Saturday, April 13, 2013

Quinn unleashes her inner Giuliani 

How dare she silence citizens?

Comments (8)

NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

Joe Marino/New York Daily News

Christine Quinn at a mayoral forum this week.

A group of citizens bands together and takes out an ad criticizing a candidate running for mayor. The candidate who is the subject of their criticism — City Council Speaker Christine Quinn — is stung by it. She believes it falsely characterizes her positions.
But instead of just responding, which of course she has ample resources to do, she takes steps to prohibit the critical ad from appearing. First, her campaign’s attorney threatens the cable company on whose network the ad ran, suggesting that it could lose its license if it continues to run the ad. Then Quinn writes to all the other mayoral candidates, asking them to join her in condemning and rejecting all such ads by independent citizens or groups of citizens operating outside of the city’s campaign financing system.
In other words, only the candidates themselves and established media outlets, like newspapers, can offer their opinions in elections. Citizens should not have a voice. Or if they do have a voice, it should only be muted, never amplified on the airwaves.
What Quinn is proposing is exactly what the founders of our country tried to avoid when they passed the First Amendment, guaranteeing all Americans — not just candidates and newspapers — the right of free speech.
In 1798, only seven years after the First Amendment became law, Congress passed a law making it a crime to criticize the President. The First Amendment prohibited passage of such a statute, but Congress did it anyway. They got away with it for a few years before the law was repealed after a new President was elected on a wave of political protest.
Brazen violations like this continued to take place periodically over the years. The latest opportunity for repression of free speech has happened under the cover of so-called campaign finance “reform.” In 1972, the ACLU (a nonpartisan, nonprofit corporation that never takes a position on elections) published an ad criticizing President Nixon for opposing racial integration of public schools.
Criticizing public officials on various civil liberties issues was its job, and it did so all the time, as do many organizations on many issues. But since 1972 was an election year, the government wrote a letter to the newspaper that intended to publish the ad warning it that it faced prosecution under campaign finance law if it did so.
The ACLU and the newspaper had to sue in federal court to strike down that use of the law — and the court ruled that the right to publish the ad was protected by the First Amendment.
In subsequent years, many organizations had to go to court when they wanted to comment on public issues — for example, for or against abortion rights — and criticize public officials but were prevented from doing so by various campaign finance laws.
Then, in 1976, the Supreme Court ruled that although laws could be passed limiting the size of contributions to candidates, the First Amendment barred the government from limiting what citizens themselves could say independently. Citizens United, the unjustly reviled 2010 Supreme Court ruling, affirmed that right for unions and corporations as well — including nonprofit corporations like the ACLU, Planned Parenthood and the American Conservative Union.
These are the rulings Christine Quinn appears to oppose when she suggests that independent citizen speech should be “rejected.”
Who does she think she is? Quinn can reject contributions to her own campaign from sources she doesn’t like. But she cannot reject what I or any other New Yorker wants to say about her. Nor can she “reject” my right to band together with others of like mind and voice our opinions. That’s what free speech is, and it’s the oldest tradition of liberty we have.
Richard Nixon infamously sought to target and punish his critics. Rudy Giuliani set a city record for being sued for violating the First Amendment. We don’t need another mayor with this little respect for our traditions of free speech, or with so little regard for the First Amendment that she would respond to criticism by trying to repress it.
Glasser was executive director of the ACLU from 1978 to 2001.

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topcat5218 hours ago
It is a sad commentary on the state of affairs in this city that Quinn is the front-runner in the race for mayor. Think LaGuardia, Koch, Guilliani and Quinn? Does she really fit into that group?

neilfabricant21 hours ago
This is a nice discussion of Quinn's trashing of the First Amendment. She's been at it for years. What Quinn should be most concerned about is ensuring the constitutional guarantees to a fair trial. Sadly, however, the FBI and the New York Times have given her a pass. Recently, the newspaper mentioned her "lack of oversight" of member items, the discretionary funds that the council speaker gives to her supporters outside the normal budget process.

For those who have forgotten, Quinn presided over the creation of non-existent, non-profit entities! These were put into the city budget and were funded with millions of dollars of taxpayer monies. The entities vanished but the monies were dispensed to her political allies. When the scam was discovered, she retained one of New York's top criminal defense lawyers. Somehow the case disappeared with the indictment of a couple of low level operatives.

The New York Times and Quinn want us to forget the incident, but for those who recall it but not the details-they want us to think of it as "lack of oversight."

We have been living under the most corrupt regime in New York's modern history-Bloomberg-Quinn. And now, the one-percenters are wringing their hands that someone will be elected who won't pursue the same Luxury City policies that have made the city unaffordable for all but the richest people. . No worries. New Yorkers seem to have very short memories.

Neil Fabricant

Lefty Loopy1 day ago
Quinn and Rudy should not be used in the same sentence. She belongs in jail for corruption and will drag us back into the dark ages pre-Rudy!

Mark Simeone1 day ago
Politicians are just regular Joe's with opinions that often conflict with history and ground realities. I don't see anything unique or promising in most canidates who often have a great talk, but a very weak and feeble walk.

Seriously, is anyone taking this race serious other than Anthony?

old teach1 day ago
Great opinion piece and factually informative. Council Speaker Quinn has more than once exhibited a disdain for the public and their vote and or opinions. I am referring to the abuse of power in her undemocratic act of orchestrating the council vote to over turn term limits. In this single act by the council speaker she and those in the council who supported this act violated the most sacred right granted to citizens since the nations inception, the franchise. Her reaction to the recent efforts of citizens who oppose her candidacy and her disrespect for the First Amendment are consistent with the way in which on too often an occasion council speaker Quinn conducts herself. Her reactions should fool very few and again indicate why she is not fit to serve as mayor of New York City.

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