Complaint 2015-01: Yepsen v Safford

November 2, 2015 Leave a comment

Complaint

Candidate John Safford sent a mailing piece and is airing a television advertisement designed to mislead and misinform voters about Mayor Yepsen’s record.

Finding

Safford’s mass advertising violates the following FCP Principles:

  1. “The candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly, fairly, and truthfully. Candidates will discuss the issues and participate in fair debate with respect to their views and qualifications.”
  2. The Candidate will not use, permit the use of, or condone the use of any campaign materials or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or the facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent.”
  3. “The candidate will ensure that his/her campaign materials and advertisements, which candidates disseminates or which are disseminated on the candidate’s behalf, clearly identify the candidate and contain the name and address, or other contact information of the sponsor.

Process

The subject materials were presented, and Mayor Yepsen’s signed complaint was forwarded to Candidate Safford. FCP Board reviewed all information, and found the Candidate Safford materials to be egregious misrepresentations of the facts, and Candidate Safford guilty of unfair campaign practices.

As of this time no response has been received from Candidate Safford or his campaign.

Categories: 2015, Findings

FCP finds Unfair Campaign Practices in Halfmoon Town Council Races

October 23, 2014 Leave a comment
COMPLAINT 2014-2:  JOSEPH CHRISTOPHER vs. DAPHNE JORDAN & DEANNA STEPHENSON vs .JEREMY CONNORS

COMPLAINT 2014-3:  DAPHNE JORDAN vs. JOSEPH CHRISTOPHER  & JEREMY CONNORS vs. DEANNA STEPHENSON

FCP finds Unfair Campaign Practices in Halfmoon Town Council Races

Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region, Inc.(FCP) found Daphne Jordan and Jeremy Connors, candidates for Halfmoon Town Council, have committed unfair campaign practices by refusing to repudiate a campaign mailer that falsely implied that Joe Christopher was involved in a cocaine ring, that Deanna Stephenson hadn’t voted until she became a candidate and that she had tried to cut a political deal to get appointed to the ethics board. Christopher and Stephenson are both candidates for Halfmoon Town Council and were also accused by their opponents of covering up their running mate’s alleged transgressions. (Hearing 2014-2). FCP also found that Joe Christopher committed an unfair campaign practice by issuing a press release which tried to tie Daphne Jordan to “tainted” money in the Town. Additionally, FCP found that the It wasn’t just one bad apple “palm card” issued by Deanna Stephenson, the subject of a complaint by Jeremy Connors, was not an unfair campaign practice. (Hearing 2014-3).

Specifically the mailer from the Halfmoon Republican Committee said that Joe Christopher “hid his prior arrest record as a part of a massive cocaine sting.” There is no evidence that he tried to conceal the arrest which occurred in June of 1995 and for which the charges were dismissed in October of 1995, according to the Court Docket submitted at the FCP hearing. Newspaper articles also make it clear that Daphne Jordan and the Halfmoon Republican chair were aware that the charges had been dismissed before the mailer was distributed. This unfair campaign practice by Daphne Jordan is a violation of FCP principle #2: The candidate will not engage in, permit, or condone unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office.

Contrary to the statement in the mailer, Deanna Stephenson submitted a record from the Saratoga County Board of elections clearly showing that she had voted many times prior to running for office. This unfair campaign practice by her opponent Jeremy Connors is a violation of FCP Principle # 4: The candidate will not use, permit the use of, or condone the use of any campaign material or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or the facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent. Also in violation of principle # 4 is the mailer’s statement that Stephenson ‘tried to cut a political deal to serve on the Town’s Ethics Committee” – an unpaid position.

The statements in the mailer that Joe Christopher tried to cover up the non-existent deal by Deanna Stephenson, and that Deanna tried to cover –up Joe Christopher’s record of arrest and the subsequent dismissal of the charges are both unfounded, and therefore further violations of principle #4 and unfair campaign practices by Connors and Jordan.

