Friday, May 31, 2013

Why I Secretly Taped Mitch McConnell
The released portion of the recording clocks in at less than 12 minutes. (photo: Curtis Morrison)
Curtis Morrison, Salon 

By Curtis Morrison, Salon
31 May 13

arlier this year, I secretly made an audio recording of Sen. Mitch McConnell, the most powerful Republican on the planet, at his campaign headquarters in Kentucky. The released portion of the recording clocks in at less than 12 minutes, but those few minutes changed my life.
I leaked the recording to Mother Jones, which published it with a transcript and analysis in April, and over the days that followed, blogs and cable news shows lit up with the revelations from that one meeting. At the time, McConnell was prepping for a race against the actress Ashley Judd - it was "the Whac-a-Mole stage of the campaign," McConnell said smugly - and the recording captures his team in some Grade-A jackassery, including plans to use Judd's history of depression against her.
But also up for debate was the the ethics of the audio recording itself. Here's the latest: An assistant U.S. attorney, Brian Calhoun, telephoned my attorney yesterday, asking to meet with him next Friday as charges against me are being presented to a grand jury.
In a technology age marked by vigilante heroes like Julian Assange and Anonymous, the line between journalism and espionage has grown thin. McConnell was quick to frame himself as the victim of a crime, which was to be expected. It was the guilty repositioning of a politician who has been caught being craven.
What I never expected was the pushback from my own political side. One day in April, I turned on MSNBC and saw U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat from Louisville and one of my personal heroes, rip me a new one:
"These are like petty thieves," Yarmuth said, referring to me and my friend, Shawn Reilly, who had accompanied me as I made the recording. "They're an embarrassment to the system. They're an embarrassment to politics."
In the days that following the audio leak, I lost my friendship with Shawn. I lost my apartment. I lost my job and my career path.
Unlike Mitch McConnell, I will not paint myself as a victim. I've learned a lot in these weeks. But nothing stung like hearing Yarmuth brush me aside like that. I was so upset that all I could do is go for a long run. Frankly, I had a good cry. And as I pounded away the stress and frustration of that moment, I had to wonder: Did I make a mistake?
I'm a liberal activist in Kentucky. I'm also a citizen journalist - at least I used to be - because I don't subscribe to the lie that activism and journalism can be separated. Howard Zinn wrote,"You can't be neutral on a moving train." That's how I see it: Journalism is a moving train, and we all choose which perspectives to bring along on the ride. Needless to say, journalists tend not to like me.
Since 2009, I've run a blog that hoped to fill a narrow void in Kentucky media by covering a ridiculous amount of public meetings, civil disobedience actions and political events, where I'm often the only person who shows up with a tripod. My blog's YouTube channel has more than 100 videos. I started it because I have a long-standing interest in improving the collective knowledge of Kentuckians. The more informed we are, the better decisions we make. But I have other interests as well. One of my goals is to unseat Mitch McConnell.
I don't personally dislike McConnell, but I believe he has failed Kentucky. He has prioritized his personal agenda du jour over the needs of Kentuckians for more than three decades of his so-called public service. It took the two years leading up to the 2012 election - during which his only aim was to sabotage President Barack Obama - for a wider audience to catch on to his disgraceful behavior. To hell with the Commonwealth of Kentucky, to hell with the country.
According to Public Policy Polling in their December 11, 2012 poll results, McConnell was "the most unpopular Senator in the country." And now he faced a high-profile, high-stakes face-off with a Hollywood star.
Of course I was watching, but I also became invested. I've never met Judd, but I identify with her. We're both the same age, have endured similar personal struggles. We both spent our 20s looking out for ourselves while suppressing a calling to higher service. Her transition into a life devoted to public interest has been more streamlined and effective than mine, but I root for her. (Frankly, I hope she reconsiders her decision not to run, and jumps in the race by January.)
I learned about McConnell's February campaign launch a week prior to the event, through a tip from a reader of my political blog. The tipster did not tell me the time or precise location, but I discovered in only a few days that his HQ was only 1,000 feet from where I then lived. If Sarah Palin had said she could see the McConnell campaign HQ from my deck, she would have survived a fact check.
The meeting was on Groundhog Day, a holiday that would seem to have great ironic meaning for the American political system, and it was freezing cold that morning. I skipped my shower, threw on sweats, enjoyed hot coffee while I checked my email. Typical Saturday on my Mac. In the course of a few minutes, a few hours had passed. I didn't want to go outside - I didn't want to go anywhere - but I remember thinking if McConnell's launch was so close to my home and I spent the day hibernating, then I suck at both journalism and activism. And since I don't have aptitude or passion for much else, that would be problematic for my self-esteem. So I put on my coat and shoes, grabbed my Flip camera, and headed out the door.
At the last minute, I recruited my neighbor, Shawn Reilly, to come with me. Shawn had a phone with access to Twitter, which I thought might provide clues on the meeting's exact location, and my smart phone had not survived a fall from atop the roof of my moving Jeep.
So we drove to Bishop Lane and scoured the parking lots for McConnell's black Suburban or any BMWs with "Friend of Coal" license plates. No luck. Twitter was no use either. But that's when my phone rang.
On the other line was the source who first let me know about the HQ opening. He told me I had missed the launch, pronouncing the donuts cheap and stale and the coffee cold, but the meeting was still going. And he told me the location of the headquarters: the second floor of a building named Watterson Towers.
We headed over.
The front door to the office building was unlocked, and there was no one behind the reception desk. Walking down the hall of the second floor, I recognized McConnell's voice. He was talking about Sen. Rand Paul's strategic use of the Tea Party in procuring his 2010 election.
The voices were coming from the other side of a nearby door, which had a window. I pulled out my Flip camera and started to record.
I don't need to tell you what a weapon the pocket video camera has become. Bartender Scott Prouty changed the trajectory of the entire 2012 election when he captured Mitt Romney in his now classic "47 percent" speech. You just never knew when a politician was going to open his mouth and accidentally reveal his true agenda. And as I held my Flip up to the window, that's what I was hoping for, but I soon realized that the video I was capturing was the back of a projection screen, and only the audio was of value. So I held the Flip closer to the door vent instead of the window, and began recording the 11:45 minutes of footage later released by Mother Jones.
I was sweating. My heart was racing. I tried to record backup audio on my phone, but my cheap replacement phone would only let me record voice memos of one minute in length. Every time the minute was up, the phone would beep, which was excruciating for the person crouching by a door vent. When a gentleman walked out of the campaign headquarters and into the hall, I put my Flip and phone back in my pocket, and headed to the elevator.
Shawn was already there. We made our escape.
