Democrats are struggling to find a credible candidate in the race for the 40th Senate District. Andrew Falk, a lawyer and lobbyist from Patterson, recently made several statements to The Putnam Examiner that are both factually inaccurate and easily disproved. Now, Republicans are demanding a retraction.
Doug Colety, chairman of the Westchester Republican County Committee, said it is important for candidates to check their facts. “How can Andrew Falk hope to represent the people of the Hudson Valley when he doesn’t understand some of the most basic parts of how our government works?”
A fact check demonstrated Falk misspoke on nearly every point he made in the interview.
- Misstatement: Falk said Sen. Murphy “voted to include the Common Core in last year’s budget.”
- Fact: Common Core is not in the State Budget. There is no Common Core line item. Common Core was established by the Board of Regents. Just like town board members cannot pass policy for school boards, the legislature does not set regulations for the Department of Education
Last year’s education budget did, however, require a testing reduction report and created a public comment period on standards and teacher evaluations. That report led to the Education Department recommending an end of Common Core and a reboot of locally controlled standards.
- Misstatement: Falk claims to be a staunch fighter against Common Core.
- Fact: Falk was for Common Core, before he was against it. During his 2012 Assembly campaign, he said the standards “are a laudable goal.” Meanwhile, Sen. Murphy was leading the charge by sponsoring the Opt-Out bill, S.4161, known as the “Common Core Parental Refusal Act.”
- Misstatement: Falk said Murphy did not secure “more money for public schools in the Hudson Valley.”
- Fact: In Murphy’s district alone, he voted to increase school funding over the Governor’s proposed budget by $17,715,185 for his district, which led to a $23,632,730 increase in State school funding to the school districts in the 40th Senate District. Murphy also voted several times to end the Gap Elimination Adjustment, a five-percent take back of school aid instituted when Falk’s party controlled the State Senate.
- Misstatement: Falk said Murphy called Senator Dean Skelos a “true gentleman” after his indictment.
- Fact: This comment was made on May 3rd, before the Skelos arrest. Senator Murphy was notably NOT among the 16 Senators who signed a letter saying Skelos should remain on May 5th when he was arrested. On May 7th, he called on Skelos to resign.
- Misstatement: Falk said that the Ethics Committee did not have a meeting last year.
- Fact: The bipartisan ethics committee is unlike other committees, in that it does not consider legislation and only meets to hear complaints against sitting lawmakers. The New York State Bar Association notes that “Legislative ethics committees provide internal oversight of only the legislative branch of government.”
In an interview with the Albany Times-Union, a Senate Democratic lawyer said “The last known copy of guidelines … published … pursuant to the Rules of the Senate … [used] the historical committee referencing scheme [where] the Ethics Committee has NO areas of law over which it is given jurisdiction (unlike every other standing committee that has sections of the consolidated laws over which it has legislative jurisdiction).”
“It’s hypocritical of Andrew Falk to criticize Senator Murphy, when Senator Murphy was one of the first people to call for Senator Skelos to resign,” Colety said. “Meanwhile, Andrew Falk took over $771,500 from Sheldon Silver and never called for him to resign even during the height of the Assembly sex abuse and pay-to-play scandals. On no less than six occasions, Andrew Falk refused to even criticize Shelly Silver, because he was bought and paid for.”
According to Newsday and dozens of other published accounts, as Speaker, Silver controlled how millions of dollars in campaign contributions and resources were distributed to members from the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee (DACC). In 2012, Andrew Falk raised approximately $112,000, and accepted over $55,000 directly from Sheldon Silver’s DACC. Filings with the Board of Elections reveal DACC also spent $210,282 on Falk’s behalf that year. In 2012, Falk raised a total of $416,834, although approximately $326,000 was contributed by Sheldon Silver’s DACC. Yet again, DACC made numerous independent expenditures on Falk’s behalf, spending an additional $180,214 on the Falk campaign.
“Sheldon Silver spent three quarters of a million dollars to put Andrew Falk in office, so he must have expected a return on his investment,” Colety said. “Maybe that’s why in three campaigns, even though he talks about mandate and tax relief, Andrew Falk has never once made a single substantive policy proposal for either subject. It’s time for Andrew Falk to start being honest with Hudson Valley voters, and that begins by him returning the $771,000 in Sheldon Silver’s dirty money he has accepted.”
Unlike the Assembly, the Senate also has term limits for its leadership, a basic good government proposal which Murphy voted for and Falk never supported during his Assembly runs, Colety pointed out.
“Andy the ambulance chasing lobbyist has zero credibility when it comes to ethics or anything else,” Colety said. “Andrew Falk was endorsed by groups for supporting the DREAM Act to give free college tuition to illegal aliens. With a record like that, it’s no wonder the voters have rejected him on three occasions and will do so again come November.”
Colety says Falk will have difficulty overcoming the incumbent Senator. In what was expected to be a close race, Murphy beat attorney Justin Wagner by 12 points in 2014 in one of the most expensive races in the country. No Democrat has represented the towns of the 40th Senate District since John Healey from 1913 to 1914.