Friday morning started badly for U.S. Rep. John Faso (R-N.Y.-19-Kinderhook), the area’s only Republican Congressional representative.
“SHAME ON YOU, JOHN FASO,” the headline on the editorial page of the Albany Times Union declared. The TU wasn’t just the biggest newspaper in his district, it had also endorsed him four months earlier, and contributed to his victory over reformer Zephyr Teachout in New York’s hotly contested swing district.
But Faso had screwed up. “With his abrupt decision to support the American Health Care Act,” the newspaper fulminated, ”the freshman Republican congressman from Kinderhook engages in a stunning series of betrayals — of tens of thousands of his constituents, of women in his district and beyond, and of taxpayers across New York state.”
A few hours later, Faso meekly took the floor of Congress to speak in behalf of the Donald Trump/Paul Ryan bill to repeal Obamacare. As soon as he was through, a Democrat rose to point out that Representative Faso had just vowed to support legislation that would take away health care from 66,000 of his own constituents, going against the expressed wishes of those who had elected him.
To make matters worse for Faso, after he went out on the limb, it was cut off, when a humiliated House Speaker Paul Ryan sensationally pulled his Obamacare repeal bill from the floor, marking a total disaster for the Republicans. Despite promising for seven years that they would abolish Obamacare and bellowing that their new super majority under Trump would end it with ease, the GOP’s abominable plan was thoroughly rejected by Republicans and Democrats alike, leaving egg on Trump’s face, Ryan’s face, and Faso’s hair.
But that was just the beginning.
A number of local groups had already staged protests outside Faso’s office and home, demanding that he heed the cries of the people he represents. He didn’t. And now he can count on much more.
Bobby Houston of Great Barrington’s Green Tea Party, one of the groups working to unseat Faso in 2018, reacted to the Congressman’s action by saying, “The guy was a lobbyist — his politics have most to do with his own career. He seems to be ignoring his constituents and thinks he can rely on some good manners and a hairdo.”
Faso’s actions broke his pledge that he wouldn’t vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and he betrayed other promises, say his critics.
Why, then, would he do it? Why vote over 91 percent of the time for Trump’s hideous bills?
Faso is a longtime politician who served several years in the impotent Assembly minority before trying, unsuccessfully, to get himself elected as comptroller or governor. As a lobbyist he was fined and banned for five years from appearing before the state pension fund, after he got caught in a pay-to-play scheme. He also lobbied on behalf of pro-fracking energy interests that were pushing to get their pipelines and other unpopular proposals approved.
In 2015 to 2016 Faso received $3 million in campaign contributions, of which $66,850 came from Elliott Management Corp., a hedge fund run by billionaire Paul Singer, who is one of the Republican Party’s top donors. He also received $10,800 from General Electric, a corporation responsible for poisoning the Hudson River, the Housatonic, and other natural resources in this region.
Another $10,800 came from Robert Mercer, the billionaire co-CEO who runs Renaissance Technologies Corp., the world’s most profitable and secretive hedge fund. Mercer is the right-wing extremist oligarch moneybags behind Steve Bannon, Breitbart News, Cambridge Analytica, Reclaim New York, the Government Accountability Institute, Kellyanne Conway, climate-change denial, anti-Islamic fervor, attacks on the news media, and the campaign to remove moderate Republicans and liberals from office. Mercer is also the key American supporter of Donald Trump — a figure ranking second only to Putin.
Mercer, Singer and GE don’t reside in Faso’s district. But that’s who he represents.
Friday was a bad day for Faso, but an unexpectedly better day for the people in his district.