February 4, 2020
U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer (NJ-05)
213 Cannon HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Representative Gregory Meeks (NY-05)
2310 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
RE: HFSC hearing: “America for Sale? An Examination of the Practices of Private Funds”
Representative Gottheimer and Representative Meeks –
I believe you and I share the same dream that all Americans should get to have a fair shot to succeed, live a full life, and thrive. But let’s be honest: we all know not everyone has a fair shot. Not in today’s economy where Wall Street and corporate executives use their wealth to buy off politicians, rewrite the rules and make out richer than ever.
On November 19, I sat in front of you and your colleagues in the House Financial Services Committee (HFSC) and testified on the predatory practices of Wall Street private equity firms that have robbed me and 1.3 million American workers of our jobs. Private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), Bain Capital and Vornado Realty Trust bought out Toys ‘R’ Us, where I worked for 20 years, loaded it with $5 billion debt, and helped drive it into bankruptcy. While I and my 33,000 coworkers lost our jobs and were thrown into financial crisis, these Wall Street firms walked away with $470 million in fees and interest and wiped their hands clean. Dozens of retail companies like Gymboree, Payless Shoes and Shopko have been bankrupted and driven out of business because of private equity, leaving working families across the country like mine struggling to put food on the table and recover from financial ruin.
As I shared with you the mental, emotional and financial toll I experienced and asked you to rein in the private equity industry that has wreaked havoc on our economy, you, along with all of your Republican and some of your Democrat colleagues, defended the industry. It was as if you didn’t hear my testimony or I wasn’t in the room. I was baffled and demoralized.
This week I read that six days after the November 19 hearing, the two of you set up a joint fundraising committee with Rep. Raul Ruiz and Rep. Steven Horsford and raked in $100,000 from KKR executives and employees – the same company that helped bankrupt Toys ‘R’ Us and ruined my life that you were supposed to investigate as a member of the HFSC.
You have ignored the values of our democracy, the American people, and the oath you took as an elected official. You let Wall Street money speak for you that day and showed us exactly how Wall Street executives have been able to rig the rules in their favor to make excessive amounts of money with no concern about the impact on working people and their communities.
To date, Wall Street private equity firms have destroyed 1.3 million jobs by driving our companies to bankruptcy. Families were thrown into financial crisis – they lost their jobs, life savings, and health insurance. Yet you are willing to turn a blind eye to what is happening to working families in exchange for campaign money from these same bad actors so you get to keep your job in Congress.
I write today to urge you to do the job you were elected to do and demand that you immediately return the money that you collected from KKR. I also ask that you commit to not taking contributions from Wall Street in the future. At the November 19 hearing, I asked you and your colleagues to do the right thing and show us whose side you are on – working people or Wall Street billionaires. I ask you this question again, but this time, we need you to show us with your actions.
-Giovanna de la Rosa
United For Respect Member Leader and Former TRU employee