JESSICA DESVARIEUX, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.
The race for New York City comptroller seems like a very hyperlocal story, but it’s being looked at closely, considering the position would mean managing pensions and dealing with Wall Street. Candidate for New York comptroller Eliot Spitzer has recently taken a 19-point lead over his Democratic primary rival, according to a Quinnipiac poll, and he has come out saying that he wants to use his position for financial activism, taking a hard line on Wall Street abuses. Now Spitzer has been denounced by the New York chapters of Planned Parenthood, as well as the National Organization for Women, also known as NOW, both of which have chosen to team up with business leaders on Wall Street.
Now joining us to discuss all this is Lynn Parramore. Lynn is the senior editor at AlterNet and a contributor to the Huffington Post.
Thanks for joining us, Lynn.
LYNN PARRAMORE, SENIOR EDITOR, ALTERNET: Great to be here with you.
Parramore: So, Lynn, can you just describe for us your recent article where you laid out Spitzer’s record and what women should know about Eliot Spitzer considering his record on women as well as on Wall Street?
Parramore: Sure. When Spitzer announced his candidacy for comptroller, I was quite excited. I had been watching Wall Street very closely for the last few years, and he has an unmatched reputation among major U.S. politicians in being aggressive on Wall Street abuses. So I thought this was great.
A number of headlines began to appear asking how women would feel about his candidacy, particularly feminists. And as someone who’s always identified as a feminist, I decided to share my views and wrote an article that appeared on Huffington Post.
And when I looked back through Eliot Spitzer’s record, not only has he been very strong on reining in Wall Street, but he’s also been very strong on issues that matter to most women. He’s been strong on defending reproductive rights. For example, when he was governor, he defended women’s right to terminate a pregnancy in the face of a Supreme Court decision that would have curtailed those rights. He’s also been very strong on women’s health issues that go beyond reproductive issues. He has been very strong in advocating for screening for breast cancer, cervical cancer, you know, things that really impact women’s lives. He’s also been an advocate of women in the workplace. He very famously got behind a paid leave act that was much more generous than the federal paid leave—the federal leave act for dealing with family emergencies, which was unpaid.
And then, on the Wall Street issue, I think a lot of people fail to see the connection between women and Wall Street. And the connection is actually really big. Women are affected disproportionately by some of the abuses that Wall Street has been guilty of, particularly the ripping off of municipalities and states and cities with various kinds of fee structures and scams and lending practices and financial schemes. And really having somebody in the comptroller’s role who not only understands what Wall Street has been up to but had also has the temperament to be aggressive in pursuing abuses seemed to me to be of great benefit to women.
Parramore: So essentially you’re saying Eliot Spitzer had a strong record on women’s rights as well as going after Wall Street abuses. In your article, you mention that the New York chapters of NOW, as well as Planned Parenthood, that have denounced Spitzer have close ties to Wall Street. Can you explain some of this suspicion?
Parramore: Yes. I was disappointed to see Sonia Ossorio, who leads the New York chapter of NOW, coming out and voicing not only her support for Spitzer’s opponent but denouncing Spitzer himself, and likewise Sandra [@[email protected]] of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New York similarly backed Stringer and said negative things about Spitzer, particularly related to his stance on women’s issues. She said she wanted somebody who didn’t just give a nod to women’s issues. And I found that to be rather disingenuous, given his record.
And then come to find out—we learned in the headlines that these organizations have actually joined a super PAC with certain unnamed business interests to defeat him, to spend $1.5 million to really skew the election in favor of his opponent. Now, that’s a really interesting development. They’re doing more than just coming out and discussing their views as organizations; they’re also actively getting involved in the race.
Parramore: And right now we can’t even name names. We can’t necessarily look at boards and come up with specific ties to Wall Street and these organizations. Can you just talk a little bit about that, the transparency issues related to these super PACs?
Parramore: Yes. I was very interested, when I saw the information coming out about the super PAC, to know who exactly these business interests that were being referred to actually were. It’s one of the most frustrating things, as someone who covers Wall Street issues and political races, that a lot of this information is really hard to get a hold of. And I did a little digging, and it appears from my research that disclosures have not yet been made public on the makeup of that super PAC. And apparently there is a rule whereby the information has to be disclosed 12 days before the primary. It could be disclosed sooner. I suspect that it won’t be, because I suspect that these women’s organizations in New York City would prefer not to have discussion about who it is they’re in cahoots with to spend all this money. But we’re going to find out eventually and know exactly the nature of these ties.
Parramore: Okay. And just so our viewers know, we reached out to the New York chapters of Planned Parenthood, as well as NOW, and we didn’t receive any comment from them. And they haven’t made any public comments thus far concerning this issue.
So, Lynn, let’s switch gears just a little bit and just talk about how this lack of support from NOW, as well as Planned Parenthood, the New York chapters—how do you think this will affect Spitzer’s campaign?
Parramore: Well, they made a few headlines. But it’s interesting. I find when I’m talking to women in New York City that it’s not swaying them too much.
And the interesting thing about feminism is it’s a word that covers, really, multiple points of view. There are different strands of feminism. And by no means does everyone consider that the New York chapter of the National Organization for Women or the New York Planned Parenthood Action Fund speaks for them as feminists. Feminists hold a variety of views on the issue of sex workers. They hold different views on the scandal that resulted in Spitzer’s resignation. And they also, you know, have different focuses on the economics that affect women. So there are multiple points of view.
And I really think that the NOW and Planned Parenthood affiliates that are coming out against Spitzer are almost seen as, you know, sort of establishment feminist voices who are trying to tell women how to think and, you know, morally position them. And I think there’s even some resentment about that.
Parramore: Well, Lynn, really interesting article. Thank you so much for joining us.
Parramore: My pleasure.
Parramore: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.