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

On election night last November, when voters in Colorado and Washington passed ballot initiatives making their states the first to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, they set the stage for potentially landmark legal battles that could define the future of American drug policy. Since marijuana remains prohibited by federal law, President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder must decide whether to adopt a laissez-faire approach, signaling that the federal government will let states lead the way in dictating their pot policies, or to crack down on Colorado and Washington with lawsuits or arrests of those involved in the distribution of marijuana and even state officials who attempt to regulate and oversee the industry.

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Texas A&M's student body president John Claybrook vetoed a bill Wednesday that was originally designed to allow students with religious objections to opt out of funding the university's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center.

The senate passed an amended version of the bill that eliminated language specifically focusing on the center and instead asked the school to publicize procedures that already exist at Texas public schools by which students with religious objections can apply to opt out of funding different programs. Claybrook announced his decision via an open letter that acknowledged vehement opposition to the amended bill. 

"After much research and deliberation, I have confidently decided to veto S.B. 65-70, The Religious Funding Exemption bill. Even without the wording that specified particular groups that would be affected in the final version of this bill, the sentiment towards the bill has not changed and has caused great harm to our reputation as a student body and to the students feeling disenfranchised by the bill," Claybrook wrote. "Although much adjusted in its final form, the good accomplished through this bill pales in comparison to the damage done. The damage must stop today."

At their meeting later this month, the student senate could override Claybrook's veto. However, the bill initially passed by a margin of seven votes, which is far short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override in the student senate, which has over 70 members.

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New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) released a statement Friday afternoon reacting to the resignation of Rutgers University's Athletic Director Tim Pernetti in the wake of a scandal that erupted after ESPN released a video showing the school's former basketball coach shouting gay slurs, pushing and throwing balls at players during a practice.

Rutgers has been criticized for initially deciding to "rehabilitate" Rice rather than firing him when his behavior first became known. Rice was fired Wednesday, a move that was applauded by Christie at the time. 

“The decision today by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti to resign is appropriate and necessary given the events of the past six months. I commend President Barchi for his decisive leadership in coming to an agreement with Mr. Pernetti to have the Athletic Department of Rutgers University come under new leadership," the governor said in his statement today.

“This entire incident was regrettable and while it has damaged the reputation of our state University, we need to move forward now on a number of fronts which provide great opportunities for Rutgers’ future," Christie continued. "Completing the ground-breaking merger agreement with UMDNJ. Preparing for our academic and athletic entry into the Big 10 conference. Implementing Rutgers’ share of New Jersey's $1.3 billion capital commitment to higher education. Finally, conducting a national search for a new athletic director and a new men's basketball coach for athletic competition next year and in 2014 for our entry to the Big 10."

Christie closed by thanking Pernetti for his past service to the school and for "taking responsibility" for his part in the video scandal. 

“I want to thank Tim Pernetti for his many contributions to Rutgers as a student, athlete and athletic director and for taking responsibility for his role in this difficult episode in the 250 year history of Rutgers University.”




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In a rather heated session Wednesday night, the student senate at Texas A&M University passed a "Religious Funding Exemption Bill" that was originally aimed at allowing students to opt out of funding the school's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgendered Resource Center for religious reasons. The controversy over the center is the latest clash over sexuality at a university that has seen decades of conflict over gay rights.

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The White House just issued a statement from President Barack Obama on the death of film critic Roger Ebert, who lived and worked in the President's hometown of Chicago. President Obama's full statement is below:

"Michelle and I are saddened to hear about the passing of Roger Ebert. For a generation of Americans - and especially Chicagoans - Roger was the movies. When he didn't like a film, he was honest; when he did, he was effusive - capturing the unique power of the movies to take us somewhere magical. Even amidst his own battles with cancer, Roger was as productive as he was resilient - continuing to share his passion and perspective with the world. The movies won't be the same without Roger, and our thoughts and prayers are with Chaz and the rest of the Ebert family."

Legendary, Pultizer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert passed away today after a long battle with cancer. Ebert remained active writing on his website, Twitter and in the pages of the Chicago Sun Times right up until his death. TPM came across something we thought Ebert's fans might appreciate seeing as they react to the news of his passing. Apparently, Ebert's love of letters started at a very young age and his profile photo on Facebook was a vintage photo showing him as a toddler curled up with a good book. Take a look at the picture below. 

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) both appeared on a politics panel at the annual convention of Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network Wednesday where they discussed an on-going assault on voting rights that could affect the African- American community in the upcoming midterm elections. Controversies over voting rights and voter suppression weren't absent from the 2012 campaign narrative. But the dialogue coming from the mainstream media, which is dominated by white voices on both sides of the question, was inevitably different from what was on display at the NAN panel. Jeffries and Rangel both had extremely harsh words for Republicans who they described as hell bent on disenfranchising black voters -- rhetoric that mixed anger with hope that Republican opponents are on the losing side of history in a rapidly changing America.

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This morning, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly gave a speech at a gun violence panel during the annual convention of the National Action Network, the civil rights organization founded and led by one of the more prominent opponents of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy, Rev. Al Sharpton. Critics have likened the stop and frisk tactic to racial profiling because the vast majority of people stopped and searched by the police are African American and Latino, but in his remarks at the NAN convention, Kelly argued it actually helps address inequality in the black community.

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Update: April 3, 2013, 3:10 PM

New York's local political landscape was rocked yesterday morning when bribery, extortion, and fraud charges were unveiled against a group of local politicians and Republican Party officials. According to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the centerpiece of this "unappetizing smorgasboard of graft and greed" was a "bribery scheme" to secure State Senator Malcolm Smith a spot in the Republican primary in this year's New York City mayoral election. But the bigger irony, according to Big Apple campaign insiders, is that city's GOP party line has already been effectively purchased by others -- both effectively and legally. And one of those buyers is current Mayor Michael Bloomberg! Smith probably could have accomplished his goals without resorting to such risky measures if he'd just gone by the standard campaign cash playbook.

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Update: April 3, 2013, 3:05 PM

New York City Councilman Dan Halloran responded late this evening after being arrested this morning along with five other local officials and charged with playing a role in what U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Preet Bharara described as "an unappetizing smorgasboard of graft and greed." Halloran's response came in the form of a defiant note posted on his Facebook page that referred to him in the third person.

"The councilman denies the allegations and looks forward to clearing his name. When the full story comes out he is confident that he will be vindicated," the note said.

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