At the time, I wasn't clear exactly what I had captured on tape. It wasn't until I listened back to the recording that I heard the entirety of what was taking place. I heard his campaign staff revealing the ugly nature of their pending electoral strategy. I heard an oppo research presenter, whose identity is still a tightly guarded McConnell secret, suggesting that the senator may have used his legislative aides to gather the dirt on Judd. It's unlawful to use government resources for campaign work, a lesson McConnell should have learned in 1981, when the Louisville Times and a subsequent lawsuit allege he did the same, back when he was serving as the Jefferson County Judge/Executive.
I knew the recording had given me an opportunity, and I wanted to seize it. Though my initial instinct was to release the tape that day, I wondered if it wouldn't have more impact closer to the election. When announcing her decision not to run, Judd wrote in her statement, "And it's time Kentucky had an alternative to the cynical politics and self-serving tactics of Mitch McConnell." For me, that confirmed Judd understood Sen. Whac-A-Mole even more than I did. If only there was something I could do to show a broader audience what Kentucky's senior senator was all about? Boy, that sure would be in the public interest. I decided to release the recording sooner.
And so in late March, I reached out to David Corn at Mother Jones, the journalist who released Scott Prouty's 47 percent tape. I trusted him with the material. On the morning of April 9, he published the full recording and transcript, as well as an analysis – and the circus began.
That day, McConnell refused to answer reporters' questions about the recording, deflecting repeated inquiries with portrayals of himself as the target of "Nixonian tactics."
Before noon, his campaign had fully integrated the McConnell-as-victim strategy, sending out a fundraising email with the heading,"Liberals Wiretap McConnell's Office." McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton spoke to the press using words like "illegally and illicitly" and "unethical and immoral." And it just wouldn't be Benton if he didn't also compare me to a Nazi."This is Gestapo kind of scare tactics," he said.
I thought back to a quote of McConnell's from back when Sen. Bob Packwood protested the release of evidence from the Senate Select Ethics Committee that would lead to his 1995 resignation. He said, "As happens with increasing frequency these days the victimizer is now claiming the mantle of the victim. The one who deliberately abused the process now wants to manipulate to his advantage. That won't wash."
Increasing frequency, indeed.
Meanwhile, my personal life hit a wall. Shawn never wanted me to release the recording, and our friendship ended in the wake of that disagreement. I was renting a room from his sister-in-law at that time, and to avoid awkwardness, I put my stuff in storage and lived mostly in my Jeep.
It is important to state that sleeping in my car was not a disaster. The self-reliant part felt good, and in the heavy-drinking days that followed, the arrangement solved a few practical matters: Getting home from the bar is real simple when you live in your car. For a short time, I entertained buying a custom van. Maybe next time?
Also, I was unexpectedly liberated from my ambitions to grow as a Louisville journalist. For years, I'd been a contributor to Insider Louisville. But when news broke that I was involved in making the recording, my editor not only fired me, but he wrote an essay about me.
So I can take a hint. I'm in California now, and plan to attend law school here in the fall. I'm 44 years old, and my life path has shifted a bit, but I'm still alright. So far, McConnell has failed to cause me even a fraction of the suffering or inconvenience he's caused most Kentucky families.
But I do wonder sometimes. Like when Yarmuth - the politician I have referred to over the years as "Congressman Awesome" - slagged me on MSNBC. (Although I'd like to point out that Yarmuth went on to stress the importance of the recording's contents, drawing attention to how McConnell hadn't addressed the thorny questions that it raised.)
It was a frustrating moment, but in truth, I've never doubted that making the recording was ethical. I believe in the philosophy of Julian Assange: When we open up governments, we bring in freedom. Helping the voting population better understand a political leader's true priorities is a good thing. And hell yes, it's ethical.
I'm reading a book now called "Listening In: The Secret White House Recordings of John F. Kennedy," which was put together by Ted Widmer and Caroline Kennedy. In case you didn't know, Nixon wasn't the only president to make secret recordings in the White House. Most presidents since FDR did, but Kennedy was the first to take recording seriously, making 265 hours of taped material in all. Interestingly, there are times when Kennedy left the Cabinet Room, and the Joint Chiefs were recorded without their consent, but please don't tell McConnell about that. He'll have a cow.
What's fascinating about Kennedy's recordings is that he appears to have made them in the interest of preserving history, and dispelling mythology, which he knew to be a distraction from truth. He probably intended to use those recordings to write a memoir we'll sadly never read, but now they offer an uncut look at a real presidency.
Widmer writes, "It has been a problem since the dawn of the presidency - how do we capture the words and thoughts of the individuals to whom we give so much power? Do they not have a certain obligation to report back to us?"
I would argue that yes, our leaders have an obligation back to us. But we are also allowed some due diligence to capture their words and thoughts however we can.
As for whether my actions were illegal? I don't believe so, and that position has been supported by some high-profile attorneys, including John Dean, former counsel to President Nixon. Not everyone agrees with Dean, of course. Erik Wemple, whose wife works for Mother Jones, cleared David Corn of wrongdoing in the Washington Post, but me not so much. Wemple wrote: "Yes, reporters, you may accept clandestine recordings from law-breaking scumbags. Just don't help them do their work."
I could still be prosecuted. And wouldn't that be smart? Here we are - the sequester in full tilt, special-education teachers and air traffic controllers are being laid off, funding for medical research is being cut – and let's funnel those savings into taking down that destitute guy with the Flip camera.
But I still think it was all worth it. McConnell's numbers continue to slide. On the morning of the recording's release, Public Policy Polling released another poll setting McConnell up in virtual races against hypothetical potential candidates like Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. In that poll, McConnell only led Grimes by four points, 45-41.
Last Tuesday, the Huffington Post reported that McConnell and Grimes are now tied, 45-45. Granted, this is still a hypothetical race. But no matter who McConnell actually faces in 2014, Kentucky voters can be on the lookout for his "Whac-A-Mole" game like never before. Already, Grimes is on to him. After McConnell political director Iris Wilbur made it her life's work in late April to bully Grimes into denouncing what McConnell's campaign was still calling "an illegal bugging," Grimes brought it:
"I will tell you that the bully tactics that we see displayed are a continuation of those exemplified in the recording that has surfaced by Mitch McConnell…This Kentucky woman won't be bullied."
I believe all opportunities come with risk, and knowing them in advance allows you to accept the consequences. So I took a risk on Groundhog Day. I stuck my head up to try to raise the general public's awareness about what the most powerful Republican on the planet is really like. If I get whacked in the process, so be it. At the very least, I hope people will see that McConnell is not what he purports to be. He wants you to think he is sound and moral, but he is neither. He wants you to think he's a statesman and a leader, but he is a moral coward.
If given another chance to record him, I'd do it again.


