Story: Anthony Weiner paying for supporters

Anthony Weiner’s road to the New York mayoral primary got a bit rockier after reports surfaced in The New York Post that the former congressman was paying actors to boost the crowds at his campaign events.

On Wednesday, the Post reported that Weiner’s campaign was working with Crowds on Demand, a company that specializes in providing crowds of actors for a price.

According to the Post’s source, the campaign reached out to the California business after new revelations of inappropriate behavior surfaced.  Sydney Leathers, an Indiana woman who had been in contact with Weiner even after his resignation from Congress, came forward earlier this summer. His campaign has been on the defensive ever since, losing standing in the polls and trying to regain its footing after the rehabilitation narrative had been shown false.

One of the most recent instances of the campaign’s use of “rent-a-crowds” came in the Dominican Day Parade on August 11. In that event, actors were paid $15 an hour to provide enthusiastic backing for the candidate.

Crowds on Demand did not comment, but Weiner spokeswoman Barbara Morgan told the Post that they had  “never heard of this company and certainly never used them.”

“We are proud we’ve always had the biggest and most fired-up crowds,” she also said. “That’s enthusiasm the other campaigns just can’t buy.”

The Post’s source, however, said that the Santa Monica-based Crowds on Demand was tasked with providing people who could act as if they were “either supporters or people who met him and became supporters as a result of that encounter.” Besides bolstering the number of existing supporters, the goal was apparently also to show that people skeptical of his candidacy would be convinced by meeting and talking to him.

Weiner could use the show of support given that he’s gone from frontrunner to fourth place in the crowded mayoral field in less than a month, according to the most recent poll from Quinnipiac University. New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has the backing of 36% of likely Democratic voters, while only 8% say they would vote for Weiner. A month ago, Weiner was sitting at 26% and de Blasio 15%, showing just how much the race has flipped in such a short time period.

After the report was published Wednesday morning, Weiner tweeted that it was a hoax and questioned whether the Post would retract its story.


San Diego Mayor Bob Filner resigns

San Diego Mayor Bob Filner is expected to resign Friday afternoon, as part of a deal with other city officials that was reported Thursday. Over the past several weeks, Filner has come under fire for allegations of sexual harassment and the bad news only seemed to get worse for the first Democrat elected mayor of the city in more than two decades.

When Filner’s behavior as both mayor and a ten-term congressman representing San Diego in the U.S. Congress first came to light, he announced he would attend therapy. But on Wednesday, the day he was slated to return to work, he was seen carrying boxes out of his office. Word of a proposed settlement became public knowledge following three days of mediation.

City attorney Jan Goldsmith acknowledged the deal but did not go into detail about it, saying “The City Council has not heard of this proposal, and our process at City Hall as well as the mediation process requires that we maintain the confidentiality of the proposal until they have heard of it.”

According to the New York Times, the past six weeks have seen eighteen women come forward to accuse the seventy-year-old Filner of sexual harassment, including “a retired Navy rear admiral, a great-grandmother, a university dean and Mr. Filner’s former communications director, Irene McCormack Jackson.”

Jackson filed a lawsuit against Filner and the city, and it seems likely that the deal will include at least partial coverage of his legal bills.

Public pressure has increased on Filner to resign as the weeks dragged on, including from California Senator Barbara Boxer.

The San Diego City Council is expected to discuss and vote on the deal Friday afternoon in a closed session. If accepted and Filner does resign, the next step would be a special election to find his replacement. He was elected last year to his first term as mayor.

A special election is estimated to run between $3 and $6 million, and would be held within 90 days.


Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is indicted

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was indicted on Tuesday in the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto. According to CBS News, Pakistani television reports indicated that Musharraf was “charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitating murder.”

The indictment was handed down in Rawalpindi, a city near the capital Islamabad and where Bhutto was killed in a bombing in December 2007 following a political rally.

Not long after the assassination, Musharraf said in an interview that he had warned Bhutto about the security threats she faced upon her return from exile. “I knew that she’s under threat. She herself knew that…There’s no real protection against a suicide bomber really.”

Bhutto was the first female prime minister of a Muslim country when she came to power in Pakistan in the late 1980s. She also served another term in the mid-1990s. General Musharraf overthrew the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, and when he instituted strict policies intended to keep both Bhutto and Sharif out of office, she went into exile.

Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, has been president of Pakistan since his election in 2008 after he took over as leader of his wife’s political party, the Pakistan People’s Party. Sharif is once again prime minister, meaning that Musharraf’s old rivals hold the two highest positions of power in Pakistan, although Zardari is slated to complete his term next month.

After being exiled since his removal from power in 2008, Musharraf returned to Pakistan earlier this year in an attempt to reenter politics, an effort that was stymied by the government.

But with relations between the civilian government and military ever tenuous, there is concern that the court’s move could potentially destabilize the country.

CBS’s report cited both a “Western diplomat” and a member of Sharif’s party as giving voice to the possibility that the former prime minister might be angling for revenge against the man who deposed him in 1999, which might cause renewed domestic conflict and, by extension, difficulties for the United States as it attempts to secure continued support of the Pakistani government in its counterterrorism operations.
Whatever the motivation, the indictment is a stark change for the country and its long history of deference to its military. The charges against the seventy-year-old Musharraf marked a first in Pakistan’s sixty-six year history: never before has a general once so powerful been charged with a crime.


Petition to oust San Diego Mayor Bob Filner gains support

“Filner: Resign or Recall” was the rallying cry  Sunday during the Freedom From Filner March in San Diego, which kicked off efforts to have controversial mayor Bob Filner recalled. Organizers have until September 26th to get the 102,000 signatures they need.

To date 16 women have come forward and accused Mayor Filner of sexual misconduct. Several of appeared at the rally Sunday, along with high profile attorney Gloria Allred, who represents three of the accusers. Allred called for Filner’s removal from office, telling the crowd: “There is no excuse for abuse and there is no excuse for you to stay in power.”

Mayor Filner has refused to step down from office since returning early from a behavior-therapy program in July. All nine San Diego city council members and both U.S. Senators from California, Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, have called for Mayor Filner to recall. He rebuked their request, however, saying that although he had “failed to fully respect the women who work for me and with me” he expects to be vindicated by “a full presentation of the facts”.

The recall effort kicked off Sunday at 12:01 am, with canvassers sweeping San Diego’s popular Gaslamp District for signatures. Although there is a long road ahead of them, organizers and supporters of the effort are determined to see the recall through to completion. “We’re going to be everywhere. We’re going to be at sporting events. We’re going to be at street fairs, arts shows — you name it, we will be out there,” Dave McCulloch, one of the recall organizers, said Sunday.

Although there were Filner supporters at the rally Sunday, the embattled mayor’s popularity has plummeted since the allegations came to light. In a recent local news poll 81% of respondents said they would like to see Mayor Filner out of office. Many at the rally Sunday admitted to voting for Filner when he was elected in 2012, but now regret their actions.

Peggy Shannon, a 67 year old great-grandmother, is the latest woman to accuse Mayor Filner of sexual harassment. She stood by Allred, her attorney, at the march, but did not speak to the crowd. She has accused the mayor of hugging and kissing her on the lips at work, as well as making a number of lewd comments.

Despite a lack of support from his fellow politicians and the public at large, Mayor Filner returned to work on Monday.