10/18/12 6:00am
10/18/2012 6:00 AM

To the editor:

I’m very troubled by what Mitt Romney said regarding Big Bird and PBS television no longer being funded in part by the federal government. I would like to know how much money in the past Romney, Obama, Ryan, Biden, Bishop and Altschuler have given to PBS, Big Bird and education programs for pre-schoolers. Can you investigate this for voters like me? Also, if the government will not help fund these programs, how much of a percentage of these men’s wealth will they pledge to keep these vital programs up and running?

Our little children need all the help they can get to mature into healthy, happy and productive adults, and Big Bird and PBS have done a fantastic job. Let’s find out what our candidates are made of.

Warren McKnight, Riverhead

10/16/12 12:00pm
10/16/2012 12:00 PM
Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler, Bridgehampton School

DANA SHAW of THE SOUTHAMPTON PRESS | Congressman Tim Bishop and challenger Randy Altschuler debate at the Bridgehampton School on Monday night.

The debate between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler in Bridgehampton on Monday turned inward when the candidates argued over campaign tactics in a race marked by a flood of attack ads.

The two men covered well-trodden ground in what was their fourth debate on the East End, once again laying out their differing visions for economic recovery.

But to a greater extent than in past debates, they expressed frustration over the tone of the race itself.

The candidates even attacked each other’s attacks during an extended exchange, with Mr. Altschuler calling the congressman’s tactics “filthy” and Mr. Bishop calling his opponent’s ads “unseemly.”

“This has been an ugly, bruising campaign,” Mr. Bishop said. “I think Mr. Altschuler regrets that. I regret that. I think even within the
context of an ugly, bruising campaign, I think family should be off-limits.”

Mr. Bishop, a Democrat running for his sixth term, was referring to what he claimed were recent attacks by Mr. Altschuler’s campaign claiming Mr. Bishop’s wife, Kathy, a preschool director, and 33-year-old daughter, Molly, his political fundraiser, have benefited from his political and professional connections.

Mr. Bishop has rejected those charges in the past.

Mr. Altschuler said he tried to run a positive campaign, filming an ad with his family and releasing a jobs plan, but was quickly drawn into a brawl that he claims Mr. Bishop started.

“I would say 98 percent of his money or more is spent saying negative things about me, and not at one point talking about the things he’s done in the last 10 years in Congress,” Mr. Altschuler said.

Mr. Bishop called that account “disingenuous.”

“Before we had run a single ad, before we had said anything at all, July 28, Mr. Altschuler has a press conference in front of my office in
Patchogue to attack my daughter and my wife,” he said. “So, please, please don’t be the choir boy when it comes to negative campaigning.”

Mr. Altschuler also called that characterization “totally disingenuous.”

The exchange built off a similar one in Hamptons Bays last month, when a high school senior asked the candidates why they were running negative ads rather than touting their own accomplishments.

The two men also discussed the role of super political action committees, or “super PACs” in the campaign. Super PACs are groups that can make unlimited amounts of political spending independent of campaigns.

Both regretted the phenomenon, largely the result of a U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago on Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. But both have benefited from super PAC money in this year’s election.

Mr. Altschuler said it’s “an unfortunate situation we’re in,” and Mr. Bishop said super PACs “fundamentally threaten our democracy.”

The candidates spoke at length on a host of other issues, including unemployment and the economy, taxes and bipartisanship.

The debate, which focused on jobs and the economy for the first half, kicked off with a question posed to both on whether cutting taxes creates jobs. Mr. Altschuler said he believes it does, while Mr. Bishop said there’s no evidence that proves cutting taxes alone will create jobs.

They rehashed some of the same issues from prior debates, once again addressing the attacks on outsourcing and ethics, while
defending themselves.

Mr. Altschuler has been heavily criticized by the Bishop campaign for being an outsourcing pioneer. Mr. Bishop has had his ethics challenged on whether his campaign solicited donations for helping a constituent get necessary permits for a fireworks show this summer.

The two also explained their positions on abortion.

The next presidential administration could appoint at least two Supreme Court justices, which could determine future decisions on issues like abortion. Mr. Altschuler said he is pro-life, with the exceptions of rape, incest and the health of the mother. Mr. Bishop said he is
pro-choice, and that he shares former President Bill Clinton’s views that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.”

