SOUTH SALEM, NY – The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee ruled this week that Democratic Senate candidate Robert Kesten’s challenger Peter Harckham recently committed unfair campaign practices in the race for the 40th Senate District. Harckham now joins Kesten in holding the ignominious distinction of having committed unfair campaign practices, after Kesten himself was reprimanded three times for inaccurate statements earlier this year by the Committee, which was founded by the League of Women Voters.

Martha Ruiz Jiménez, the spokesperson for the Committee to Elect Terrence Murphy, said, “Robert Kesten’s primary opponent is chasing him in a race to the bottom. They have stopped talking about the issues because they are too busy debasing themselves by making quisquilian statements that are easily disprovable in their quixotic bids to appeal to radical, far-left wing primary voters.”

Earlier this year, The Fair Campaign Practices Committee found that Kesten lied about Senator Murphy accepting hedge fund contributions, opposing the closure of the carried interest tax loophole, and that he was involved with corruption charges. “Robert Kesten talks about reform but he is just another career politician like Pete Harckham who will say and do anything to get elected,” she added.

“Robert Kesten and his primary opponent need to get back to the issues,” Ruiz Jiménez said. “Do they support having an open Democratic primary and letting the voters decide instead of excluding thirty percent of the electorate? Or do they stand with the Governor, who has already decided to allow convicted cop-killers, pedophiles and rapists to vote instead?”

The Democratic National Committee’s Unity Reform Commission recently adopted rules which support open primaries for the 2020 Democratic National Convention in the wake of past practices which harmed “outsiders” like former presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. An open primary would permit either same day party changes or allow unaffiliated voters to participate. Although the New York State Democratic Party is authorized to make the latter change on its own under New York State Election Law, to date, it has failed to do so, which many observers speculate is the result of the Governor staving off his primary challenge by actress Cynthia Nixon.

The Governor recently intervened in the 40th Senate District race by recruiting Kesten’s primary opponent, whom he is holding a fundraiser for in June. Kesten had received nearly unanimous support from every local Democratic Committee and left-wing activist “Indivisible” group, but is now being undermined and a wedge is quickly forming between the institutional Democrats being pressured by the Governor to abandon him and the Indivisible activists fueling his campaign.

Up until yesterday’s ruling, party loyalists say a big part of the Governor’s pitch to dump Kesten was that his credibility had been irreparably damaged by losing a Fair Campaign Practices Committee hearing.

Wednesday’s findings said Kesten’s primary opponent also committed an unfair campaign practice, by making a false and misleading statement about Senator Terrence Murphy’s role at the Republican National Convention in relation to Donald Trump:

COMPLAINT #1: Senator Terrence Murphy complains that Peter Harckham made the false and misleading statement that Senator Murphy is “the man who nominated him [Donald Trump] at the Republican National Convention.”

FINDING: UNFAIR
The statement was inaccurate.

He had subsequently failed to repudiate the statement, which falsely implied Senator Murphy had nominated Trump for President.

Full copies of both of the findings against Robert Kesten as well as Wednesday’s findings against his primary opponent are attached.

Editor’s note: This release has been updated to directly quote the findings of the Fair Campaign Practices Committee to reflect that Mr. Harckham was found to have made a “false and misleading” statement.

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April 5th Complaint:

The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on April 5, 2018 to hear the complaints of incumbent Republican candidate Terrence Murphy against Democratic challenger, Robert Kesten, in the race for New York State Senate, District 40. Mr. Murphy was represented by Christopher Arnold. Mr. Kesten represented himself.

COMPLAINT #1: Senator Terrence Murphy complains that Robert Kesten made the false and misleading statement that “Senator Murphy took nearly $2.5 million in toxic campaigncash in hedge fund PAC money.”

FINDING: UNFAIR
The accusations made by Robert Kesten were not supported by facts. A candidate should make any data he/she presents in campaign literature (or other communications) as specific and detailed as possible. Claims must be accurate with regard to detail and context and clearly indicate the time-periods and the amounts involved, and the source of the information.

COMPLAINT #2: Senator Murphy complains that Robert Kesten made the false and misleading statement that “Senator Murphy…won’t close the carried interest tax loophole…”

FINDING: UNFAIR
There is no evidence that Senator Murphy is in opposition to the carried interest tax loophole. 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 his/her opponent. In this case, a statement in support of a piece of the issue is insufficient to declare a stance.

COMPLAINT #3: Senator Murphy complains that Robert Kesten held a press event with signage that read “MURPHY = CORRUPTION.” He contends that this was an unfair campaign practice.

FINDING: UNFAIR
Mr. Kesten attended, but did not hold the press event where he was photographed near a sign that said “Murphy = Corruption.” This photo was posted on Mr. Kesten’s Facebook campaignpage. There was no evidence presented which substantiated the corruption charge. FCPC Guidelines state, “The candidate will neither engage nor be involved with false or misleading attacks upon the character of the opponent.”

 

October 16, 2017 Complaint:

The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee accepted the complaint of the Lewisboro Republican Town Committee on behalf of Terrence Murphy, candidate for New York State Senate, District 40, against his challenger, Robert Kesten, alleging that Mr. Kesten notified the public of the complaint prior to a hearing, contrary to the guidelines of the Committee.

FINDING: UNFAIR. Mr. Kesten did notify the public of the complaint contrary to the guidelines of the Committee.

 

May 31, 2018 Complaint:

FINDING IN THE COMPLAINT OF THE COMMITTEE TO ELECT TERRENCE MURPHY AGAINST PETER HARCKHAM, IN THE RACE FOR NEW YORK STATE SENATE, DISTRICT 40

Elmsford, NY (May 31, 2018) – The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee met on May 30, 2018 to hear the complaint of incumbent Republican candidate Terrence Murphy against Democratic challenger, Peter Harckham, in the race for New York State Senate, District 40. Mr. Murphy was represented by Christopher Arnold. Mr. Harckham was represented by James Schmitz and TJ Rogers.

COMPLAINT #1: Senator Terrence Murphy complains that Peter Harckham made the false and misleading statement that Senator Murphy is “the man who nominated him [Donald Trump] at the Republican National Convention.”

FINDING: UNFAIR
The statement was inaccurate.