by Robert Kesten
… and then Citizens United and big money, no, giant money, reentered the political scene in ways unimagined before. Not only big money, but dark, secretive funds, laundered so that no one would know the source or purpose. This, some want us to believe, is free speech. Others understand it to be corruption.
After a generation of moving towards public financing of elections, the wealthiest amongst us have now taken control of the ballot box, using every advantage they have—from creating nonprofit organizations, businesses, political entities and other shells to mask and hide their funds to giving themselves tax advantages and protections as they move targeted funds into the political process.
The Mercer Nonprofit In Our Backyard
Reclaim New York (www.reclaimnewyork.org) is one such nonprofit, founded and controlled by the Mercer family, strong supporters of Donald Trump, and foundational donors to Breitbart and Steve Bannon. The Mercers are also heavily engaged in the New York State Senate’s 40th District race. They have a personal tie to our area: Rebekah Mercer, the Reclaim New York chair and treasurer, attended Yorktown High School as her father amassed his multibillion-dollar hedge-fund fortune.
The Mercer family, along with other wealthy right-wing donors, are busy building up the private charter-school industry and eliminating the public-school system across the United States. They pour hundreds of millions of dollars into lobbying for charter schools, lining the coffers of Republican lawmakers, such as our New York State Republican Senate Campaign Committee.
Just last year the New York State Senate Republicans held up the state budget process over mayoral control of the New York City Public Schools. In an expensive special session of the legislature, hundreds more charter schools were mandated for New York City before the Republicans would sign off on the budget.
That is our taxpayer dollars going to private charter-school businesses, taking essential funding away from public schools and putting it in the hands of hedge-fund operators and their minions. This weakens our schools, teachers’ unions, and the core tenant of democracy: that all Americans have free access to a local public-school education.
Mass Mailings from the Mercers’ “Reclaim New York”
During the state budget process last year, the shameless Mercer-run Reclaim New York sent out a mass mailing to households in the 40th Senate District asking our citizens to support our state senator, a Republican legislator, for opposing the special session of the legislature. Yet it was the Republicans that insisted on holding up the process and causing the special session to begin with. Reclaim New York sends out deceitful mailings like this while maintaining their legal status as a nonprofit organization, getting tax advantages the rest of us are excluded from while distorting the political process.
We don’t want Mercer engagement in our community, we don’t want dark money polluting our political process, and we don’t want our elected officials in the pocket of billionaire hedge fund operators who don’t have our interests at heart. Let’s get them out of politics, get them out of the 40th Senate District, and return our political process to the people of this great state and region.
Our democracy isn’t for sale.