Hi I’m Zephyr Teachout, and I’m running for New York State Attorney General. I’m an anti-corruption activist and law professor whose book, Corruption In America, was cited in the dissent opinion in the Supreme Court case Citizens United.

As Attorney General, I’ll clean house on Albany corruption, lead the legal resistance against Trump’s assault on the law, battle financial fraud, and spearhead the moral argument against mass incarceration. AMA!

Corruption is at the root of so many problems we face: underfunded schools, overpriced rents, high debt, income inequality, unaffordable health care, abuse of workers, environmental devastation. I’ve been an independent voice calling out the corruption in Albany, speaking and writing about the trials of Sheldon Silver, Joseph Percoco, and Dean Skelos.

And Trump’s Presidency poses an existential threat to our democracy. We’ve got to fight it with every legal tool we have, including going after his business empire. Three days after Donald Trump took office, I was on the team of lawyers that filed Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington v. Trump (CREW) against Trump because of his violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution.

We’re running a truly grassroots effort, and to win, we need to turn out our supporters across the state. We’re running our campaign on volunteer energy and small-dollar donations -- we’re taking no corporate PAC or LLC money. You can contribute to the campaign by clicking here, and sign up to volunteer here.

Leave your questions here, and I’ll be back at 1:30 PM Eastern to start answering them. See you then!

EDIT: THANK you all!!! I have to run--thanks for the great questions and ideas and I'm sorry I couldn't answer them all!!

Comments: 216 • Responses: 22  • Date: 

blolfighter59 karma

Zephyr Teachout is a pretty unusual name. Is there any story behind it?

zteachout57 karma

Hi! There probably is but my parents won't say. Teachout is originally Dutch--Zephyr was given to me at birth, without explanation. My siblings' names are Woden, Chelsea, Dillon, and Cabot, and I won't regale you with my 14 nieces and nephews, but they are good, too :). My parents, by the way, are Mary and Peter Teachout--a State Judge in Vermont and a Constitutional Law Professor.

concernedManwithBeer48 karma

So glad you are taking the time to field questions on this platform. 2 questions: What steps will you take to ensure net neutrality exist in New York? Second, what do you feel is the role of the AG with respect to protecting union and workers’ rights?

zteachout28 karma

I’ve been fighting to preserve Net Neutrality for years, and was proud to run with Tim Wu, who coined the term, in 2014.

I support state level net neutrality at a legislative level, but I want to focus on the role of AG, which is to prevent the consolidation that makes conflicts of interest and bias in distribution networks so terrible.

Net neutrality is one of the many anti-monopoly tools that I support--some are legislative and some are litigation.

I laid out the importance of net neutrality in this brief I filed in 2015:

r/https://www.eff.org/files/2015/09/22/us_telecom_v._fcc_meinrath_zephyr_and_users_of_the_internet_amicus.pdf

Unions

I joined a union when I was 18, working in the dining hall at college, and have been pro-union ever since.

Defend workers rights, protect against wage theft, work to overturn the anti-union jurisprudence at the supreme court.

The Supreme Court is openly hostile to workers rights to organize -- as evidenced by the recent cases Janus v. AFSCME and Harris v. Quinn -- and corporate consolidation is crushing our workers.

While the Charter CEO Thomas Rutledge received a $98 million compensation package last year, Spectrum employees lost negotiating power. As Attorney General I will use the Clayton Act to block these large mergers from happening in the first place, mergers which often leave workers with less pay and stripped down benefits, but line the pockets of their CEOs.

As large corporations erode workers’ rights, unions remain at the frontlines fighting for the middle class from the five-day work week, to sick leave, to paid vacation days. I will always be totally union proud and be there on strike lines standing up for workers.

NegStatus36 karma

What will you do about the infringement on peoples 2nd (NY SAFE) and 4th amendment (Stop and Frisk) rights by the State and City of New York?

zteachout-2 karma

  1. I believe the current Supreme Court has deeply misinterpreted our basic rights, and that the wrong understanding of "militia" by the Roberts Court (and a decision by Justice Scalia) has tied the hands of local governments to protect themselves and deal with the devastating public health crisis of gun violence. Heller, decided in 2008, was the decision that struck down legislation passed by the Washington D.C. legislature banning hand guns, preventing a local government from addressing a pressing public health crisis -- the gun-violence epidemic. I support a long term strategy to overturn Heller to protect public health, and as AG, will vigorously defend New York's rights to pass strong gun control laws. I'm proud to be a Mom's Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate.