The debate was the second in a series of debates sponsored by The Press News Group, which covers the South Fork, and Times/Review News Group of the North Fork.

It will conclude on Thursday, Oct. 25, when the newspaper groups will cosponsor another debate with the League of Women Voters of the
Hamptons.

That debate will take place at the Westhampton Beach High School on Lilac Road in Westhampton Beach at 7 p.m.

Ms. Abbas is a reporter for the Press News Group of Southampton.

rabbas@pressnewsgroup.com

10/15/12 7:45pm
10/15/2012 7:45 PM

Times/Review Newsgroup teamed up with The Press News Group of Southampton to co-sponsor a 90-minute debate between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James at Bridgehampton High School tonight.

The first half of the debate focused on jobs and the economy. Press executive editor Joe Shaw served as moderator for the debate, which also included questions submitted by audience members.

CD1, Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall last month.

10/15/12 8:00am

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Sept. 27.

Times/Review Newsgroup is teaming up with The Press News Group of Southampton to co-sponsor a 90-minute debate between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James at Bridgehampton High School tonight.

The first half of the debate, which is scheduled for 7 p.m., will focus on jobs and the economy. Press executive editor Joe Shaw will serve as moderator for the debate, which will also include questions submitted by audience members.

The event is free and open to the public.

This is the second debate the two East End news groups have sponsored this election season. The first debate was on Sept. 27 at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead, with Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly moderating.

The first 45 minutes of that debate focused on health care before it was opened for questions from the public.

“We were very pleased with the first debate and are looking forward to this next one,” said Times/Review executive editor Grant Parpan. “Focusing on the important topic of jobs and the economy will make this event a must-see for the undecided voter.”

Times/Review hopes to broadcast tonight’s debate live on its websites. Technical issues forced us to cancel a live stream of the first debate. In the event that similar problems occur tonight, video will be posted Tuesday.

Click here for video from the Sept. 27 debate

10/01/12 8:32am
10/01/2012 8:32 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Randy Altschuler at Thursday’s debate at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

Looking for all the support he can get in his bid to unseat Congressman Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler will get some help next week from the Speaker of the House.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) will be on Long Island Wednesday October 10, when he is expected to attend a $250-per-plate fundraiser at a private residence in Mr. Altschuler’s hometown of St. James.

Hoping the opportunity to meet the Speaker will energize volunteers, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign sent out several emails this week offering free tickets to the event for his most active volunteers over the next nine days.

While the Altschuler campaign no doubt hopes the Boehner visit will help them gain in the polls — a recent Sienna Research poll has him trailing Mr. Bishop (D-Southampton) by 13 points — it should certainly improve the challenger’s campaign finances.

Fundraiser attendees who offer a $1,000 contribution to Mr. Altschuler’s campaign will be given an opportunity to pose for pictures with Speaker Boehner. A $5,000 donation gets you a “VIP private roundtable” with the Speaker.

Records show Mr. Altschuler’s committee had about $800,000 cash on hand to Mr. Bishop’s $1.53 million at the end of June, the most recent filing date.

• Maybe it has to do with where I live or the fact that I’m a registered blank, but I seemed to be receiving a lot more campaign mailers from Mr. Altschuler than Mr. Bishop. Is that the case for all of you?

• For those of us you who might have missed the debate we co-sponsored at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead last week, the second part of the debate is scheduled for October 15 at Bridgehampton High School. Joe Shaw, executive editor of The Press New Group in Southampton, will moderate that debate.

While the first 45 minutes of the first debate the two East End media companies sponsored focused entirely on health care, the second will focus on jobs and the economy.

• My apologies to readers who wanted to watch the debate live on our website Thursday night, but couldn’t due to technical issues. We tested the internet connection and the live feed to mixed results a couple of times last week. While a test broadcast was uninterrupted earlier in the day Thursday, we couldn’t connect at the time of the debate. We’ve since posted debate video that features all but the first 10 minutes, when we were trying to transmit live.

• I promised a couple of readers who emailed me or wrote to me on Twitter that I’d weigh in on the debate with a column. After given it some thought, I felt it better to hold off until after the second part. So look out for that column in a couple weeks.

gparpan@timesreview.com

09/29/12 11:00am
09/29/2012 11:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James, debated Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate, moderated by Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly, can be seen below in three parts.

