Today's primary marks the end of a long and vicious battle between fellow Democrats Reshma Saujani and Carolyn Maloney for Maloney's congressional seat. Saujani took on the longtime incumbent in a vigorous, full-force assault — bringing high-profile names to her side, and pulling no punches. While at first Maloney ignored Saujani's broadsides, it wasn't long before they took some swipes of their own. Here we've compiled the duo's greatest hits:
Saujani releases a video slamming Maloney for "hosting a reception with special interest lobbyists during [a] crucial moment in financial reform negotiations." Team Maloney fires back: "This political attack marks the height of hypocrisy: our opponent, a former hedge fund employee, is being bankrolled by the financial services industry while Maloney has a consistent record standing up to the special interests."
Before Maloney actually publicly agrees to debate Saujani, the latter sends out a confusing and bitter press release: "I'm pleased that my opponent has agreed to give the voters an opportunity to hear from both candidates," Saujani said. "A series of debates will help voters reclaim the broken and dysfunctional system of politics in New York, which has prevented them from having a real choice in the 14th district for nearly two decades."
Maloney's team immediately reaches out to the Daily News to say they never agreed to a debate. Saujani lashes back: "Does the Congresswoman have time for special interest fundraisers, but not for her constituents?"
Saujani takes her gripe to the Huffington Post: "Congresswoman Maloney has flip-flopped on whether or not she will debate me," she cried, adding in a swipe at the media: "It's not surprising that Congresswoman Maloney and the press have tried to label me as pro-Wall Street - an angle designed to sell newspapers and, even worse, distract voters from my opponent's conduct."
Saujani sends out a misleading mailer that is shredded by Factcheck.org:
One mailer boasts, "Only Reshma Is Rejecting Special Interest Cash." But PAC money isn't the only form of "special interest cash," and the fact is that Saujani is relying heavily on donations from individuals who work in the financial industry. According to a tabulation by the Center for Responsive Politics, she's taken in $220,255 from people in "securities and investment" and their families, while Maloney has received only $125,790 from the same sector (even counting her PAC receipts).
When Salon points out that Saujani pulled in 48 percent of her donations from people connected to the financial-services industry, a Saujani rep sidestepped the point and lashed out at Maloney again: "Our opponent should explain why she shamelessly exploited her position on the committee negotiating financial reform to raise money at the home of a financial lobbyist during the negotiations."
After Charlie Rangel's ethics humiliation, Saujani took another chance to leap for Maloney's throat: "There are reports that Congresswoman Maloney may be attending Congressman Rangel's birthday party next week. But these 13 charges against Congressman Rangel are serious allegations, not cause for a lavish birthday celebration — and our elected officials should not be joining him." Maloney did not take the bait, replying through a spokesperson: "Charlie Rangel is entitled to due process like every other American. And this process is moving forward. He has been an outstanding advocate for New York City."
Saujani releases this video, again slamming Maloney, then saying plaintively that she just "wants to share her ideas" with the incumbent in a debate.
Maloney finally swipes back at Saujani in a mailer,
which states that "Independent news organizations and watchdog groups agree: Reshma Saujani's negative campaign is twisting the facts and distorting the truth." Hilariously, the Saujani campaign calls this a "shameful attack ad."
Saujani launches a "Check the Facts" website, whose contents only relate to the same fund-raiser gripe. It also features this relatively soft-toned ad:
On August 16, Maloney dances around the idea of a debate, telling WNBC that her campaign staff "is talking to [Saujani's] campaign staff." Saujani's campaign speedily sends out a retort.
"We must have missed those calls and emails because that's news to us."
A debate is finally agreed upon. But Team Saujani is still pissed! "The WWRL debate is scheduled to occur in the middle of a weekday on a radio station with no television cameras, at a time when most New Yorkers are at work," a spokesman said. "Congresswoman Maloney is out of touch — because we need a debate that will be seen by the voters in the district."
Daily News political correspondent/blogger Celeste Katz, who is the real heroine of this story for painstakingly compiling all of this repetitive screeching, dubs the contest the "Silk Stocking Slugfest." She quotes from separate interviews that both candidates did with the Daily News editorial board, and notes that Saujani, "an American-born Hindu whose parents were born in India and later became refugees from Idi Amin's Uganda," has attacked Maloney for being "all-but-silent about her support for the mosque." Katz also quotes Saujani as saying that "Maloney ranks at the bottom of our New York delegation." "I think Carolyn Maloney represents the problem," she also said. "We have in Congress, I think, a lot of mediocre representatives." Maloney responded: "My father used to always say, 'Before she tells you what she'll do, ask her what she's done.' I don't see where you can get away from work or experience."
Saujani launches TheRealCarolynMaloney.com, which contains a mocking quiz with questions like, "Do you think passing three bills in two years is strong leadership?" Meanwhile, it's pretty clear that Saujani, like us, enjoys publishing this picture of Maloney.
The much-anticipated debate occurs. Full recording is here, along with very awkward image of the pair smiling together. Celeste Katz live-blogs the affair, noting that Saujani went on the attack against Maloney over the same issues she's been hitting the whole time, calling Maloney a "liar" and dodging questions about her own donors. Maloney comes out in favor of the Cordoba House, but Saujani accuses her of not exercising "any real leadership on this issue."
After the debate, Saujani says "Maloney told a lot of untruths today, in that one hour, and didn't even blink an eye about it. I think that that's what's wrong with our process." Maloney, for her part, says: "I'm rather a person of action than rhetoric."