Updated on October 24: The explanation for Finding #4 has been expanded for the purpose of clarity
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 18, 2018 to hear the complaints of Democratic Challenger Peter Harckham against incumbent Republican candidate Terrence Murphy in the race for New York State Senate, District 40. Mr. Harckham was represented by TJ Rogers and Barry Caro. Mr. Murphy was represented by Chris Arnold.
Peter Harckham complains that the Murphy campaign and its affiliates made the false statement that Peter Harckham was hired by New York State because of the “connections with a top state official and fellow South Salem resident recently convicted of bribery, who was also the Governor’s campaign manager” (i.e. Mr. Percoco), thereby making an argument of corruption by association.
The statement made by Mr. Murphy's campaign about Mr. Harckham's attainment of positions is unsubstantiated as it lacks a factual basis. In addition, the statement is misleading. The statement implies corruption by association and is in violation of two of the Committee's principles: “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” and "The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with false or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent…”
Peter Harckham complains that the Murphy campaign and its affiliates made the false and misleading statement that Peter Harckham had "two full time political patronage jobs at the same time" and “double-dipped” since he “collected more than $311,000 through these two low-show political jobs…”
The statement by Mr. Murphy's campaign that Peter Harckham was "double dipping", holding “two full time, low-show jobs” at the same time is misleading and unsubstantiated.
Peter Harckham complains that Terrence Murphy, through the New York State Senate Republican Campaign Committee, is repeating an unfair campaign practice that the Fair Campaign Practices Committee had previously found as "Unfair." Specifically, in two Facebook ads dated October 8, 2018, Senator Murphy makes reference to "Pete Harckham who was caught lying by the Fair Campaign Practices Committee" and to "Pete Harckham who the Fair Campaign Practices Committee ruled lied." This mischaracterization of the FCPC's finding had been previously found "unfair" by the FCPC.
This knowing mischaracterization of the finding by the Fair Campaign Practices Committee at its June 18, 2018 meeting remains an unfair campaign practice. As noted previously, the use of the word "lied", instead of the wording from the Committee - "the statement is inaccurate" - 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."
Peter Harckham complains that Senator Murphy falsely alleges that Mr. Harckham "…voted to give millions of taxpayer dollars to Conifer the construction company and A-Home, a non-profit that Harckham previously served as president of." Mr. Harckham complains that Mr. Murphy's statement that A-Home was involved in this project, and his implication of a conflict of interest on the part of Mr. Harckham, is not factual, as well as the statement that "this is just another conflict of interest scandal regarding State Senate candidate Peter Harckham."
Peter Harckham was president of A-Home from 2004 – 2007. He was not a member of that Board going forward. A separate 501(c)(3) entity called A-Home Community Enterprises was formed in 2005. From 2005 through 2007 there was a unity of board members between A-Home and A-Home Community Enterprises. A-Home Community Enterprises, which subsequently changed its name in 2012 to Allied Community Enterprises, was involved with the Conifer project that began in 2010. The County Executive and County Board of Legislators conditionally approved the Conifer project and funding in the fall of 2014. Since Peter Harckham's affiliation with A-Home ended seven years before the project was approved, there is no conflict of interest and the statement is false, as is the statement "another conflict of interest scandal regarding State Senate candidate Peter Harckham." Both statements are in violation of two of the Committee's principles: “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” and "The candidate will neither engage in nor be involved with false or misleading attacks upon the character of an opponent…”
As a reminder with respect to hearings:
Any supporting material by either party should be submitted at least 24 hours prior to the hearing with sufficient time for the Committee and the other party to examine it. Bringing additional material to the hearing is strongly discouraged and may not be considered.
Committee Members: Susan P. Guma, [Chair], Jennifer Mebes Flagg [Coordinator], Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Miriam Cohen, Victor J. Goldberg, LaRuth Gray, Joan Grangenois-Thomas, Kyle-Beth Hilfer, Lee Kinnally, Robert C. Kirkwood, Peter Larr, Carole Princer Levy, Don Marra, Paul Bennett Marrow, Harry Phillips III, Joy Rosenzweig, Susan Schwarz, John Stern, 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.