Recently, the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and Managing Editor Peter Crowley made incredibly derogatory and inflammatory remarks toward Karen Bisso, both as a person and a candidate - not to mention called me a liar, while, quite frankly, being the true perpetrator of lies.
The first remark was that Karen had "shattered her credibility." I ask you to prove where she was wrong. Was it wrong to put things into a perspective that common people and ordinary taxpayers who are tired of big words and impossible-to-follow plot lines could understand? Isn't this what constituents want of their elected officials? The truth without spin, buzz words and deflection?
The Enterprise then went on to say that when I was presented with the facts, I "retreated." The actual statement I made was, "In this exact deal, it hadn't been done." Why did I make this statement? Because (in the case of The Nature Conservancy) it was several deals during two separate administrations. But it had, in fact, been done by the Thousand Islands Land Trust in a land deal in Alexandria Bay. However, since I'm a farmer and at the time Mr. Crowley called I was working on the east end of a westbound cow, which as most people will agree doesn't afford access to your computer to verify your research, I could not provided him the data he needed at that moment. Mr. Crowley then doubled down on proving the campaigns point by calling the Watertown Daily Times and confirming that TILT had, in fact, used state grants to purchase land previously. Furthermore, had The Enterprise done proper investigative journalism, they would have realized the campaign was being precise because TNC started this deal during the Paterson administration and, in fact, negotiated the state an easement for $30 million. They then sold a portion to a Danish firm with the easement in place. They have now, under a separate deal with a different administration, completed this deal with the state. So again, show us where the campaign is wrong in saying the state is buying easements and property from green groups.
The article then goes on to attack the statement we made that the land is removed from the tax rolls. Regardless of what the tax law says, the fact remains that government is not a producer. It has no means of generating revenue to pay taxes. It can only increase taxes and fees on the few remaining producers in order to pay out this money, only, in turn, to collect it back in the form of taxes, fees and unfunded mandates on the very entities they supposedly paid taxes to. Hence, Mr. Crowley, the statement, "borrowing five bucks to pay you back the five bucks I owe you."
The article further states that I "said the campaign made mistakes." Please sir, tell the truth. The statement was, "While you may disagree with the semantics of our statement, we stand by it and will not change it." And this we said even though you demanded we print a retraction.
Now I could continue to make corrections to your article; however, your readers and Karen's future constituents deserve better. Let's use the time to elaborate on some issues.
When Tier 6 passed, Karen reviewed it and came out with a press release stating there would be no economic benefit for at least 15 years. This was two weeks before the state comptroller's report confirmed this information. Your readers wouldn't know that because you refused to print it.
Karen also read the entire 94-page Regional Economic Development report. She again issued a press release showing not only the money being wasted but also how more than $60 million was being funneled in NYSERDA for "green initiatives." Again, not worthy of your paper.
Still, she worked and broke the story about A.3081, a bill that passed the Assembly which could allow judges to classify citizens and our veterans with PTSD as "mentally incompetent," thus violating their Second and Fourth Amendment rights by not only forcing police to seize all their guns but also denying them the right to ever own them again. Still, your readers remained uninformed.
Karen then made a bold move when she chose not to seek the endorsement of the teachers union. She chose the taxpayers over the union she paid dues to for 26 years. This time the Enterprise at least responded by saying you were refusing to run the release.
In fact, the Enterprise has totally ignored that Karen has knocked on over 1,400 doors, got almost 400 of the 500 signatures needed to get on the ballot herself, and attended more than 70 events across three counties. However, your readers get daily updates on Matt Doheny and Bill Owens.
I think, in all seriousness, it is time to frankly discuss concerns with the taxpayers. We have lost two prisons. Our veterans have had their Second Amendment rights trashed. The definition of marriage in New York has forever been changed. There is legislation about to be passed which says a 17-year-old needs parental consent to get a tattoo, but his 13-year-old sister doesn't need consent for an abortion. We are on the hook for not only $49 million in land we can't afford but the taxes that come with it. The only thing going up faster than our taxes is our unemployment rate. While we are suffering with all of this, many of our elected officials are getting their working salary while double-dipping a state retirement we are also paying, thanks to unclosed loopholes.
While Mr. Crowley has abused his journalistic privilege to make his position on Karen's candidacy vehemently clear, I take this time to ask the taxpayers, on Sept. 13, do you want someone who does the research, tells the truth and does it in terms easy to understand? Or are your future, your children's future and the future of New York just an "ideology" not worth fixing?
Russ Finley is the campaign manager for Karen Bisso's bid to represent New York's 115th Assembly District. He lives in St. Lawrence County.
Response by Managing Editor Peter Crowley:
In the interest of fairness, transparency and dialogue, it's important for the Enterprise to publish this letter even though I believe it contains some inaccuracies. Normally I would ask the writer to verify or revise questionable passages, so readers can trust that what they read in the Enterprise is factually accurate. In this case, however, I will run the commentary as it is and respond publicly here.
First, Mr. Finley does not make it clear here that the "scam" alleged in the Aug. 6 Bisso for Assembly release (the full text of which is linked to from this article) accused the state of doing two things: giving tax-funded grants to a group like TNC and TILT to buy land, and then paying the same group again to buy, or buy easements on, the same land. While it's true that each of these groups has done one of these things on separate land tracts - TILT has received grants to buy land, and TNC has sold easements and land to the state - we know of no case in which either group has done both for the same land. Mr. Finley, in multiple conversations with me, says he remembers reading in a newspaper that TILT did so (in Alexandria Bay, he says here), but he has so far not produced evidence that such a thing happened. I have done some searching of my own and not found such an article, either; ultimately, though, the burden of proof falls to the accuser. Therefore, the Enterprise considers the Bisso campaign's accusation unsubstantiated.
It's fine to criticize the state for spending money on preserving land, but the Bisso campaign went beyond that, making a "Ponzi scheme" allegation it still cannot support. The Enterprise still believes that act shows Karen Bisso to be unreliable and to have insufficient understanding of the Adirondacks, which include half of the Assembly district she wishes to represent.
Also, it's clear that Mr. Finley and we remember aspects of our phone conversation last week differently. He denies telling me the campaign made mistakes, which I distinctly remember him saying. He also says I demanded the campaign "print a retraction," which I did not; rather, I asked if he could back up the "scam" accusation.
Finally, the second half of Mr. Finley's commentary is a litany of Bisso press releases the Enterprise did not publish. Listen - no newspaper I know of publishes politicians' press releases as received. In the news section, the Enterprise assigns a staff writer to report on candidates' positions and activities as time, space and newsworthiness allow. We do not run candidates' pieces on the Opinion page (with rare exceptions).
This is an interesting four-way Assembly race that the Enterprise will cover more closely in the upcoming weeks. Meanwhile, the editorial board stands by its criticism of Ms. Bisso.
When politicians make false accusations, they need to be called out. Far from "being the true perpetrator of lies" as Mr. Finley claims, the Enterprise is the accuracy watchdog readers expect it to be.