09/28/12 8:00am
09/28/2012 8:00 AM
CD1, Tim Bishop, Randy Altschuler, Vail-Leavitt Music Hall

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Congressman Tim Bishop (left) and Republican Challenger Randy Altschuler on the stage at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall Thursday evening.

To hear an audio stream of the complete debate, click here. Audio courtesy of www.peconiscpublicbroadcasting.org

Is Randy Altschuler an “outsourcer?” Is Tim Bishop one of the  “most corrupt members of Congress?”

Is Obamacare a good idea?

And what should be done about illegal immigration, or the Middle East?

Those were some of many issues tackled during a debate between incumbent Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler of St. James Thursday night at the Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead.

The debate was sponsored jointly by Times/Review Newsgroup of the North Fork and The Press Newsgroup, which covers the South Fork.

This fall’s race for the First Congressional District seat, which represents much of Suffolk County including the entire East End, is actually a rematch, as Mr. Bishop narrowly defeated Mr. Altschuler two years ago.

The first-half of the 90-minute debate was set aside for health care issues.

They also delved into claims made in their campaign ads, where Mr. Bishop has labeled Mr. Altschuler an “outsourcer,” because a company he founded named Office Tiger outsourced labor to foreign countries. Mr. Altschuler’s ads have labeled him as Nancy Pelosi’s pawn, and have harped on a report calling him one of the most corrupt members of Congress in part because of a situation where he helped a Southampton man get a fireworks permit and then his campaign sent that man a request for a campaign contribution.

INTROS

Mr. Altschuler kicked-off a mini-bio by saying he’s grandchild of Polish immigrants who came here during World War II.

“They weren’t rich people,” said Mr. Altschuler, who is reportedly a millionaire. “They came here because of America’s promise. My grandfather sold newspapers on the street corner and then he got a great job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. My mom was the first person in her family to go to college and unfortunately, when I was young child my father left. She got a job and worked extremely hard to bring us up.

“I worked my way through school. I was a security guard and a short order cook.”

He founded Office Tiger, which he said had employees all over the world, including 750 in the U.S., and sold it in 2006. He then founded a company called Cloud Blue, which recycles electronics. That company has 400 American jobs, Mr. Altschuler said.

“I decided to run for office because I am deeply concerned about our future,” he said. “And I have been fortunate enough to live the American dream but that dream is imperiled by a lot of the things going on in Washington today. I deeply believe we need to fix Congress. The fault lies in both sides of the aisle. But the only way we going to change Congress is to change our congressmen and bring somebody new in who has new ideas.”

As for Mr. Bishop, he said, “I have worked on Eastern Long Island for almost 40 years. I’ve lived here my entire life and my family came here in the 1600s. I am a member of the 12th generation of my family to live in Southampton and I have two daughters and they are the 13th generation, and my grandchild is the 14th generation. I’ve had two jobs. I one was a Southampton College for 29 years and now I’m Congress for 10 years. And at each one, I spend most of my time helping people.”

Mr. Bishop was the provost at Southampton College before being elected to Congress.

“The reason I serve in Congress and the reason I wish to remain in Congress is to continue to be part of a process that helps people should realize the American dream.”

THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, AKA Obamacare, was debated extensively Thursday.

While Republicans have called for its repeal, both men agreed that unless the Republicans gain control of the presidency and gain a veto-proof majority in the House and the Senate, Obamacare will not be repealed.

“But we should talk about what overturning Obamacare means,” Mr. Bishop said. “It means that for every Medicare recipient, their Part A premiums will immediately go up and their Part B premiums will immediately go up, and the 50% reduction that seniors get for project prescription drugs when they’re in the doughnut hole will go away and they’ll pay 100% of their drug costs when they’re in the donut hole.

It means no more free preventive care screenings under Medicare. It means no more free wellness visits for Medicare recipients . It means that young men and women on their parents insurance between the ages of 18 and 25 would get kicked off. Just in this district, about 4,700 people between the ages of 18 and 25 that now have insurance so that didn’t, because they can stay on.”

“And it would mean that small businesses would no longer get the tax credits that they’ve been getting to provide healthcare to those that they employ,” he continued. “There are 700 small businesses in this first Congressional District that have taken advantage of those tax credits.”

