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Hunter Walker

Hunter Walker is a national affairs reporter for TPM. He came to the site in 2013 from the New York Observer. He has also written for New York Magazine, Gawker, the Village Voice, Forbes, The Daily, and Deadspin. He can be reached at hunter@talkingpointsmemo.com

Articles by Hunter

New York City could soon become the first major city in the country to give non-citizens the right to vote. The proposal, which would allow certain non-citizens to vote in local elections, appears to have a veto-proof majority in the New York City Council -- enough to overcome opposition by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As hearings on the proposal get underway Thursday, supporters are optimistic it will become law by the end of the year and believe it will have an impact beyond the five boroughs.

"It's going to be huge and just imagine the implications that are involved here," Councilman Daniel Dromm, one of the co-sponsors of the legislation along with Councilwoman Gale Brewer, told TPM Wednesday.

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Republican Massachusetts Senate candidate Gabriel Gomez fired back after the campaign manager for his Democratic rival, Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA), made demand for him to sign a pledge to keep negative ads paid for by outside groups out of their race. Gomez spokesman Will Ritter told TPM a letter was "hand-delivered" to Markey's office this evening that described the pledge push as a hypocritical "campaign stunt."

Since they won their respective primaries on Tuesday, Markey has been pushing Gomez to sign the so-called People's Pledge to ban third party spending that was in affect during the 2012 Massachusetts race between Elizabeth Warren and then-Sen. Scott Brown. It was proposed by Brown.

In his letter, Gomez reiterated his past statement that the only pledge he will make is one "to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America." He also pointed to money Markey took from political action committees during his primary campaign in this election and in his lengthy congressional career and said this left a "cloud of hypocrisy" over the congressman's campaign. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Markey has taken $2.8 million from PACs since 1989.

Gomez closed by demanding Markey make a donation to a charitable organization to make up for some of this money. He also accused Markey of dodging a debate. 

Read Gomez's full letter below:

"May 3, 2013

ATTN: Congressman Ed Markey
Ed Markey for Senate
P.O. Box 290782
Charlestown, MA  02129

 

Dear Congressman Ed Markey,

I write to you today to formally ask that you immediately return, in cash, the over $3.4 million in PAC money you have taken from special interest groups over the past 37 years in Congress by Monday at 10:00 AM.

More specifically, with regard to the special interest money you have taken from companies that you regulate, I ask that you not only return that money, but issue a policy and “pledge” to never do it again.

As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a committee which regulates telecom and Internet activities, you have received over $1 million in special interest PAC money from companies that you regulate. In fact, according to Congressional Quarterly, since 1980 you have taken $1,064,250 from these companies.

Finally, according to the People’s Pledge rules, your campaign is obligated to make charitable contributions for the approximately $1 million of outside special-interest spending that occurred on your behalf during your campaign to defeat Stephen Lynch, in complete defiance of the People’s Pledge you signed. The rules stipulate that the minimum charitable contribution is 50% of this total, or $500,000.

My advice on a charity to donate these funds to would be “Homes for Our Troops,” a non-profit charitable organization based in Taunton. Again, please have this done by10:00 AM on Monday May 6, prior to your campaign stunt.

If you take these actions, you might be able to remove the cloud of hypocrisy currently hanging over your campaign.

I will take the same pledge that my parents took when they became U.S. citizens and that I took when I joined the US Navy – to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

Sincerely,

 

Gabriel Gomez

P.S. – I have yet to receive your response to my May 1st challenge that you agree to participate in three debates on actual issues like improving the economy and creating jobs.  The voters deserve to see and hear their candidates talk directly to them instead of hiding behind silly stunts."

On Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie posted a video showing him smashing a spider on his desk in front of a group of visiting school children. In a statement provided to TPM, Ingrid Newkirk, president of People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals, described Christie's killing of the spider as a thoughtless act.

"He probably did it without thinking. Some people put the spider outside, but spiders are often scary to people, and that can prevent them from pondering their worth," Newkirk said. 

This isn't the first instance of a high-profile politician killing an insect on film. In 2009, President Barack Obama swatted a fly during a televised interview. President Obama's fly-killing provoked a similar response from PETA, which released a statement dubbing it an "executive insect execution" that criticized peoples' thoughtless treatment of insects. 

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie posted a video on his official YouTube page showing him killing a spider on his desk while a group of school children were visiting his office.

"Earlier today I saved a few school children from a spider #nobigdeal #toughdayattheoffice," he wrote in a tweet linking to the video. 

Watch Christie smashing the spider below:

Part of this year's annual meeting of the National Rifle Association, which officially kicked off Friday in Houston, will encourage attendees to imagine a terrifying firearm-free alternate reality where the U.S. government has thrown gun owners into prison.

