Anthony Weiner

Anthony David Weiner (/ˈwiːnər/; born September 4, 1964) is a former American politician. As a congressman, he represented New York's 9th congressional district from January 1999 until June 2011. He won seven terms as a Democrat, never receiving less than 59% of the vote. Weiner resigned from Congress in June 2011 after the first of several sexting scandals became public. On May 19, 2017, Weiner pleaded guilty in federal court to transferring obscene material to an underage girl.

A New York City native, Weiner attended public schools, and graduated from the SUNY Plattsburgh in 1985 with a B.A. in political science. He was a member of the New York City Council from 1992 to 1998, and a congressional aide to U.S. Representative Chuck Schumer from 1985 to 1991. He was an unsuccessful candidate for Mayor of New York City in the 2005 and 2013 New York City mayoral elections.

Anthony Weiner, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg
Anthony Weiner, official portrait, 112th Congress.jpg

Early life, education, and family

Weiner was born in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, as the middle son of his Jewish parents: Mort Weiner, a lawyer, and his wife Frances (née Finkelstein), a public high school math teacher. The family lived for a time in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn. His older brother, Seth, was killed at age 39 by a hit-and-run driver on May 20, 2000. His younger brother, Jason, is a chef and co-owner of several New York restaurants.

Weiner took the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, an examination used to determine admission to all but one of New York City's specialized high schools, and was admitted to Brooklyn Technical High School, from which he graduated in 1981. He attended the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, and spent his junior year as an exchange student at The College of William and Mary where he was friends with future comic and political commentator Jon Stewart; Stewart acknowledged the friendship when he poked fun of him during the sexting scandal in 2011. His interests turned towards politics; he became active in student government and was named most effective student senator.

Upon receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science in 1985, Weiner joined the staff of then–United States Representative and current Senator Charles Schumer. He worked in Schumer's Washington, D.C. office for three years, then transferred to the district office in Brooklyn in 1988, when Schumer encouraged him to become involved in local politics.

New York City Council

After working six years for Schumer, Weiner's first chance at political office came in 1991 when the New York City Council was expanded from 35 to 51 seats. Considered a long-shot, Weiner faced strong competition in the Democratic primary elections from two other candidates who had better local name recognition and funding. Weiner narrowly won the primary, besting Adele Cohen by less than 200 votes. Controversy ensued in the last weeks of the campaign after Weiner's campaign anonymously spread leaflets around the district which had alleged ties between Cohen and the so-called "Jackson-Dinkins agenda"; the leaflets referred to the Crown Heights riots earlier in the year, after which white residents had seen Jesse Jackson, who became notorious for his earlier remarks about New York City as "Hymietown", and then-mayor David Dinkins as having been beholden to the predominantly African-American rioters and therefore endangering whites.

Weiner won the November general election, widely considered a formality, with no opposition in the heavily Democratic district. At the time, he became the youngest councilman in the city's history, at age 27. Over the next seven years on the City Council, Weiner initiated programs to address quality of life concerns. He also started a program to put at-risk and troubled teens to work cleaning up graffiti, and backed development plans that helped revive the historic Sheepshead Bay area.

U.S. House of Representatives

Elections

Weiner ran for Congress in 1998 from New York's 9th congressional district, the seat held by his mentor, Chuck Schumer, who was running for the U.S. Senate. Weiner won the Democratic primary election, tantamount to election in the heavily Democratic district which included parts of southern Brooklyn and south and central Queens.

Domestic issues

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Weiner showing his support at a NYC gay parade (2009)

He received a 100% rating from the NARAL Pro-Choice America in 2003 and a 0% rating from National Right to Life Committee 2006, indicating a strong pro-choice voting record. He was critical of the 2009 Stupak-Pitts Amendment to the health reform bill, calling it "unnecessary and divisive" and saying it would prevent health insurers from offering abortion coverage regardless of whether an individual uses federal funds to purchase an insurance plan.

In April 2008, Weiner created the bi-partisan Congressional Middle Class Caucus. Weiner received an "A" on the Drum Major Institute's 2005 Congressional Scorecard on middle-class issues. In June 2008, Weiner sponsored a bill to increase the number of O-visas available to foreign fashion models, arguing that it would help boost the fashion industry in New York City. He criticized UN diplomats for failing to pay parking tickets in New York City, claiming foreign nations owed $18,000,000 to the city.