  2. While the 2nd Amendment has been overly broadly interpreted, the 4th Amendment has been under attack.

→ I oppose stop and frisk

→ I oppose mass surveillance by the federal government

→ I oppose the surveillance of Muslim community groups by the NYPD

And I oppose the current Supreme Court’s cramped understanding of the 4th Amendment.

On this, there will be areas where I strongly disagree with other parts of law enforcement, but I believe infringing the right to be secure in one's body and privacy is essential, and will litigate and speak out vigorously to defend it.

sriracharmander24 karma

Hi Zephyr!

You've been one of my favorite political follows on Twitter leading up to the midterms, your passion about the people of New York and the country as a whole is contagious and much needed in America right now.

What do you think are some current problems with the Democratic party that you'll work towards fixing in Albany?

zteachout25 karma

Hi! Thank you!

- We need a new Moreland Commission.

- We need an AG who will revive existing Moreland powers and use them

- Need public hearings on sexual misconduct and failed processes in Albany NOW.

- No more corporate PAC money! No more LLC money! This is a no-brainer but too many politicians are hooked on it--and the costs to people are extraordinary. Amazingly I am the only candidate in the AG race not taking Corporate PAC money or LLC money.

- Relatedly, NYC Real Estate and Hedge Funds have outsized power.

- Public financing of elections

- End gerrymandering

- Stop 3-men in a room and allow lawmakers who aren't at the peak of power to introduce legislation

- Gov has too much power and the temptation to use it--having an independent AG is critical.

- No campaign money from state contractors

- Seth Agata, the head of JCOPE, must resign. And THEN we need to reform JCOPE.

- Procurement oversight

I"m just getting started!

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Akpayton3424 karma

As AG of NY, what anti-trust measures would you take to promote fair marketplaces? Do you feel the banking, financial, and telecommunications companies are violating those laws?

zteachout20 karma

America is getting crushed by big, unresponsive, powerful corporate monopolies, the modern version of the trusts of the gilded age. This isn’t happening organically, but through mergers. There were nearly 50,000 mergers in 2017. It was a banner year, except for the two years before: in 2016 and 2015, there were also 50,000 mergers. Companies have spent over two trillion dollars on mergers in 2018 so far, a record pace that is set to pass the all-time annual record.

The federal government has shown little willingness to stand up to corporate monopolies, and use its powers under the existing antitrust statutes, including the powerful Clayton Act and Sherman Act.

Today State Attorneys General again have the opportunity to lead the way when it comes to a new era of trust-busting, with both state and federal laws to help them. New York State’s Donnelly Act gives power at least as great--many think greater--than that of the Sherman Act. We have strong consumer protection laws that can be used to protect against scams and frauds by corporate monopolists.

But there’s more. Section 7 of the Clayton Act gives the federal government--and, under Section 17, state attorneys general--the power to challenge mergers and acquisitions that would tend substantially to lessen competition or that would tend to create a monopoly. State Attorneys General also can sue under the federal Sherman Act as Parens Patraie for the states.

This is a big pair of swords in the fight against monopolies, and it’s time to sharpen them.

The merger mania isn’t about to end with AT&T. In New York, we have to look just at the recent Charter merger which created the current Spectrum to see how mergers come with big promises, and leave us with crappy service and big CEO payouts.

nyckidd19 karma

Hi Zephyr! I went to see you rally with Bernie during the 2016 election, and even marched with you in a parade at one point (although I was part of Terry Gipson's delegation). I've always supported your positive attitude and can-do progressiveness, and I was very sorry to see Faso beat you.

My question is, as Attorney General, what would you do to help move this state from a drug war mentality to a harm reduction one when it comes to dealing with the opiate crisis?