NY state Assembly votes to decriminalize public possession of small amounts of marijuana

Gov. Cuomo supports the measure, and Dems say while it's still illegal to have pot, 'it should not be a crime' to possess small amounts. Senate Republicans are balking at the bill.




State law requires those arrested with marijuana to be given the equivalent of a traffic ticket.

ALG is Chiu/AP

Marijuana remains illegal in New York, although some lawmakers want small amounts to be decriminalized.

ALBANY — The state Assembly voted Wednesday to decriminalize the public possession of small amounts of marijuana.
Supporters including Gov. Cuomo say the measure will reform NYPD “stop-and-frisk” tactics in which cops ask people to empty their pockets, then arrest them if they pull out a joint. The bill would make public weed possession a violation instead of a misdemeanor.
“It is still illegal, we are just saying it should not be a crime,” said Assemblyman Karim Camara (D-Brooklyn). Senate Republicans, however, have so far balked at taking up the measure. “We should not be sending a signal across the state that marijuana is okay,” said Sen. Martin Golden (R-Brooklyn).
May 30, 2013

The Ad Campaign: Group Frames the Choice as Anyone but Quinn

A political action committee dedicated to thwarting Christine C. Quinn’s mayoral ambitions released three new advertisements on Thursday, featuring New Yorkers explaining why they do not like Ms. Quinn, the City Council speaker, and will not vote for her.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Disgraced ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada set for sentencing on embezzlement charges

The crooked state senator from the Bronx was convicted of stealing $400,000 from his nonprofit Soundview Healthcare Network.

Former State Senator Pedro Espada Jr., speaks to the press on May 4th, 2012, outside Brooklyn Federal Court, after another day of deliberations on his corruption trial.

Jesse Ward/for New York Daily News

Former state Senator Pedro Espada Jr. was convicted on embezzlement charges and has been attempting to delay sentencing until a judge delayed adjournment Wednesday. Sentencing is set for June 14.