Mr. Altschuler acknowledged there are good things in the controversial law, such as allowing young adults to be on their parents’ insurance.

But it also has some bad points, such as the cost, he said.

“When it was passed, the estimate was that it would cost $800 billion,” Mr. Altschuler said. Today, the Congressional Budget Office says it’s going to cost $1.7 trillion.”

Mr. Altschuler said government historically has a bad track record when it comes to estimating costs.

“It’s a very expensive program and with the fact that we have a $16 trillion debt, the last thing we can afford is more costs,” he said. “It also has over $500 billion in taxes. And Obamacare itself has $700 billion cuts in Medicare.”

“On the issue of costs, over 250 economists signed a letter saying Obamacare includes virtually every cost containment measure health care experts recommend,” Mr. Bishop said. “The Congressional Budget Office said a full repeal would add $800 billion to debt. And Obamacare won’t add a dime in taxes that affect families making less than $250,000. Those taxes only affect families making over $250,000.

“On the $700 billion cuts to Medicare, that is the reduction in rate of growth on Medicare expenses. We’re still going to spend $7 trillion on Medicare over the next ten years.  We’d spend $7.7 trillion without these cuts.”

Mr. Altschuler said the Supreme Court just ruled that Obamacare itself is a tax. And the plan won’t result in a reduction in the rate of reimbursement rates for doctors, “which will make the plan ineffective.”

OUTSOURCING CHARGE

Mr. Bishop’s campaign has heavily emphasized the allegation that Mr. Altschuler is an “outsourcer,” based on his founding of Office Tiger, which had had 2,000 employees in India, Sri Lanka and the Phillipines, 1,250 in Europe, and 750 in the United States, according to a release Mr. Altschuler handed out in May.

“I don’t think we are going to get to where we need to be by sending jobs overseas,” Mr. Bishop said. “I have proposed legislation that would tackle one piece of outsourcing, and that is, call center jobs.” That legislation would make companies with overseas call centers ineligible for federal grants, contracts or loans.”

“Outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy,” Mr. Bishop said.

The U.S. lost 500,000 call center jobs to the Phillipines in recent years, he said.

But Mr. Altschuler said he sold Office Tiger in 2006, and yet Mr. Bishop continues to call him an outsourcer.

“My second company, Cloud Blue, is a recycling company that has created over 400 American jobs and has been praised by no less than the Obama administration for doing that,” Mr. Altschuler said.

Mr. Altschuler was asked about a quote from Brookhaven Town Republican leader John LaValle in 2010, saying he had “never seen candidate with more flaws than Mr. Altschuler.”

“If nothing else, this proves that I am not a man of the party,” he responded. In 2010, he ran a primary against party designee Christopher Cox, which is the son of the state Republican leader.

“I’m proud of my record,” Mr. Altschuler said. “It’s true, we had employees around the world but without them, we wouldn’t have been able to create jobs in America.”

He said that Mr. Bishop has personal stock in TIAA-CREF, which owns shares in outsourcing companies, and voted to give federal bailout money to Chrysler and General Motors, which have a history of outsourcing labor. And he said there have been 40,000 less jobs in Suffolk County since Mr. Bishop took office.

Mr. Bishop said that Mr. Altschuler labeling him an outsourcer “is the height of preposterousness.”

He said the TIAA-CREF account is his pension from Southampton College and he has no say in how it’s invested. Mr. Bishop added that Cloud Blue has 40 locations and none of them are in Suffolk County. Mr. Altschuler said he’s created American jobs, whereas Mr. Bishop has never created an American jobs.

CORRUPTION CHARGE

This issue stems from a recent case in which Mr. Bishop intervened to help Southampton resident Eric Semler get a fireworks permit, and then shortly afterward his campaign sent a letter asking Mr. Semler for a campaign contribution.

A group called the “Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington” cited this incident in a recent report in which they named Mr. Bishop one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

But Mr. Bishop maintains he did nothing wrong. He said after he helped Mr. Semlers, the man indicated an interest in making a contribution, and they were just following up on that. But Mr. Altschuler said Mr. Semler was critical of the solicitation.

He said Mr. Bishop should call for an ethics investigation of himself. Mr. Bishop said he didn’t need to do that because others have done so already.

