Article on Reclaim NY is an accurate account of group’s activities

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By Saturday, Oct 14 Letters  24 Comments

To the Editor:
We read with great dismay the recent letter to the editor by Doug Kellogg, Communications Director of Reclaim NY regarding an article by Victor Feldman on this organization. The letter to the editor attacked The Edge and the reporter for writing “inaccuracies and gaps in information.”

We applaud The Edge for publishing Mr. Feldman’s portrayal of Reclaim NY, a portrayal we have also experienced. For more than eight months, we have followed Reclaim NY, read its colorful reports and citations, attended its colorful presentations and workshops and challenged its facilitators of its own “inaccuracies and gaps in information.”

What we have found is on the surface, Reclaim NY is just another far-right conservative group that alleges NYS taxes are high because state and local governments are secretive, wasteful and corrupt. Reclaim asserts that public schools are wasteful, unions and pensions are zapping our economy, subsidies and revitalization programs are just for “crony corporations,” and Medicaid is nothing more than squandered giveaways to the poor. And, while discussions of high taxes in NYS are welcomed, Reclaim NY focuses like a laser beam on government as the sole problem.

Reclaim is gathering data from more than 2,500 local governments and schools in NYS to prove their case that NYS is in an “affordability crisis.” And, yes, Reclaim did sue 11 schools and local governments, but it was not for “egregious violations of state transparency laws,” as Mr. Kellogg alleges. Rather, it was against public entities that were in general attempting to protect the privacy of students and adults, or resisting the expansive nature of Reclaim’s requests.

Attending Reclaim NY workshops was a surreal experience. Subliminal statements insinuating waste and secrecy bounce off the walls during Reclaim’s presentations. “People are leaving NYS in droves because they can’t afford to live here.”  “When was the last time NYS elected a Governor from upstate?” “What’s with sub teachers… substitute teachers are double dipping.” “State workers make four times more than the rest of us.” Reclaim facilitators in their khaki pants and blue blazers railed against high taxes due to public schools, subsidies, revitalization projects and Medicaid. Privatizing public schools, eliminating subsidies and other giveaways, and promoting fracking were Reclaim’s answers to repair tax anomalies.

Reclaim urges workshop attendees to join their “citizen-owner army” to help in uncovering waste and corruption. Facilitators brag about Reclaim FOIL’ing (Freedom of Information Law) 2,500 NYS small towns and schools for broad financial information, information already available to the public. Afterwards, facilitators urge attendees to also FOIL their local government or school. Invariably, some attendee would ask, “Why should we FOIL if you already did?” The Reclaim answer was always, “To let them know we have our eyes on them.”

‘The government is our enemy” was the insinuation we heard over and over again during the various Reclaim presentations and workshops we attended. What were the consequences to Reclaim’s messages and activities that feed on distrust of and frustration with the government? What was Reclaim really up to?

Digging deeper into Reclaim directs us toward a more truthful representation of their organization. In fact, Reclaim NY was established in 2013 by Steve Bannon, former Senior Counsel to President Trump, and Rebekkah Mercer, who was on the Trump transition team and whose father is Robert Mercer. Robert Mercer is the billionaire hedge fund manager who owns a primary share of Cambridge Analytica, funded the Trump campaign, and financed Breitbart News.

Given the involvement of Bannon, the Mercers and Cambridge Analytica (which shares the same address as Reclaim), who mainly support “alt-right and white supremacist” groups like Breitbart News, we MUST ask ourselves what are Reclaim NY’s real interests? Reclaim presents itself as a 501(c)3, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, but does not discuss it’s 501(c)4 lobbying group that is run by the same staff as its nonprofit. Nor will Reclaim facilitators discuss the relationship between Reclaim NY and Bannon, the Mercers or Cambridge Analytica. Nor will they provide names of their donors.

Mr. Feldman based his article on his experience at a Reclaim NY presentation in Utica, N.Y., and research he did on the organization. It wasn’t just Reclaim’s overly simplistic far-right policies and citations that Mr. Feldman’s article spoke to; it was more about the subtle divisive messages of how, as Steve Bannon says, “to deconstruct the administrative state.” And knowing that Bannon, the Mercers and Cambridge Analytica are closely tied in with Reclaim NY should cause all New Yorkers to look deeper into this organization.

Joyce St. George

Susan Dey

Delaware County, New York


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24 Comments   Add Comment

  1. SAGE RADACHOWSKY says:

    Excellent letter. Thank you for writing this. The far right is indeed working hard behind the scenes to maintain and further their agenda, which is a country in which there is very little government, the poor are on their own, and capital is all-powerful. The Mercers and the Koch brothers pump money into this agenda, and master messengers devise ways to spread the propaganda.

  2. Pete says:

    Great letter. I am tired of these ideological crack pots. “Any jackass can kick down a barn. Only a skilled carpenter can build one.”

  3. Leonard Quart says:

    Tax cutting as a political agenda is often nothing more than cutting social spending and serving the wealthy. It’s a smoke screen for the Kochs and their cohort to screw the rest of us.