Disgraced ex-state Sen. Pedro Espada Jr. has tried — and failed — to delay his sentencing by changing lawyers yet again.
Brooklyn Federal Judge Frederic Block on Wednesday rejected the disgraced Bronx Democrat’s bid for a 30-day adjournment so he could hire a new legal mouthpiece.
Espada, who faces up to 10 years in prison, is due to be sentenced June 14 for embezzling more than $400,000 from his nonprofit Soundview Healthcare Network. He was convicted by a federal jury more than a year ago, and in October pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges that the jury had deadlocked on.
Espada and his son Pedro Gautier Espada, who also pleaded guilty to tax evasion, had a February sentencing date postponed after they parted ways with their trial lawyers. But the elder Espada’s legal team sought to stop the clock Wednesday by citing an unspecified “conflict of interest” that has arisen with the client.
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Wednesday, May 29th, 2013
Press Contact:
Thanu Yakupitiyage; New York Immigration Coalition; Office: 212-627-2227 x235; Cell: 413-687-5160

Video by Rafael Martínez Alequín

Campaign for Immigration Reform Intensifies as Immigrant Groups Launch ‘Remember November’ Campaign

Across Country, Groups Will Hold Voter Registration Drives, Town Halls and Meetings with Members of Congress
(New York, New York)-  Today, on the steps of City Hall in New York City, New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, a statewide coalition of 150 business, labor, faith and grassroots organizations coordinated by the New York Immigration Coalition, held a press conference to launch ‘Remember November,’ a series of actions in the next phase to pass immigration reform.  The campaign was joined by Congressman José Serrano, a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and longstanding advocate for immigration reform.
During the current congressional recess, participating groups in the New York campaign will hold 19 Remember November events across the state, joining with advocacy groups in 30 states that will hold more than 100 voter registration rallies, town hall meetings, marches and congressional visits. The goal is to amp up the pressure on Congress to fix the nation’s broken immigration system and provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.
Among the 19 events organized by the New York campaign will be a protest this evening at a fundraiser featuring Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. He has been a vocal opponent of a path to citizenship and voted against the Senate immigration bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee last week. The bill ultimately passed out of Committee with bipartisan support and is expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote in early June.
At the press conference, Congressman Serrano, together with Latino and immigrant leaders from New Yorkers for Real Immigration Reform, urged opponents of a path to citizenship to “Remember November” and stressed that voters would hold accountable those who delay immediate action on reform. 
“After years of delay and a decisive election where the American people spoke clearly, it is time for comprehensive immigration reform,” said Congressman José E. Serrano. “Families cannot continue to be broken apart while anti-immigrant forces try to defeat the bill. The time is now to move forward and help people live a life free of the fear of deportation; a life with a clear future that includes full citizenship.”
“Last November, Latino, Asian, and immigrant communities voted in record numbers. We have waited for seven months and are here today to say the time has come for Congress to deliver on immigration reform,”  said Guillermo Chacon, member of the executive committee of the board of directors of the New York Immigration Coalition and executive director of the Latino Commission on AIDS. “We are pleased that the Senate is acting on immigration reform, but we must now see meaningful action from the House of Representatives.  Immigrant communities are fighting to keep their families together, and they will not forgive or forget those who stood in the way of measures that would end the separation of immigrant families.”
“As national momentum for real immigration reform grows stronger by the day, lawmakers in Washington D.C. need to know that millions of immigrant voters across the country are playing close attention.  This defining issue will serve as a litmus test for voters as they decide who has upheld this country’s economic and moral values and who they will hold accountable for failed leadership.” said Milan Bhatt, co-executive director, Worker Justice Center of NY.
"Millions of American voters of Russian and other Slavic and East European origins, together with Latinos, Asians, and other Americans from all walks of life, are looking forward to a timely passage of a just and humane, truly comprehensive, and bipartisan immigration reform bill by the U.S. Congress,” said Dmitri Daniel Glinski, president & CEO, Russian-Speaking Community Council of Manhattan & the Bronx, Inc. “We are proud and grateful that the Senators representing the states where most of us live and vote have shown true leadership in the drafting and the markup of a bill that, on the whole, meets the hopes of many millions of hard-working, law-abiding immigrants and the needs of our country.  We urge the House of Representatives to do its part. Our communities will judge their representatives at the polls based on their contribution to a reform package that provides a realistic path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, strengthens equal opportunity and anti-discrimination in the workplace, and creates institutions to promote immigrant integration that are representative of the richness and diversity of all our communities."
“Today, our campaign for real immigration reform sends a message to Congress to remember November.  Remember the record number of immigrant voters who turned out last November to break the political gridlock in DC and revive the momentum for immigration reform,” said S.J. Jung, president of the MinKwon Center for Community Action. “With the ever-increasing power of the immigrant electorate, we will continue to push for real immigration reform that keeps families together.  We are troubled to see that the Senate bill eliminates the rights of U.S. citizens to sponsor their siblings and older adult children. These are among the most popular and backlogged family visa categories, with the Philippines and Mexico having the longest waits. Elimination of these categories adversely impacts immigrants of all ethnicities, as well as Americans.  By keeping families together, immigration reform will put our nation firmly on a path of prosperity and security for all.”
"As voters and as people of conscience, we ask Congress to remember all of the families victim to a broken immigration system; we ask Congress to remember their commitment to uphold our nation’s values of fairness; and we ask Congress to remember that we are mobilizing, we are organizing and we are watching the immigration debate very closely," said Faiza Ali, advocacy & civic engagement coordinator at Arab American Association of NY. "We will not forget those who stand for policies that continue to tear families apart and disregard our rights." 
"Immigration policies are a major concern for the Asian American community.  Two out of three Asian Americans who voted in the November 2012 elections favor comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to citizenship for the undocumented,” Mae Lee, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association. “In the past few years, the number of Asian New Yorkers who are eligible to vote has grown 53%. We will be working to register new voters in our community so that we can join all New Yorkers to exercise our right to vote this fall and in years to come."
“The passage of the immigration bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee gives us hope for the future of comprehensive immigration reform. The bill is a compromise, but this is a compromise that is worth protecting,” said Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel, Latino Justice. “We have spent decades building up the people power and support for comprehensive immigration reform and we will continue to mobilize our communities, hold the line, and hold Congress accountable to pass the strongest and most inclusive bill possible. We want them to know that we are watching and that we will remember November as we move this bill forward.”
“Latino and immigrant communities voted in unprecedented numbers last November to keep families together and fix our broken immigration system. This is our number one priority and we want to work with leaders in Congress that will stand up and act for family unity and a path to citizenship for all,” said Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road NY
“Immigrant communities and our allies are organizing to have an even stronger impact on the upcoming elections,” said Gonzalo Mercado, executive director of El Centro del Inmigrante. “As we get closer to making the passage of immigration reform a reality, we call on everyone to remember the impact that immigrants made last November.” 
Click HERE for a list of local events happening across New York.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thank a Lot Cathy and Premix: For sharing "Mackin' Honey"

