FOR ERIC SCHNEIDERMAN: “Transformational politics is the work we do today to ensure that the deal we can get on gun control or immigration reform in a year—or five years, or twenty years—will be better than the deal we can get today. Transformational politics requires us to challenge the way people think about issues, opening their minds to better possibilities.” Eric Schneiderman, then a New York state senator, wrote these words in a 2008 Nation article, “Transforming the Liberal Checklist.” He’s now running for attorney general of New York.
Over the years, Schneiderman’s commitment to transformational politics and progressive values has been tested, and he has proved that he is a steadfast champion of causes because they are right, not because they are popular or politically expedient. His advocacy for a smart and fair administration of justice is closely attuned to the times and the pressing need for serious judicial reform. He was the prime sponsor and a key leader in passing historic legislation that overhauled New York’s draconian Rockefeller-era drug laws, repealing harsh mandatory minimum sentences, which disproportionately affect African-Americans and Latinos. Schneiderman is also dedicated to protecting voting rights, having introduced legislation to end prison-based gerrymandering. And he offers a long history of fighting for a cleaner, more transparent state government. In fact, he wrote and sponsored the most sweeping ethics reform legislation to pass the New York Legislature in a generation.
Schneiderman has shown character, integrity and the ability to take on major national issues and put his own stamp on them. His independence, gutsiness and unwavering commitment to ensuring equal justice for all New Yorkers will serve the Office of the Attorney General well. KATRINA vanden HEUVEL
GOP’S VULTURE CAPITALIST: The New York Times recently profiled conservative hedge fund tycoon Paul Singer, who has generously bankrolled the GOP and is known as a Republican George Soros. The article spotlighted the $500,000 Singer contributed in April to the Republican Governors Association and his push to thwart Wall Street regulation. Left unmentioned was how Singer amassed his fortune, in part by exploiting the debt of impoverished nations [see “Rudy’s Bird of Prey,” October 29, 2007].
In the 1990s Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Associates, pioneered a shadowy, lucrative and often ruthless form of investing whose products earned the not-so-generous moniker “vulture funds.” Vulture funds buy old defaulted debts, usually from the poorest countries in the world, and then drag the debtors into court, seeking a settlement far above what the funds originally paid for the debt (which has already been forgiven by rich nations like the United States or the World Bank) in a reverse–Robin Hood scheme.
Elliott’s targets have included the government of Peru and the tiny West African Republic of Congo, where 70 percent of the population live below the poverty line. “Pay us in full or be sued,” Singer demands. “They’re completely amoral,” says David Skeel, a professor of corporate law at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s almost a matter of pride to them.” It’s not surprising that someone like Singer would be a major benefactor of today’s GOP. ARI BERMAN