The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on September 6, 2018 to hear the complaints of incumbent Republican candidate Kevin Byrne against Democratic challenger Vedat Gashi, in the race for New York State Assembly, 94th District. Mr. Byrne was represented by Frank Lombardi, Ray Cote, and Matt Covucci. Mr. Gashi represented himself and Avni Mustafaj attended with him.
COMPLAINT #1: Assemblyman Kevin Byrne complains that Vedat Gashi in a television interview with Armanda Famiglietti, which was subsequently posted online, engaged in an unfair campaign practice by making the false and misleading statement that Assemblyman Byrne was the "only” state legislator to submit his campaign finance filing late and is tied to Albany corruption.
This Complaint resulted in two Findings:
FINDING with respect to the campaign finance filing: FAIR
In the interview Mr. Gashi stated “there was a newspaper article saying that he [Mr. Byrne] was the only state-wide individual not to have filed it [his financial disclosures] on time.” The newspaper article indicates that Mr. Byrne was the only state legislator who still had not filed and his filing was late due to his treasurer having a death in the family. The other state legislators mentioned in the newspaper article as having filed late had actually filed on time (according to Mr. Gashi), but their submission was not electronically recorded until a later date. Therefore, Mr. Gashi’s statement is correct.
FINDING with respect to the late filing being tied to Albany corruption: UNFAIR
Mr. Gashi mentioned the late filing in a discussion with Ms. Famiglietti on corruption, implying a relationship that was not substantiated. The statement is misleading.
COMPLAINT #2: Assemblyman Kevin Byrne further complains that Vedat Gashi, in the television interview, committed an unfair campaign practice by making the false and misleading statement that Assemblyman Byrne hasn’t voted to lower our taxes. “As the Republican you would think he would vote to lower our taxes and he hasn’t.”
FINDING: NO FINDING
The Fair Campaign Practices Committee finds the comment to be normal political discourse. This comment was made during a discussion of a particular tax bill and was not made as a general statement about Mr. Byrne. Many taxpayers would have had their taxes reduced if the bill was adopted, although the tax consequences of the specific bill discussed would vary according to the circumstances of the individual taxpayer.
The Fair Campaign Practices Committee urges candidates to parse words carefully, verbally as well as written. Both means of communication are held at the same high standard by the Fair Campaign Practices Committee.
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 www.faircampaignpractices.org. 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.