The Unlikely Borough President (UPDATED)

Written by Ross Barkan on . Posted in Campaigns/Elections, News, News & Features.

There is no battle for Brooklyn Borough Hall.
State Sen. Eric Adams is in a rarefied place for a candidate seeking a wide open seat: He does not really need to campaign. With only a sole long-shot opponent and virtually the entire Brooklyn Democratic Party behind him, Adams is poised to replace the wisecracking Borough President Marty Markowitz, who has reigned over the borough as its No. 1 booster for close to a dozen years.
Adams’ campaign kickoff in March, fittingly on the steps of Borough Hall, was a show of strength typically reserved for a longtime incumbent. Mayoral candidates like City Comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio swooped in to give Adams ringing endorsements. Leaders from Brooklyn’s wide-ranging ethnic and religious communities flocked to the event, extolling the character, strength and intelligence of the retired police captain.
“First, President Obama got a mandate from the American people,” Liu told the cheering crowd. “Now Senator Eric Adams is going to get a mandate from the people of Brooklyn!”
Adams, who was elected to the state Senate in 2006, is currently a darling of the Democratic Party, a future power broker on track to make history as Brooklyn’s first African-American borough president. Yet his probable path to Brooklyn’s highest office is surprisingly winding, including stints as a registered Republican, antiestablishment gadfly and upstart challenger to a popular congressman. In May he was named as one of the elected officials who was wiretapped by then state Sen. Shirley Huntley, who was sentenced to a year in a prison for embezzling nearly $90,000 from a sham nonprofit. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, eight of the nine people whom Huntley secretly recorded are the subjects of an ongoing investigation, including Adams.
Following the bombshell revelation about the Huntley wiretap, Adams stated that he had not been contacted by any prosecutors. “I believe deeply in transparency and the pursuit of justice—and that is why I committed 20 years of my life to law enforcement,” he said in a statement. “I am more than willing to help with any investigation.”

No Contest

Brooklyn is sandwiched between two highly competitive borough president races in Queens and Manhattan. Even candidates with far larger war chests than Adams, like Julie Menin in Manhattan and Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. in Queens, have not scared away challengers.