  4. J. Milazzo says:

    Thank you for this letter. I don’t know much about Reclaim NY, but this opened my eyes. Terrible things have happened in our country with the arrival of the Trump administration. I cannot understand how the working class doesn’t wake up and realize they’ve been fooled and are being manipulated. I appreciate any revelation of the skulduggery behind the scenes. Thank you to Ms. St. George and Ms. Dey.

  5. Lisa Amowitz says:

    Reclaim NY is an insidious Mercer/Bannon funded wrecking machine that must be stopped. Thank you for shining a light on it.

  6. Diana Mason says:

    Thank you for publishing the original article and this letter that both counter the lies made by Reclaim and its representatives. These are dark times and we must shine a light on the lies and the attempts by Bannon, the Mercers, and Reclaim to undermine our communities. Rural areas, in particular, need strong, cohesive communities that will be forthright with and supportive of local governments that we can depend upon for ensuring that our children have access to a quality education, maintain roads that must be navigated during snowy winters, keep us safe from crime, and more. And we need to value and respect eaxh other, not sow seeds of fear, distrust and divisiveness as Reclaim is attempting to do My thanks to this newspaper’s editor for publishing Victor Feldman’s story and the letter by Joyce St. George and Susan Dey. Please keep shining the light on truth.

  7. Dennis Metnick says:

    Along with many others I have been following Reclaim NY. Similar to Breitbart (their publishing arm) Bannon and Trump they play very loosely with their “facts”. Their goal is to stop government, not protect it. They have been badgering county clerks for information under FOIL as a weapon, not as the tool it was supposed to be, by overloading schools and Clerk’s with unnecessary requests. Our clerks are over worked as it is and anytime I have needed information it is always available. These people must be stopped . They are trying to end good government as we know it. The Mercer’s are behind it, along with Bannon, and anyone who looks at their history can see these people give a whole new meaning to the word “Far Right Extreme” and are reminiscent of the old John Birch Society and the actions of Roy Cohn and HUAC of the early 50s.

  8. Linda Caswell says:

    All anyone needs to know about Reclaim NY is that Bannon & the Mercers are involved. Thanks to the Berkshire Edge, reporter Victor Feldman and letter writers St. George and Day, we can’t say we didn’t know.

  9. Linda Lariar says:

    This is scary stuff, and Ms St George and Ms. Dey, and articulately explaining why. It is so hard for those of us of good will to understand the malignant motivation behind this. Keep up the work Berkshire Edge.

  10. Kathleen Hayek says:

    Thank you, the Berkshire edge and writers Feldman, St. George, and Dey, for telling the truth! Calling an inconvenient fact fake news does not make it go away or make that fact untrue. ReclaimNY’s agenda, as Bannon has stated, is to deconstruct our government. They’re doing it by asking unwitting citizens to put undue FOIL stress on our village, town and county clerks who already work hard for us with minimal salaries. These clerks, these local governments, are not our enemy, for Christ sake! They are our neighbors, friends, and family who have put themselves forward as public servants of their communities. They may get it right or wrong, but they are first our employees, and yes, we supervise them, and we also support them in doing their jobs for us. Our true enemy is anyone who would seek to destroy (aka deconstruct) our government, so ReclaimNY, with all your hidden agendas and cherry picked facts, get thee away from us!

  11. Artie Martello says:

    I urge everyone with a Twitter account to share this article . Joyce St George and Susan Dey have been researching and on top of this venomous group of trolls since its inception. People need to be made aware of how dangerous they are and how easily people are bamboozled by its rhetoric as dictated by Steve Bannon and the Mercers. Just those names should send a message to everyone that there is lots more to this group than people are aware of. They must be stopped.

  12. Lisa Tait says:

    Thank you Berkshire Edge for publishing this letter! My friends and neighbors attended a Reclaim NY meeting at our county chamber of commerce. Their experience backs up St. George’s letter. Reclaim NY reps made significantly inaccurate statements about Delaware County, painting a distorted picture of our local government and local economy to some purpose they wouldn’t share. They wouldn’t even disclose who their organization’s funders were. They inundated our local town clerks and school clerks with FOILs for information that didn’t require FOILs and again, to no clear purpose they would disclose. Even their logo is deceptive — designed to look like it’s part of NYS government. There is definitely something fishy going on with this Reclaim NY group.

  13. Tom Parrett says:

    Fine reporting by Victor Feldman in the Edge and an excellent letter by Joyce St George and Susan Dey. Reclaim is, if nothing else, a hypocritical organization for demanding transparency from local government yet concealing its own true purpose and backers, all while it enjoys nonpolitical tax status. Staffed by political operatives from right-wing PR and bad-actor corporate lobbying, it’s aim seems to be to cast doubt on government no matter how small and local and gum up its functioning — with the ultimate purpose of destroying American faith and trust in government itself. Why would Steve Bannon, the Mercers, and their cohort want anarchy and chaos? Possibly they don’t want to go that far, though you never can tell with Steve Bannon, who imagines we are still fighting the crusades. A world without government regulations, of frontier capitalism as raw as daily survival of the fittest — that apparently seems worth millions of dollars and countless man-hours. But maybe all they want is what’s been achieved in other states: a takeover of the state legislature by a radical minority of white nationalists, who can then force their extreme agenda on everything from schools, policing, and government services to the state budget. Resistance, information, and vigilance!

