On Monday, Zephyr Teachout, the Fordham Law professor running for Congress in New York’s 19th Congressional District as a Democrat, is looking past her Republican rival John Faso to the men backing him: the secretive Republican financiers Paul Singer and Robert Mercer.
Teachout mounted a primary challenge against Governor Andrew Cuomo in the last New York gubernatorial election, establishing her progressive bonafides with a rigorous critique focused on corporate corruption and campaign finance reform, of a type with Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
In a campaign ad uploaded to Facebook, Teachout challenged Singer to a debate. Recently, Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, netted $2.4 billion from Argentina’s debt crisis. He also endorsed and supported Senator Marco Rubio in the presidential primary. Mercer, meanwhile, dropped $11 million trying to get Senator Ted Cruz elected—or, failing that, gather as much voter data as possible.
“The voters deserve to hear directly from the billionaires backing John Faso about what they expect to get from him in Congress,” Teachout said in a statement. (She is also fundraising off the challenge.) “When someone writes a $500,000 check they don’t do it out of the goodness of their heart. These are people probably trying to buy power, and voters should know who they are and what they stand for. I’m challenging Paul Singer and Robert Mercer to put your mouth where your money is and debate me directly, not through your mouthpiece.”
Singer has actually contributed $600,000 altogether to New York Wins, the super PAC operating on Republican candidate John Faso’s behalf—he wrote a $500,000 check in May and a $100,000 check in June, FEC filings show. Mercer wrote the super PAC a $500,000 in January. According to the most recent campaign finance reports, New York Wins has not yet started spending against Teachout; however, it did spend $905,268 against Faso’s Republican primary rival, Andrew Heaney, who compared himself to Donald Trump and called Faso, a former N.Y. Assembly Minority Leader, a “lawyer, lobbyist, failed politician.”
“Having just moved into the district from NYC and registered to vote just seven months ago, Professor Teachout is not just a carpetbagger, but a grandstanding one as well,” Faso said in a statement. “As a law professor, Teachout knows that candidates have no control over independent spending. Rather than discussing jobs and the upstate economy, she attempts to distract attention from her radical views. That is what NYC carpetbaggers do.”
Incidentally, Singer lives in New York City and Mercer lives on Long Island. New York’s 19th congressional district is upstate, covering the Catskill Mountains between New York City and Albany.
Should Singer or Mercer accept Teachout’s challenge, Gawker would be happy to moderate.