Making Democracy Work

Fair Campaign Practices Committee

FAIR CAMPAIGN PRACTICES COMMITTEE was created in 1991 by the LWV of Westchester, but is wholly independent in its deliberation. The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee (FCPC) continues to be a powerful tool in the pursuit of fair campaigns in our county.

This nonpartisan committee consists of community leaders and League members with extensive political experience who are able to make non-partisan judgments. They are appointed by the LWVW Board, upon recommendation from the Nominating Committee. The political parties with lines on the ballot (Democratic, Republican, Independence, Conservative and Working Families) are invited to send nonvoting representatives to participate in the proceedings.

The role of the FCPC Coordinator is to receive the unfair practice complaint filed by a candidate, ensure it is sent to the party complained against and the members of the committee, answer questions, set the time and date of the hearings and send copies of the findings to those involved and to the Committee. The Committee sends the press releases to the media. The Chair responds to questions from the media.

The FCPC continues to encourage candidates for any and all elective offices with a Westchester constituency to come forward if they feel that their opponents are stepping beyond the bounds of fair campaign practices. Hearings are held in a timely manner and findings are reported promptly to the press, as well as to the candidates. Press coverage has been robust, with The Journal News and a number of weekly newspapers reporting Committee findings

The Manual and current and past Committee findings are posted on the Committee's website, http://www.faircampaignpractices.org,

The Examiner News covers the FCPC

Paul Atkinson set up the meeting with Martin Wilbur of the Examiner. Here's the link-http://www.theexaminernews.com/fair-campaign-practices-committee-plays-key-role-in-election-season/

Two 2015 Election Rulings by the Westchester Fair Campaign Practices Committee

Phil Reisman in the Journal News on the Fair Campaign Practices Committee

Herding a Pack of Liars and Their Enablers Phil Reisman,

preisman@lohud.com 7:07 p.m. EDT August 7, 2015

The umpires have taken the field, signaling the start of the season of mendacity.

By "umpires" I mean the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee--the panel of neutral arbiters that for the past 24 years has assumed the painstaking task of separating political fact from fiction.

A press release from the FCPC just crossed my desk, informing me they are once again open for business. So it's official.

Let the mudslinging begin.

The objective is to call out the candidates on the distortions, half-truths and outright lies that are inevitably baked into campaign advertising. Studies have shown that negativity works, which is why we are afflicted with the crap every time we open our mailbox or reach for the remote.

According to a survey by the Project on Campaign Conduct that was cited by the FCPC, 59 percent of voters believe that all or most candidates deliberately "twist the truth," and 39 percent think they deliberately lie. Forty-three percent believe that all or most candidates unfairly attack their opponents.

Cynical? Perhaps, but over the years the voter perception has been validated by the findings of the FCPC.

Before I go on, I should stress that the committee's mission is strictly local. This isn't about Hillary, Trump, etc. Nor does its watchdog role extend to other forms of lying such as petition fraud.

For instance, the committee had nothing to do with last week's exposure of County Legislator Catherine Borgia, D-Ossining, and the leaders of the Peekskill Democratic Party, who submitted a batch of tainted signatures on behalf of a hapless candidate. More than a few of the names were out-of-district residents--including one voter who lived in Woodstock.

Candidate petitions are the purview of the Board of Elections, which, last I heard, was examining the veracity of the petitions filed by all six--yes, six--Democratic mayoral candidates in Mount Vernon.

From time to time a dead person shows up on the so-called "walk list" for signature gathering. I know this has happened in hardball Yonkers where the graveyards are filled with active voters.

Anyway, in 1991, Milt Hoffman, the well-respected journalist, wrote an editorial that cited the need for the creation of some sort of independent board of truth seekers to examine complaints from candidates who believed they were smeared by their opponents.

The League of Women Voters of Westchester met Hoffman's challenge and the fair campaign practices committee was born.

In retirement, Hoffman served on the FCPC and for many years wrote up the committee's findings, which are released to the press. He died last April.

There are currently 16 volunteer members on the FCPC. They do this out of a sense of civic duty and are pledged to act impartially--though querulous political operatives may try to dismiss them as biased.

Since 2006, the FCPC has gotten more than 100 complaints, split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

The FCPC has no power of enforcement, so it must rely on the media to publicize its work as a means to hold candidates and their staffs accountable. Call it public shaming.

It works this way--the FCPC fields a complaint then calls in the candidates (or their surrogates) for a meeting so that both sides may be heard. The committee members deliberate and come to a conclusion, "Fair" or "Unfair." Their decision is put into written form and emailed the next day to editors and reporters.

I pulled an example out of my file at random. It focused on the hotly contested 2014 state Senate race between Terrence Murphy and Justin Wagner in the 40th District. One of Murphy's aides tweeted: "Radical leftist Wagner is a LAWYER who supports ILLEGALS sitting on juries."

There was no evidence to support this claim and the tweet was judged unfair.

The tweet's author, incidentally, never publicly corrected the statement. Murphy won the election.

So the FCPC findings are not necessarily game changers. But they are meant to keep the weasels honest.

If lies are left unanswered, they have a pernicious way of being accepted as the truth.

More about the FCPPC can be found by going to faircampaignpractices.org.

Milt Hoffman - An Appreciation

Milt HoffmanOur friend and colleague, Milt Hoffman passed away on April 7 at the age of 86, vibrant, curious, informative and active to the very end. Milt's call from the pages of the Journal News to do something about the many false and misleading charges tainting our political campaigns was answered by the League of Women Voters of Westchester, leading in 1991 to the formation of the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee. Milt was also a member of LWVW's Advisory Committee.

Those of us who have been lucky enough to work with him will find him irreplaceable. He was wise, generous, informed, and passionate, carrying decades of Westchester and NYS history in his head and in his heart.

Milt's passion for honest politics and governance, his knowledge, wisdom, kindness, and generosity has left Westchester a better place. It is up to those he touched, certainly including us, to carry on his quest.

Susan Schwarz For the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee

Fair Campaign Committee Members

"Visit the Fair Campaign Practices Committee Website" http://www.faircampaignpractices.org

Victor Goldberg - Chair, Miriam Cohen - Coordinator, Paul Atkinson, Elizabeth Bermel, Gisele Castro, Daniel S. Franklin, Jr., LaRuth Gray, Susan Guma, Lee Kinnally, Robert C. Kirkwood, Polly Kuhn, Philip M. Maley, Harry Phillips III, Joy Rosenzweig, Eileen Santiago, Susan Schwarz, Evelyn M. Stock.

EX OFFICIO: Representatives of Democratic Party, Republican Party, Conservative Party, Working Families Party, Independence Party, Green Party

To FCPC Manual http://www.faircampaignpractices.org/fcpcmanual.html)

To Filing Procedures page (http://www.faircampaignpractices.org/fcpcprocedures.html)

To Complaint Form page (http://www.faircampaignpractices.org/fcpccomplaintform.html)

To Guidance for Candidates page (http://www.faircampaignpractices.org/fcpcguidance.html)

To Findings of the FCPC (http://www.faircampaignpractices.org/fcpcfindings.html)