Context matters

Just before Election Day, mailboxes are filled with flyers from candidates, and our newspaper pages carry their ads. The more information the voters have, the better.
Candidates like to get their faces before the voting public, extol their accomplishments, and criticize their foes. So far, so good.

Problems arise, though, when false accusations are made or words are taken out of context. One flyer, for example, being circulated without attribution, proclaims in bright yellow, capital letters against a black bar: Secret deals — Deception — Quid pro quo.

Under the headline “Board appoints political boss to planning board,” with a picture of Paul Caputo, Guilderland Planning board member and chairman of the Albany County Independence party, is an excerpt from a Sept. 12 Altamont Enterprise editorial.

It correctly quotes this from our online editorial: “Would it be wise for someone who chairs a local political party to resign from government boards to avoid the appearance of conflict? Of course.”

What it doesn’t do is give the context.

We wrote the editorial, titled “Integrity matters,” because, just before the primary election, the Republican candidate for receiver of taxes, Bryan Best, sent a letter to Independence Party members, saying that Caputo had “recently been embroiled in a scandal when it came to light in a recent article in The Altamont Enterprise that he received $30,000 as a member of the Guilderland Planning Board, in exchange for endorsing candidates.”

We wrote no such article. The editorial recapped what we had actually written and posed the question above, followed by this:

“But does this mean Caputo is ‘embroiled in a scandal?’ No. Does it mean he was paid ‘in exchange for endorsing candidates?’ Certainly not.

“And did The Altamont Enterprise write an article that said these things? We did not. We dislike our good name being misused in this way.

“There is no evidence that the Independence Party endorsements are tied to Caputo’s planning board salary. When we asked Bryan Best if he had such evidence, he said, ‘I have absolutely no evidence that he did that; I think the facts speak for themselves.’

“We believe our readers and Guilderland voters are able to read the facts and decide for themselves.”

We have no problem with words from our opinion pages being quoted in campaign literature — they’ve been quoted on both sides in the current Guilderland elections — but we do have a problem with cherry picking so that our words appear to be the opposite of what was written.

We also have a problem with the flyer because, while it purports to condemn secrecy — complete with a cartoon featuring a large black cape labeled “Cloak of Secrecy” — it has no clear origin identified. The flyer, though, encourage residents to “Vote Row G.”  Row G is for the Stop Corruption Party, and, according to the Albany County Board of Elections, all of the Republican candidates in Guilderland are running on that line as well.

Voters need to be skeptical when they look at political propaganda. We urge our readers to look at the profiles we’ve printed — all available online at www.AltamontEnterprise.com — based on interviews with each candidate running in town elections in Guilderland, New Scotland, Berne, Knox, Westerlo, and Rensselaerville.

We’ve highlighted the important issues in each town and asked the candidates the tough questions. We’ve also run news stories, based on facts, that put the issues in context.

Be an informed voter. Cut through the spin to get to the truth.
— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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