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The race for NY21 takes on the plot of a political novel

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WATERTOWN — The Republican race for the 21st Congressional District has taken on the plot dimensions of a David Baldacci novel.

In recent days, media companies have been offered alleged “smoking gun” documents by a political consulting and investigations firm in Washington, D.C., both candidates have been the victims of what can best be described as stalking incidents and candidates on all sides of the political spectrum appear baffled by events. Fingers are being pointed in so many directions they cover the compass points.

And everyone denies knowledge of the source of what can best be described as political dirty tricks.

Republican candidates Elise M. Stefanik and Matthew A. Doheny have both reported strangers showing up at their residences on false premises.

Mr. Doheny said yesterday that a man showed up at his property more than a week ago and told an employee he was a reporter from the Times. He tried to ask questions about the Dohenys, who were not home at the time, but was rebuffed by the worker.

No member of the Watertown Daily Times staff has gone to the Doheny residence to ask questions.

Then, Ms. Stefanik said Tuesday, a person believed to be a private investigator had staked out her parents’s house and followed members of her family.

The threat was perceived to be sufficient that her family contacted the Albany County Sheriff’s Department, which responded to the scene and took down the name and license plate number of the individual, a 29-year-old man from Yonkers.

Both candidates expressed concern about the events and both denied having anything to do with the events that occured to their opponents.

“That is not me and that is not my campaign,” Mr. Doheny said. “The person who came to my house posing as a Times reporter had to have been pretty stupid. This just doesn’t make sense.”

Meanwhile, Ms. Stefanik said she assumed the man staking out her parent’s house was a “tracker” — a person hired to shadow political candidates in hopes of catching them committing a gaffe or engaging in activities that could prove to be a political liability. She said she was in Willsboro at the time.

“It’s an invasion of privacy. My brother was going to work. It’s a very rural area. He circled back and took a picture of the license plate,” Ms. Stefanik said. “My parents were concerned, but I told them to be polite, because you never know who might have a camera. It did not make them happy or make them feel safe.”

Ms. Stefanik, who did not point to Mr. Doheny’s campaign as the source of the effort, said she did not have time over the next 30 days to hire someone to conduct an investigation to find out the origin of the car and the man from Yonkers. She said she did want her parents to file a police report so the matter would be on record.

“I hope it doesn’t continue,” Ms. Stefanik said.

In the midst of the intrigue, a member of the Georgetown Group, a Washington, D.C., investigations firm, provided the newspaper with documents this week that dealt with allegations of financial negligence on the part of Ms. Stefanik. The company, according to its website, “is an investigative and security services firm that has a proven track record of finding information that gives our clients a competitive advantage.”

The company would not reveal its client.

An investigation into the documents, which were all available in the public domain, did not reveal any financial malfeasance. They focused on the well-worn topic of Ms. Stefanik’s part ownership of a Washington townhouse and on a limited liability company that she founded to do political consulting. Both subjects are covered in Ms. Stefanik’s Federal Elections Commission filings.

Mr. Doheny said he had nothing to do with the company offering the documents to media outlets.

“I don’t see any link to any issues important to this district,” Mr. Doheny said. “This is all about property far from the north country.”

The documents dealing with the townhouse purported to show tax default, but the property is current on its tax payments. All payments had been made in accordance with D.C. tax law, Ms. Stefanik said, and the account was never delinquent or in arrears.

The documents dealing with the consulting firm, American Maggie LLC, allege failure to pay taxes in Delaware. The taxes in question were actually annual corporation fees of $250 per year, and the company, unbeknownst to her, had been registered as a corporation in the state of Delaware when her intention was not to incorporate. (See accompanying story.)

Asked who gains from the shenanigans, both candidates eventually pointed either directly or obliquely at the Democratic Party.

“Whatever is happening, it’s happening,” Mr. Doheny said. “It has nothing to do with anything of importance in the 21st District. Who gains? Well, the Democrats gain.”

Asked if the campaign of Democrat Aaron G. Woolf had hired a tracker or an investigator to conduct a background investigation on either of the Republican candidates, Mr. Woolf’s campaign manager, Stuart Rosenberg, said, “Nope,” via email.

On Friday morning, Mr. Rosenberg categorically denied any involvement by the Woolf campaign in any of the events.

“Aaron Woolf and his campaign is not engaging in any of the practices you’re asking about,” Mr. Rosenberg said, expressing surprise at the nature of the events.

“We had no knowledge of any of these assertions before we were contacted by the (newspaper),” he said.

——

Perry White contributed to this story.

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