Judge upholds MTA ban on political ads including Pamela Geller’s Islamophobic posters

Conservative firebrand Pamela Geller's Islamophobic posters will not appear on Nwe York City buses any time soon. A Manhattan Federal Court judge has ruled that the MTA's recently revised policy banning all political advertising in subways and on city buses renders moot his previous ruling that Geller's ads were protected speech. U.S. District Judge John Koeltl had said in April that the posters — showing a menacing man with his face masked in a Middle Eastern-style scarf next to the quote "Killing Jews is worship that draws us close to Allah" — should be allowed to be displayed like other political ads in the MTA system. Before the bills went up, the MTA board then voted to change its policy and banned controversial political ads altogether — a move Geller's team argued was done in bad faith. Koetl disagreed. "No law requires public transit agencies to accept political advertisements as a matter of course, and it is not for this Court to impose its own views on what type of forum the MTA should create," Koetl wrote. Geller's lawyer, Robert Muise, appealed the ruling Monday. "The government should not be permitted to violate the First Amendment and then on the heels of an adverse court decision simply modify its rules to avoid the consequences of its unlawful behavior," he said, vowing that he'd take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary. MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg said the agency was pleased with the ruling. Continue Reading

John Dickerson, political director for CBS, named new host of ‘Face the Nation’

CBS has wasted no time in naming a new host for "Face the Nation" in the wake of Bob Schieffer's announced retirement. John Dickerson, CBS political director, will begin hosting the Sunday morning public affairs and interview program after the 78-year-old Schieffer leaves this summer. Schieffer, who began hosting "Face the Nation" in 1991, did not name a specific date when he announced his retirement this past Wednesday. Dickerson, 46, who took his current CBS post in 2011, has strong network bloodlines. His mother Nancy was the first female correspondent in the CBS Washington bureau. Dickerson has been a frequent contributor to "Face the Nation," appearing on the show 83 times. "John is first and foremost a reporter-and that's what he'll be as anchor of Face the Nation," said CBS News President David Rhodes in a statement. "His work in the studio will always be informed by what he's learned in Iowa, in New Hampshire, on Capitol Hill-anywhere there's news. He has earned the respect of newsmakers across the political spectrum." Continue Reading

Brooklyn political candidate admits to viewing 20 images of child porn: prosecutors

A failed Brooklyn political candidate who vowed to “protect our children” allegedly admitted to viewing 20 images of child pornography. Joseph Hayon was charged Friday for allegedly using a JUNO.com email account to share the filthy images on Dec. 26, 2014 from his Midwood home. Hayon, 38, was charged with one count of possession a sexual performance of a child after The CyberTipline notified the NYPD, who issued a search warrant for his home and business, said prosecutor Wilfredo Cotto. Police seized a tablet, video cameras, two laptops, five desktop computers and a Samsung phone. The 2012 Republican candidate for District 41 of the state Assembly, who lost against incumbent Helene Weinstein, made written statements where he admits to owning the email address, viewing and sharing “children engaged in sexual conduct,” according to the criminal complaint. The disgusting images are all of girls, some as young as two-years-old, Cotto said. During Hayon’s failed campaign, he portrayed himself as an advocate for children. He pledged to “sponsor legislation that would prohibit merchants from selling any obscene ‘literature’ unless they cater exclusively to adults,” according to josephhayon.com, which also includes the phrase, “Our children are our future” underneath his name. “I pledge to sponsor legislation to make all public library staff criminally responsible for making any form of electronic obscenity available to minors,” he said. Brooklyn Criminal Court Judge Rosemarie Montalbano set bail Friday at $50,000 cash or bond, that Hayon immediately placed, thanks to support from “his community,” his lawyer Laurence Rothstein. Outside of court, Hayon declined to comment on the allegations. An order of protection was issued for Hayon to stay away from his four children, a 15-month-old Continue Reading

Political future of Benjamin Netanyahu on the line as Israeli prepare to go to polls Tuesday

