Friday, April 12, 2013

Quinn's Nixonian Threat to Time Warner Rivals Bloomberg's Napoleonic Power Impulse

Some labor union groups pooled money and hit against the front-runner in the 2013 New York City mayoral election, City Council president, Christine Quinn. The video ad, "Smoke-Filled Room," by NYC is Not For Sale, as the New York Times said, "conjures up ''The Wizard of Oz.''" So, she threatened Time-Warner's license.
(Gothamist reportign on Quinn's threatening letter, rant the headline, "A Mini-Giuliani Is Creeping Around Inside Quinn, Former ACLU Chief Warns." The Gothamist piece carried excerpts from opinion pieces by Ira Glasser and Norman Siegel. )
(See the video at right, under the link for Julie Cavanagh's interview with WOR's John Gambiling.)

You know, Quinn has been getting money from current mayor Michael Bloomberg, and presumably from other people. It is fair game, especially in the age of the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.
Yet, she is threatening Time Warner brings to mind president Richard Nixon's assault on the New York Times in 1971. Not even Bloomberg went after Betsy Combier, Norm Scott or the legion of anonymous New York bloggers and their Internet access. Quinn's threat against the free speech rights of Time Warner or the sponsors of the video ad really is beyond the pale of political intimidation.
Here's the beginning of Crain's of New York's story:
Updated: April 9, 2013 1:51 p.m. Christine Quinn's effort to suppress a negative TV ad has drawn harsh criticism from her rivals in the mayoral race.
A lawyer for Ms. Quinn's campaign had sent a letter Monday to Time Warner Cable and NY1 urging them to yank the ad, calling it "false, misleading and deceptive." The station could lose its operating license if it continued airing the ad, wrote the Quinn campaign's lawyer, Jerry Goldfeder.
The ad, funded by a coalition of labor and business interests, accuses Ms. Quinn of flip-flopping on issues like paid sick leave and living wage mandates, and slams her decision in 2008 to extend term limits.
After a mayoral forum on waterfront issues Tuesday, her main rivals pounced on Ms. Quinn, the City Council speaker, for what they perceived as a threat against Time Warner and NY1.
"It's very over-the-top," said Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller. "When looking at that ad, there's a lot of accuracy in that. I think [the Quinn campaign's letter] is an attempt to intimidate the press … and I think it's wrong."
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said he opposes independent expenditures like the one that paid for the commercial, but said it was a mistake for Ms. Quinn to question its premise. He also said he resented Ms. Quinn for suggesting he was responsible for the ad, calling it a "baseless" accusation.
"It's clearly an independent effort, and her team should recognize and respect that fact," he said. "I have never asked anyone to participate in independent activity, and I never will."
He added, "She's in denial ... I think the notion of any candidate suggesting something shouldn't be aired publicly is problematic." Comptroller John Liu said it unwise of Ms. Quinn to provoke a news organization like NY1.
"I don't know of any legal strategies that would work here," he said. "There are still the golden rules, which are if you're running for office or you're serving in office, don't mess with people who buy ink in bulk quantities or don't mess with people with really big antennas or big broadband."
Then, to NY1 reporter Grace Rauh, Mr. Liu added, "Your station seems to fit in that category."
Crain's Business closed with a note arguing that Quinn had some hand in bringing this problem upon herself.
But it could be argued that Ms. Quinn is being hoist by her own petard. The speaker supported a bill in the City Council that would greatly expand the ability of unions, corporations and advocacy groups to spend in political campaigns. The bill allows those groups to work indirectly with candidates on communications to their members, without the costs counting against candidates in the public finance system.