POLITICS
12/27/2019 15:00 EST | Updated 12/27/2019 16:47 EST

Zephyr Teachout, Anti-Corruption Crusader, Endorses Bernie Sanders

Sanders backed the Fordham law professor in two previous runs for office.

Zephyr Teachout, a leading anti-corruption activist and expert, endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president on Friday, providing a boon to his campaign ahead of the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 3.

In a statement announcing her decision, Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and author of the celebrated history “Corruption in America,” cited both Sanders’ commitment to ending the influence of big money in politics and his ability to marshal a grassroots movement to achieve that goal.

“Bernie Sanders has built an extraordinary multi-class, multi-race movement grounded in community and compassion,” Teachout said. “He’s showing us that together, we can beat back the corruption of billionaires, beat the reckless profiteering of corporations, and beat Donald Trump.”

“He’s built the kind of movement that we need to fight the corruption that is killing us,” she added.

Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/Getty Images
Bernie Sanders has twice endorsed Zephyr Teachout's bids for public office. On Friday, Teachout reciprocated with an endorsement of Sanders' White House bid.

Teachout, a Vermont native, is due to join Sanders for a multi-stop campaign swing through New Hampshire this weekend. The pair’s “End Corporate Greed” tour will include a health care town hall in Dover, and a panel discussion on corporate greed and environmental policy in Plaistow.

As with other high-profile progressives who have endorsed Sanders, Teachout recorded a 2-minute video homage to the Vermont senator, explaining her endorsement. 

“Bernie Sanders is constitutionally incapable of sucking up. He can’t do it,” she says in the video. “And he’s especially incapable of sucking up to the wealthy or the glamorous or the people who run big companies.”

Teachout’s endorsement of Sanders is not particularly surprising. The Vermont senator gave his blessing to her unsuccessful 2016 bid for a House seat in New York’s Hudson Valley, and repeated the favor for her formidable, but still unsuccessful, bid for New York attorney general. (Teachout was an early endorser of Sanders in the 2016 election cycle as well.)

But it’s still a significant pickup. Although Teachout has a knack for losing in long-shot Democratic primaries ― she also fell short in an uphill 2014 race against New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ― the law professor’s scholarship and audacity in the electoral arena have earned her something of a cult following in progressive activist circles. For example, she vastly outperformed expectations in 2014, picking up more than one-third of the vote on a shoestring budget and pushing Cuomo to the left in the process. And in the wake of Donald Trump’s election in 2016, she was one of the first legal scholars to sound the alarm about the president’s possible violations of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

“The Zephyr endorsement is a big get for Team Bernie,” said Rebecca Katz, a New York City-based progressive strategist who has not endorsed in the Democratic presidential primary. “Bernie has been there for Zephyr in the past and it’s big that she is here for him now.”

Perhaps more than anything, Teachout’s endorsement of Sanders is a loss for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who has made fighting political corruption the main theme of her populist presidential campaign. Warren’s standing in Iowa has dropped considerably in recent weeks, even as Sanders remains steady in second place, according to public polling.

Since suffering a heart attack at the start of October, Sanders has enjoyed something of a renaissance on the campaign trail. He picked up the endorsements of three firebrand freshman congresswomen ― Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.) ― and turned in some of his strongest debate performances of the campaign.

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