New York Daily News | October 8, 2017 | Kenneth Lovett
Seven candidates for City Council speaker have signed a pledge vowing not to accept money from billionaire Daniel Loeb because of racially charged social media comments he made about a top state Senate Democratic leader.
In a since-deleted Facebook post, Loeb in July accused Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is black, of having done “more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood” – an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan – by supporting public teacher unions over charter schools.
Citing the offensive statement, seven of the eight candidates for City Council speaker signed a pledge that several progressive groups pushed vowing not to accept money from Loeb or political action committees tied to him. The candidates are: Councilmen Corey Johnson, Mark Levine, Donovan Richards, Ydanis Rodriguez, Ritchie Torres, Jimmy Van Bramer and Jumanne Williams.
An eighth speaker candidate, Robert Cornegy, who in 2014 and 2015 received a combined $4,400 from Loeb to his now-closed district leader campaign account, did not sign.
Cornegy said Sunday he was unaware that groups were supporting the pledge, but he said he would reject any money from the billionaire hedge fund manager because of his offensive comments about Stewart-Cousins.
“Anybody with that philosophy, it would be difficult to align myself with him,” Cornegy said.
Loeb is a charter school financial backer and a big political donor to pro-school choice state and city elected leaders.
The stand taken by the council speaker candidates not to accept Loeb’s money is likely only symbolic since it’s not clear how many of the candidates would have gotten donations from him in the first place.
“We must continue to resist the relentless bigoted attacks, nationally and locally, that seek to diminish the accomplishments and contributions to this country by people of color,” Rodriguez said.
Added Torres: “What kind of message does it send to people if we accept money from people who would direct racially charged hostilities toward elected officials? Money in politics should reflect the people we represent, and our values as public servants.”
The pledge was put forward by the teacher-union backed Alliance for Quality Education, Make the Road New York, New York Communities for Change and Citizen Action of New York.
“With seven candidates for council speaker disavowing Dan Loeb’s racist money, this has become a litmus test for who can be speaker; and it should be,” said Alliance for Quality Education Executive Director Billy Easton.
Easton’s group vehemently opposes charter schools and has been critical of politicians, like Gov. Cuomo, who have accepted donations from Loeb and other pro-charter interests.
Several council speaker candidates, including Cornegy, Torres and Levine, support charters. They say they would reject any Loeb donations because of his offensive comments about Stewart-Cousins.
“In an era when bigots are being coddled by the White House, we must have a zero-tolerance policy on leaders who seek to divide us along racial lines,” Levine said. “The targeting of Andrea Stewart-Cousins, whose commitment to the welfare of all children is beyond question, is particularly reprehensible.”
A Loeb rep had no immediate comment, but referred to Loeb’s earlier statement: “I regret the language I used in expressing my passion for educational choice. I apologize to Sen. Stewart-Cousins and anyone I offended.”