The subject of Hearing 2014-3a was a complaint from Jeremy Connors about a “ palm card ” Deanna Stevenson issued which said “it wasn’t just one bad apple”, referred to “more arrests and scandals”, ending rubber stamp politics, ending pay-to-pay relationships and restoring integrity. The panel found that the use of these terms was not an unfair campaign practice and that it reflects the range of normal campaign rhetoric.

Acting on a complaint from Daphne Jordan, FCP Hearing 2014-3b found that her opponent Joe Christopher committed an unfair campaign practice by issuing a press release in which he said that every member of the Halfmoon Town Board used “tainted” money from Bruce Tanski to help them get elected. The panel concluded that contributions from Mr. Tanski can’t be called tainted until, or if, he is convicted of campaign finance violations, so this is a violation of FCP Principle # 4: The candidate will not use, permit the use of, or condone the use of any campaign material or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or the facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent.

Present at the October 22 hearings were: Joseph Christopher, Deanna Stephenson, Todd Kerner (Saratoga County Democratic Chairman) and Michael Cuevas (representing Jeremy Connors and Daphne Jordan). The hearing panel consisted of Jane Bouchard, Beverly LaBarge, Helen MacDonald, Stephen Muller, Charles Pangburn and Coordinator Barbara Thomas.

Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region, Inc. was established to promote a climate of fair, open, and honest campaigns; encourage candidates to discuss the issues; encourage candidates to refrain from defamatory attacks on opponents; discourage use of campaign materials that distort facts; and expand the political debate by more fully informing the electorate about the use of unfair campaign practices. Information on FCP can be obtained at https://faircampaignpractices.wordpress.com/. Reverend Mick Drown, President can be contacted at 424-8787.

END

Note: If a candidate or campaign wishes to quote from this finding, it must do so accurately, particularly if it uses partial quotes. Otherwise the use is an unfair campaign practice.

Categories: 2014, Findings

Pettit v. Sherwood Finding (2014-1) September 3, 2014

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

 Town Justice Richard Sherwood
in Unfair Campaign Practice
In Run for Albany Surrogate Court Judge

 

By unanimous vote, following formal Hearing Panel presentation of complaint from the Stacy Pettit Campaign, and with neither presence nor rebuttal from Mr. Sherwood or his campaign, Fair Campaign Practices (FCP) members found Guilderland Town Justice Richard Sherwood in Unfair Campaign Practice and in non-compliance with judicial ethics by “permitting the use of campaign material that misrepresents, distorts, and falsifies facts regarding his candidacy.”

Candidate Pettit shared a graphic of candidate Sherwood’s campaign sign which states: “Judge Sherwood Albany Surrogate Judge.”  Ms. Pettit then stated how the sign deceptively represents that Mr. Sherwood is the incumbent Surrogate’s Court judge.  He is not the incumbent, but instead is a Town Justice in Guilderland.  This is in violation of Principle #4 of FCP.

Ms. Pettit had communicated her complaint to Mr. Sherwood, describing how it placed him not only in violation of FCP Principles, but also in “violation of judicial ethic’s rules ‘to misrepresent your current position by knowingly making campaign literature to that effect: “When seeking election for a higher judicial office,”a judge must make clear that he is not the incumbent of the office sought.  A judge’s campaign material must scrupulously avoid any ambiquity in that regard in order to avoid the potential for deception.”

Ms. Pettit noted that the signs had been in place, misleading voters for some time, and requested Mr. Sherwood to “remove all of the misleading and deceptive signs…and, also, provide a public statement that you are not the incumbent judge, and apologize for the misconception.”

Neither presence at the Hearing nor written or verbal response has been received from Mr. Sherwood.

It was also noted at the meeting that FCP Tips for Candidates #s 2, 5, & 7 were also disregarded by candidate Sherwood, i.e. (2) “if not the incumbent you should use the words ‘for’ or ‘elect’ before the name of the office for which yhou are running, so as not to give the false impression that you are the incumbent; (5) campaign materials “should clearly indicate who has paid for the ad and provide contact information;” (& 7) “Do not say anything about yourself you cannot prove.”

