Friday, August 10, 2007

We won't get fooled again

We'd like nothing better than to report on a good, solid, issues-based campaign for town offices this election year. There are plenty of important issues to debate.

Instead, we're being treated to mudslinging and name-calling. And it's not even Labor Day yet. I shudder to think what might be in store for us in the home stretch of this campaign season, when things traditionally get ugly.

Both sides are guilty of this to some degree. But this is one realm where Brookhaven Republicans will never be outdone, and, true to form, they're proving themselves again this year.

The DiCarlo campaign issued press releases this week. One announced a radio ad campaign and the other blasted Brian Foley for taking a $10,000 corporate donation in violation of state election law, which limits such donations to $5,000.

According to the press release, the radio ads accuse Foley of trying "to use our tax dollars to support illegal aliens." They also blast him for an "outrageous property tax increase" and "out-of-control spending."

"Brian Foley won't fool us anymore," the ad claims.

No, from now on Robert DiCarlo will be fooling us.

For instance, he's asking voters to believe the town can reinstate the John Jay LaValle "tax holiday" that jeopardized Brookhaven's financial standing with the Wall Street bond traders.

He's also taking credit in the ads for being a "proven tax cutter." When asked to back up that claim, his PR guy (a veteran Republican negative campaign "handler") said DiCarlo, as a state senator from Brooklyn, "supported" Gov. George Pataki's budget.

Message to Jesse Garcia, Frank Tassone and Robert DiCarlo: Negative campaigns, devoid of substance, don't work when you've got a candidate of substance on the other side, fellas. It's a lesson you should have learned from the Grucci, Manger and Zanzi campaigns.

Voters are not stupid.

Neither are newspaper reporters.

Jesse Garcia told us the GOP financial disclosure on file with the state Board of Elections shows an incorrect bottom line due to technical difficulties with the software. The committee's treasurer was working on resolving it. Nearly a month later, same bottom line. What's up? Garcia told me last week he didn't follow up on it. Right. The state BOE spokesperson told us that agency has no record of any "technical problems" with its software that affected the Brookhaven Republican Committee's filing.

Robert DiCarlo, who is happy to pick apart Brian Foley's campaign disclosure report ("Why is this builder [E.W. Howell Co.] so interested in raising money for Brian Foley?" he asked the Sun), didn't bother to file his own disclosure report with the state, as required by law. (The July periodic disclosure report was due July 16, in electronic format, for filing on the state's Web site, for all to see.) He said he filed a report on paper with both the state and the county BOE. The state agency told us this week it had no record of any such filing. In fact, their spokesman said, the state BOE sent DiCarlo a warning letter about missing the filing deadline.

DiCarlo told the Sun he couldn't file electronically with the state because he was waiting for the state BOE to issue him a new identification number and he couldn't file electronically until a new number was issued. Not true, says the state BOE. And if DiCarlo filed a paper report with the county BOE, it's not scanned and posted on its Web site yet. (The political hacks at the county BOE are too caught up in their respective parties' political shenanigans to be worried about the public interest.)

DiCarlo did provide the Sun with a copy of the paper report he says he filed with both elections boards. We've posted that on our Web site (along with Foley's) so voters can view the reports themselves, as the law intended. Enough with these silly games.

Interesting thing is, DiCarlo, who said he couldn't file electronically with the state because his current campaign committee needed a new state ID number, this week did electronically file a report: his JANUARY periodic report — which was due Jan. 15. And guess what? The committee is using the same ID number.

DiCarlo might not want to make his disclosure forms public because they're a mess: hand-printed, barely legible, missing essential information — including, even, some donors' names. (There's a $1,000 donation from some unnamed individual.) The law requires the report to list names and complete addresses for each contributor.

The DiCarlo disclosures also show "outstanding loans" from the candidate to the campaign committee, for loans he says he made to himself in mid-2006 for "campaign expenses." What campaign was that, we wonder? The report also shows a loan repayment to the candidate of $7,500 for a loan it says was made by the candidate to the committee in 2005. There's no way to verify that, because there are no DiCarlo reports on either the state or county Web sites for 2005 or 2006 prior to period covered by the Jan. 15, 2007, periodic report.

We've learned the hard way that nobody really scrutinizes these campaign disclosure reports. Candidates and elected officials have recently been caught using their campaign funds as personal slush funds — or worse. Some state senators have allegedly invested campaign funds in businesses doing business with the state. That's a matter under investigation by the Albany district attorney. The point is, nobody is really taking a hard look at these. We invite you to do so yourself at

Of course, it's right to question why certain businesses and the people who own or run them make hefty contributions to candidates for office (particularly incumbents running for re-election.) There's no doubt it's part of the process of "greasing the wheels" for themselves or their clients. And that's part of what's wrong with how our political system functions — and part of the argument some people make for public campaign financing.

In an interview this week following his press release blasting Foley for accepting a $10,000 check from a corporation, in violation of state election law (a check that the Foley campaign returned per a May 29 letter it wrote to the donor), DiCarlo said, "Everybody in this business knows what the rules are." As a veteran politician and former elected official, you know what the rules are too, Mr. DiCarlo. Why don't you follow them?

Copyright 2007 Times/Review Newspapers