Working Families Party Cleared

But has the cloud of suspicion passed now that investigation dropped?

By Spencer Rumsey on Aug 24th, 2010

 Now that the Working Families Party no longer has to worry about being indicted, it can concentrate on a more serious problem: its survival.

 The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York was probing the third party’s 2009 campaign in the city, looking at whether its for-profit wing, Data & Field Services, Inc., had helped its own candidates with illegal funding. At the state Democratic Convention back in May, some Democratic Party insiders were almost gleeful as they told the Press that the left-leaning WFP would be charged “any day.”

They were mistaken. Last week, the WFP learned the investigation has been dropped, and it was finally in the clear.

“This lets us refocus our energies a bit,” says Dan Levitan, a WFP spokesman.

But the WFP still doesn’t have what it was hoping for: Andrew Cuomo on top of its ticket. Instead, Legal Aid lawyer Kenneth Schaeffer has the task of drawing the 50,000 votes necessary to retain the third party’s line. So, the WFP may have just dodged a bullet, but if it can’t stay on the ballot after November, it won’t matter.

“We’re very comfortable with the candidate we’ve got,” says Levitan, “and if a better one comes along, we’ll be happy with that, too. But we’re very confident we’ll get the votes we need to keep fighting.” He did not think the U.S. Attorney’s investigation had been politically motivated.

Lisa Tyson, executive director of the Long Island Progressive Coalition, a local affiliate of the Working Families Party, says that Cuomo “should be proud to take our line. It’s an excellent party. It’s about the middle class and the lower-income person in our state.”

But Cuomo has been running to the right as he positions himself for the fall with a fiscally conservative platform. Although he did get the AFL-CIO’s endorsement at its convention earlier this month, which had been in doubt, he did not get the blessings of the New York State United Teachers.

As NYSUT President Richard Iannuzzi, who used to teach fourth-graders in Central Islip, explained recently to the Albany Times-Union, “When we look at his positions now − especially on issues such as tax caps, constitutional convention and the size of the public work force − we have serious issues.”

 They aren’t the only ones.