BEWARE: Reclaim New York Using FOIA Laws To Push Trump’s Agenda

An incredible, perhaps unprecedented, number of grassroots organizations formed during the 2015-16 presidential campaign season.

As a result, communities all over the country have been turning out local activists to organize, phone-bank, write letters to newspapers, and run for office.

And it’s been working.

Failure to repeal the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), weakening President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, states’ refusal to surrender sensitive voter data to the “Presidential Commission on Election Integrity,” Andrew Puzder’s rescinding of his nomination for labor secretary, and scores of other potentially disastrous actions that never gained much traction, are due in large part to the activist wave sweeping the country.

Most grassroots organizations to emerge are liberal/progressive leaning.

However, some are not, and being able to identify right-wing groups is not as simple as one might assume.

One example is Reclaim New York, a non-profit that uses the state’s freedom-of-information laws to expose local public expenditures. Its purported objective is to train New York residents to be “watchdogs” in their communities.

What’s wrong with that?

Nothing…until we follow the money.

Formed in 2013, it started with the Mercer family alongside Trump’s chief White House strategist Steven Bannon.

The Mercers–Robert, Rebekah, and Diana–are wealthy Upper West-side Manhattan Republicans who spent millions on Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-Texas) failed presidential campaign.

Unlike the Koch brothers, who are known primarily for their monetary investments in politicians, the Mercers are more technologically savvy. They have used their connections to Bannon, a filmmaker, to construct an alternative media milieu to promote the “danger of immigrants flooding to our shores,” and the “swamp” Trump claimed to want to drain.

They poured money into Breitbart News, becoming part owners under Bannon’s tutelage, and therefore complicit in the nationalistic platform that helped propel Trump to the White House.

They also helped finance the Government Accountability Institute (GAI), an investigative think tank Steve Bannon co-founded.

GAI president, Peter Schweizer, authored the book Clinton Cash: The Untold Story of How and Why Foreign Governments and Businesses Helped Make Bill and Hillary Rich, which the the Mercers’ film production company, Glittering Steel, translated to film, portraying former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as captive to wealthy interests, a charge that dogged her entire presidential campaign.

Glittering Steel has produced films for the Mercer-funded super PAC “Make America Number 1,” which, according to campaign finance filings, paid the production company about $700,000.

But they didn’t stop there. The Mercers invested in Cambridge Analytica, a data science company working for the Trump campaign.

A member of its board of directors was none other than…Steve Bannon.

Now there is a petition circulating requesting New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman investigate Reclaim New York.

It states:

“[Reclaim New York’s] main focus is the weaponized use of otherwise valuable FOIL requests to harass NYS schools and local governments and subsequently to sue 11 of them – incurring wasteful use and abuse of NYS tax payer’s dollars and resources. Instead of increasing transparency, they are intentionally burdening these institutions by frivolously taking precious time and resources away from their primary purposes -which is the education of our children and the proper functioning of our local governments.” 

The petition currently boasts 398 signatures of 500 needed.

Featured Image Via Pixabay.

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.