Finding in the Complaint of Peter Harckham against Terrence Murphy, in the Race for NY State Senate, District 40

The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee (Committee) received a complaint against incumbent Republican candidate Terrence Murphy from Democratic challenger, Peter Harckham, in the race for New York State Senate, District 40. Because of the clarity of the complaint, the Committee, following its own Guidelines, hereby issues a finding without holding a hearing. The Committee’s finding is detailed below.

Candidate for NY State Senate, Peter Harckham, complained that State Senator Terrence Murphy misrepresented the finding of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee by posting and distributing a press release alleging the Committee found that Pete Harckham "lied" about Terrence Murphy's role in the Republican nomination of Donald Trump, when in fact the finding simply stated, "The statement was inaccurate."

Senator Murphy’s press release is in violation of one of the Committee's principles, "The Committee considers selective quotation or misrepresentation of its findings to be an unfair campaign practice” since the Committee did not say Mr. Harckham “lied”; the Committee said “The statement was inaccurate.” Senator Murphy’s Facebook page continues to include a link to the News 12 story quoting the original press release.

A core belief of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee is that words matter. Because the Committee’s findings are often used by candidates in their campaigns, the Committee crafts them carefully to minimize the mischaracterization of its determinations. The Committee writes unfair rather than guilty because it is not a court of law and does not want to give the mistaken impression that a complainee has engaged in an illegal practice. It does not rule but rather finds candidates’ complaints to be fair, as in normal political discourse, or unfair if they are false or misleading. The Committee requires individual findings to be quoted in full, so that its conclusions are not used to mislead the voters.

Committee Members: Susan P. Guma, [Chair], Jennifer Mebes Flagg [Coordinator], Nick Beilenson, Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Miriam Cohen, Victor J. Goldberg, LaRuth Gray, Joan Grangenois-Thomas, Lee Kinnally, Robert C. Kirkwood, Polly Kuhn, Carole Princer Levy, Harry Phillips III, Joy Rosenzweig, Susan Schwarz, Evelyn M. Stock

Party representatives (ex officio): Republican Party, Democratic Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party, Independence Party, Green Party, Reform Party                                    

The purpose of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee is to help set an acceptable standard for political discussion by offering a forum for identifying unfair campaign practices and promoting a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns. The Committee encourages candidates to conduct campaigns openly and fairly, to focus on issues and qualifications, to refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks, and to avoid the use of campaign materials that distort the facts.

The Committee accepts written complaints from candidates about alleged unfair campaign practices. The Committee may then hold hearings to determine whether the action complained about is indeed unfair or whether it falls within acceptable political discourse. Among other things that the Committee will consider to be an unfair campaign practice is a misstatement of a material fact or any communication that misleads the public.

The Committee has no power to compel anyone or any group to stop doing what it has found to be unfair, nor does it have the authority or power to enforce election or other laws.

If the Committee acts on a complaint, it will release its findings to inform the public. The Committee may choose not to consider a complaint; in that case, a hearing is not held and the parties to the complaint are notified.

Statement of Principles of the Committee, as stated in its Manual, is available at The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee believes that candidates should conduct their campaigns in accordance with the following principles:

  • The Candidate will conduct a campaign for public office openly and fairly, focusing on issues and qualifications.
  • The Candidate will not use or condone any campaign material or advertisement that misstates, misrepresents or distorts material fact or any communication that misleads the public. The Candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with false or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent, nor in invasions of privacy unrelated to fitness for office.
  • The Candidate will not participate in nor condone any appeal to prejudice.
  • The Candidate will clearly identify by name the funding source of all advertisements and campaign literature published and distributed.
  • The Candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain political advantage. This includes, but is not limited to, announcing that he/she has filed a complaint, or quoting the Committee’s Findings unless the individual Finding cited is quoted in its entirety.
  • The Candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions from any individual or group that violates this Statement of Principles.