As Israelis prepare to vote in parliament elections on Tuesday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu finds himself at a fateful crossroads: Make history or become history. If Netanyahu can lead his Likud Party to victory and secure a fourth term in office, he will move closer to overtaking the nation’s iconic founding father, David Ben-Gurion, as the longest-ever serving premier — and cementing a status as the dominant Israeli politician of the past two decades. But if Likud stumbles and finds itself in the opposition — a real possibility, according to recent polls — the Netanyahu era could end with a resounding thud, concluding a career that many would say brought few major accomplishments beyond longevity. Iran and the international community seem headed toward a nuclear deal that Netanyahu abhors, and a resolution to the Palestinian issue seems as distant as ever. “If he leaves office, he won’t leave any dramatic changes,” said Yoaz Hendel, a former aide to Netanyahu. In a turbulent region, one could say “this is the best thing to do,” Hendel said. The Israeli campaign is widely seen as a choice between two world views: Netanyahu’s focus on Israel’s many security challenges — he has long been a voice calling for zero tolerance of terrorism — or his opponents’ focus on Israel’s social problems and high cost of living. It also touches on his support for Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, which the opposition and the outside world detest. But on a basic level, the campaign is simply a referendum on Netanyahu, a polarizing character who is adored as “King Bibi” by his supporters and reviled by his detractors. The son of a Jewish historian, and scarred by the loss of his brother in a 1976 Israeli commando raid on a hijacked airline in Uganda, Netanyahu often portrays himself — and his country — in historical terms. He laces his Continue Reading

Former President Bill Clinton rejects allegations that family foundation took donations in return for political favors

WASHINGTON — Former President Bill Clinton offered a vigorous defense of his family’s charity foundation — as well as his lucrative speeches — saying the global organization never did “anything knowingly inappropriate.” Clinton fired back at “political” attacks against the foundation and told NBC News it has “never done anything knowingly inappropriate in terms of taking money to influence any kind of American government policy.” “There’s been a very deliberate attempt to take the foundation down,” Clinton said in the interview that aired Monday on “Today.” “And there’s almost no new fact that’s known now that wasn’t known when (Hillary Clinton) ran for President the first time.” He said he was proud of how much the charity has accomplished. “There has never been anything like the Clinton Global Initiative, where you’ve raised over $100 billion worth of stuff that helped 43 million people in 180 countries,” he said. The former President also shrugged off criticism about how much he gets paid for his speeches, which sometimes bring in as much as $500,000, and said he will continue making appearances if his wife wins the Oval Office. “I’ve got to pay our bills,” Clinton said. The remark echoed Hillary’s comment from last summer that they were “dead broke” when they left the White House. Republicans quickly pounced. “Hearing the Clintons, who are multimillionaires, complain about paying their bills and being ‘dead broke’ only reinforces to everyday Americans how out of touch they’ve really become,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Allison Moore. The comments made some Democrats wince. “The former President might not like the fact that questions are being raised, but the fact of the matter is this is going to go on Continue Reading

Another reason for the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage nationwide: Equal political participation depends upon it

Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, enduring what will likely amount to 150 minutes of legal and emotional tug-of-war. Standing apart from these impassioned, often gray-area debates exists one straightforward constitutional argument that few consider: State same-sex marriage bans restrict the political contributions of gay couples, violating their First Amendment rights. This uneven application of campaign finance law creates indisputable, mathematic inequality. State marriage bans cut the potential political participation of gay couples in half. Here’s how it works. Under federal law, it’s illegal to make a political contribution in the name of someone else or using someone else’s money. This anti-corruption law is specifically designed to preempt individuals who seek to dishonestly circumvent contribution maximums by making a donation under another name. Married couples are the exception to this rule. Most states — including all four states with marriage bans before the Supreme Court — extend to a husband and wife their own contribution limits, even if only one spouse brings income into the marriage. But committed same-sex couples living in states where their marriage is not recognized do not enjoy the same spousal exemption. To understand the implications of this unequal application of law, consider two hypothetical couples. John and Jane are a single-income married couple living in Tennessee. John is the breadwinner, and Jane is a stay-at-home mother. During the statewide gubernatorial election, John and Jane carefully review the candidates and decide to each donate the maximum contribution of $3,900-both pulled from the husband’s income-to support the incumbent governor. Two people, one single-income household, yet two contributions totaling $7,800. Bob and Bill are a committed, same-sex couple who also reside in Continue Reading

