Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Opponents Leap On Koslowitz Denial Of Polling by Chris Bragg - City Hall News

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Statement before Queens Tribune editorial board contradicts CFB disclosure

In late July and early August, residents of Council Member Melinda Katz’s district in Queens received phone calls from a polling company hired by Karen Koslowitz, who is seeking to return to the Council seat she held for a decade.

Yet on Monday, in a simultaneous screening of all the candidates in the race conducted by the editorial board of the Queens Tribune, Koslowitz said she had not conducted any polling during the campaign, in response to a yes or no question from the editorial board asking each of the candidates whether they had done any polling.

Campaign finance records show that on July 21, Koslowitz paid $12,000 for “Polling Costs phone poll” to Global Strategy Group, the city’s premier polling firm.

Global Strategy did not return a call for comment.

Gregory Lavine, Koslowitz’s campaign manager, chalked her discrepancy up to a slip of the tongue.

She just misspoke. That’s it,” Lavine said.

Lavine then offered another explanation: “It was also just a matter of not discussing polling with any type of media.”

A state Board of Elections rule requires a campaign to disclose the methodology and results of a poll if the poll is discussed in public.

Regardless of the reason, Brian Rafferty, managing editor of the Tribune, said the contradiction could be a concern as the paper makes its decision on whom to endorse.

It’s definitely something we’ll have to consider,” Rafferty said. “We understand that they may have to hedge their answers, because their opponents are sitting around the table. But if that’s the case, we would expect them to follow up with us and be forthright and make their answer clear to us as soon as possible.”

Rafferty said that he had not spoken with Koslowitz since the screening.

As for the poll itself, Michael Denenberg, a resident of the Council District 29, reported being told various statements about the candidates, after which he was asked how those statements would alter his perception of them. The poll seems to have included a number of positive statements made about Koslowitz’s record during her first tenure on the Council, he said. As is standard, when later in the call Denenberg answered a question about who he was supporting by saying Michael Cohen, Denenberg said he was asked if the fact that Cohen is under investigation by the attorney general’s office would change his view of Cohen. (Though this reflects some memories, others familiar with the poll say that this is an inaccurate representation of the questions.)

This type of polling is fairly routine for campaigns seeking to test out positive and negative messaging for use later in the campaign, but several of Koslowitz’s rivals pounced on her evasions to paint her as ill-suited for the district.

It’s troubling, but not surprising, that Karen Koslowitz doesn’t know what her campaign is spending money on,” said Michael Tobman, an adviser for the Cohen campaign. “I cannot think of a clearer incident than being either untruthful or ill informed—because she had to be one of those—in an important editorial board meeting to highlight her lack of independence.”