The Rev. Dr. Maurice Drown, President, Fair Campaign Practices
Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014, 9 PM o’clock

 
Additional FCP Members Present and Voting
FCP Vice President Barry Leibson; Ret. Attorney Michael Foster; Chuck & Inga Pangburn; John Sniezyk, & Jean Wilkinson

Please visit: http://faircampaignpractices.info

The FCP organization, created in 1999 by The Leagues of Women Voters in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, & Schenectady Counties, and The Interfaith Alliance of New York’s Capital Region believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with principles of fairness and honesty.  You may find those principles, and the history of Findings n the Web Page: http://faircampaignpractices.info

Categories: 2014, Findings

Sutton v. Yepsen Finding (2013-2)

November 4, 2013 Leave a comment

 November 2, 2013

Unfair Campaign Practice found Against the Yepsen Campaign

 Fair Campaign Practices of the Capital Region, Inc. (FCP) held a phone conference hearing on November 2, 2013 to consider a complaint made by Shauna M. Sutton against Joanne Yepsen.  Both are candidates for the office of Mayor of the City of Saratoga Springs. Present were hearing panel members: Chair Rev. Maurice Drown, Coordinator Barb Thomas, Judy Campbell, Helen MacDonald, Steve Muller, John Sniezyk, and observer Susan Springs Meggs.

Sutton and Sutton campaign representative Andrew Davis were also present.

Neither Yepsen nor Todd Kerner, Chair of the Saratoga County Democratic Committee, the party responsible for the ad, were present to make a statement or to answer questions. Kerner provided information by e-mail.

 Ms. Sutton complained that her opponent’s postcard ad, which was received this day, November 2, misrepresented her involvement with the Greenridge Cemetery Association, Inc.  The ad  states that she has taken taxpayer money for her services to the cemetery in the amount of $120,000.  The ad claims that Ms. Sutton had,  by serving as the Deputy Mayor and at the same time as a trustee and treasurer for the cemetery which received taxpayer money, had been in effect “double dipping.”

FINDING: UNFAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICE:  The committee agreed that indeed Principle 4 which states that the candidate will “not use, permit the use of or condone the use of any campaign material or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent” had been violated by the ad in question.  Ms. Sutton explained that for 37 years, she has been in the employ of Greenridge Cemetery Assoc. Inc., and that she performs the duties of trustee and treasurer.  She said that she is paid a  small salary for that service, that the books of the cemetery have been disclosed to the public and audited on an annual basis.  She further clarified that the money in question represents an agreed annual fee paid by the City to the cemetery for the maintenance of the portion of the cemetery that belongs to the City, and that this relationship dates back many years. Furthermore, the $120,000 figure used in the ad represents payments over a six-year period.

Categories: 2013, Findings

Gottmann v. Sloat Finding (2013-1)

August 30, 2013 Leave a comment

Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region, Inc. (FCP) held a hearing on August 28, 2013 to consider a complaint made by Steven H. Gottmann against Elwood A. Sloat.  Both are candidates in the Republican Primary Election for the Malta Town Justice in Saratoga County.  Present were hearing panel members:  Rev. Maurice Drown, Harriet Warnock-Graham, Dorothy Paul,  and Chairperson Joan Elliott and Coordinator Barry Leibson.  Mr. Gottmann,  represented by Nick Wilock, Town of Malta, Republican vice chairperson,  and Mr. Sloat were present.  Gary Palmer, a former town justice in another county, also was present on Mr. Sloat’s behalf.

  1.  Mr. Steven Gottmann complained that  Mr. Elwood Sloat’s election lawn signs misidentify the position he is running for referring to “judge” rather than “town justice”, the office both are seeking.  Mr. Sloat countered that any judicial official presiding in town justice courts is addressed as “judge” and this practice is used on an official  New York State Unified Court System website and elsewhere.

  2.  Mr. Gottmann said the website contact is JudgeSloat.com which wrongly infers that Mr. Sloat is a judge and possibly an attorney when he is a retired New York State trooper.  Mr. Sloat said the website is a contact listing and anyone going to the website sees no misleading material about his credentials.

