In this contentious race for the 19th Congressional district seat, Democratic candidate Zephyr Teachout has crticized her Republican opponent John Faso’s past as an Albany lobbyist.
According to disclosures.house.gov, a database of U.S. lobbying records, after serving in the New York State Assembly until 2002, Faso worked for the Albany lobbying, law and consultant firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips for clients such as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority from 2002 to 2013.
Additional organizations he worked for as legislative counsel include Autism Speaks, the Brain Trauma Foundation, Association for Affordable Housing, National Baseball Hall of Fame, New York State Association for Affordable Housing and other trade groups and organizations.
According to the New York State Joint Commission of Public Ethics (JCOPE) lobbying online filing system, Albany lobbying firm Manatt, Phelps & Phillips LLP also included clients such as Tennessee Gas Pipeline and the El Paso Corporation, one of the nation’s largest natural gas producers. The firm worked on property tax issues for El Paso until the corporation was acquired by Texas energy giant Kinder Morgan in 2012.
While the Constitutional Pipeline Co. was attempting to build the Constitutional Pipeline, Faso spoke on behalf of the pipeline at a Schoharie County Board of Supervisors meeting in 2013. When asked if he is a paid representative of the Constitution Pipeline, footage from the meeting of Faso speaking shows him saying, “I am in business, I do admit that and I am paid, yes.”
“You have someone who has been a career lobbyist in the last ten years,” Teachout said. “Faso is not fighting in the interests of the people on the ground. The root issue here is people are feeling fed up and angry no matter what whatever political background they may come from.”
In an interview with The New Paltz Oracle in September 2016, Faso said his lobbying career is public record and he did not back down in the face of criticism.
“Professor Teachout worked as a lobbyist, too,” Faso said in the interview. “This is the standard rhetoric, you’ll hear in this campaign that I’m a right wing, anti-woman extremist and that I kick little puppies and children. It’s unfortunate that this is the kind of approach they take. My job as a candidate is to try to correct the record and have people know what I’ve accomplished and I’d be honored to serve if I was elected.”
Although Teachout was briefly registered as a lobbyist for the Sunlight Foundation— a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit organization committed to increasing transparency in government and taking on powerful interests—she was not paid as a lobbyist, according to Alexis Grenell of the Teachout campaign.
“It is very common for heads of advocacy organizations to be registered so they can speak to lawmakers about the issues they care about,” Grenell said.
Grenell furthered her statement by drawing upon the Executive Director of Common Cause/New York as registered heads of Planned Parenthood and NARAL, saying it would be wrong to label them as lobbyists.
“Professor Teachout and her cronies in Washington continue to distort the truth about John Faso’s background and professional record with their dishonest attacks and outright falsehoods,” Faso Campaign Manager Dain Pascocello commented. “One can only assume they’d prefer to muddy the waters with lies and innuendo rather than articulate a real vision for the people of this district.”
In a later response, Teachout said:
“Faso is trying to deflect from his record of being a lobbyist, he has a long lobbying history, he lobbied for the largest gas pipeline in country,” Teachout said. “Everything I say is public record. I’ve been pushing for lower property taxes since the governors race and I am now, Faso has been portraying a mischaracterization of my history.”
Teachout said that the key issue and focus of the differences between her and Faso is that she will be the person to stand up for the issues in the 19th district.
“The voters are looking for someone who will stand up and fight,” Teachout said. “I’m proud we got the endorsement of Bernie Sanders. He came to show that people are really hungry for someone that will take on powerful interests, money and politics in a serious way.”
A previous version of this article did not provide balanced representation of both candidates. Following publication, the Zephyr Teachout campaign requested to comment on Faso’s remarks and the article has been updated to reflect this change.