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Former Davis Polk Associate Dreams of Making U.S. Political History

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  • Former Davis Polk Associate Dreams of Making U.S. Political History

    Since when did Davis Polk become the training ground for young, female New York politicians? Kirsten Gillibrand, the state’s junior senator currently in a war-of-words with Harold Ford, toiled for a while at Davis Polk.

    Now comes word that Reshma Saujani, a 34-year-old former Davis Polker, is throwing her hat in the ring in what could be an equally entertaining congressional race. Saujani, according to this story in the NYT, “has won the backing of some prominent Democratic donors for her bid to topple Representative Carolyn B. Maloney, a challenge that is turning heads on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and antagonizing some of New York’s best-known feminists.” Were to she win, Saujani would be the first Indian-American woman to serve in Congress.

    The story is fascinating, partly because Saujani, who currently works as a hedge-fund lawyer, doesn’t seem inclined to exploit the populist notion spreading countrywide that Wall Street is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    In an interview with the NYT, Saujani accused Maloney and the entire New York Congressional delegation of failing to do enough to aid business. She slammed Maloney for bashing banks and calling for a 100 percent tax on some bonuses.

    “Instead of browbeating Wall Street, I want to invite them to help create jobs,” Saujani said, talking up an idea to connect investment houses with technology start-ups.

    “If you go to Texas, you’ll never hear a Congressional member speak poorly of the oil industry,” she added. “In Michigan, you’ll never hear a Congressional member speak poorly of the auto industry. This is our bread and butter.”

    Saujani, (Illinois/Yale Law), may have come from Davis Polk, but she’s more recently been steeped in the hedge fund world. In 2005, she helped start an investment fund for a company partly owned by Hassan Nemazee, a Democratic fund-raiser who was charged with bank fraud last year. (Saujani said she left before the alleged crimes.) She went to another fund started by the Carlyle Group, then shifted to Fortress Investment Partners. All of the funds were hammered in the credit crisis.

    Like Gillibrand in the face of Ford’s yet-to-be-made announcement that he’s running for Senate, Maloney’s fighting back. A spokesman for Maloney asked: “What’s her record? What’s her accomplishments? What’s her connection to the district? There is none.”

    According to the NYT story, Saujani’s campaign has annoyed some feminists, whose loyalty Maloney won decades ago for her work on women’s health issues and equal pay.

    Marilyn Fitterman, a former state president of the National Organization for Women, appealed to Saujani in an e-mail message not to challenge Maloney “if you care anything about women’s rights.”

    Saujani, undeterred, said that for paying her dues and waiting, she said, “Last time I read the Constitution, getting in line wasn’t in it.”

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