  3. Mr. Gottmann also objects to election lawn signs that fail to say “elect” or “vote for” the position and as a result might make voters believe falsely Mr. Sloat is an incumbent.  Mr. Sloat said the “Vote” in front of his name would not imply incumbency.  

FINDING:  NO UNFAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICE:   The term “judge” or “town justice” is interchangeable, as evidenced by the New York State Unified Court System website, Criminal Procedure Law of New York State, and common public usage.  The voter is not misled that there is any position other than this at the town level, regardless of whether judge or town justice is used.  Consequently, the usage does not violate Principle 1 that the candidate will conduct a campaign “openly, fairly, and truthfully” or Principle 4 that the candidate will “not use, permit the use of, or condone the use of any campaign material or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent”.

FINDING:  NO UNFAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICE:  In an election lawn sign saying “Vote SLOAT Malta Town Judge” the “Vote” in this context could be a synonym for  “Elect”.  While Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region Inc. did not judge that this rises to the level of an unfair campaign practice, it has a strong preference for using “for” after the word “Vote” or “Elect” to be absolutely clear there is no erroneous impression of incumbency.

FINDING:  NO UNFAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICE:  The URL (website) contact name is simply a means for the public to gain further information on a candidate and the domain used is not a violation of any FCP principles..

 Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region Inc. was established to promote a climate of fair, open and honest campaigns; encourage candidates to discuss issues; encourage candidates to refrain from personal attacks on opponents; discourage use of campaign materials that distort facts; and expand the political debate by more fully informing the electorate about the use of unfair campaign practices.  Information on FCP can be obtained at https://faircampaignpractices.wordpress.com.

 -END-

Note:  If a candidate or campaign wishes to quote from this finding, it must do so accurately, particularly if it uses partial quotes.  Otherwise that is an unfair campaign practice.

 

 

Categories: 2013, Findings

Fair Campaign Practices cites Assembly candidate Cheryl Roberts for unfair practices

October 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Published: Friday, October 19, 2012

TROY — While the Fair Campaign Practices of the Capital Region organization found state Assembly candidate Cheryl Roberts was unfair in some of her campaigning against incumbent Steve McLaughlin, she noted that her opponent also put out seemingly inaccurate information.
In response to a complaint made by McLaughlin, R-Melrose, the FCP reviewed information provided and interviewed available parties during a committee hearing on Wednesday, explained Rev. Maurice Drown, the group’s president. The League of Women voters formed the FCP more than a decade ago to be an unbiased third-party entity to review possible unfair tactics used during the political campaigning season.
“It’s certainly a sad day and does not reflect well on the political process for those like myself who run honest campaigns and earn votes on my own merits,” said McLaughlin. “It’s unfortunate that my opponent was this desperate and resorted to lying about my voting record. Middle-class families are fed up with the dishonesty coming out of Albany. I’m sure the voting public will look with suspicion on what my opponent says for the remainder of her campaign. Dishonest individuals like my opponent have no place representing us.”
McLaughlin, who is serving his first term in the 107th state seat, made a complaint that Roberts had falsely accused him of voting against a sales tax cut on clothing and footwear under $110. By the end of the committee hearing, both parties had agreed McLaughlin was not in office in 2010 when the particular budget bill was up for a vote. Therefore, Roberts was in violation of certain FCP principles, according to the FCP, which found that she did not conduct her campaign truthfully since there was inaccurate information and her flyer misrepresented McLaughlin.

