New York Democrats who collaborated with the state GOP are hoping primary voters will look past their devil's bargain with the Republicans.
Democratic New York state senators who spent years empowering the GOP are now trying to re-brand themselves as progressives ahead of the competitive Thursday primaries.
Members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference — including state Sens. Jeff Klein of the Bronx, Jesse Hamilton of Brooklyn, and Jose Peralta of Queens — want primary voters to give them credit for Democratic successes like the $15 minimum wage and paid family leave.
But the IDC does not own these accomplishments. Instead, they own the years of chaos their organization inflicted on the New York state Senate that made these accomplishments so difficult to achieve.
Klein and a group of his fellow "Democrats" created the IDC in January 2011 and immediately joined forces with the new razor-thin Republican majority in exchange for chairmanships on Senate committees. The following year, Democrats won enough races to take back the Senate, but the IDC chose not to caucus with their own party, allowing the Republicans and Majority Leader Dean Skelos to retain power.
Thanks to the IDC "Democrats," Skelos and his fellow Republicans were able to stonewall progressive legislation — bills like the Reproductive Health Act, the DREAM Act, and Child Victims Act, all of which passed in the Assembly — and grind Albany to a halt.
Angry voters blamed Democrats, who still technically held a majority. Meanwhile, Skelos and the GOP cruised to take back full control of the Senate with Klein and the rest of the IDC at his side.
In July, Skelos and his son, Adam, were convicted on multiple corruption charges. The evidence at trial revealed, among other things, the shameful one-sidedness of the IDC's arrangement with Republicans.
"I’m going to be president of the senate, I’m going to be majority leader, I’m going to control everything," Skelos said in a wiretapped conversation in which he gleefully described the power-sharing agreement to his son.
"I heard you left a handprint on someone’s ass today," Adam Skelos said, referring to when his father explained to Klein how the GOP-IDC arrangement would work.
The IDC dissolved earlier this year, and now its former members are trying to portray themselves as unifying figures of the Democratic Party. But while the IDC no longer exists on paper, the fundraising network of corporations and LLCs it established remains active and is helping them to fend off progressive challengers.
Just over 2 percent of donations to former IDC members in this cycle have come in the form donations of $200 or less. The average contribution to Klein is nearly $2,000, while his opponent Alessandra Biaggi’s average is just $76, according to a July report.
Currently, the former IDC members are expected to remain aligned with their fellow Democrats regardless of what happens in November. But there is little to stop the the group from reconstituting itself after the elections — which is why several of these so-called Democrats who collaborated with the GOP are facing serious challenges from progressive Democrats who will do no such thing.