Wall Streeters fund PAC backing Brooklyn Democratic incumbent over DSA challenge

A super PAC whose wealthy donors previously funded Republican candidates has taken an interest in the race for Brooklyn’s 21st Senate District – where a longtime incumbent faces challenge from a Democratic socialist who favors higher taxes for the rich.

State filings show New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany PAC has so far spent $7,500 on digital ads this month supporting State Senator Kevin Parker, a strong supporter of charter schools. Spending by outside individuals represents one of the few instances where PACs began exerting their financial muscle on local races ahead of the Aug. 23 primary. Filings show he has raised nearly $1.3 million so far.

The PAC spending comes as Parker faces a serious challenge from David Alexisa candidate backed by the Democratic Socialists of America, the Working Families Party and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, among others. On his site, Alexis says he supports raising taxes on the state’s wealthiest people, arguing that it will “fund a better New York for all of us.” If he wins, he will build on the gains made by the Democratic Socialists in Albany over the past few years.

Parker was elected in 2002 and ran for comptroller last year. He currently sits on the Banking, Finance and Higher Education Committees. Notably, Parker — who also chairs the Energy and Telecommunications Committee — sponsored a bill that would impose a moratorium on cryptomining, who annoyed bitcoin supporters. The bill has not yet been signed.

Among the funders of the PAC is Daniel Loeb, a billionaire hedge fund manager who donated $250,000 to the PAC, according to filings. Loeb sparked controversy in 2017 for implying that State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who is black, has done worse for the black community than the Ku Klux Klan. He then apologized.

Loeb regularly donated to PACs during election cycles. Last year, he paid $1.5 million to super PACs involved in the mayoral and New York City Council races last year, including Strong Leadership NYC Inc. Filings show that PAC – to which Loeb contributed $1 million — has provided more support to current Mayor Eric Adams than any other PAC. Loeb declined a request for comment.

“Loeb clearly recognizes that David Alexis’ campaign is about bringing regular workers into the political process, and views this as a threat to hedge fund billionaires like him,” Alexis campaign manager Devin McManus wrote. in a press release.

Another donor, Robert Granieri – co-founder of investment firm Jane Street Capital – gave New Yorkers $150,000 for a Balanced Albany PAC. Granieri regularly contributed in congressional races outside of New York, giving money to Democratic and Republican candidates who do not support former President Donald Trump, according to campaign materials. Similar to Loeb, Granieri donated $250,000 to Strong Leadership NYC Inc. during the city’s election cycle last year, according to filings. Granieri did not return a request for comment.

Ian Schaad, also of Jane Street Capital, donated $100,000 to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, the documents show. Schaad has previously contributed to Republican candidates, namely Rep. Elise Stefanik and U.S. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, according to federal campaign finance deposits. Schaad did not return a request for comment.

Another contributor is Paul Tudor Jones II, founder of the Tudor Investment Corporation hedge fund and the Robin Hood Foundation, which gave New Yorkers $250,000 for a balanced Albany. Jim Walton, the billionaire heir to the Walmart fortune, donated $375,000, the documents show.

A spokesperson for Parker’s campaign did not return a request for comment.

New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany is run by Angelia Dickens, an attorney for charter school advocacy group StudentsFirstNY. Major donors to New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany strongly support charter schools, a long-standing vision also owned by Parker. Charter school advocates lost a bid in April to convince the state legislature to lift the cap on charter schools in the state.

In a statement, Crystal McQueen-Taylor, head of advocacy at StudentsFirstNY, said Parker’s history of supporting school choice is the main reason PAC spent ads on his behalf.

“New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany has a proud history of supporting candidates who advocate for education reform and parent choice. Senator Parker is a longtime champion of this movement who listens to his constituents and the overwhelming majority of New Yorkers who want more options for our students. We need more people like him in Albany,” McQueen-Taylor wrote. She added that Parker is a friend.

“We help our friends,” she says.

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