Just 3 weeks ago on September 30th, 2020 , Stephanie Keegan (D., Somers), candidate for the NY State 94th Assembly District seat currently held by Kevin Byrne (R,C,Ref-Mahopac), was cited for fun air campaign practices by the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices committee. This past week she was cited a second time by the same committee for unfair campaign practices.
The Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee, the non-partisan campaign watchdog group founded by the League of Women Voters in 1991, issued another finding of unfair campaign practices against Assemblyman Kevin Byrne’s opponent, Stephanie Keegan this week.
The Committee determined her recent actions were “unfair” in response to a complaint from Byrne’s campaign and because of the “clarity” of Byrne’s complaint, the Committee found no hearing was necessary. This most recent finding stated that candidate Stephanie Keegan (D) violated the Committee’s principle that “the candidate will not abuse the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee process in order to obtain a political advantage….The Committee considers…misrepresentation of its Findings to be an unfair campaign practice.”
The Byrne campaign complained that candidate Stephanie Keegan (D) posted an opinion piece on Facebook in which she misrepresented the Committee’s earlier findings, issued on October 1, 2020, regarding she and Byrne.
That earlier finding found that Keegan had engaged in unfair campaign practices by sharing and promoting an image on social media that Byrne claimed gave “a false and misleading impression [he] refused to condemn a racist attack” which occurred in Carmel earlier this year. Byrne’s campaign further complained that by promoting an image featuring the Assemblyman next to an image of a truck with a “F*** Black Lives” sign affixed to it, it again created “the false and misleading impression that the Assemblyman is somehow associated with racist behavior.”
The October 1st ruling found that “the juxtaposition of Mr. Byrne’s picture next to a truck with the words “F*** Black Lives” violates the following principle: ‘The candidate will not use or condone any campaign material… that misleads the public.’ There was no evidence provided that Mr. Byrne “was in any way associated with the truck pictured”.
Today’s finding found that [Keegan] had “misrepresented the Committee’s findings both on Facebook and in quotes that were provided to the media.”
Assemblyman Byrne said, “I once again sincerely thank the members of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee for their professionalism and for hearing our complaints. As I said at the time of the previous ruling, the incident in question was a disgusting display of hate and ignorance and universal condemnation of acts like this are a given. The fact that a subsequent misleading post was issued and given to the media by my opponent is extremely disappointing. It is a shame that our opponent chose to ignore the findings of the Committee and proceed with a baseless, misleading attack. I thank the Committee again for its consistency and fairness.”
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met via Zoom on September 30, 2020 to hear the complaints of incumbent Republican Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, candidate for NYS Assembly District 94, against Democratic candidate Stephanie Keegan, candidate for the same position. Mr. Byrne was represented by Matthew Covucci, his campaign manager. Ms. Keegan attended and was accompanied by Suki Van Dijk, her campaign manager.
COMPLAINT 1: On August 22, 2020 an individual interrupted a racial justice rally with a sign on his truck with the words “F*** Black Lives.” On August 25, 2020, Stephanie Keegan shared on Facebook a post created by the Putnam Young Democrats which included the sentence “Kevin Byrne refuses to condemn racist attack in his district.” Assemblyman Kevin Byrne complains that Stephanie Keegan engaged in an unfair campaign practice by creating a false and misleading impression that the Assemblyman refused to condemn a racist attack.
The word “refused” implies that there was a request to condemn that Mr. Byrne rejected. There was no evidence that Mr. Byrne “refused” to condemn a racist incident in his district. On August 23, 2020, Mr. Byrne condemned the incident on a resident’s Facebook page, and on August 25, 2020, Mr. Byrne posted a condemnation on his own Facebook page. The Committee does recognize that social media creates significant challenges and layers of complexities for candidates.
Ms. Keegan’s post violates the following FCPC Guidance: “A candidate is urged to exercise great care when characterizing his/her opponent’s positions. In the absence of a specifically publicly stated position on an issue, a candidate should avoid attributing a position on this issue to her/his opponent.”
COMPLAINT 2: Assemblyman Kevin Byrne further complains that Stephanie Keegan engaged in an unfair campaign practice by promoting an image featuring Assemblyman Byrne next to an image of a truck with a “F*** Black Lives” sign affixed to it, thereby creating the false and misleading impression that the Assemblyman is somehow associated with racist behavior.
The juxtaposition of Mr. Byrne’s picture next to a truck with the words “F*** Black Lives” violates the following FCPC Principle: “The candidate will not use or condone any campaign material…that misleads the public.” There was no evidence provided that Mr. Byrne was in any way associated with the truck pictured.
Committee Members: Susan P. Guma, [Chair], Jennifer Mebes Flagg [Coordinator], Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Miriam Cohen, Victor J. Goldberg, LaRuth Gray, Kyle-Beth Hilfer, Lee Kinnally, Robert C. Kirkwood, Carole Princer Levy, Don Marra, Paul Bennett Marrow, 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
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 Committee considers selective quotation or misrepresentation of its Findings to be an unfair campaign practice.
- The Candidate will publicly repudiate materials or actions made on behalf of their candidacy that violate this Statement of Principles.