As of this writing, Anthony Weiner was still U.S. congressman for the 9th district, representing parts of Queens and Brooklyn. But with calls for him to step down increasing by the day, and with his support among fellow Democrats appearing to dwindle rapidly, it may turn out that the man whom many considered the borough’s brightest rising star in his party will be forced from office.
That would be a shame. Weiner has been a forceful voice in Washington on progressive issues during his six and a half terms in Congress, and has devoted the last 19 years to public service, the first six of those as a city councilman. He was considered an early frontrunner in the 2013 race for mayor, a run he had been planning for years. Now, however, the likelihood of his reaching City Hall is close to zero.
Weiner admitted to having racy online relationships with at least six women he says he never even met, cyber liaisons that included explicit sexual conversation, raunchy photos he sent to them and, according to at least one of the women, phone sex. He admitted on Monday that he lied about the situation at first, claiming that he was the victim of a computer hacker who sent one of the photos to all of his followers on the Twitter social networking site.
He assured the public that he had not had an actual physical relationship with any of the women, one of whom is a porn star and at least one of whom is 21, less than half his age. He said he did not believe he had used any congressional resources, like a phone or computer, for the activities, but stopped short of saying so with certainty. One of the women claims he did speak with her on his office phone, which would be a breach of House ethics.
We’ll see what the investigation turns up rather than pass judgment on whether Weiner should stay in office or step down. It could be that this really is a private matter between Weiner and his wife more than anything else. We feel for both of them, as well as for those women who did not want to receive the congressman’s pictures.
Even if Weiner hangs on, the state Legislature will likely eliminate his seat before the next election. With his ambition, that may be punishment enough.
One small step for ethics reform
Gov. Cuomo and state lawmakers have finally reached agreement on ethics reforms that have been needed for years in Albany. But the result of their dealmaking, while a great improvement over the current situation, is disappointing in several ways.
Lawmakers will have to reveal their sources of outside income, a key move that will bring potential conflicts of interest to light. But those who are attorneys, including Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, will only have to name their firm’s new clients, not existing ones. And when they represent companies doing business with the state, they don’t have to name them if they don’t deal with them directly.
Of even more concern is the way the new ethics oversight board will operate. It’s been structured in such a way so that a tiny minority, just three of its 14 members, will have the power to quash an investigation. Because of how the appointments will be made, that essentially will allow Cuomo, Skelos or Silver to halt any probe one of them does not want to see conducted.
The plan is a good first step, but more needs to be done.