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Written by TOM McCARTHY
Coming to a local Senate district near you — the “Toxic Tour” featuring rock music, a 12-foot inflatable man in a hazmat suit and reformers looking to change campaign finance laws.
A group called the “Strong Economy For All Coalition” is hosting these events in five Senate districts to protest hedge fund money in politics. They are targeting the five most “egregious” cases of campaign donations coming from Wall Street sources.
The “tour” was announced outside the Capitol earlier this session and has been making stops in the Hudson Valley and Long Island so far.
“It’s a tour. It’s a literal rock and roll tour,” said Charles Khan, organizing director for the coalition.
Punk guitarist Samoa Moriki, rocking an all black outfit with golden shoes, plays a Les Paul at ear-deafening volume while, behind him, Cleanup Carl looms over the protesters, who often wear haz-mat suits and string yellow caution tape across lawmakers’ offices.
Protesters have been traveling to the districts of state senators who the coalition is accusing of taking the largest contributions from hedge fund donors. They are handing out flyers, posters and t-shirts with the senators’ names and districts resembling tour dates, and ranked them by their toxicity.
“Wall Street billionaires and rich corporate donors continue to flood our elections with money, drowning out the voices of everyday New Yorkers,” the flyer states.
A the top of their list is Sen. Elaine Phillips, R-Hempstead who reportedly took $2,680,753.60 from hedge fund donors. The second is Sen. Terrence Murphy, R-Jefferson Valley, who reportedly took $2,495,679.33 from hedge fund donors.
“We’re kicking off a toxic tour to expose the state senators who are taking millions and millions of dollars in hedge fund cash, and not listening to the needs of everyday people,” said Chris Tallent, who heads May Day US, the group who funds and organizes Cleanup Carl’s appearances. “That’s a ripoff for New Yorkers. We’re talking about the carried interest loophole. That allows hedge fund managers to pay lower taxes. It’s a rigged system.”
Third on the group’s list is State Senator Sue Serino, R- Hyde Park, who reportedly took $1,550,194.19 from hedge fund donors. The fourth most egregious case, according to the coalition, is Sen. Carl Marcellino, R-Oyster Bay, who reportedly took $930,221.60 from hedge fund donors. And the fifth is Sen. Tom Croci, R-Islip, who reportedly took $647,706.42 from hedge fund donors.
“We demand that the senators do the people’s work,” said Michael Kink, executive director for the coalition.
Sporting a suit and tie to contrast himself with the Cleanup Carl crew in yellow hazmat suits, Kink spoke through a megaphone at the event ushering chants and moshing with the clean-up crew.
“We won’t stand for it. Cleanup Carl won’t stand for it,” said Kink.
The Economy For All Coalition is made up of unions, community activists and good government groups such as Citizen Action of New York.
The coalition has the Senate GOP of blocking efforts to close the carried interest tax loophole.
Under current federal law, a portion of income earned by hedge fund managers, private equity investors, venture capitalists and certain real estate investors — known as carried interest — is treated as capital gains rather than ordinary income. This portion of income is then treated favorably with lower capital gains tax rates.
According to the Governor’s website, this costs the state $100 million a year in taxes.
Kink spoke in support of Cuomo’s 17 percent “Fairness Fix,” which is an attempt to close the loophole under the New York state tax code. That portion of income would be treated as ordinary income. The losses under the federal tax code would be compensated. The success of this plan is reliant on Connecticut, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania passing legislation like Cuomo’s.
“In the Hudson Valley, in New York City, in Erie County, [these state senators] are trying to follow the footsteps of billionaires, of millionaires, of people who want to stop progressive politics,” said Stanley Fritz of Citizen Action NY.
“We want to put an end to hedge funds’ ability to buy their politicians. We want to stand up for working people…and the only way we can do that is to close the LLC loophole and to say no more to hedge funders purchasing Republicans or any other politicians.”