Home > Uncategorized > NYS Primary Elections Validate Larry Lessig’s Lesson About Citizen’s United

NYS Primary Elections Validate Larry Lessig’s Lesson About Citizen’s United

August 17, 2018

Larry Lessig, who is one of the leaders in the fight to repeal Citizens United, made a point in a talk I heard a few years ago at Dartmouth that relatively small amounts of money can make a huge difference in primary elections. A post by Diane Ravitch yesterday illustrates this point and, in doing so, illustrates how this works and how billionaires can leverage their contributions to ensure the spread of the “reform agenda”. Drawing from a post by blogger Alex Kotch, a self-described “Extreme money-in-politics nerd“, Diane describes how a cadre of eight “Independent Democrats” accepted dark money from billionaire “reformers”. When the NYS election board ruled that these donations were illegal, the “Independent Democrats” refused to return the donations. As Mr. Kotch writes:

As all eight incumbents face progressive primary challengers, they’re digging in their heels, defying a directive from their own state elections board in order to hold onto the illegal funds. As Sludge (Mr. Kotch’s blog) previously reported, the challengers have received far more individual contributions, and their average donation amount is a fraction of that of the (“Independent Democrats”).

Making matters even worse, it seems that NYSUT, the powerful teachers union in NYS, has decided to support one of these “Independent Democrats” in the primary instead of a progressive pro-public education candidate. Mr. Ravitch writes:

Strangely, NYSUT (New York State United Teachers) endorsed IDC member Marisol Alcantara, who is running against Robert Jackson; Jackson was the city council member who sued the state for billions of dollars in the Campaign for Fiscal Equity. He is a champion for public schools and equitable funding.

It isn’t strange to me. Here in NH the teacher’s union is supporting a vanilla Democratic candidate, Mollie Kelly, who is taking the pledge to not support a broad based tax over Steve Marchand, a more progressive candidate who views the pledge as “outdated” and an impediment to raising the kind of revenue needed to equalize funding in the state.

Watching teachers unions support “Democrats who can win” over Democrats who will be champions for public schools makes me wonder how they hope to retain membership in the post-Janus world.

After reading Ms. Ravitch’s post, I hope some grassroots activists can unseat some of these faux Democrats in NYS and MAYBE give NH voters an opportunity to revisit the need for brand based taxes by having Steve Marchand run against the incumbent, Chris Sununu. But as Diane Ravitch notes in her closing sentence:

Never forget: Dark money never sleeps.

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