“Assemblyman McLaughlin has criticized my campaign for mistakenly asserting that he opposed the sales tax exemption. This assertion by my campaign was based on the knowledge that McLaughlin voted against this year’s budget tax bill,” said Roberts in a statement.
She also asserted that McLaughlin was highlighted in a legislative flyer regarding the tax exemption for items under $110. The flyer stated he was “delivering tax relief” by reinstating the exemption on clothing, coats, hats, shoes, baby apparel and gloves, according to the flyer. She noted, “He did not ever vote for the sales tax exemption he is taking credit for.”
“The legislative flyer our opponent refers to has nothing to do with the chief complaint at hand: our opponent clearly was not truthful in her campaign material,” according to a statement from McLaughlin.
The official legislative mailer was not in the purview of the committee since it only handles campaign items, said Drown. “It was a difficult decision. It was complicated since there really was not anyone speaking for Roberts at the committee meeting.”
Roberts submitted a statement as representation and the Democratic party was represented by county chairman Tom Wade. Hearing panel members included Judy Coburn, Mary Jane Ellis, Michael Foster, Beverly LaBarge, Barry Leibson, and Chairperson Joan Elliott and Coordinator Barbara Thomas. Bryon McKim and Nick Wilock represented McLaughlin. Drown confirmed that no one on the panel was affiliated with either McLaughlin or Roberts.
The 107th state Assembly district covers most of Rensselaer County and parts of Columbia and Washington counties.

Categories: 2012, Press Releases

Fair Campaign Hearing Findings 2012.3 & 2012.4

October 26, 2012 Leave a comment

For Immediate Release Contact: Rev. Mick Drown
October 26, 2012 FCP President 424-8787

Findings in the Complaints of
Jennifer Whalen vs. Phil Steck
COMPLAINT 2012-3
and
Phil Steck vs. Jennifer Whelan
COMPLAINT 2012-4

Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region, Inc. (FCP) held a hearing on October 24, 2012, to consider complaints made by Jennifer Whelan against Phil Steck and by Phil Steck against Jennifer Whelan. Both are candidates for the 110th New York State Assembly District which covers portions of Albany and Schenectady Counties. Present were hearing panel members Judi Campbell, Jeannine Laverty, Stevi Swire, Faith Weldon, and Chairperson Jill Nagy and Coordinator Barbara Thomas. Bryon McKim represented Ms. Whelan and Marisa Franchini represented Mr. Steck. Neither candidate was present. Also attending were Brian Quail, chair of the Schenectady County Democratic Committee, and Rachel Bledi, chair of the Albany County Republican Committee.

Complaint of Jennifer Whelan

Ms. Whelan’s complaint made two allegations.

First, she charged that Mr. Steck sent out a mailing that falsely alleged that Jennifer Whelan supports “fewer teachers, overcrowded classrooms, [and] cuts to sports, music, arts and after-school activities.

Secondly, she charged that Mr. Steck sent out a mailing stating falsely that “Jennifer Whelan sent you mail that lies.”

Discussion of First Allegation: It appears that Mr. Steck’s statement was based upon information that Ms. Whelan posted in 2010 on the VoteSmart webpage to the effect that she “believes our schools are adequately funded at their current level.” She did not submit information for the 2012 VoteSmart webpage. Ms. Whelan argued that she posted that opinion before introduction of a New York State budget that included deep cuts in funding for local school districts. Her intent was to say that she favored continued funding at a level that included the 2009-10 increases and not at the level to which it fell after the 2010 reductions in state assistance.

She also noted that the Project VoteSmart website clearly states that “Project Vote Smart does not permit the use of its name or program in any campaign activity, including advertising, debates, and speeches.”

Finding: Because it was clear that Ms. Whelan’s statement was made in 2010 and referred to the level of funding for education at that time, Mr. Steck’s mailing was unfair and misleading in violation of Fair Campaign Principal No. 2 and misrepresented and distorted facts in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 4.

Discussion of Second Allegation: The second allegation pertained to Mr. Steck’s allegation that Ms. Whelan lied when she stated in her campaign literature that “Steck refused to call for the return of taxpayer dollars,” “Steck refused to call for Mr. Silver’s resignation,” and “Steck refused to say if he’d support Silver for Speaker again.” All of those statements referred to the payments made to Assembly employees who alleged sexual harassment by a member of the Assembly.

Finding: Ms. Whalen did, in fact, make those statements, repeatedly, in her campaign literature. They are, literally, true. Therefore, Mr. Steck’s allegation that she lied is a misrepresentation in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 4.

