The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee upheld all three complaints recently lodged by state Sen. Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) against his likely challenger in the 40th state Senate District race later this year.
In a ruling released on Apr. 8, the committee agreed with Murphy’s campaign that Robert Kesten lacked sufficient evidence to accuse the senator of receiving as much as $2.5 million in contributions from hedge funds and charge that Murphy opposes closing the carried interest tax loophole.
Murphy’s third complaint arose from the posting of a photo on the Kesten campaign Facebook page showing the challenger at a protest where he stood near a sign which read “Murphy = Corruption.” Kesten said he was not holding the sign nor was it his.
While Kesten said Monday he and his campaign will be extra vigilant regarding the wording on literature, social media postings and public comments that he makes, he charged that the committee nitpicked and failed to see the larger picture.
For example, Kesten said Murphy’s representative at the committee’s hearing, Christopher Arnold, acknowledged that the senator had accepted at least $11,000 in direct contributions from hedge funds. However, that fails to measure how Murphy has benefitted from outside sources not listed in contribution filings, including in his last two general election campaigns.
“These are not monumental charges,” Kesten said of the committee’s findings. “I think anyone who has observed the way campaigns have been run and how much money has been poured into them from various sources, recognizes the fact that far more money has been spent in previous Murphy campaigns against Ali Boak, against Justin Wagner.”
In the first complaint regarding the alleged $2.5 million in hedge fund contributions, the committee concluded “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.”
The committee stated that there was no evidence to link Murphy with any opposition to closing the carried interest tax loophole.
Kesten argued that is one of a growing list of issues where Murphy has refused to take a position, one of the reasons why he jumped into the race last year.
Finally, the committee concluded regarding posted Facebook photo that “there was no evidence presented which substantiated the corruption charge.”
Murphy’s campaign took full advantage of the committee’s findings, saying that Kesten was caught lying.
“Robert Kesten has already lost all credibility with voters and he isn’t even his party’s nominee yet,” said Murphy campaign spokeswoman Martha Ruiz Jiménez. “Most candidates wait until October for desperation to settle in but apparently Mr. Kesten is already there.”
This was the second time Murphy filed complaints with the committee against Kesten. During the first filing of complaints last October, one was upheld while several others were not heard by the committee because they were deemed irrelevant.
Kesten, who remains the Democrats’ only announced candidate in the race, said Murphy’s playbook will be to run to the committee every time he disagrees with or dislikes a comment.
“I guess they will keep doing it as much as they can, trying to tarnish other people because that’s the MO of their campaign,” he said.
The committee consists of 19 members from assorted political backgrounds. It has no enforcement powers or authority to stop candidates but from using misleading statements or materials but it hopes to set an acceptable standard for political debate.
Clarification: In the original post of this article, it was reported that this was the second time complaints were filed by state Sen. Terrence Murphy and upheld by the committee. One complaint filed by Murphy last October was upheld by the Fair Campaign Practices Committee while additional complaints were not heard by the committee.