The vision comes from author Rob Olive, who is among 10 celebrities and pseudo celebrities from the worlds of conservative politics and punditry being given the chance to sign books and meet fans at the gun lobby's major shindig. Other authors include former government types like Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), Ambassador John Bolton and Col. Oliver North; as well as a conservative commentators like rocker Ted Nugent and talk show host Glenn Beck. Olive may be the only fiction writer getting the NRA spotlight this weekend.

He will be on hand to sign copies of his book, "Essential Liberty," which is billed as a "thriller" that describes a future where federal agents confiscate guns and throw the owners in jail. According to Olive, the book is fictional, but depicts a perfectly plausible scenario based on the current direction of the country.

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The campaign of Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) is stepping up its push to get the Republican candidate, businessman Gabriel Gomez, to sign a pledge agreeing to keep negative ads paid for by outside groups out of the race. On Friday, Markey's campaign manager, Sarah Benzing, sent a letter to her counterpart on the Gomez campaign, Jill Neunaber, asking them to commit to signing the "People's Pledge," an agreement to stop third-party groups from buying ads supporting either of the candidates.

"As campaign manager for Ed Markey for Senate, I write you today to formally ask that Gabriel Gomez sign the attached People's Pledge to limit undisclosed, outside money in the Senate special election," Benzing wrote. 

The "People's Pledge" first appeared in the 2012 Massachusetts race between Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and former Republican Senator Scott Brown. It was proposed by Brown.

"Gabriel Gomez is claiming to be "a new kind of Republican." but by refusing to sign the People's Pledge, after having been a spokesman for a secretly-funded special interest group that spent half a million dollars attacking` President Obama in 2012, he isn't acting like one," Benzing wrote, referring to Gomez's involvement with Special Operations OPSEC Education Fund. That group, with extensive ties to the Republican Party, launched in 2012 to attack President Barack Obama for taking credit for the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. Many of those who took a public role in the group were former Navy SEALS, including Gomez. 

Gomez has declined to sign the "People's Pledge." Asked to respond to the letter from the Markey campaign Friday, Will Ritter, a spokesman for Gomez, referred TPM to a statement Gomez released Thursday that described Markey's operation as a "mudslinging campaign."

Update: Gomez sent a response to Markey Friday evening. 

Read the full letter from the Markey campaign to the Gomez campaign below.

Mayors Against Illegal Guns, the group co-chaired by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, launched its latest salvo Wednesday against the 45 senators who voted against legislation that would have expanded background checks on gun sales.

The group released research showing the lawmakers received "a combined total of $8,165,490 in lifetime contributions and independent expenditures from the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and the National Association of Gun Rights."

"Even though 91% of Americans -- and 74% of NRA members -- support background checks for all gun sales, these senators voted against effective measures that would save lives," a statement accompanying the data said. "It's shameful, and voters should know who their senators are working for."

Mayors Against Illegal Guns illustrated its point with a receipt-themed infographic showing the total number of gun group donations collected by each of the senators.

Newly unsealed court documents show for the first time the evidence federal prosecutors have compiled against, J. Everett Dutschke, the newest defendant in the ricin letters case.

FBI agents were led to their new man by, among other things, his attempts to hide ricin-tainted evidence, statements from a witness who said Dutschke boasted he had "secret knowledge" for "getting rid of people in office," incriminating web searches, and records of castor bean purchases made through eBay using PayPal, according to an affidavit by an FBI agent that was filed in the case and unsealed Tuesday.

Dutschke, is a Mississippi taekwondo instructor, failed politician, blues singer, and alleged child molester. He is charged with "knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling, transferring, acquiring, retaining and possessing a biological agent, toxin and delivery system, for use as a weapon, to wit: ricin, and with attempting, threatening and conspiring to do the same." Dutschke has previously denied any involvement in the ricin letters.

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In an interview with New York's RNN TV, Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, who served as a deputy mayor in the administration of Rudy Giuliani, argued his former boss was responsible for saving the lives of many African-American men. Lhota made this claim when host Dominic Carter asked him about rocky race relations during the Giuliani administration, which saw African-American men become victims to multiple high-profile incidents of police brutality including the shooting of Amadou Diallo and the brutal beating of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima. 

"The actions that happened during the Giuliani administration; the Amadou Diallo thing and the relations that you said with the African-American community, you know, there were no riots during that period of time," Lhota said to Carter. "You got to understand that, during Rudy Giuliani's administration--more African-American men are alive today because he reduced murder by almost 60 percent. He needs to--he deserves to get the credit for that."

Though his critics argue other factors contributed to the decrease in crime during his time in City Hall, New York City's murder rate did drop over 60 percent during Giuliani's administration. Giuliani is supporting Lhota's candidacy and has made personal campaign appearances for him. 

Lhota's RNN TV interview airs tonight at 6 PM. Watch a clip of him discussing Giuliani and the African-American community below.

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