During the health care reform debates of 2009, Weiner advocated for a bill called the United States National Health Care Act, which would have expanded Medicare to all Americans, regardless of age. He remarked that while 4% of Medicare funds go to overhead, private insurers put 30% of their customer's money into profits and overhead instead of into health care. In late July 2009, he secured a full House floor vote for single payer health care in exchange for not amending America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 in committee mark-up with a single-payer plan.

When a public health insurance option was being considered as part of America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009, he said it would help towards reducing costs, and set up a website to push for the option. He attracted wide attention when described the Republican Party as "a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry, teaming up with a small group of Democrats to try to protect that industry", and proclaimed in front of Congress in February 2010 that "every single Republican I have ever met in my entire life is a wholly owned subsidiary of the insurance industry."

Weiner was the chief sponsor of the Prevent All Cigarette Trafficking Act of 2009, which made the selling of tobacco in violation of any state tax law a federal felony, and effectively ended Internet tobacco smuggling by stopping shipments of cigarettes through the United States Postal Service. He claimed, "This new law will give states and localities a major revenue boost by cracking down on the illegal sale of tobacco", and added that "Every day we delay is another day that New York loses significant amounts of tax revenue and kids have easy access to tobacco products sold over the Internet."

On July 29, 2010, Weiner criticized Republicans for opposing the 9/11 Health and Compensation Act, which would provide for funds for sick first responders to the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. In a speech on the floor of the House, he accused Republicans of hiding behind procedural questions as an excuse to vote against the bill.

In response to pressure from Weiner, YouTube removed some of Anwar al-Awlaki's inflammatory videos from its website in November 2010. Weiner voted against the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010. As a prominent Democratic opponent of the tax cut package passed by Congress, Weiner said Republicans had gotten the better of President Obama in the negotiations to reach an agreement on the $858 billion deal and said the Republicans turned out to be "better poker players" than Obama.

Foreign policy

Weiner voted for the authorization to use force against Iraq in 2002. In May 2006, Weiner attempted to bar entry by the Palestinian delegation to the United Nations. He added that the delegation "should start packing their little Palestinian terrorist bags", and went on to claim that Human Rights Watch, The New York Times, and Amnesty International are all biased against Israel.

On July 29, 2007, Weiner and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) objected to a $20-billion arms deal that the Bush Administration had negotiated with Saudi Arabia because they didn't want to provide "sophisticated weapons to a country that they believe has not done enough to stop terrorism", noting that 15 of the 19 hijackers of September 11, 2001, were Saudis. Weiner made the announcement outside of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Washington, stating, "We need to send a crystal clear message to the Saudi Arabian government that their tacit approval of terrorism can't go unpunished." The two intended to use a provision of the Arms Export Control Act to review the deal and pass a Joint Resolution of Disapproval.

Weiner and several other members of Congress later criticized the Obama administration proposal to sell over $60 billion in arms to Saudi Arabia. He said: "Saudi Arabia is not deserving of our aid, and by arming them with advanced American weaponry we are sending the wrong message", and described Saudi Arabia as having a "history of financing terrorism" and teaching "hatred of Christians and Jews" to its schoolchildren.

Criticisms and controversies

In July 2008, The New York Times characterized Weiner as one of the most intense and demanding of bosses, describing him as often working long hours with his staff, requiring them to be in constant contact via BlackBerry, frequently yelling at them, and occasionally throwing office furniture in anger. As a result, according to the Times, he had one of the highest staff turnover rates of any member of Congress, including, at one point, three chiefs of staff in 18 months. Weiner admitted he pushed his aides hard but said his speaking at a high decibel level was part of his background and style, not necessarily shouting. Though some former employees were critical of his supervisory practices, others praised him for his intense involvement in constituent concerns and readiness to fight for New York City.

