Rye, Rye Brook, and Port Chester League of Women Voters, together with the Sound Shore Leagues of Larchmont/Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, hosted the League’s annual spring luncheon at Orienta Beach Club on April 24.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
Rye, Rye Brook, and Port Chester League of Women Voters, together with the Sound Shore Leagues of Larchmont/Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, hosted the League’s annual spring luncheon at Orienta Beach Club on April 24. Former gubernatorial candidate and Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University Zephyr Teachout was the guest speaker at the packed luncheon. The constitutional and property law expert discussed her book, “Corruption In America: From Benjamin Franklin’s Snuff Box to Citizens United.”
League Committee Chair on Energy, Agriculture and the Environment Elisabeth Radow, also the LWV’s program chair, opened with a discussion of the importance of grassroots campaigns, especially in local efforts to ban New York State fracking. “Together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things,” she said.
After attendees enjoyed her annual history trivia game, Radow introduced Teachout, whose first visit to these “unbelievably beautiful” Sound Shore communities moved the painter in her.
In a discussion about “Corruption in America,” Teachout proposed, “We must call on the best parts of our history to build the best parts of our future.”
The political corruption controversy goes back to Benjamin Franklin accepting a diamond-encrusted snuffbox from Louis XVI, which Americans felt might cloud his judgment. Today, Teachout noted, the crisis flows from the Supreme Court’s definition of “corruption” as “quid pro quo corruption.” In essence, if corruption is boiled down to “criminal bribery,” then it condones improper influence obtained by gifts and implicit arrangements.
Teachout warns that the Court’s narrow definition undermines the integrity of a democracy, the most glaring examples being the Supreme Court’s rulings in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and Citizens United. She believes that private financing of elections “puts our politicians in cages.” Public financing, on the other hand, frees politicians to represent everyone, not just the 1 percent.
Teachout extols New York City’s Campaign Finance Board’s public matching funds program, which will result in a far more diverse set of candidates, as well as a more diverse set of donors. She predicts that the next two years in New York politics are critical. “The heart of power is in New York,” she remarked.