Times Union Watch: Poor Editing Or Manipulative Writing?

In her article in the Times Union on the New York State Independence Party’s contributions to the candidates endorsed by the Saratoga County Independence Party Wendy Liberatore wrote:

The 11-day pre-election financial disclosure forms also shows an Oct. 18 expense allocation of $6,071.06 listed simply as “Michele Madigan.” Residents in the city received several glossy fliers for those running on the Independence line — including Madigan, who lost the Democratic primary to Patty Morrison.

January 2, 2020 TU

The morning of January 2, Ms. Liberatore sent the following email to Commissioner Madigan. As will become clear, Ms. Liberatore apparently did no research regarding the documents she is referencing which I expect someone provided to her. The result was a question that had as its assumption that Commissioner Madigan had acted improperly. Imagine, dear reader, if you had been the recipient of an email like this?

I see that the NYS Committee of the Independence Party in Long Island was funded by Saratogians, some of whom already donated to folks running under the One Saratoga banner.

I also see that the committee paid you more than $6,000.

I’m wondering if you would like to comment on why people would send money to Long Island and not a local committee.

Also wondering why the committee paid you money and not any of the other candidates.

Thank you,

Wendy

Commissioner Madigan emailed back to Ms. Liberatore that she knew nothing about this and that she should direct her inquiries to the source of the document, the New York State Independence Party. Commissioner Madigan sent a cc to Ms. Liberatore’s editor, Casey Seiler.

Later that afternoon she received the following email from Mr. Seiler:

On Jan 2, 2020, at 12:48 PM, Seiler, Casey <CSeiler@timesunion.com> wrote:

Ms. Madigan:

See attached for the $6,071.06 payment from the Independence Party of NY Campaign Account, which is listed in the “expense allocation” section as going to you. (It’s the only expense allocation in the 11-day pre-general report.) It could very well be that it went to your campaign and not to you personally, but that’s not the way it’s listed here. If you/your campaign didn’t receive this sum from the IPNYCA, please let us know. Any light you could shine on this would be most helpful.

Thanks,

Casey

So Casey is going with the narrative that the money may have gone to Commissioner Madigan personally. Commissioner Madigan promptly responded that neither she personally nor her campaign committee received these moneys. She did point out to him that he was ill informed about the nature of the document he was referencing.

This is the first I’ve heard or seen this. I am unfamiliar with schedule R, but a quick review of it online tells me it’s an expense allocation form – “they spent“ money and apparently they are saying it was on “Michele Madigan”. You’ll need to ask them why.  

As I explained in my previous post on this issue, the Schedule R “allocation”form is meant to provide additional transparency to the expenditure report. The expenditure report lists what was actually paid out by the group and to whom it was paid. For example it might include “Smith Printing” for $1.00. Schedule R is meant to document who benefited from the expenditures as in “John Doe running for dog catcher.” John Doe did not receive the dollar. The printing of a flyer for that amount was meant to benefit Mr. Doe’s campaign.

Kevin Madigan, Commissioner Madigan’s husband and campaign treasurer, wrote to Mr. Seiler repeating Commissioner Madigan’s admonishment that this was a matter for the New York State Independence Party that was responsible for the documents.

This was Seiler’s response.

On Jan 2, 2020, at 1:52 PM, Seiler, Casey <CSeiler@timesunion.com> wrote:

Kevin: This is a $6,071 expense [JK: Emphasis added] to support one campaign, according to this filing; there are not similar expenses for other candidates in the report. (The party, or at least this committee, is woefully overdue in its reporting obligations, according to Wendy.)

What the filing show (sic)are more than $10,000 in donations  to this organization from a number of individuals and corporate donors in Saratoga Co., almost all dated 10/1 or 10/2, and slightly more than two weeks later the spending tagged “Michele Madigan.”

