Today’s news:

Ackerman under fire on two fronts

A group of Nassau County and Queens residents bearing American flags and signs protested against U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) outside his Northern Boulevard-based district office in Bayside, criticizing his stances on the economy and national security.

In an unrelated development, the congressman defended himself this week against published reports that he allegedly profited from his relationship with a defense-contracting firm by setting up a meeting between the company and Israeli officials.

The protesters, who called themselves the Nassau/Queens 9-12 Project, held signs reading “Government Gone Wild” and “Stop Spending Our Future” as they stood in front of Ackerman’s office at 218-14 Northern Blvd. in Bayside.

“We are here to protest his continued incumbency,” said Stuart Kaufman, of Great Neck, L.I., who led the protest Friday. “We want him out for the money he is spending, the arrogance he is showing and his indifference to his constituents.”

Members of the group, affiliated with the national Tea Party protest movement, said they wanted to ensure the longtime northeast Queens congressman did not get re-elected.

“These folks have the constitutional right to peacefully express their political opinions to their elected representatives, and that is what they did today,” Ackerman said. “I fully support that right.”

Protesters, who waved large American flags in front of Ackerman’s office, said they were opposed to the congressman’s support of national health care reform as well as his ‘yes’ votes on several bailouts of national financial institutions.

“We are hoping he will not get re-elected,” said Steve Morris, of Nassau County. “We don’t agree with any of his Obama stands — the exorbitant spending or his national security views.”

Kaufman said the group’s name refers to the day after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when he contends the nation was united. The 9-12 Project includes members from a wide range of socioeconomic and religious groups as well as political parties, he said.

The group attracts new members on meetup.com.

Rosetta Malvese, a protester from Cedarhurst, L.I., said the group was made up of “American citizens who are concerned about the direction of the country.”

Earlier this week, Ackerman blasted a Daily News story which reported that he had allegedly borrowed $14,000 in 2002 from the top shareholder at Xenonics Inc., a defense-contracting firm, and put no money down. The paper reported that the loan had no written payback date, which could be a violation of the House’s ethics rules.

The congressman is also alleged to have set up a meeting between the firm’s founder and Israeli officials.

In a statement, Ackerman said he had arranged a meeting eight years ago between the company and representatives of Israel because he believed the firm’s technology for night vision lighting “could contribute to Israel’s national defense.”

But he said his investments with Xenonics had been properly disclosed and that he had not promoted the firm. The loan was paid off “with proper interest” on Dec. 12, 2004, he said.

“I did no more than arrange an introduction so the parties could decide on the merits whether the product fit their needs and sale capabilities,” Ackerman said. “I did nothing else in this matter - not another meeting, not another conversation, not seeking an earmark, not helping with any grant. Ever.”

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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