Politico, the web site that broke that story, quotes Mr. Semler as calling the request “really gross” in an email to the fireworks company, but that also quotes him as praising Bishop’s work, although insisting that the Congressman’s people, not him, suggested the contribution.

MIDDLE EAST

There wasn’t much difference of opinion between the two candidates on what to do in the Middle East

Mr. Bishop supports getting troops out of Afghanistan, and maintaining our support for and protection of Israel, “our closest ally in the Middle East.”

He said the U.S. “cannot tolerate” the prospect of Iran getting nuclear weapons and must “keep the military option as a distant option” in regards to Iran.

Mr. Altschuler agreed with Mr. Bishop on Afghanistan, Israel and Iran. He added that he doesn’t think the U.S. should be giving aid to Egypt and he thinks the U.S. needs an “independent energy policy.”

ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

Mr. Altschuler said the U.S. needs to secure its borders better and put in place Visa programs for employees in the farming and hospitality industries.

But, he said “we can’t penalize those who’ve played by the rules.”

Illegal immigrants using municipal services causes financial stress  in the U.S., and “we can’t reward people for breaking the rules.”

Mr. Bishop said his opponent is unclear about what he wants to do about the nearly 15 million undocumented immigrants who are already here. He said he agrees that better securing the borders in necessary, but he said it’s already being done. And he agreed that “we need a Visa program that works.”

He said 60 percent of the farm works on Long Island are undocumented.

He supports a program that would allow temporary work visas, after which the immigrants would go back home. And he thinks undocumented immigrants living in America should get “earned legalization,” in which they pay a fine, pay any back-taxes they owe, learn English, and maintain a clean record. Mr. Altschuler said after Mr. Bishop spoke that he too supports that plan.

Mr. Bishop said Mr. Altschuler likes to blame him for all of Congresses’ failings, despite the fact that Congress is currently under

Republican control. Mr. Altschuler said he holds Mr. Bishop responsible because he’s his district’s Congressman.

CLOSING STATEMENT

Mr. Bishop said he’s help save 1,000 jobs at Brookhaven National Lab, he’s saved 1, 200 jobs at the Air National Guard in Westhampton, he’s brought over $100 million in aids to local schools and $150 million in projects to local governments.

He said he’s successfully resolved more than 1,500 constituent service cases and made is easier to afford college, since he’s been in office.

Mr. Altschuler said “our money gets lost when we send it to Washington” and “I want to keep it here.”

He said there have been fewer jobs and more unemployment since Mr. Bishop took office.

“If you want to change Congress, you’ve got to change your congressman,” he said.

tgannon@timesreview.com

09/27/12 12:00pm
09/27/2012 12:00 PM
Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, Randy Altschuler, Tim Bishop, Congress

xBARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Vail-Leavitt Music Hall on Peconic Avenue in Riverhead is modeled after the Ford Theater in Washington D.C.

The first of a pair of 90-minute Times/Review Newsgroup co-sponsored debates between Congressman Tim Bishop (D-Southampton) and Republican challenger Randy Altschuler of St. James is set for 7 p.m. tonight in downtown Riverhead.

Suffolk Times editor Tim Kelly will moderate the debate at Vail-Leavitt Music Hall in Riverhead. Vail-Leavitt will seat up to 250 people on a first-come, first-served basis. Audience members will have an opportunity to submit questions for the candidates at both debates.

The first 45 minutes of the debate will focus specifically on health care reform, Mr. Kelly said, and then be opened to general questions.

The second debate is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 15, at Bridgehampton School. The first 45 minutes of that debate will focus on jobs and the economy.

The Bridgehampton debate will be moderated by Joe Shaw, executive editor for The Press News Group, publishers of the Southampton Press, Southampton Press Western Edition and Easthampton Press newspapers, as well as 27east.com.

“We’re very excited to be working together to give the public more than sound bites to make a decision in this important race,” Mr. Shaw said of the partnership with Times/Review. “Our goal is to allow the candidates to more fully explore the complicated issues and give voters an opportunity to cast an informed vote.”

Both debates will be free and open to the public.

“With so much at stake, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of this race,” Mr. Kelly said. “We’re proud to be teaming up with our South Fork counterparts, The Press News Group, to bring the candidates and the issues to light.”

psquire@timesreview.com