Findings released by the Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee indicate that (R-Goldens Bridge) and his an attorney and White Plains city council member, have each engaged in unfair campaign practices in the race for the 93rd New York Assembly District.
The complaints from both campaigns stem from the candidates'
Buchwald hit Castelli for voting three times against legislation he argues would help make it harder for domestic violence abusers to get guns. One of those bills, A04488A, passed the assembly on June 14, 2011, and again on March 21, 2012. The earlier bill was voted on in 2010.
Castelli hit back with a press release citing a rise in White Plains crime. His press release cited data showing a 32.3 percent increase in "Part One Crimes" from June 2011 compared to June 2012. Part One includes violent crimes, burglary and theft. The release also claimed that violent crime has increased by 50 percent since Buchwald joined the White Plains Common Council.
The Buchwald campaign said Castelli's assertion about crime in White Plains was misleading—last month his campaign "—and the Fair Campaign Practices Committee agreed, ruling the press release unfair.
"The committee determined that the statistics cited mixed violent and non-violent crimes, using different sources, which were in conflict. The press release was false, and misleading. In addition, the timing used for the baseline for the statistical information was faulty," the committee stated.
Buchwald's campaign also complained that Castelli's release quoted an "expert" who said Buchwald was "soft on crime." The committee also ruled that to be unfair, saying "the statement was misleading."
Reacting to those findings Friday morning, Castelli said that his press release directly quoted a White Plains Police Benevolent Association report. He acknowledged the wording about the types of crimes should have been more clear, but asserted there was a rise in overall crime.
"The fact of the matter there was an increase in crime, though that increase was not determined to be solely by violent crime. Those words were used interchangeably in the White Plains PBA report, but I should have vetted that release. The buck stops here," he said.
Castelli said he typically oversees all campaign communications but in this case he did not, and for that, "I take full responsibility," he said.
For his part, Castelli filed five separate complaints to the committe regarding Buchwald's assertions to media outlets including the and the Examiner that he voted against common sense gun safety reforms and voted for putting guns into the hands of domestic violence offenders.
The committee also ruled that assertion as unfair.
"The specific bills in question would have expanded the definition of serious offenses and added to the categories of people already legally prevented from acquiring guns in domestic violence situations; and Mr. Castelli did in fact vote against those bills. However, describing a vote against those bills as "common sense measures like prohibiting domestic violence offenders from possessing a gun,” is overreaching and therefore misleading," the committee stated.
Castelli also complained about statements made by a Buchwald spokesman to reporters.
To the Chappaqua Patch: "We're glad that Assemblyman Castelli acknowledges that he voted to allow someone convicted of domestic violence to possess a gun.
The campaign found this unfair. "Assemblyman Castelli affirmed that he voted against the bills in question, but did not acknowledge that he "voted to allow someone convicted of domestic violence to possess a gun," the committee stated.
And on these statements:
To the Chappaqua Patch: "Mr. Castelli has voted to allow dangerous criminals to have guns."
To The Examiner News: "It's truly mind-boggling that Robert Castelli voted to allow people convicted of domestic violence to buy a gun."
The committee ruled these as unfair, stating they were both "overreaching and therefore misleading."
Lastly, Castelli complained that in a press release from the Buchwald campaign, his opponent intentionally misrepresented Assembly Bill A4488-A (also known as the "Domestic Violence Escalation Prevention Act) by claiming the bill would ban domestic violence offenders from purchasing or possessing firearms, when it does not. Buchwald used a headline for the press release which used the language "Buchwald...blasts Castelli for voting to allow domestic violence abusers to buy guns."
The committee found this unfair, saying the statements were "overreaching and therefore misleading."
In a statement following the release of the findings, Buchwald called on Castelli to retract his statements about crime in White Plains, citing an outside non-partisan group that confirmed Castelli made "false statements that violent crime in White Plains had increased 50% since 2009. In reality, violent crime has decreased approximately 20% during that time."
Buchwald released a press statement reacting to the findings.
"Two things are clear and important for the voters to understand," his statement reads.
"First, Mr. Castelli stated that violent crime in White Plains had spiked and the committee confirmed that these statements were false. Second, in light of the committee’s findings about our phrasing regarding Castelli’s votes on gun safety legislation, let me state the facts in clear language: since joining the New York State Assembly, my opponent has repeatedly voted against legislation (A-7575 and A-4488) that would have expanded New York’s gun laws so that everyone convicted of domestic abuse under Family Court law ("family offenses") would be ineligible to obtain or renew firearms permits in New York," said Buchwald.
He went on to say that in 2010 every other member of the Assembly from Westchester voted in favor of that legislation. And, Buchwald added, had he been in office, he would have, too.
"We will let the voters decide whether they want to re-elect Assemblyman Castelli, who has mislead the public about the safety of one of the communities he represents and who has opposed this gun safety legislation about domestic violence offenders," Buchwald said.
Castelli responded by saying there were "a multitude" of bills that came out regarding domestic violence, and he supported virtually all of them. Of the ones he did not support, he said he took issue with them procedurally.
"In some cases, you ended up punishing someone before they were properly accused—they had a punitive aspect. And those technical issues are what I had a problem with. I have served 22 years in the state police and 15 years as a criminal justice professor—it is not likely that I'm going to vote to put guns in the hands of any criminals," he said.
The Westchester County Fair Campaign Practices Committee aims to promote a climate in which candidates conduct honest and fair campaigns, but is not considered a body to enforce election law.
The newly drawn 93rd district covers part of White Plains, Bedford, Harrison, Mount Kisco, New Castle, Lewisboro, North Castle, North Salem and Pound Ridge.