A 2010 license plate check by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call showed that Weiner's vehicles were among several owned by members of Congress which had unpaid tickets. Weiner's past due fines, which spanned three years and totaled more than $2,000, were among the highest uncovered by Roll Call and were paid in full shortly after publication of the article. On June 13, 2011, the New York Daily News reported that one of Weiner's vehicles, though it had been issued valid plates, was displaying expired plates that had been issued to another one of his vehicles. Weiner had previously criticized UN diplomats for failing to pay parking tickets in New York City, claiming foreign nations owed $18,000,000 to the city.

Sexting scandals

On May 27, 2011, Weiner sent a link of a sexually explicit photograph of himself via his public Twitter account to a woman who was following him on Twitter. After several days of denying he had posted the image, Weiner held a press conference at which he admitted he had "exchanged messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women over the last three years" and apologized for his earlier denials. After an explicit photo was leaked through the Twitter account of a listener of the The Opie & Anthony Show, Weiner announced on June 16, 2011, that he would resign from Congress, and he formally did so on June 21. In the special election held on September 13, 2011, to replace him, Republican businessman Bob Turner defeated Democrat David Weprin to fill Weiner's seat.

A second sexting scandal began on July 23, 2013, several months after Weiner returned to politics in the New York City mayoral race. Explicit photos were sent by him under the alias "Carlos Danger" to a 22-year-old woman with whom Weiner had contact as late as April 2013, more than a year after he had left Congress. The 22-year-old woman was later revealed as Sydney Leathers, an Indiana native who first came into contact with him when she expressed her disapproval of his extramarital behaviors.

On August 28, 2016, the New York Post reported that Weiner had sexted another woman, including sending one picture while lying in bed with his young son. The New York Times reported the next day that Weiner and his wife, Huma Abedin, intended to separate. Abedin announced her intention to separate from her husband by stating, "After long and painful consideration and work on my marriage, I have made the decision to separate from my husband. Anthony and I remain devoted to doing what is best for our son, who is the light of our life. During this difficult time, I ask for respect for our privacy."

On September 21, 2016, the Daily Mail published an article claiming that Weiner had engaged in sexting with a 15-year-old girl, and devices owned by Weiner were seized as part of an investigation into this incident. The report prompted a criminal investigation and Weiner's laptop was seized. Emails pertinent to the Hillary Clinton email controversy were discovered on the laptop, prompting FBI Director James Comey to reopen that investigation late into the 2016 US presidential election. Hillary Clinton has cited Comey's decision as one reason why she lost the election to Donald Trump.

On January 31, 2017, The Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors were weighing bringing child pornography charges against Weiner over the incident. On May 19, 2017, the New York Times reported Weiner had surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation that morning, intending to plead guilty to a single charge of transferring obscene material to a minor under a plea agreement. Under the agreement, Weiner faces a sentence of 21 to 27 months, and will be required to register as a sex offender. Sentencing is scheduled for September 8, 2017.

New York mayoral elections

2005

Weiner sought the Democratic nomination to run for New York City mayor in 2005, vying against three other candidates. He had a three-part pitch to voters that included criticizing sitting Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his top-down style of management and promising a more democratic approach; against "passivity in City Hall" and for getting more federal money for the city; and a series of ideas on how to get the city to work better. He presented a book of 50 "Real Solutions" and among his policy proposals were fixes for the health care and educational systems. One idea already in play was a neighborhood scrubbing-up program he dubbed "Weiner's Cleaners".

Weiner started out last in many polls, but gained ground in the final weeks of the campaign, coming in second. Initial election returns had Fernando Ferrer with 39.95% of the vote, just shy of the 40% required to avoid a runoff against Weiner, who had 28.82%, but Weiner conceded, citing the need for party unity and denying rumors that various high-ranking New York Democrats, such as Senator Chuck Schumer and New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, had urged him to concede. Absentee ballots put Ferrer over the 40% mark in the official primary election returns.

2009

Weiner appeared to be a candidate for mayor again in 2009. However, in May 2009, after the New York City Council voted to extend term limits for Mayor Bloomberg, Weiner announced his decision not to run against the popular incumbent. By July 2010, Weiner had raised $3.9 million for a potential campaign in the 2013 mayoral election, and was considered a leading contender in early polls. According to the New York City Campaign Finance Board website, as of the March 2013 filing deadline Weiner had raised over $5.1 million, the second most among registered mayoral candidates, behind only Christine Quinn.

