Zephyr Teachout is a badass.
You may remember her from the last New York gubernatorial primary, when she humiliated Andrew Cuomo and stomped on his Presidential dreams by making him fight for his life in a primary race that was supposed to be a walk. The Vermont-born law professor is energetic, positive, and a strong voice for public education-- among other things. She's an old-school Democrat, by which I mean she's not dependent on the kindness of hedge fund millionaires. (All of which is why it's one of Randi Weingarten's unforgivable offenses to have conducted last minute phone blitzing for the Cuomo campaign).
Teachout is back at it, campaigning for the 19th District Congressional seat in New York. Teachout's main opposition appeared to be a long-shot GOP John Faso who was trying to fend of GOP Andrew Heaney in the primary-- and then the hedge funders started piling on.
John Faso is a long-time NY pol. He has served as minority leader of the NY State Assembly, and made a run at Governor in 2006. He beat Bill Weld in the primary (yes, the same one who is currently Libertarian VP candidate) but lost to Eliot Spitzer in the general election. Faso is a huge fan of charters and one of the cheif architects of New York's charter laws. And hedge fund guys apparently love him a lot. Robert Mercer, hedge fund manager, contributed half a million dollars to Faso's superPAC to get him through the primary election season.
And now Paul Singer has joined in with another $500,000 to try to defeat Teachout. Singer ranks 327 on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. He's a hedge fund manager who specializes in "distressed debt acquisition" meaning he is, in fact, a vulture fund manager, looking for good buys in debt that he can then squeeze for big profit (his firm made a killing snatching up Peru's national debt and then squeezing the country to pay up).
So this is what the current version of campaign law gets us-- a contest in which two guys can pony up a million dollars to buy up a political position to represent a place they don't even live. In America, if you're very rich, you can go shopping for political races to tilt your way.
Teachout has been raising money the old-fashioned, Bernie Sanders style method-- from actual small-money citizens donating to her campaign.
But her campaign has taken a definite new-style twist. Teachout is calling for a debate. But not against Faso, but against the real opponent in her race;
Of course, Singer is not going to respond. The whole point of being about to pump millions of dollars via superPAC into an election is that it allows rich guys to install their ideas in government without having to go through any of that annoying public election stuff. It allows guys like Singer to buy a guarantee that their voice will be heard loud and clear by the important decision-makers without ever having to talk to the common crowd of taxpayers and voters and the general public. A public debate for the voters is all about democracy, and spending a cool half-million to get your guy elected is all about circumventing democracy.
If you would like to support and old-fashioned non-millionaire candidate as an old-fashioned voter with some old-fashioned small contributions, you can find the Teachout campaign website right here.