Weekend Open Thread

Mosque. Mosque. Mosque. Mosque. Mosque. Mosque. Mosque.

…Or whatever else tickles your fancy.

NY Republicans Respond To Obama And The Mosque

Republican candidates in all manner of races rushed in weigh in last night after President Obama broke his silence and expressed support for the mosque proposed for construction near Ground Zero during a speech at the White House.

The GOP hopefuls tried to tie their respective Democratic targets to the president, though gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino went one step further, calling on Congress to declare the entire World Trade Center “district” a war memorial in order to block what he has deemed the “victory mosque” from being built.

To Paladino, that would include all of the area where the “dust cloud containing human remains” spread from the Twin Towers site, although it’s not clear exactly where the boundaries of that area would be.

We’ll start with Paladino’s statement and then work our way through what landed in my in-box between Obama’s speech and this morning and update as necessary.

“Now we know exactly what President Obama thinks of the families left behind by the murderous attack on America not ten years ago,” Paladino said.

“The Ground Zero Mosque is an insult to all Americans and a slap in the face to the surviving families of those murdered in cold blood on September 11th and all the American and allied men and women killed and maimed in the ensuing wars.”

“The Ground Zero Mosque is not about freedom of religion, as President Obama claims. It’s about the murderous ideology behind the attacks on our country and the fanatics our troops are fighting every day in the Middle East.”

“New York’s Congressional delegation must move immediately to sponsor and pass a law that declares the entire World Trade Center district a War Memorial where one group of Americans may not move to insult another class of citizens.”

More >

Lazio Continues To Feel The Burn

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rick Lazio’s campaign released its top line numbers from the 32-day pre-primary filing due at the state Board of Elections yesterday, which revealed he is still struggling to raise cash as his Sept. 14 battle with self-funding Carl Paladino looms.

Lazio has $600,317 on hand – down from the $688,822 he reported in the July 15 filing, which included a $200,000 infusion of his own cash pumped into the campaign just before the deadline.

The candidate raised $230,987 over the past month – bringing his to-date total to $3.1million. (Fixed). He has $600,317 on hand, according to his spokesman David James, who added: “We are very proud of our 5,080 individual contributors and are confident that we will have the needed resources to defeat Andrew Cuomo in November.”

If my math is right (and remember, my skills in this particular arena leave much to be desired), Lazio blew through more than $300,000 over the past four weeks, spending all that he raised – and then some.

Lazio’s rapid burn rate is well documented at this point. Between Jan. 15 and July 15 he spent upwards of $1.6 million – about $200,000 more than he raised – spending close to $230,000 on a single consultant (Arthur Finkelstein) and more than $20,000 a month on his (now former) campaign manager, Kevin Fullington.

The Democrats tried to use Lazio’s spending against him, saying it undercut his claims of fiscal conservatism.

Lazio’s 32-day report is not yet on-line, so it’s impossible to tell who and what he’s been spending money on over the past month. Matt Walter only just replaced Fullington at the end of July, which didn’t give him much time to try to rein in the campaign’s spending.

The Mosque In NY-23

The controversial mosque proposed near Ground Zero is becoming a factor in races all over New York and even the nation, popping up repeatedly not only in the governor’s race here at home, but also in a South Carolina congressional contest and the battle for the governor’s office in Florida.

The issue has now reached the North Country, where Doug Hoffman and Matt Doheny are duking it out in a September primary fight over Row B in hopes of carrying the GOP banner into the general election against Democratic Rep. Bill Owens.

Hoffman, who has lost ground among fellow Republicans since his unsuccessful attempt at retaining the NY-23 seat for the party in a special election last fall that drew national attention, has retained the support of the state Conservative Party.

So it should come as no surprise that he came out swinging last night after President Obama said the mosque developers have a “right to build” and worship wherever they’d like, accusing the White House of trying to “appease” liberal supporters and demanding an apology.

Here’s Hoffman’s statement in full:

“Running for Congress, my number one focus is jobs and the economy of our region. But today, I cannot remain silent as President Obama wades into the Ground Zero mosque controversy.”

“The President is pandering to appease his liberal supporters and that is an outrage. This isn’t about tolerance, Mr. President, it’s about respect for the innocent victims of a despicable attack by Muslim fanatics.”

“There are mosques, large and small all across New York City. So this isn’t a question of excluding anyone from having a place to worship. It is about the simple common sense idea that, while we are a tolerant people, we expect those who enjoy our freedoms to show some respect themselves. ”

“President Obama should apologize to the families of the 9/11 victims he has offended tonight.”

Conservatives Go After ConEd On The Mosque

The state’s Conservative Party is preparing to launch a statewide television ad campaign targeting the Cordoba mosque proposal.

The 30-second spot encourages New Yorkers to pressure the utility company Consolidated Edison to use its influence to stop the project from going forward.

The building in question is partly owned by ConEd and the ad prompts viewers to contact the company at a number provided on the screen.

The ad lauds GOP gubernatorial candidate and Conservative nominee Rick Lazio’s stance on the controversy, saying he’s asking the right questions about the mosque.  It goes on to say the effort to build is being organized by an “anti-American Islamic imam.”

The ad will begin airing next week.

Officials at ConEd say the company is legally required to accept plans to sell the building under a tenant agreement.

Obama Breaks Silence, Supports The Mosque

President Obama is finally weighing in on the controversial plan to construct a mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center cite.

He made his first public remarks on the subject this evening during an iftar dinner at the White House marking the end of the fast of the Islamic holiday of Ramadan.

