September 28, 2012

Cleaning up the campaign trail

New Yorkers might feel they’re not getting their fair share of campaign attention this fall, as national parties have already decided that New York is a blue state. We may be missing out on the millions of dollars in PAC ads — from the National Beet Wholesalers Institute, which is spending almost $3 million this year supporting candidates — to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which is spending more than $2 million, according to the watchdog site

Along with the special interest group money flowing into national campaigns, there is enough tricky business going on locally to keep a newspaper staff busy. Most egregious — though not illegal — of deceptive campaign conduct was State Senator Greg Ball’s misleading email purporting to be from his rival for the New York State 40th district Senate seat, Justin Wagner. The email led recipients to a website that described Mr. Wagner as “Wacky Wagner,” and presented an attack ad. Mr. Wagner’s campaign manager, Steve Napier, responded by calling this a “political hack job,” and presented evidence that Mr. Ball himself was the registered owner of the website.

This is not the first email mishap from the candidate. In June 2011, a South Salem husband and wife said they were “shocked and appalled” as to how State Senator Greg Ball’s staff handled a letter containing medical information and other private details about their 21-year-old disabled daughter. Members of the senator’s staff distributed the letter without permission to area newspapers, including The Record-Review, via a fabricated email address. The letter was then altered for publication in the Daily News by Mr. Ball’s then-director of communications, Dan Branda.

Of course, Mr. Ball is not the only one on the local scene to tread near the edge of the ethical fence. A recent decision from the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee took both 93rd Assembly District candidates Republican Robert Castelli and Democrat David Buchwald to task for misrepresentations in their campaigns.

The committee, an adjunct of the League of Women Voters, met on Sept. 5 and determined that a press release sent by Mr. Castelli included “false and misleading” information. The purpose of the committee is to promote a climate in which candidates conduct fair, honest and open campaigns, and refrain from dishonest and defamatory attacks and distortion of the facts. The committee decided that an “expert” who Mr. Castelli quoted was not a neutral party; the committee said that it was Mr. Castelli himself.

Mr. Buchwald was taken to task for four separate unfair practices, including an “overreaching statement” and misleading remarks to the press, on Facebook and on his campaign website.

Maybe the best advice this campaign season is to let the voter beware — and be informed. Find out what you can about every candidate, through the newspaper, through their websites and through their opponents’ websites. Sometimes first impressions can be completely wrong (hello Messrs. Spitzer, Bradley and Leibell, who all, at one point, got our endorsements). Don’t believe everything that is written about a candidate, pro or con, and realize that some candidates are willing to cross the line between fair and not-so-fair.

In general, we’ve noticed that the law is hesitant to get involved in these disputes, and we’re all in favor of a gutsy, gloves-off election. Today we read about an aide in the New York State Assembly posting under a pseudonym on behalf of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. The posts go back to 2010.

Clean fights and issue-oriented campaigns are getting rarer. In Albany, like Washington, D.C., fair and balanced may be just a matter of opinion.

Read more local coverage of your hometown in this week’s issue of the The Record-Review. Newsstand copies are available at several locations listed above, or subscribe today for convenient home delivery.

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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York



Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    

Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    

Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road

Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    

Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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264 Adams Street, Bedford Hills, NY

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