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Zephyr loves Billionaires!

Election commentary
by Stephen Kaye
Fri Jun 24th, 2016

Zephyr Teachout, who supports campaign finance reform and is a determined critic of Citizens United, is fuming over news of Paul Singer’s $500,000 PAC contribution that has been funding TV and mail ads favoring the John Faso campaign.  Faso, she says, supports Citizen United, which is logical since he now enjoys the largesse of two hedge fund managers - Paul Singer and Robert Mercer, whose gifts total in excess of  $1 million.   Teachout is talking as if she is already in the race, but she has to win next week’s primary against Will Yandik first. 

Faso also has a primary race. Faso, however, enjoys the support of most of the Republican Party’s leadership in the district. Both Faso and Teachout led in early polls.   

The Democratic Party is far behind Republicans in getting out the voters, in fact it is pretty weak in that area, so neither candidate can count on it.  Republican voters may not be happy that hedge fund managers can influence their leading candidate.  News of this contribution may be fodder for Heaney who is not getting such outsized contributions, although Heaney, who backs Trump, is getting help from Trump’s, brother, Robert. 

One wonders if Faso’s unexpected $500,000 gift was prompted by Teachout’s well-publicized campaign to somehow end Citizens United and the role of billionaires in elections. Billionaire strikes back!

Oddly, the PAC’s vital message (protected by free speech) is the charge that Faso’s opponent (Andrew Heaney, who struck us in our interview as mainstream Republican) is a “liberal” or moderate.  He gave money to Obama when Obama first ran, some nine years ago.   If that is all a million dollars buys, it doesn’t buy much.  The “adverse publicity” may actually help Heaney as the mailers and TV ads get his name in front of voters and tells them Heaney is not a canned product but a real human being.  He also isn't “bought”. How does Faso not take calls from his hedge fund supporters? How does he ignore their advice? How does he turn down an invite to Mercer’s 200 foot yacht?   How does Faso vote against the “carried interest” exception that lets hedge fund managers get capital gains when they have no capital at risk – it’s fee income for the rest of us.  He very clearly won’t.  

These outsized gifts do get the candidates publicity.  The Observer, the Huffington Post and Bloomberg all carried the story; Teachout gets her picture, Yandik’s name is mentioned, as is Heaney’s.  

In the national races, Teachout was supporting Bernie Saunders who, in turn, supports her, as do both our Senators. Yandik, however, is less of a populist.  He supports Hillary. 

It’s a good race, with four good people running for office.