Eric Adams at Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz’s “State of the Borough” address this year
“There are some serious lifers who want that seat,” said a Brooklyn Democratic insider about the crowded Queens borough president race. “So then what does it say about the Brooklyn BP spot if no one wants it except Eric Adams and John Gangemi? Markowitz was good, but he wasn’t that good as to scare away all others. It’s very odd.”
Adams’ lone challenger is the relatively unknown John Gangemi, who has raised a measley $12,265 as of the latest filing. Gangemi, a former councilman-at-large, last held elected office more than 30 years ago.
Before he decided to run for Congress, the term-limited City Councilman Domenic Recchia was believed to be Adams’ chief competition. According to multiple sources familiar with the Kings County Democratic Party, Recchia was persuaded by the party, now based in southern Brooklyn after Canarsie resident Frank Seddio was named its chair last year, not to challenge Adams.
Seddio, who is white, did not want a clash between a southern Brooklyn white elected official and a northern Brooklyn black elected official, according to Democratic sources. After years of infighting under Assemblyman Vito Lopez, Seddio has sought to unify a once-fractured party.
Some Democratic insiders believe he did not want a scenario where a white county leader and white borough president would preside over a borough that U.S. census figures show is now only half white. According to Seddio, however, the party did not dissuade Recchia from running for borough president. A Recchia spokeswoman confirmed Seddio’s statement.
“We’re trying to bring a much more cohesive Brooklyn. The days of fractured politics are gone, in my mind,” Seddio said. “We worked very hard with the different candidates that wanted to run, thought about running. It’s kind of like going into a good clothing store, trying to find a suit that fits … I think we managed to get everyone into a suit that they’re going to be able to wear, and wear with pride.”
Adams declared his intention to run early last year, giving him a head start in lining up support from the borough’s various ethnic blocs and putting some distance between himself and his potential opponents. He has now raised almost a half million dollars, a substantial figure that could serve as a deterrent to any future challengers. Recchia’s decision not to seek the seat, coupled with both Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron opting to run for public advocate, created a clear path for Adams. Carlo Scissura, Markowitz’s former chief of staff, once also a candidate, ultimately left the race to lead the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
Since news of the Huntley wiretap surfaced, there has been speculation that James will switch gears and instead challenge Adams, but she issued a statement earlier this month saying the rumors were “unfounded.” She officially declared for public advocate on May 19.

“On the Brink of Inciting Controversy”

At his kickoff in early March, Adams portrayed himself as a fiscal progressive able to unite a diverse and rapidly changing borough. Known as a strident opponent of stop-and-frisk, Adams recently testified against the controversial anticrime policing tactic in a class-action suit challenging its constitutionality. Adams, who agreed to be interviewed by City & State only by email, said he would use the power of the borough presidency to introduce legislation, something Markowitz did not do, while focusing on job-training programs and “financial literacy” initiatives.
“Yes, we have drawn great interest and investment in recent years—but there are still many who live here who haven’t benefitted from that,” Adams said via email. “The office must offer access to government resources to those who need them, but also be proactive in its approach by growing the Brooklyn economy and working with businesses that will look out for working families.”
For a candidate running virtually unopposed, Adams has remained strikingly guarded. It is rare for elected officials running for higher office to consent only to emailed questions and no in-person interviews. Adams’ public appearances since his raucous kickoff have been limited as well. On May 9, a day after a federal judge revealed that Huntley had recorded his conversations with her, Adams canceled a scheduled appearance at the Bay Ridge Democratic Club. According to a source close to the Brooklyn Democratic Party, a meeting to officially endorse Adams was postponed.
Adams did appear at a Brooklyn Young Democrats meeting a week later, where he insisted that Huntley’s wiretap would turn up nothing incriminating.
“There’s nothing on those tapes that’s detrimental to me,” Adams said. “I don’t have to wonder what was said, what wasn’t said; I don’t have to do that. … If you come to talk to me about breaking the law, you’re going to find my handcuffs. I’m not here to break the law. I’m here to serve the people of the state and I’m consistent about that.”
Adams, a retired NYPD captain who had a hardscrabble upbringing in Queens, entered the political world long before being elected to the state Senate in 2006. In the 1990s he became known as the combative leader of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, a law enforcement advocacy group focused on crime and race-related issues. In 1994 he launched a challenge against then Central Brooklyn Congressman Major Owens, a well-established political figure in the borough.
Though Adams was knocked off the ballot in that race, he would make headlines for criticizing Owens and former Rep. Herman Badillo. According to a 1994 story in New York magazine, Adams, then 33, did not appear to be someone who two decades later would have practically the entire political establishment at his back.
“Adams seems always on the brink of inciting controversy,” journalist Craig Horowitz wrote in New York. According to multiple published reports, Adams took aim at Badillo, a former comptroller and mayoral candidate, for having a Jewish wife. “It’s insulting to the Hispanic community that he can go to the Hispanic community for support, but he can’t go to the Hispanic community when he’s picking a wife,” Adams said at the time.
Adams now insists that the comment was a “theory” on the state of Hispanic voters at the time and not a personal opinion or criticism of Badillo and his wife.
Adams also supported the anticrime tactics of the Nation of Islam and their controversial leader, Louis Farrakhan, according to several published reports. Adams’ praise of Farrakhan upset members of the Jewish community who viewed Farrakhan as an anti-Semite. In 1993 Adams blasted then Mayor David Dinkins for keeping his distance from Farrakhan.
“Eric Adams, president of the Grand Council of Guardians, an organization of 15,000 black police and correction officers, charged that Dinkins ‘shies away’ from black Muslims because he does not want to be associated with Louis Farrakhan, the black Muslim leader who has been accused of anti-Semitism,” reporter Michael Cottman wrote in Newsday.
When Owens virulently denounced Farrakhan during the race, Adams responded, “Those who feel people shouldn’t gravitate toward Farrakhan should realize there wouldn’t be a need if Owens and so many of our other leaders in Washington and Albany were actually bringing home the victories to the communities they represent.”
Adams now says he expressed admiration only for Farrakhan’s anticrime initiatives and nothing else, otherwise repudiating the Nation of Islam leader, who has said in the past that Jewish people “control” Hollywood, the media and the banking industry.

