my seat: Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand joined 20th Congressional
candidate Scott Murphy in Saratoga Springs.
Now, We Wait
Murphy surprised many by pulling even with Jim Tedisco—and
even they remain, until absentee votes are counted
roughly 30 percent re porting, a gloom was beginning to settle
over the emotionally drained Scott Murphy supporters Tuesday
night at the Gideon Putnam in Saratoga Springs. The Democratic
neophyte candidate for the 20th Congressional District had
fallen behind his Republican opponent, New York Senate Minority
Leader Jim Tedisco. A volunteer from Citizen Action seemed
crushed, standing among a thin crowd in the ballroom that,
until the bad numbers started pouring in, had been packed.
She made the glum prediction that most of Murphy’s supporters
were now either at the bar or in their rooms, crying.
Murphy was never supposed to get anywhere near victory. The
unknown Missouri-born venture capitalist had announced that
he was going to run as a Democrat for a seat that historically
has been a Republican stronghold; the district was drawn to
carefully avoid the urban centers of the Capital Region. The
early polls had predicted a victory of 20 points or more for
But Murphy appeared to ride the tide of popularity surrounding
the Obama administration, and also the popularity of the woman
who recently vacated the seat to assume the U.S. Senate post,
Kirsten Gillibrand. In the typically Republican northern counties
of the district—Essex, Warren, and Washington—Obama and Gillibrand
both secured comfortable victories in 2008, and in this special
election, these counties were reporting as Murphy victories.
There are numerous other reasons Murphy supporters point to
in explaining the tall, amiable young Democrat’s unexpected
success in pulling even with his opponent in the polls: Tedisco
failed to come out on message early in the campaign; he was
a victim of a Republican brand of failed campaigning, the
same kind that doomed McCain, which tries to impose the message
of the party from the top down; he waited, and waited, before
making public his opinion on the very popular stimulus bill;
and the Republican National Committee’s attack ads were excessive,
in some ways transparently untrue, and only helped increase
Murphy’s name recognition.
However, according to Tom Wade, the Rensselaer County Democratic
Party chairman, the real reason for Murphy’s good showing
in the 20th is the candidate himself: a successful businessman
married to the daughter of a prominent upstate family who,
though taking a progressive stance on some issues, such as
the death penalty, abortion, and unions, has also been able
to resonate with conservative voters on the issue of the economy,
the most pressing issue of the day.
Of course, some people would point to the personal wealth
that Murphy was able to bring to the table. Murphy personally
provided a quarter-million dollars to his campaign in a special
election that has drawn in more than $2 million in contributions.
Saratoga County Democratic Party Chairman Larry Bulman dismissed
the idea that Murphy’s money has given him an edge over Tedisco,
pointing out that the assemblyman loaned his own campaign
$200,000 as well.
Later Tuesday evening, Murphy had drawn into the lead. At
92 percent reporting, he held a 1,600 vote lead, but by the
time 99 percent of precincts had been counted, that lead had
dropped to near 100. Bulman held the business card of his
lawyer up to a friend and joked, “I’ll be needing this tonight!”
The conversation changed from poll results to possible legal
disputes and the thousands of absentee ballots—roughly 10,000
in all—that had been mailed out, and which would now determine
the outcome of the race. According to the Times Union,
nearly 6,000 ballots have been returned. The deadline to receive
the absentee ballots is April 7 for the average citizen and
April 13 for the military.
By the time that Murphy took the stage, standing beside Sen.
Gillibrand, his lead had dropped to 59 votes and it was clear
that it was going to be at least mid-April before the voters
in the 20th district would know who their next congressman
Been Served—Oh Wait
million lawsuit filed over 2008 Metroland article
Capital Region-based company NXIVM has filed a $65 million
lawsuit against Metroland. NXIVM, an international
company that offers personal and professional training programs,
has been accused by detractors of being cultlike. The company
was founded by Keith Raniere, and has previously gone by the
name Executive Success Programs. Prior to forming ESP, Raniere
ran a company called Consumers’ Buyline, Inc., which was under
investigation by regulators in 20 states when, in 1993, the
New York attorney general filed a civil suit alleging CBI
was a pyramid scheme. Without admitting wrongdoing, Raniere
settled for $40,000.
The lawsuit against Metroland was filed on March 12
with the Supreme Court of the State of New York in Niagara
County. It includes 10 separate counts, including product
disparagement, prima facia tort (intending to and succeeding
in causing harm), defamation, interference with prospective
business advantage, and conspiracy. The lawsuit references
a March 13, 2008, Metroland article by news editor
Chet Hardin that contains the line, “Raniere, according to
Ross, is not allowed, by law, to be involved in a discount
buyer’s club, due to the collapse of CBI,” a statement the
suit claims is false.
The conspiracy charge involves Rick Ross, an interventionist
and writer dealing with groups that have been called cults
or cultlike, as well as Morris and Rochelle Sutton. According
to Ross, the Suttons hired Ross in 2002 to attempt to persuade
their son Michael Sutton to leave NXIVM. The lawsuit claims
that Ross, the Suttons, and Metroland conspired to
republish false information.
According to Hardin, Ross is a source but he has never met
him in person. In reference to the Suttons, Hardin said, “I’ve
never spoken to them.” Leon said that he has also never spoken
to Ross or the Suttons.
A similar lawsuit was filed against Ross, the Suttons, and
Lollytogs (the apparel company owned by the Suttons) on March
5, 2009. According to Ross, they also have yet to be served
with a lawsuit.
a virtually identical lawsuit,” Ross said. “I assume, and
my lawyers assume, that the reason for filing is to maintain
the ability to pursue a claim over an article that the statute
of limitations was about to expire on.” The lawsuit against
Metroland was filed one day before the statute of limitations
for defamation would have expired.
kind of like they’re parking and reserving their right,” Ross
Ross also defended his statement in the article over which
Metroland is being sued.
recall that that was part of some kind of an agreement,” Ross
said. “Raniere may be splitting hairs.”
Hardin was notified of the lawsuit by a blogger.
Arnold, the blogger at (dis)Utopia [of Saratoga Springs],
e-mailed me on March 27 and asked for a comment on NXIVM’s
latest suit,” Hardin said.
Past coverage of NXIVM in Metroland includes the previously
mentioned article, as well as a small blurb in the 2007 Year
in Review issue, and a feature by Hardin titled “Stress in
the Family” published in August 2006 that included information
from previous members of NXIVM/ESP. Hardin also made blog
posts about NXIVM and the inaugural event of the World Ethical
Foundations Consortium, conceptually founded by Raniere, featuring
the Dalai Lama.
has not sought legal counsel in response to the lawsuit.
have access to legal counsel, but as far as we’re concerned
right now, it’s almost as if there’s not a lawsuit because
it has not been served to us,” Leon said. “They may never
serve the lawsuit for all we know.”
In an e-mail, Nancy Salzman, the president of NXIVM, stated:
“Nxivm filed this suit . . . because of statutory considerations.
We have not yet served Metroland or the other parties
because it is always our position to attempt a more amicable
resolution of differences and damages. We believe Metroland
will engage in a meaningful dialogue with us relating to these
Leon said that Metroland’s coverage of NXIVM in Metroland
has been fair and accurate, and that the lawsuit should not
have any effect on future coverage of NXIVM.
loose ends this week-