Photo: Dale Robbins/Moyers & Company

Zephyr Teachout

Scholar & Organizer

Zephyr Teachout is an organizer as well as constitutional and property law professor at Fordham Law School.

This year, Teachout ran for governor of New York against incumbent Andrew Cuomo. She took 34 percent of the vote in the primary and succeeded in bringing her populist platform to the attention of the media and a broad audience of voters.

Teachout, one of the leading legal experts on corruption, is best known for her efforts to limit the influence of money on politics. Her arguments were cited in the Citizens United case by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Her new book, Corruption in America, is a history of the corrosive influence of money in politics.

Teachout was head of online organizing for Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. After the market crash of 2008, she co-founded a group dedicated to breaking the power of Wall Street banks.

After graduating law school at Duke University, Teachout founded a criminal defense non-profit in Durham, North Carolina, where she helped lead the fight against the death penalty. It was during these years that Teachout came to understand that lawmaking is not a science but rather a moral and political art.

Teachout grew up in rural Vermont, where she attended public school before going on to Yale University. Her first job after graduating was as a special education teacher’s aide in a small rural public school.