Yesterday, Joe Lhota's mayoral campaign released a TV ad intended to scare people into thinking that a Mayor de Blasio will let NYC descend back into 1970s- and 1980s-era violence and riots. One of the images used was by photographer Matt Weber, who never authorized Lhota's campaign to feature it. Weber tells us, "I am a Democrat, but this is way beyond political as I have now been documenting New York for thirty years, and I'm concerned with people not paying for photos and even worse, stealing them. I am also very upset at having my work help someone I do not intend to vote for, especially since the image was stolen!"

Weber has a website showing off his street photography, with many of his pictures from his days as a taxi driver in the 1970s and 1980s, but he believes that Lhota's campaign saw his photographs when the NY Times published a series of them last month. In fact, a photo editor at the Times was the one to let Weber know that his photograph was in the Lhota ad and suggested that it had been lifted from the Times' website. Here's the ad:

Aside from being furious that his work was stolen, Weber told us that he's a "lifelong Democrat, despite being disappointed by them constantly." He added, "I hate the Republicans for their greed, and lack of concern about the poor and their position on the environment and 1,000 other things. They rarely ever do anything I can agree with and I find them an embarrassment for the human race!" (We've contacted Wilson Grand Communications, which produced the ad, for a comment, and we'll update if we hear back.)

Critics of the ad have asked that Lhota pull it. Letitia James, Council Member, Public Advocate candidate and de Blasio supporter, issued a statement, calling it "dog whistle politics. Joe Lhota’s false ad is hateful and divisive" and Lhota's tactics "shameful" and "desperate."

As for whether crime will increase under a Mayor de Blasio, Weber said, "No, but I'm not an expert. I drove a taxi during the '70s and '80s when the city was much worse. I believe that in '88 34 cabbies and livery drivers were killed."

Update: We just spoke to Steve Grand, co-owner of Wilson Grand. He said the Lhota campaign sent them a website with "cool" pictures of NYC in the 1970s and 1980s and Weber's must have been there. Grand insisted his team searched for credits but even when they couldn't find any credit, they used the photos. (FWIW, when we uploaded our version of Weber's photo in Google Image Search, Weber's website was among the first three hits.) Grand told us, "No offense was intended," and that he'd be happy to compensate Weber or take the ad down if he wished.

Update 2: LOLZ x 100000. Newsday has a great story about how MANY photographers were dicked over by the Lhota campaign.

Q. Sakamaki, who photographed rioters at Tompkins Square Park nearly a quarter-century ago and a corpse on a Lower East Side sidewalk in 1990; Richard Sandler, who snapped an elderly woman clutching a pole inside a graffiti-covered subway train in 1985; and Eli Reed, who captured the NYPD rescuing a couple under attack by Crown Heights rioters -- first learned that their photos were included in the spot in a call from Newsday. "I have not given him permission," Sandler said Wednesday. "I'm not in favor of Lhota in the first place, and I don't want that picture used." He said he's considering legal action against the Lhota campaign, but added: "Either that or pay me handsomely for it.

Intriguing, Newsday reports, "Lhota spokeswoman Jessica Proud said the images came from the photo-sharing site Flickr, and the campaign believed they were tagged as royalty-free.... It was not clear who posted the photos on Flickr, or whether the campaign or the ad agency, Wilson Grand Communications, selected the photos for the spot."

Proud added, "We did our best to find everyone we could." Okay, we'll just re-print what we published earlier: "FWIW, when we uploaded our version of Weber's photo in Google Image Search, Weber's website was among the first three hits."