Rep. Steve Israel: Netanyahu speech is political stunt, but I must back our ally

Let me be blunt. House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to use Israel as a partisan political football is a trap designed to create a perception of distance between Democrats and Israel. In politics, when you know someone has set a trap, don’t walk into the trap. I’m particularly concerned that the speaker’s political stunt threatens to eclipse the substance of a deal with Iran, but I’m going to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech because I refuse to allow politicians to use Israel to further any political agenda. I have proudly been to Israel more times than Boehner has been to a golf course — and certainly more than many Republican members of Congress who now sanctimoniously defend the invitation. I will attend the speech and stand up for Israel in Congress as I always have, because one poorly handled invitation to one speech should neither define nor undermine the strong and unwavering bipartisan support that has always characterized the U.S.-Israel relationship. Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat, represents parts of Long Island and Queens. Continue Reading

State officials deadlock on closing loophole allowing donors to give millions to New York political campaigns

ALBANY — State election officials on Thursday failed to close a legal loophole that’s allowed deep-pocketed donors to pour millions of dollars into New York political campaigns. The Board of Elections deadlocked on a motion to reconsider a nearly 20-year-old policy that gives limited liability corporations the same generous contribution limits as individual donors. Board members split along party lines, with two GOP appointees opposing the motion and two Democrats supporting it. “This is not a matter for an administrative agency, the state Board of Elections, to decide,” said Peter Kosinski, the board’s GOP co-chair. “This is a matter for the state Legislature.” Good government groups have been pushing state officials to close the loophole for years, arguing it allows businesses — which, under state law, can only give $5,000 a year — to make virtually unlimited donations by simply creating new LLCs. Among the biggest users of the loophole was real estate developer Leonard Litwin, who used a string of LLCs to give more than $1 million to Gov. Cuomo’s 2014 re-election campaign. Cuomo included a provision to close the loophole in his 2015-2016 budget proposal but the language was not included in the final spending plan. “Today is a bad day for democracy in New York,” a coalition of good government groups said in a statement after the board’s vote. Continue Reading

New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez pleads not guilty to charges of pocketing $1M in gifts in exchange for political favors

Sen. Robert Menendez pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges that he pocketed nearly $1 million in gifts from a Florida eye doctor for political favors, including travel visas for three of the doctor’s paramours. Newark federal district court Judge William Walls set a tentative July 13 trial date for the New Jersey Democrat. Menendez’s attorney, Abbe Lowell, entered the plea on the lawmaker’s behalf — then compared the government’s case to failed federal prosecutions of the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee John Edwards. “This case too will become another of those mistaken cases that should not have been brought,” Lowell said. He contended Menendez accepted gifts from and helped the doctor, Salomon Melgen, because of “a real friendship.” Continue Reading

Scandal & science in Chicago: A political science conference is (mostly) a feast for the brain

Here’s my tweet aimed at Chris Christie: “It’s lonely at the bottom when you’re perceived to be a jerk.” I’d never thought of Christie tweets until ambling into an international gathering of political scientists on Thursday, where he came up at a presentation called “Handshake 2.0: Uses and limits of Twitter engagement across 50 U.S. governors” by Anshul Jain, a young academic at Boston University. Jain co-wrote a book on President Obama’s use of social media and has now studied the Twitter feeds of all 50 governors during 2014, with New York’s Gov. Cuomo leading the pack in sheer volume. He found that most send out “office” tweets, as opposed to personal ones, with two exceptions: Christie and Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. While most governors’ tweets were decidedly upbeat and vanilla, those two again stood out. “You want to get into a Twitter fight with Chris Christie? He will respond,” said Jain. It’s a pugnacious style that may well fall flat in key presidential primary locales like New Hampshire and Iowa. The paper was one of more than 4,000 presented at an eclectic annual Chicago assemblage called the Midwest Political Science Association, where 4,500 attendees offer a feast for political junkies. Wander rooms and catch intense and deeply earnest people discussing war in East Asia in the 1870s, media coverage of the Ray Rice domestic abuse case and how to educate students on quality research in a just-Google-it world. You find also academics studiously applying something called vector autoregression analysis to the subject of campaign finance. I sat down, and pointing at random found these sessions among those listed in the 453-page convention catalogue: “Surviving Political Scandals: Why Do Some Transgressions End Careers and Others Do Not?” (No, it’s not co-authored by David Vitter, Eliot Spitzer and Continue Reading