The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on October 19, 2017 to hear the complaints of Liam McLaughlin, candidate for Yonkers City Council President, against Mike Khader, candidate for the same position. Mr. McLaughlin was represented by Chris Arnold. Mr. Khader was represented by Saad Siddiqui.
COMPLAINT 1: Mr. McLaughlin complained that, on a palm card posted on the Yonkers Tribune blog, Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he suggested that Yonkers changed for the worse “after 16 years,” during which McLaughlin allegedly served in office.
The time frame suggested in this accusation is inaccurate. There were several years during the period when Mr. McLaughlin was first in office until the present when he did not serve in an elected position.
COMPLAINT 2: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he claimed that taxes had doubled since Mr. McLaughlin was elected.
The claim that taxes had doubled since Mr. McLaughlin was elected is not supported by data the Committee was provided, nor is the term “taxes” explained. There are many kinds of taxes controlled by various entities.
COMPLAINT 3: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice by stating in his campaign literature that, “Yonkers water bills have gone up 585% since Liam was first elected 18 years ago.”
Yonkers water bills are based mainly on charges from the City of New York to Yonkers, and documentation provided to the Committee did not show that rates had increased that much. The inference that he is responsible is misleading.
COMPLAINT 4: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he made the statement that spending went up 338% in Yonkers.
The statement that spending went up 338% in Yonkers is confusing because there are many different types of taxes, such as municipal and school taxes, and the statement was not specific. Also, taxes are set in Yonkers by various entities. In addition, budget numbers were used to determine the 338% increase, but it was not clear that the starting and ending numbers included the same components.
COMPLAINT 5: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he claimed that Mr. McLaughlin “lines his pockets with our tax dollars.”
While Mr. McLaughlin did vote twice, along with the City Council, to raise salaries of Councilmembers, the Committee found that the term “lines his pockets” implied some kind of impropriety when that was not the case.
COMPLAINT 6: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he indicated that Mr. McLaughlin unilaterally controls taxes in Yonkers and residents are struggling with “his tax hikes.”
The implication that Mr. McLaughlin unilaterally controls taxes in Yonkers is false. His is one vote on the City Council and Yonkers taxes are set by various entities.
COMPLAINT 7: Mr. McLaughlin complained that Mr. Khader engaged in an unfair campaign practice when he indicated that Mr. McLaughlin was “absent in the fight for school funding.”
Mr. McLaughlin was actively involved in school funding efforts.
Committee Members: Susan P. Guma, [Chair], Jennifer Mebes Flagg [Coordinator], Paul C. Atkinson, Nick Beilenson, Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Miriam Cohen, Daniel S. Franklin, Jr., 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, William N. Walker
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.