    1. Joyce St George says:

      Thanks for supporting us, Tom. Great comments. Please keep spreading the word. We want Reclaim to know that we have our eyes on them!

  14. Ruth A. Foy says:

    Thank you so much for this letter. The information I gleaned from the article is astounding. I’m very glad we have gladiators to counter a very real threat.

  15. Gianni Ortiz says:

    Thank yo for writing this thoughtful letter. Reclaim NY’s goal is to strip NY of any and all social safety nets and basic services in order to further empower and enrich the very few. They need to be outed and the public needs to be educated about who they are and their motives. Their focus is NYS right now, next it will be Mass, then NJ and on and on. It is Bannon’s Brainchild to execute his goal of deconstructionism, one state at a time. Very dangerous.

  16. Karol P Kucinski says:

    The Mercer/ Kock/Bannon troika is our “axis of evil”–anti-democratic running dogs for the 1%!

  17. steven Hitt says:

    Excellent reporting by Victor Feldman in the Edge and an eye opening letter by Joyce St George and Susan Dey as well. I have been following Reclaim NY over the last few months as friends brought them to my attention. Just as Steve Bannon and Breitbart News is trying – and scarily succeeding – Reclaim NY’s intention is not to save the government, but to blow it up. I am not a conspiracy theorist however, The chaos we are witnessing in this country is following a facist model from the 30’s and we must stay on top before we no longer have a republic to defend. Thank you Victor Feldman for writing this and The Edge for publishing the article. Thank you Joyce ST. George and Susan Dey for bringing this to 9our attention.

  18. Bonnie Ratnoff Seegmiller, Ph.F says:

    Joyce St. George and Susan Dey are doing a fine job of countering the misinformation Reclaim is trying to spread. Who wouldn’t be against ending corruption, which Reclaim touts? However, BEWARE of Reclaim. it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  19. Bonnie Ratnoff Seegmiller, Ph.D says:

    Joyce St. George and Susan Dey are doing a fine job of countering the misinformation Reclaim is trying to spread. Who wouldn’t be against ending corruption, which Reclaim touts? However, BEWARE of Reclaim. it is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  20. Cathleen Perry says:

    Thank you to Victor Feldman for your excellent reporting, and thank you to Joyce St. George and Susan Dey for your letter. Reclaim NY’s agenda is divisive and disruptive to our local governments. I have attended one of their presentations and found their claims to want transparency odd, particularly since they refused to discuss their connections to the Mercers and Steve Bannon or to reveal their donors. This group is no friend to our local communities.

  21. Ellen Fauerbach says:

    The rebuttal by Reclaim New York is a classic text book strategy as outlined in Jane Mayer’s book, “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” for responding to criticism of groups supported by enormous amounts of cash by billionaires. It shows how tactics like this support the agenda to eliminate taxes and regulations on the wealthy and their corporations by presenting their aims as good for the lower 99% of the population. This is achieved through manipulation of terminology and methodology to confuse their actual aims in order to get candidates elected to government offices who support their ideology of less government oversight and tax breaks for the wealthy disguised as good for workers.

    Reclaim New York’s main tool is the Transparency Project. As defined on their website: “The New York Transparency Project was born out of the belief in citizen-driven oversight. We can’t rely on public officials in Albany to solve New York’s corruption problem. We need the understanding, tools, and plan to fight corruption with transparency in every school district, village, town, city, and county across the state”. In fact, there is no need for citizens or Reclaim New York to make FOIL requests for this information as it already exists at: http://www.openbooknewyork.com which is Thomas DiNapoli’s, New York State Comptroller web site.

    What then is their real purpose? Could it be to cast current legislators, beginning at the lowest local level, in a bad light in order to elect candidates more in line with their aims? Look for the intent behind the message of Reclaim New York.

  22. Arnie Schwartz says:

    Thank you Ms. Joyce and Ms. Day for your hard work bringing out the truth about Reclaim. As Karol Kucinski said, “The Mercer/ Kock/Bannon troika is our “axis of evil”–anti-democratic running dogs for the 1%!.”

  23. Mary McKeon says:

    Joyce & Sue, we thank you for all your efforts on this important issue. No one and I mean no one should tell any newspaper “not to print” something if they don’t like in the LTE’s. It is not up to these organizations (Reclaim NY). Reclaim NY was first set up by Steve Bannon, and now is under the wing of the Mercers. All this organization wants to do is disrupt local government – fanning fears among our very own neighbors, so that they can take over and prevail at destroying local autonomy.

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