2020 Candidate Profile: Adam Schleifer For Congress

Michael Woyton

NEW CASTLE, NY — There are several contested races in this month's primary, including Democrats running to be nominee in the fall for the 17th Congressional District. Patch asked candidates in the contested races to answer questions about their campaigns and will be publishing candidate profiles as the primary day draws near.

Adam Schleifer, 39, of New Castle, is seeking the Democratic line on the ballot in November. Longtime Rep. Nita Lowey is retiring at the end of the term. The district covers Rockland County and most of Westchester.

Schleifer's opponents in the June 23 Democratic primary are Mondaire Jones, Evelyn Farjas, Allison H. Fine, Asha Castleberry-Hernandez, David Buchwald and David Carlucci.

Schleifer is a former assistant U.S. attorney. Before that, he was a special associate counsel at New York's Department of Financial Services. He holds degrees from Cornell University and Columbia Law School.

Why are you seeking elective office?

I want to maintain and further a tradition of thoughtful, data-driven, cohesive leadership and advocacy for my hometown district so that everyone gets the opportunity to pursue their own version of the American Dream and thrive in a community, country, and world that fosters both justice and prosperity. As the proud grandson of Holocaust survivors and brother of a young man with special needs, I have long been focused on using the opportunities that I had (which they did not) to ensure others had a fair opportunity to thrive, whatever their different strengths, burdens and circumstances. That’s why I was driven to public service, first as a judicial law clerk for two federal judges and then as a consumer-protection regulator for Governor Cuomo in New York; a Federal Prosecutor taking guns off the street and seeking justice for victims of fraud; and now as a candidate for Congress in my hometown district.

The single most pressing issue facing our community, and what I intend to do about it.

The single most pressing issue facing our nation/state/community is getting past COVID-19. The next issue, even more devastating and longer-term, is climate change. I have been speaking and writing about this throughout our campaign, and that is why I was so proud to garner the endorsement of internationally-renowned climate-regulation expert Professor Michael Gerrard.

My plan will restore respect for science in our federal government and promote innovative policy ideas to save our planet. My plan has four components:
1. Restore the EPA and the federal government’s respect for science while protecting our air, water, and all natural resources through strong congressional oversight.
2. Pass legislation implementing a progressive carbon tax upon the fossil fuel companies and the other largest emitters of greenhouse gases, so that those corporations pay for their damaging emissions.
3. Create green new jobs and boost the economy by investing federal funds and creating tax incentives for green technology.
4. Develop a national service program including a Green Infrastructure Corps that matches years of service with years of subsequent free vocational training or higher education.

What are the critical differences between you and the other candidates seeking this post?

I am the only candidate in this race who has worked in state and federal government and who has a record of achieving real results for real people. As a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and consumer-protection regulator under Governor Cuomo, I fought fraud, corruption, and environmental crime while also taking assault rifles and dangerous handguns out of the hands of criminals.

Additionally, I am a true progressive who has eschewed corporate PAC, fossil fuel, defense contractor, and Washington D.C. lobbyist donations, something that not all of my opponents can claim. I’m not a career politician either — as a first-time candidate, I am running exclusively on the merits of my ideas and experience. Finally, I am the only candidate with a Youth Advisory Council in this race, highlighting the fact that so many young people in this district recognize that I am someone who can be an advocate for them in Congress.

Finally, in terms of policy, there are some key differences as well. I am the only person in this race that has introduced a $50 voting tax credit, given to people who vote in a federal election. This credit would go a long way in boosting voter participation rates while also offsetting the economic burden that working-class voters often face when voting. I am the only candidate with a comprehensive and robust plan for supporting people with physical and cognitive disabilities, something that might get a sentence on my competitors’ websites. And, I am the only candidate with a plan for enhancing legislative accountability and oversight of the executive branch, something that is sorely needed right now.

Describe the other issues that define your campaign platform.

Other important issues beyond the ones I described above are gun violence and health care. In Congress, I’ll fight for my gun-reform plan, which includes background checks, an assault-weapon ban, red-flag laws, and regulation of “ghost guns.” It’s personal for me. In first grade, a classmate pointed a loaded gun at my head. As a federal prosecutor, I worked with the ATF, FBI, DEA, and other law-enforcement partners to fight illegal gun possession. In health care, I’ll help pass a strong public health insurance option to cover the 8.5 percent of Americans without health insurance, bring down drug prices by allowing Medicare to negotiate with drug companies, and force insurers to cover mental health, preventative care, and fertility services.

What accomplishments in your past would you cite as evidence you can handle this job?

At Columbia University, I graduated as a James Kent and Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and as a Senior Editor of the Columbia Law Review. I also authored a law review article on replacing the electoral college system, so that New Yorkers’ voices matter in the presidential election, called Interstate Agreement for Electoral Reform, and was a research and teaching assistant for constitutional law.

After graduating, I served two years in the judicial branch as a federal law clerk. I clerked first for United States District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein in the Southern District of NY and then in the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for Hon. Sandra S. Ikuta.

In fall 2008, I returned to a NY in the throes of a financial crisis, and worked for the following five years as a litigation associate at a leading law firm, Wachtell Lipton, working on cutting-edge complex commercial litigation during one of our nation’s most turbulent and difficult economic times.

In 2013, I became Special Associate Counsel at New York’s Department of Financial Services, where I led a successful enforcement action that put a stop to predatory payday lending and advertising in both NY and nation-wide. I also handled briefing and settlement negotiations in a case that put a predatory Long- Island subprime auto lender into receivership and out of business. And I investigated and drafted parts of consent order imposing $485 million penalty in major investigation into illegal foreign-currency trading practices.

From 2016 until 2019, I was an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles, where I led investigations into, and successfully prosecuted, multiple major fraud cases in Los Angeles and New York, including by representing the United States as part of the Los Angeles team in the “Operation Varsity Blues” prosecution of college-admissions fraud and prosecuting healthcare fraud and ponzi and other investment schemes, including those targeting a religious institution and its elderly members. I also participated in the reopened investigation into and prosecution of the Guadalajara Cartel’s murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena, and prosecuted sexual predators and sexual extorters while also working with victims of those terrible crimes. I charged and tried environmental crimes, including an elaborate “smog fraud” designed to circumvent the EPA and dirty California’s air, as well an arson on federal land at famed Joshua Tree. I am also proud to say that I took dozens and dozens of handguns and assault weapons out of the hands of dangerous and violent criminals by prosecuting numerous federal felony firearm offenses.

What else would you like voters to know about yourself and your positions?

In the wake of COVID-19, I also wanted to share additional ideas that I think will be important to implement.

We need to get money into the hands of American citizens. Andrew Yang and Mitt Romney agreed on the $1,200 dollar stimulus checks, but it is not enough. We need to make sure Americans affected by this crisis have money to pay rent and put food on the table and we need additional rounds of cash stimulus. Second, we need infrastructure improvement, and not just roads, bridges and tunnels, but green new infrastructure. We must invest in the infrastructure of the 21st century, which means green energy infrastructure. And third, we need housing security, both for our working families and seniors. We need to ensure seniors are not priced out of their communities. We also need to ensure that everyone in Rockland and Westchester have access to affordable housing. This means much more than just building new affordable housing. It means incentivizing builders to create these units. It means building these units in such a way that we don't centralize poverty in specific areas, but that we instead diversify our communities both ethnically and socioeconomically.

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This article originally appeared on the Chappaqua-Mount Kisco Patch