City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been threatening Time Warner Cable in an attempt to get the cable provider to stop anti-Quinn ads from running on NY1. So far, her lawyers' cease-and-desist letter has gone unheeded, and the strong-arm tactics appear to be backfiring on the presumptive mayoral candidate. Today, the longtime director of the ACLU has piled on with an editorial comparing Quinn to hunchback fascist Rudolph Giuliani, former mayor of 9/11 Town and enemy of Santa Claus.

In an op-ed for the Daily News titled "Quinn unleashes her inner Giuliani," Ira Glasser, who was the executive director of the ACLU from 1978 to 2001, brings the hammer down on Quinn for trying to kill the ad and for her attempt to get other mayoral candidates to condemn it. Glasser digs deep into American history to compare Quinn's tactics to other First Amendment challenges, like when Congress passed a law in 1798 making it illegal to criticize the president. Glasser writes:

The First Amendment prohibited passage of such a statute, but Congress did it anyway. They got away with it for a few years before the law was repealed after a new President was elected on a wave of political protest.

Brazen violations like this continued to take place periodically over the years. The latest opportunity for repression of free speech has happened under the cover of so-called campaign finance “reform.”... Who does Quinn think she is?

Richard Nixon infamously sought to target and punish his critics. Rudy Giuliani set a city record for being sued for violating the First Amendment. We don’t need another mayor with this little respect for our traditions of free speech, or with so little regard for the First Amendment that she would respond to criticism by trying to repress it.

Yesterday Norman Siegel, the former head of the NYCLU who is now representing the group that's sponsoring the ads, sent a letter to the managers of NY1 and Time Warner urging them to "reject the threats... which attempt to chill and interfere with our clients’ First Amendment rights." The sternly-worded letter continues:

First, contrary to counsel for Quinn for New York’s claims, the advertisement does not make any “false statement” concerning Speaker Quinn’s position on the so called “living wage” bill, which would raise workers’ wages at city-subsidized real estate projects. For months, Speaker Quinn blocked any vote in the City Council on this issue. The bill she finally supported offered less protection, covering fewer Workers than the initial proposal and exempted the employees of a major real estate developer.

The so-called “fact sheet” counsel attached to the [cease-and-desist] Letter states that Quinn was “instrumental in forging the living wage bill that that passed the City Council” (emphasis added). In short the bill that passed was less protective of Workers’ rights than the original proposal, which is precisely NYC is Not For Sale’s point.

Second, the claim that Speaker Quinn was “on the Wrong side” of living Wage legislation is an opinion. Opinions, which Contain non-falsifiable assertions, are protected speech under both federal and New York law.

Time Warner has said it is investigating Quinn's allegations that the ad is distorting. We reached out to Quinn's campaign spokesperson for comment, and we'll update if we here back. (And if they send us a cease-and-desist for this post, you'll be the first to know!) Here's Siegel's full letter:

NYC is Not for Sale Letter