In politics, there is often a fine line between what is fact and what sounds like fact. Candidates and elected officials are notorious for targeting each other with out-of-context quotes and actions. Both sides do it, but the fact is that it is unfair to voters each time it is done. Sometimes it’s just mean-spirited other times it’s just an honest mistake, information comes out after the fact which shows the out-of-context nature.
On November 28th we received an email from 2012 22nd Congressional candidate George Phillips. Mr. Phillipps has run against Rep. Maurice Hinchey twice before, the most recent time in 2010. The race was watched across the country, and ultimately required a visit from former President Bill Clinton to pull Rep. Hinchey from a likely defeat.
In the email, which is seeking to raise funds in the effort to defeat Rep. Hinchey – or whomever the Democrats run in his place as his age and a recent cancer battle may cause him to not seek re-election – Phillips quotes an article from Business Insider on the top 8 elected officials benefitiing from insider trading and other abuses of their power. Rep. Hinchey was one of those named, due to his efforts on behalf of the Village of Saugerties which lead his land to become 800% more valuable.
This is not a new issue, and has been on the back of Rep. Hinchey for some time. The fact that Rep. Hinchey is reluctant to discuss any matter with press, unless approved and considered a friendly source apparently, does not help the spreading of this accusation. In fact, when directly asked about the Saugerties – specifically the Partition Street Project, Rep. Hinchey allegedly attacked the reporter and also denied telling the same reporter to shut up as a response to the question (the shut up portion being witnessed and taped by several news corrospondents).
Mr. Phillips sent the email highlighting this abuse at 11am. The article by the Business Insider, which apparently relied on the article by William J. Kemble, a correspondent for The Kingston Freeman, clearly states the claim of “legal graft” – or the use of public office and funds to benefit an elected official. This is fine, up until Business Insider reported the response from Village of Saugerties at 4pm on the 28th.
Alex Wade, Director of Special Projects for the Village of Saugerties, stated
To be fair, the Phillips campaign should have followed up the response from the Village of Saugerties. They should have clarified that, as Mr. Wade stated, the increase in land value was not part of the $800,000 earmark for infrastructure improvements. Whether or not the Partition Street Project, which is seperate and involves Rep. Hinchey and a partner of his who was in the Army Reserve Center project, is also “legal graft” or otherwise dubious is another matter altogether.
That issue, as reported by Kemble, includes the following
“Hinchey also secured funding for infrastructure improvements along Kings Highway in 2006 and 2008 before the federal government purchased property there in November for the Army Reserve Center project from a group that includes John Mullen, a partner of Hinchey’s in the Partition Street Project. Hinchey says the grant was a response to a request from the town supervisor and the timing proves there was no direct connection to the Army Reserve Center project, which he said he did not know about before it was announced.”
The timing of the Phillips email was innocent enough. Taking advantage of news is a requirement of politics these days. But, we also think that following up, when the item of benefit is revealed to be, in part or whole, out-of-context or inaccurate should also be essential. It’s not something that is done by either Party, but it should be.
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