Also, what are your thoughts on Antonio Delgado, the person who won the NY 19 primary? Do you think he has what it takes to beat Faso?

zteachout22 karma

Lots of thoughts--starting with having an AG, top law enforcement, who is dedicated to ending mass incarceration and changing the whole attitude towards drugs. We need legalization of marijuana, of course, but so much more--ending cash bail, discovery reform, etc--really starting with a goal of cutting incarcerated population in half by 2030.

barnabytheplumber16 karma

Why do you feel that you're a qualified candidate for New York State Attorney General? Am I wrong in saying that you've hardly ever practiced law? What experience do you have at any level in the NY State legal system, other than teaching?

Another question if you'll indulge me. Why do you keep running for these lofty positions? Have you considered running for a position a little bit lower on the food chain, getting into a weeds a little bit, earning some experience?

zteachout28 karma

Thanks for the question! I have nearly 20 years experience as a lawyer and litigator. I started my career representing people on death row in North Carolina, and that work has informed everything I have done since. I have been deeply involved in strategic litigation projects around money and politics, antitrust, and net neutrality.

Recent cases I was involved in include CREW v. Trump. In Jan 2017 I was one of the lawyers to sue Trump for violations of the Emoluments Clause, and have been advising the state AGs offices in MD and DC on their litigation and I am a plaintiff in a lawsuit against single-candidate SuperPACs.

My experience as a nationally recognized expert in constitutional and anticorruption law is painfully relevant right now. It makes me uniquely qualified to deal with the dual challenges of Trump and NY corruption, as well as illegality in business. I have the support of some of the countries' best litigators--Robbie Kaplan, Larry Tribe, Joshua Matz, etc. Someone I worked with recently said this: r/ https://twitter.com/JoshuaMatz8/status/1019322039562317825

beakerbabe13 karma

Hi Zephyr,

What are some of the biggest problems with voting laws in New York, and what steps would you take to address them?

Thank you.

zteachout18 karma

New York has one of the worst voting rights in the country, all due to archaic and outdated laws that keep political incumbents and party bosses in power, and discourage participation in our electoral system. I support same day voter registration, lowering the voting age to 17, consolidated election days, automatic voter registration, and pushing for Election Day to be a statewide holiday.

As the Attorney General I will vigorously pursue all claims of New Yorkers being denied free access to the polls, including any instances where ballots and voter rolls were dismissed. The In 2013, the NYC Board of Elections purged 117,000 voters from its rolls because they hadn’t voted in recent elections. The NY AG joined the lawsuit that forced a review of that purge and the restoration of those unfairly removed. As AG I will be initiating these suits -- always aggressive and proactive in litigating to defend New Yorkers’ voting rights.

Too many in New York have had their voting rights taken away due to a felony conviction. These individuals deserve to have a voice in the political process. I believe in universal voting. I will be a fierce advocate for changing the law so that individuals with a felony can exercise their fundamental right to vote.

sting_lve_dis_vessel12 karma

Will you be taking any inspiration from Larry Krasner and his campaign to reduce the prison population?

zteachout23 karma

Yes yes yes yes.

I already do! Law enforcement MUST lead not follow, the fight for justice. Mass incarceration is plainly about dehumanization and structural racism and not law--cash bail being just one example.

glassmountaintrust8 karma

If you are elected to the position of NYAG, will you file suit to reopen the Moreland Commission?

zteachout13 karma

Interestingly, the Executive Order that created the Moreland Commission was never rescinded--EO 106--so the powers STILL exist in the AGs office. And I would use them. But also yes--we need the Gov, whoever that is, to clearly give the authority again, and I would call for standing authority because our corruption problem is killing our state.

zteachout7 karma

THANK you all!!! I have to run--thanks for the great questions and ideas and I'm sorry I couldn't answer them all!!

zorblak6 karma

While I sincerely hope that Andrew Cuomo loses his primary, he's a seasoned politician with strong support of the political machine, and is likely to remain governor. You ran against him 4 years ago, and have been (justifiably) very critical of him since then. How would you work well with him if you were AG and he were governor?

zteachout12 karma

I'm a professional and am not concerned. But look, we need independence--the AG is INDEPENDENTLY elected. We need an AG who doesn't hesitate to investigate people close to the Governor, donors or friends or people who work for him, or we can't trust law enforcement isn't influenced by power. In the last two months I am the only candidate who has called out the Governor on really basic stuff---Jeff Klein, his close ally, should return illegal $$; he should grant Underwood criminal authority; Seth Agata his former lawyer is a total failure as the head of JCOPE. These are simple, basic requests, but they are also markers of independence. And that is the job.