The president expressed support for the construction based on the constitutional right to religious freedom, but he also conveyed empathy for those who find the project insensitive.

“Now, we must all recognize and respect the sensitivities surrounding the development of lower Manhattan. The 9/11 attacks were a deeply traumatic event for our country. The pain and suffering experienced by those who lost loved ones is unimaginable. So I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground Zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said.

“But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”

“This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.”

The president’s entire address appears after the jump.

Until now, the White House steered clear of the issue.  The president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, referred to the matter as a purely local one, but reinforced his boss’s commitment to religious freedom.

More >

Cuomo Decries Albany’s Intense Partisanship

AG Andrew Cuomo hit the campaign trail today making two upstate stops as part of his “Drive for a New NY” tour.

After paying a visit to Schenectady’s Proctor’s Theater, Cuomo headed north to Johnstown.

He fielded questions from a small fleet of reporters who followed him there.  The crux of the Q&A session focused on economic issues, but he also weighed in on the influence of partisanship on policy issues in Albany.

“I think there’s a lot of focus on the party labels.  I’ve worked with Democrats, I’ve worked with the Republicans.  I think we have to have less focus on the party labels and more focus on the people,” Cuomo said.

“It’s always sort of interested me how all the Democrats vote one way, all the Republicans vote another way almost on any issue.  It’s highly improbable that all the Democrats happen to agree with each other and all the Republicans happen to agree with each other on every vote.

“What’s really happening is they’re voting their party loyalty, rather than what they believe is in the best interest of the people of their district.  That’s what has to stop.”

YNN videographer Steve Kameka was there and shot this footage of the candidate’s remarks:

Extras – AG Money Race Edition

President Obama is expected to say something mosque-related tonight.

Mayor Bloomberg has received a plethora of mosque e-mail – some good, some bad.

Maddow on the mosque.

Bloomberg thinks Gov. David Paterson needs to get himself a “cowboy hat and a shotgun” when it comes to collecting taxes on cigarettes sold on Indian land. (A rather dicey choice of words).

The state Democrats want Roger Stone investigated.

Paterson says AG Andrew Cuomo has “matured as a public servant.”

“Andrew Cuomo to me is not an option for black people,” said NYC Councilman Charles Barron, who will announce the results of his petition drive to start the Freedom Party Monday.

Sen. Eric Schneiderman raised $260,000 since July 15 and has $2.1 million on hand, giving him a “strong second place” in the money race, his campaign said.

Assemblyman Richard Brodsky raised $47,235 and has $1.5 million on hand.

Sean Coffey raised $48,344, loaned himself another $1 million and has $3.1 million.

Eric Dinallo raised $109,231 and has $1.6 million.

Someone forgot to tell Rep. John Hall about the contribution he supposedly (according to Paterson) made to Rep. Charlie Rangel.

The Northwest Bronx Democratic Alliance endorsed Nassau County DA Kathleen Rice for AG. (No link).

Expelled ex-Sen. Hiram Monserrate gets some ink.

Another day, another pledge of reform from state legislative candidates.

Your education funding questions, answered.

The Brooklyn DA’s office is infested with bedbugs.

The NYTpicker takes issue with the Times’ story on the David Johnson mess today.

The president signed a $600 million border security bill into law.

All In The Family – Bloomberg Edition

A reader noted an Albany connection in a staffing announcement made earlier this week by Mayor Bloomberg.

Elizabeth Weinstein, the administration’s new director of the Mayor’s Office of Operations, is also the wife of Brooklyn Sen. Daniel Squadron, who Bloomberg endorsed against former Senate Minority Leader Marty Connor back in 2008.

Weinstein received a sizable raise along with her promotion. Bloomberg spokesman Marc LaVorgna said she was earning $142,000 in her old post as director of Agency Services in the Operations Office. She’s now up to $170,000.

Weinstein’s job with the mayor and her then-fiance’s close alliance with Bloomberg became a point of contention during the school governance debate on the Senate floor last year.

Queens Sen. Shirley Huntley, a mayoral control opponent, slammed Squadron during the debate on the chamber floor, saying: “It’s not my fault he had a vested interest with his wife working for the mayor.

The Squadron-Weinstein wedding itself became a political football as it came just as the 31-day Senate stalemate came to a close last summer. The couple went on a long-planned two-week honeymoon, which left the Democrats one vote short of being able to pass anything – particularly the mayoral control reauthorization bill, which Squadron was carrying – without GOP assistance.

The bill eventually passed the Senate, (in August, after Squadron and Weinstein returned), 47-8.

Paladino Raises $82K, Spends $285K – Whither Lazio?

GOP gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino dropped another $300,000 of his own cash into his campaign over the last month, bringing his self-funding total to $1.95 million to date.

Since the July 15 filing, Paladino has raised $82,365 and spent $285,001, which pushes his expenditures to just shy of the $2 million mark.

His biggest expenses over the last four weeks were $103,000 for ads (paid to his own production company, Ellicott Advertising, which he started to keep costs down), and $73,000 to his campaign manager, Michael Caputo.

Paladino’s filing isn’t yet available on the state Board of Elections Website, but Caputo sent it to me upon request.

Paladino’s primary opponent, Rick Lazio, who had just $688,821 on hand as of July 15, thanks to a last minute loan of $200,000 he made to his own campaign, has not yet filed his 32-day pre-primary report.

I called the Lazio campaign and asked for the numbers. I have not heard back yet.

Nysboe Financial Disclosure Report – August 13