Adams attends a news conference with members of the Brooklyn Orthodox Jewish community after the hit-and-run death of an Orthodox couple struck by a BMW on the way to the hospital to deliver their child.
Adams remained politically active in the latter half of the decade, even changing his party registration. The Brooklyn Democratic Party’s current standard-bearer self-identified as a “conservative Republican” in a 1999 New York Times profile. According to the Board of Elections, Adams was a registered Republican from 1997 through 2001, during the last term of Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Calling his party switch a “symbolic action,” Adams said he briefly made the eyebrow-raising registration change because Democrats, in his estimation, were not tough enough on crime. He said he never voted for a Republican.
“It was for that reason and that reason only that I decided to motivate my Democrat brothers and sisters for a short time by taking symbolic action, in order to make real change on what I thought was New York’s most pressing issue during those years,” he said.
Brooklyn district leader Jo Anne Simon, a member of the party’s “reform” wing, did not see Adams’ party switch as an indictment of his character. “I’ve heard he was a registered Republican, but the mayor was a Democrat, and I don’t see him doing too many Democratic things,” she said. “I’m not sure what that says. It’s not a particular concern that someone has seen the light.”
In 2003 Adams appeared in brochures financed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg that promoted the idea of nonpartisan elections, an idea denounced by the Democratic establishment. Three years later Adams would be elected to the state Senate as a Democrat.
“In Brooklyn, registered voters received a brochure declaring: ‘Here are some Black, Hispanic and Asian mayors elected in Nonpartisan Elections,’” wrote reporter Dan Janison in Newsday. “To black areas went pieces with Eric Adams, co-founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, and black civic activists Robert Lovick of Brooklyn and Debi Rose of Staten Island.”

“Show Me the Money”

Once elected to the state Senate, Adams began to amass a relatively progressive voting record. Early into his tenure, though, the fiery Adams took to the Senate floor to argue for pay raises for state legislators, raising eyebrows with his confrontational rhetoric.
“I don’t know how some of you are living on $79,000; to tell you the truth, you qualify for public assistance,” Adams said in 2007. “Don’t be insulted for yourselves. You should be insulted for your children that you are not allowed to give your children an affordable, decent form of living because all of us know when we’re up here, our children are down there. … I deserve a raise, I deserve to be paid more, and I’m only a freshman and I’m already complaining.”
Adams boomed, “Show me the money, show me the money, that’s what it’s all about, we deserve more money.”
For those in the Senate at the time, it was the combative way the demand for pay raises was delivered, not the message itself, that surprised legislators and staffers. One former staffer to a New York City state senator present at the time of the speech said Adams shocked many in the chamber.
“People were definitely taken aback by the words,” the former staffer said. “But the bigger ramification of that speech was that it was used against Democrats, in what I would call a false context, by Republicans that fall.”
The pay raise was not granted, and state legislators still earn $79,500. Of course, Adams and many of his fellow lawmakers have other sources of income. In addition to his legislative pay, Adams collects a pension from the NYPD.
A year later Adams aggressively defended fellow state Sen. Hiram Monserrate, a Queens Democrat charged with assaulting his girlfriend. Monserrate would be convicted of misdemeanor assault and sentenced to three years of probation. In 2009 the Senate voted overwhelmingly to expel Monserrate. Adams voted against immediate expulsion, though he supported a second resolution that would have ousted the senator had he lost the appeals process and his conviction been upheld.
“As a former NYPD captain, I have some serious concerns regarding the unusual handling of the case against Councilman Monserrate,” Adams said in 2008, when Monserrate had been elected to the Senate but had not yet been sworn in. “The primary goal of investigating a complaint of domestic violence is to ensure the safety of the innocent victim.”
After explaining several concerns he had about the case, including Monserrate being forced to take a “perp walk” past television cameras, Adams added that the investigation against him was suspect.
“It is well known that Councilman Monserrate has been an outspoken advocate for police reform,” Adams added. “I believe his role as an agent for change cause him to be denied his rights and a thorough investigation.”
Adams’ support of Monserrate angered some of his fellow Democrats. State Sen. Diane Savino, who represents Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, described a furious confrontation with Adams and Brooklyn state Sen. Kevin Parker in February 2010.
“We were going around the room and everyone was voicing their opinion, and I made the point that since the recommendation for the penalty had come from the Select Committee—which was a bipartisan committee appointed by the leader—that it’s possible that they should have some say as to whether we bring this resolution to the floor,” Savino said in an interview with blogger Colin Campbell. “And in the midst of me making my point, Eric Adams starts yelling about how, pardon, “They have no f—ing right, to dictate…” and then Kevin [Parker] started screaming, “They have no f—ing right! They have no f—ing right! F— you!” So I’m no shrinking violet. Kevin stood up, and I stood up and said: “I didn’t interrupt you, don’t interrupt me. I’m speaking.” He starts screaming: “F— you! F— you!” and so I said, ‘No, f— you!’ ”
An October 2011 trip Adams took to South Korea with Brooklyn State Sen. John Sampson has drawn additional scrutiny since Sampson was indicted on embezzlement charges in May. Adams, through his consultant Evan Thies, refused to provide any further details to the Times Union about the four-day trip, other than to state that it was financed with campaign and private funds. Adams also traveled with Stacey Rowland, a lobbyist for the top Albany lobbying firm Wilson Elser Moskowitz Edelman & Dicker. Filings show that Adams paid more than $3,000 for the trip out of his campaign funds. The lobbyist, according to a source, was the girlfriend of Sampson, then the Senate majority leader and the organizer of the trip.
“When he went to South Korea and doesn’t tell anyone why he was there, I think he owes a little more to the public than what he’s been telling them,” said Gangemi, Adams’ long-shot opponent.
Adams elaborated only slightly on the South Korea trip at the Brooklyn Young Democrats meeting in May, where he disputed the Times Union story written by James Odato (who declined to comment for this piece).
“[In] 2011, I went to Korea to look at converting garbage to energy and a reporter questioned my trip, and I spoke with him for hours and gave him the information of the trip,” Adams said, referring to Odato. “He wrote an article attacking the trip back then, which I could’ve paid for the entire trip through my campaign fund, but since my lady was traveling with me, I said, ‘I don’t want any problem, I’ll pay for the hotel.’ He rewrote the same article Monday and said that I didn’t talk with him, and I spoke with him Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My team spoke with him and said, ‘If you want to see Eric’s American Express, he said he’ll give you a copy of that, here’s how it’s paid for, he put it on his website,’ and they still wrote the article saying, ‘Eric is hiding something.’ ”
“Listen, when people hate you, they’re out to get you, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Adams continued. “I’m at the point now where people have to start staying, ‘We know the man and what he represents.’ ”