Complaint of Phil Steck

Mr. Steck’s complaint is in three parts.

First, he alleges that Ms. Whalen drew unfair and misleading inferences from Mr. Steck’s refusal to call for Speaker Silver’s resignation, demand return of the money paid to the women who alleged they were sexually harassed by an Assembly member, and also refused to say whether he would support Mr. Silver’s continuing to serve as Speaker of the Assembly. (These are the same statements involved in the second portion of Ms. Whelan’s complaint.)

Secondly, he charged that Ms. Whelan engaged in misleading attacks on Mr. Steck’s character when she stated, “It’s too easy for politicians, like Phil Steck — to spend like drunken sailors.”

Thirdly, he alleged that Ms. Whelan “fabricated and distorted” information about Albany County real property taxes in order to mislead voters. The crux of that portion of the complaint were allegations that, as a member of the Albany County Legislature, Mr. Steck raised taxes 113% and exceeded the current real property tax cap.

Discussion of First Allegation: As noted above, Mr. Steck did, indeed, refuse to call for Speaker Silver’s resignation, refuse to demand return of the money paid in damages, and refuse to say whether he would support Mr. Silver for another term as Speaker. He has, in the course of the campaign, provided reasons for those positions. When, however, Ms. Whelan proceeded to draw inferences from those statements that Mr. Steck was somehow involved in the Assembly sexual harassment scandal, linked him with Mr. Silver, and stated that he refused “to take a stand for women and taxpayers,” she engaged in unfair campaign practices.

Findings: The inferences Ms. Whelan drew from Mr. Steck’s failure to demand Speaker Silver’s resignation, to demand return of money paid in damages, and to state whether he would support Mr. Silver’s continued service as Speaker were false and misleading in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 2. They also misrepresented and distorted facts in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 4.
Discussion of Second Allegation: If, indeed, Ms. Whelan did make the alleged statement, it was harmless campaign rhetoric.

Finding: No violation.

Discussion of Third Allegation: The allegation that Mr. Steck, as a member of the Albany County Legislature, increased taxes by 113.3% appears to be based upon an increase in the total tax levy of Albany County from $36,720,000 in 2000 to $81,970,000 in 2012 and some sloppy arithmetic in calculating the percentage increase that represents. The panel felt that it was misleading to refer to that as a 113.3% tax increase without explaining that it referred to the total tax levy and not to individual tax rates or tax bills and that it pertained to a 12-year period.

The statement that he exceeded the real property tax cap is based upon passage by the Albany County Legislature of Local Law No. “L” for 2011 which does, in fact, override the tax levy limit for 2012, the first year for which the tax cap was in effect.

Finding: Because the statement about a “113.3% tax increase” did not specify that it referred to increases in the entire Albany County tax levy over a period of 12 years, it was misleading and distorted the facts in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 4. Similarly, because the allegation that he exceeded the tax cap does not take into account the fact that the cap has only been in effect since 2012, that statement was also misleading and distorted the facts in violation of Fair Campaign Principle No. 4.

Fair Campaign Principle No. 2 states:

“The candidate will not engage in, permit, or condone unfair or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor will the candidate engage in invasions of personal privacy unrelated to fitness for office.”

Fair Campaign Principle No. 4 states:

“The candidate will not use, permit the use of, or condone the use of any campaign material or advertisement that misrepresents, distorts, or otherwise falsifies a fact or the facts regarding either the candidate or an opponent.”

Fair Campaign Practices for the Capital Region Inc. was established to promote a climate of fair, open and honest campaigns; encourage candidates to discuss issues; encourage candidates to refrain from defamatory attacks on opponents; discourage use of campaign materials that distort facts; and expand the political debate by more fully informing the electorate about the use of unfair campaign practices. Information on FCP can be obtained at http://faircampaignpractices.word press.com.

-END-

Note: If a candidate or campaign wishes to quote from this finding, it must do so accurately, particularly if it uses partial quotes. Otherwise that is an unfair campaign practice.

Categories: 2012, Findings