presidency and graft in Albany can find in Ms. Teachout their most effective champion for democracy and civil rights, good government and the environment, workers’ rights, fair housing and gender equality.”
This is not, by any means, her only endorsement. The Nation ran a profile of her in May saying, among other things, “More than anything else, it is Teachout’s deep understanding of political corruption that makes her uniquely qualified to serve as New York’s attorney general.” The Nation followed with an endorsement earlier this month, noting “She has the experience, independence and toughness needed to transform the office and combat corruption at all levels.”
She has the enthusiastic backing of one of the Democratic Party’s newest stars: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said “Her independence and strength to stand up to big money makes me confident that she will fight hard for working people as NY Attorney General.” Ocasio-Cortez also encouraged her volunteers to work for Teachout gathering petition signatures and about a hundred responded. Our Revolution, an organizing group that grew out of the Bernie Sanders campaign is supporting her, as well as the vibrant and effective NY Communities for Change. One of our greatest environmental activists and writers, Bill McKibben, is on board. Not surprisingly, Cynthia Nixon, Andrew Cuomo’s opponent for the Democratic nomination for Governor this year, is fully supporting Teachout’s candidacy. Teachout was, until she got into the AG’s race, a key operative in Nixon’s campaign.
I was impressed by Teachout’s tenacity last month in getting Cuomo to agree to allowing the acting NYS AG, Barbara Underwood, to initiate a criminal investigation of the Trump Foundation. Teachout would be, as AG, a key backstop to the deepening federal investigation of Trump Inc. and the further criminal charges that are coming down the pike.
The media are impressed too. She’s got Chris Hayes thinking. Listen to (or read) his interview with her yesterday here. You can also get some good insight in her new video as to why this woman is the whole enchilada. Vote for Zephyr Teachout for the Democratic Party nomination for NY State Attorney General on September 13. You can also help the campaign. Check in here: Zephyr for NY.