On Thursday April 9th, Zephyr Teachout returned to Greenwich Village and the Village Independent Democrats, one of several political clubs that endorsed her in her primary challenge to Governor Andrew Cuomo. After happily reporting that she had just been awarded tenure by the Fordham University Law School, she began a discussion of her particular area of expertise, which is political corruption.
As outlined in her book Corruption in America, fear of money in politics caused concern among political leaders as far back as the very founding of the country. Money and gifts to politicians, such as a jewel encrusted snuff box given to Benjamin Franklin by the King of France, were often completely banned or severely restricted by law. People who wanted to approach or petition Congress would have to do it themselves. No one was allowed to hire someone to do it for them until the Supreme Court ruled that it was permissible.
This ability to hire someone to lobby for you was expanded by both politicians and Supreme Court decisions, most notably by the Citizen’s United decision of 2010. The old form of corruption involving envelopes of cash handed under the table to some politician (known well during the Tammany Hall period of NYC government) has been replaced by vast amounts of donations for campaigns, on-going lobbying, political party building and innocent sounding “gifts.”
Teachout voiced her support for making legislation and the budget process more transparent, curbing executive power, achieving a Democratic state senate in 2016 and, of course, pursuing political corruption whenever possible.
The overall impression from her presentation was that her primary run was not just a one-time involvement. We will probably be hearing a lot more about her in the future, and she will be hearing a lot more from The Village as her career progresses.