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Report Documents Big Money In NY Races

Wiki Commons

A group that opposes big money in politics has issued a report showing that a handful of wealthy billionaires are contributing heavily to Republican congressional campaigns in New York.

The group, known as Hedge Clippers, is funded by a number of progressive organizations, as well as the major teachers unions. The group’s Michael Kink says a report compiled by Hedge Clippers finds billionaires with conservative political leanings, including the heirs to the Walmart fortune, and the Mercer family gave $29 million to help GOP candidates running for office in New York during the current election cycle.

“These are the guys paying for the divisive ads,” Kink said. “The mailers with scary pictures of immigrant families, the racially-charged TV and digital ads.”

The money from the wealthy individuals goes to targeted mailings, which sometimes attack Democratic candidates, and for ads financed by independent political action committees, or PACs. The ads include one against Democratic candidate in the 19th Congressional District, Antonio Delgado. It is paid for by the National Republican Congressional Committee, which receives donations from the billionaires, according to the report. Delgado, who is African American and grew up in Schenectady, outside of the Eastern New York district, is a Rhodes Scholar who graduated from Harvard. But two ads focus on Delgado’s brief musical career in rap, where some of his songs contained racially charged words.

One ad refers to him as a “big city rapper," another ad features some of the lyrics from Delgado’s rap songs, with offensive words bleeped out.

Delgado’s opponent in the race, Republican John Faso, disavowed the ads during a recent debate on PBS affiliate WMHT.

“Those are not my ads,” said Faso, who admits the ads are “provocative," but he says they accurately depict the lyrics in Delgado’s rap songs.

Faso says he does not want anyone to cast a vote for him based on ideas about race.

Kink says if Faso wanted the ads to end, he has the power to do so.

“If John Faso went to [GOP Speaker of the House] Paul Ryan and said ‘stop these ads,’ the ads would stop,'” Kink said.

Kink says the wealthy donors paying for the ads espouse views that many New Yorkers might not agree with, like cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to help pay for recently approved deep tax cuts. He says the ads “keep us divided.”

The Hedge Clippers say they’d rather have a campaign finance system that gets funding from small contributions from individuals.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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