DarceyinFL5 karma

Hi Zephyr!! We met at the PCCC Bold Progressives candidate training in DC in 2016. I'm a big fan of your work and activisim.

I have serious concerns about the lack of a plan that the Democratic Party has with regards to K-12 education. Do you see education as an important part of the party's message? If so, what is that message?

It doesn't seem enough to simply be against for-profit charters and vouchers, I want the Democrats to see that public education should be so important to our democracy that it is essential to their national, state, and local platforms. Your thoughts?

zteachout7 karma

Public education is the infrastructure of democracy. Small class sizes. Art and science for everyone. Strong union protections. Protect schools against take-over by ed-tech. Protect children's privacy. A constant reminder that it is the heart of our society.

seamslegit5 karma

Hi Zephyr, Thanks for doing this AMA! We are big supporters of yours over at r/ZephyrTeachout. As AG what are some things you would do to help combat climate change and hold corporations accountable?

zteachout7 karma

Hi!! Yes.

-- Continue the Exxon lawsuit

-- Bring a fossil fuel lawsuit parallel to that just brought by the RI AG. State Courts are important players.

--Where the EPA isn't doing its job--which is ALL OVER--the State AG needs to be the regulator of last resort

--Get referrals from the DEC to hold polluters liable

--Not take fossil fuel $$$

lost_in_life_345 karma

NY has a history of activist AG’s in the last 15 some years.

How are you different?

zteachout9 karma

I take no corporate money and I'm not planning to run for Governor, so I can totally do the job without any political entanglements. I have decades of experience in anti-corruption work--and the heart of the job requires anti-corruption work right now, including taking on Albany corruption. Also, I'd be the second woman.

seancurl4 karma

How can I help with your campaign

zteachout10 karma

We are built on volunteers! Sign up and we'll get back to you in 24 hours. www.zephyrforny.com/volunteer

ThomasRaith4 karma

Should cannabis be legal in New York? If elected would you enforce the laws against cannabis?

The New York City police department is rife with corruption. What will your office, if elected, do to change the way that abusive officers are held to the same standard of justice as the rest of us?

zteachout9 karma

  1. Yes. But to be clear, it is the DAs who enforce drug laws, not the AG, my role is in advocacy for legalization.
  2. Transparency and accountability is totally required--the AG plays a critical oversight role. The AG has been referred the authority to investigate shooting deaths but it should be broader.

dinkhouse694 karma

Where does Upstate NY begin?

zteachout9 karma

Hi Jon Campbell. It begins a few inches north of the Poughkeepsie train station.

trademarklife2 karma

Are corruption and bribery usually results of things like party-mandated donation solicitation, or are there more unseen forces at work?

zteachout9 karma

Both and all--campaign contributions are like the gateway drug to bribes or to a corrupt attitude (I don't like gateway drug terminology, so read that with full skepticism). Campaign contributions create corruption AND cynicism, and we need publicly funded elections.

TheGreatFadoodler1 karma

How was Bernie? I went to a rally for you with Bernie when I was at New Paltz. You got my vote

dinoscool3-2 karma

What’s your vision for using the NYAG office for backing up Mueller’s investigation of Trump?

Also as a side note: I proudly cast my vote for you in NY-19 in 2016. Will be proud to vote for you again!

zteachout4 karma

1) Use powers under 63-12 and 1101 to investigate businesses and Foundation illegality.

2) Bring a NYAG emoluments suit to demand divestment

3) Prepare for indictments if Trump pardons an associate under federal law to protect himself

4) Criminally investigate Foundation and businesses where there is evidence of illegality

It is CENTRAL--NY is where Trump's businesses are.

darkseid001-4 karma

What is a zephyr teachout???

zteachout8 karma

I wonder that every day.