We’re not saying you should be aware of it. We’re asking if you are aware of it. If the answer is you know about the mailer from the Independence Party but not its source of funding, that’s what we’ll print. [JK: Emphasis added] Best, Casey

So Mr. Seiler has backed off on Commissioner Madigan getting the money personally. He still doesn’t seem to understand the difference between an “expenditure” (an actual payment) and an “allocation” (an indication of which candidate benefited from the expenditure). There was no expenditure to Madigan or her campaign committee.

It also borders on the absurd that he wants to know if Commissioner Madigan is aware of the content of the state filings by the Independence Party. His email notes the apparent ineptitude by the state Independence Party which seems to imply that Commissioner Madigan is somehow implicated.

If you review the text from Ms. Liberatore’s article at the beginning of this blog you may agree with me that a person reading this article might think that Commissioner Madigan or her campaign received the moneys. There is also the gratuitous reference to Patty Morrison beating Commissioner Madigan in the Democratic primary. The moneys the story references were related to the general election not the primary.

There is a legitimate story buried in all of this. Clearly some very well heeled players in the Saratoga Springs area used the state Independence Party apparatus to support the local Independence Party candidates. It also seems odd that whoever filled out Schedule R listed only Commissioner Madigan as the beneficiary when clearly the other endorsed candidates also benefited and were part of the mailings.

Unfortunately, consistent with the Times Union coverage of Saratoga Springs news, they have to add bling in what apparently is their quest for clicks on their web page. They are seemingly indifferent to the kind of damage this sort of cavalier reporting can do to those they cover.

5 thoughts on “Times Union Watch: Poor Editing Or Manipulative Writing?”

  1. Thank you, John, for point this out. This has been the way of operating for Ms. Liberatore for way too long. Most of her articles would be better off served as opinion pieces than actual reporting and even then she would too often have trouble supporting her opinions with actual facts.

    Like

  2. Lost in all this focus on the Independence Party and contributions is the fact that Commissioner Madigan actually got the most votes on the Working Families Party line. No contributions funneled through them, no campaign materials on her behalf.

    Like

  3. I don’t know what sort of counterpoint you think you are making here?

    I don’t think it is unreasonable for Mr L to use the word “you” here when questioning the direction of this dirty money. Further, it should not autmotcially be translated into her accusing or hinting it went to Ms M’s personal pockets.

    YOU is an acceptable form of saying YOUR CAMPAIGN, I think most people would agree. Hence it is a legitimate question to ask in that format.

    As you later state, there is an issue here than needs to be clarified. Where did this money go?

    Yes, if as Ms M says “i/we never saw it”, then the questioning needs to go back to the IND party people.
    My guess is that it’s an expenditure for work or goods purchased on behalf of the Madigan campaign.

    Regardless, the whole thing stinks of corruption. THAT should be your focus here. NOT finecombing the wording of the reporter trying to find some problem as a means of deflecting from that core fact

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We know where it went. The expenditure report identify the vendors and the mailings which represent the fruits of these vendors include text that state the Independence Party paid for them. As the image shows, the mailings promoted the entire slate although Michele Madigan in general enjoyed a higher profile.
      As for me ignoring “corruption”, I think language matters. I abhor the role of money in politics as I clearly stated but To reform things we need to understand them. What was done was entirely legal and all too common among all political parties.
      As for your interpretation of Ms Liberatore’s and Mr. Seiler’s comments I leave that to my readers to decide.
      This blog is meant to encourage civil debate and I welcome your participation.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Granted, you don’t like the way Ms Liberatore writes, and you never agree with her comments.
    However, it is great that we have people like her that question the issues of election money -where it comes from, how it is spent, etc. And regardless of Ms Liberatore’s style, it reinforces the issue of the need for accountability from our elected officials.
    Given the way Ms Madigan responds to questions, Ms Liberatore’s skepticism is understandable.
    As an elected public official, it would be great if Ms Madigan’s response could be something like:
    “. . .well, thank you for your interest. I don’t have the exact information, but you can contact so-and-so and he’ll be glad to provide this info. . .” , or: “. . . come by to my office and we can talk it over. . . ”
    No need from any of your writers to tell me I’m delusional, I know it.

    Liked by 1 person

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