2013

In an interview with The New York Times Magazine published online on April 10, 2013, Weiner said he would like to "ask people to give me a second chance" and was considering a run for mayor. He added that, "it's now or maybe never for me."

In an interview on April 11, Rep. Keith Ellison endorsed Weiner, saying that he would love to see him become mayor of New York. Weiner announced his intent to seek candidacy on a YouTube video on May 21, 2013.

Weiner's platform for candidacy was summarized in "Keys to the City: 64 Ideas to Keep New York City the Capital of the Middle Class".

On July 23, 2013, following the second set of sexting allegations that Weiner (using the alias "Carlos Danger") had continued to send explicitly photographs after his resignation from Congress, he acknowledged that he had sent messages to at least three women in 2012. One recipient stated that Weiner described himself to her as “an argumentative, perpetually horny middle-aged man”. Following this admission, there were calls for Weiner to drop out of the mayoral race; however, Weiner held a press conference with his wife, Huma Abedin, in which he announced that he would continue his campaign. At the press conference, Weiner said, "I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have... I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption this has caused.”

On July 27, 2013, Danny Kedem, Weiner's campaign chief, announced his resignation. On September 10, 2013, Weiner lost the mayoral primary, winning only 4.9% of the vote.

Post-congressional consulting and lobbying work

Less than a month after leaving Congress, Weiner created the consulting firm Woolf-Weiner Associates in July 2011, where he advised over a dozen companies including electronic medical records providers and biofuel firms, and worked with Covington & Burling, an international law firm. His work helped increase his combined family income to $496,000 in 2012, according to public disclosures. Weiner argued that despite contacting members of Congress on behalf of his clients, his work did not meet the legal definition of lobbying. This was based on the so-called "Daschle Loophole" in the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which requires only those who spend more than 20% of their time lobbying to register as lobbyists.

Weiner was criticized by some on both the political left and right for his consulting work. During an interview on MSNBC, Lawrence O'Donnell criticized Weiner stating, "You went out to make money as a lobbyist... you did the classic hack thing and you know it." Weiner stated he was not a lobbyist.

He was also criticized by the Sunlight Foundation for stealth lobbying, and falling under the aforementioned "Daschle Loophole", as the public never learned of his lobbying work until two years later when his nondisclosure agreements expired.

In July 2015, Weiner was hired by MWW Group, a PR firm in New York City as a part-time consultant to serve on the company's board of advisors.

By September 2015, his employment at MWW had ended, with the firm's head Michael Kempner stating "It has become clear that a handful of people and a few media outlets continue to be fixated on Anthony". According to Politico New York, Weiner reportedly first learned of Kempner's decision through a mass email.

On August 29, 2016, the New York Daily News said it would no longer carry Weiner's columns, which included his writings on New York City politics. On the same day, television channel NY1 said Weiner would not be reprising his contributor role on any of its shows.

Personal life

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Huma Abedin, October 2010

Weiner is Jewish. He is a lifelong fan of both the New York Mets and New York Islanders.

In May 2009, he became engaged to Huma Abedin, a long-time personal aide to Hillary Clinton, and they married in July 2010, with former President Bill Clinton officiating. Abedin is a practicing Muslim of Indian and Pakistani descent. In December 2011, Abedin gave birth to a son, Jordan Zain Weiner.

In August 2016, Abedin announced that she was separating from Weiner. In the spring of 2017, Abedin announced her intent to file for divorce with sole physical custody of their son, Jordan. On May 19, 2017, she filed for divorce.

In popular culture

Films

Weiner appeared in the Syfy movie Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (2015), portraying the Director of NASA.

In 2013, Weiner and Abedin allowed filmmakers full access to his mayoral campaign. In 2016, the resulting documentary, Weiner, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

Play

In 2013, a production called The Weiner Monologues premiered at the Access Theater. Directed by Jonathan Harper Schlieman, the show was based on media coverage of Weiner's sexting scandal.

Television

In 2014, he had a cameo appearance in an Alpha House episode.

See also

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