Problems at Aqueduct

Since returning to the Democratic fold, Adams has faced criticism for the role he played in the flawed bidding process to bring casino gaming to the Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. The state Lottery Division in 2010 disqualified a winning bid from the Aqueduct Entertainment Group. A scathing Inspector General’s report later that year would call the bidding process a “political free-for-all” in which lobbyists and campaign donations slanted the competition toward AEG.
Adams, then the chairman of the Racing, Gaming and Wagering Committee, was castigated in the report for not being diligent enough in his oversight of the bidding process.
“Aside from the obvious disregard for the analysis and diligence involved in creating these documents, it seems reasonable to expect the Chairman of the Racing and Wagering Committee in the Senate to actually review all proffered information thoroughly before recommending a vendor for a 30-year contract that meant billions of dollars to New York State,” Inspector General Joseph Fisch wrote.
Adams, along with several other state senators, mingled with AEG lobbyists at a “victory celebration” held at the Albany home of Carl Andrews, one of the lobbyists and a former state senator, according to the report. During the bidding process Adams also received several thousand dollars in campaign donations from groups and individuals associated with AEG. How AEG was ultimately chosen, according to the report, was a “murky” business: Fisch wrote that he was given “contradictory accounts of the climax of the process by the ‘three men in a room’ and Senator Adams.” On this count Adams disagrees, arguing that Fisch “made what I’m sure was an innocent oversight in its report, which unfortunately led to misperception.”

“A Great Borough President”

Despite the senator’s unconventional history and rumors of wrongdoing, the son of the congressman whom he attempted to unseat two decades ago says he thinks Adams is now qualified to be Brooklyn’s next borough president.
“I believe he wants to do really good work, and I think he’s committed to that,” said Chris Owens, a Democratic district leader in Brooklyn. “I am shocked he has no opposition, but I’m also very pleased. There’s long been talk of having a black borough president, so for him to essentially walk into the position is amazing.”
And endorsers like Liu are not backing away from Adams either.
“I still support Eric Adams, and he’ll be a great borough president,” Liu said, a smile frozen on his face.

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this piece described Adams as a “retired transit cop.” Though he was a transit cop earlier in his career, he retired as an NYPD captain. This article has been updated to reflect that distinction.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Christine Quinn blasted for ditching education forum for mayoral candidates

Quinn backed out of the Tuesday debate, citing what her campaign said was a scheduling conflict.




Speaker Christine Quinn takes a close look on the new bike with Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Mariela Lombard/for New York Daily News

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is taking heat for her decision to back out of an education forum.

Christine Quinn has backed out of a mayoral debate scheduled for Tuesday, leading the event’s organizers to take a swipe at her.
The City Council speaker’s name had appeared last week on a list of confirmed attendees for the forum, sponsored by the left-leaning New Yorkers for Great Public Schools. Democratic rivals Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Bill Thompson and Sal Albanese are in. So, too, is Anthony Weiner.
But Quinn says she ran into a scheduling conflict. “The organizers were informed last week we would not be able to make this one work,” said Quinn’s spokesman Mike Morey. He noted she has attended 44 forums during the campaign, including two on education this month.
The sponsor, which opposes some of Mayor Bloomberg’s school reforms, didn’t buy Quinn’s explanation. “Quinn is running away from an opportunity to defend her record on education,” said Billy Easton, a spokesman for the group.