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Jul 31, 2012 11:33 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press

In Congressional Politics, Tracking Is The Name Of The Game

Editor's Note: To view the video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jDAja8tvMvA&feature=plcp
Jul 31, 2012 5:35 PM

The day after his father’s funeral, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop walked out of the Golden Pear in Southampton with two coffees in hand when he spotted a familiar face waiting for him outside.

It was early on Saturday, July 21, when Mr. Bishop came face to face with his “tracker,” a young man working for his Republican opponent, Randy Altschuler. It was the same man whom he had seen standing outside his Wooley Street home on a regular basis since the middle of June.

He was surprised, he said in an interview this week, since Mr. Altschuler’s campaign said it would rein in its tracker, who is assigned to follow Mr. Bishop’s movements and public statements.

“My father hadn’t been in the ground 24 hours,” Mr. Bishop said.

Mr. Bishop and his campaign are pushing back against their opponent’s tracking operation, which they say has crossed a line from monitoring the politician’s public appearances to stalking him in his private life.

The level of intelligence gathering by Mr. Altschuler’s and Mr. Bishop’s campaigns – which both employ trackers to videotape and follow their opponents—has gone too far this year, both political camps said.

“Tracking in campaigns is a normal activity,” Mr. Bishop said. “But to put a member of Congress under surveillance, which is what’s going on with me, to stake out my home, to park on my street—that’s beyond any reasonable campaign activity. This is harassment. This is stalking.”

Albert Cover, a Stony Brook University political science professor who lives in the district and specializes in congressional elections, said trackers were once employed solely by presidential campaigns, but have been seen in congressional races recently as they have become big money operations.

“Congressional campaigns, are, in large part, better funded than they used to be, and so you can afford to do things beyond billboards and lawn signs and car stickers which at one point were about the most imaginative things congressional candidates did,” Dr. Cover said.

Diana Weir, Mr. Altschuler’s campaign manager, denied that their tracker, Jason Spencer, was following Mr. Bishop after his father’s funeral. “There is absolutely no way we were there the next day,” Ms. Weir said.

Ms. Weir acknowledged that Mr. Spencer starts his day at Mr. Bishop’s home, but said it is only because the congressman doesn’t publish his schedules. She said she had called the Bishop campaign in the last month to talk about ground rules for tracking, but hasn’t heard back.

Mr. Altschuler said his tracker does not videotape Mr. Bishop’s home. He countered that Mr. Bishop’s tracker, Sam May, followed him into a pizza parlor once for lunch after a press conference in Montauk. The video footage of that incident is posted on YouTube.

“There’s only one person who’s filming this stuff and it’s Tim and it’s online,” Mr. Altschuler said. “Take a look. It’s online. We’re not filming Tim’s home. We’re not filming Tim’s family. It’s preposterous.”

Sam May, Mr. Bishop’s tracker, was paid $1,599.58 by Tim Bishop for Congress for a period covering June 7 to June 30, according to Federal Election Commission campaign finance documents. Jason Spencer was paid 1,076.47 for that period.

A video shot by Mr. May and posted on YouTube shows a confrontation he had with his counterpart, Mr. Spencer, on July 3. In it, Mr. Spencer is parked in a car in Mr. Bishop’s neighborhood, and Mr. May walks up to him and engages him in a conversation.

“What makes you think that it’s okay, what makes you think that it’s appropriate to sit outside a congressman’s house?” Mr. May said. “You know that his kids, grandkids, come in and out. What makes you think that’s appropriate?”

Mr. Spencer, who had a video camera in his hand, responded, “I’m in a public street, in a public setting, and this is my job to track Congressman Bishop. He is a public official and I will track him.” Neighbors of Mr. Bishop on Wooley Street are aware of the situation and don’t like it. Mackie Finnerty, a Bishop supporter, said she hadn’t actually seen the 
tracker, but she had heard about him.

“To me, it’s a sick kind of thing to do and I don’t like it at all,” Ms. Finnerty said.

At one point, Mr. Bishop called Southampton Village Police when the tracker didn’t leave his home after he had left.

This level of tracking isn’t fair to his family, said Mr. Bishop.

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This is very funny! At first you would think it's Tim Bishop himself SOOOO tired and disgusted by all of this. But no. So why not just say WHO TOOK THE VIDEO? HIS campaign manager? Security? Sigh, sigh. The "tracking" - admittedly on both sides, takes place throughout the campaign. THIS video is shot on July 3 and is JUST NOW released by an "outaged?" Tim Bishop - using his own father's death, by the way, in a "sympathy bid" against "bad guy" Randy Altshculer?? Pretty silly behavior by ...more
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Jul 31, 12 3:01 PM
Senseless acts of futility are normally only engaged in by the desperate, or the despotic...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Jul 31, 12 5:29 PM
Altschuler will stop at nothing to try and buy...the first Congressional seat in New York. It won't work.
Let's send the outsourcing, stalking, carpetbagger back to New Jersey!
Go Bishop!
By SHNative (554), Southampton on Jul 31, 12 10:28 PM
We know that's how you feel .... shnative, regardless of a factual basis for your mantra .... we know ... You have your vote thanks to our troops and hard working Americans who support them. We know ....
By Board Watcher (534), East Hampton on Aug 2, 12 1:16 AM
It's interesting that the radical, racist, right forced President Obama to prove he was a citizen of the Untied States, but Governor Romney won't prove that he paid taxes from 1999-2009.

And all those years that Romney wasn't paying taxes, Randy Altschuler was a citizen of New Jersey who was shipping American jobs to India.

Send the carpet bagger, job shipping Randy back to New Jersey and tell Governor Romney to show his tax returns.
By Steven (113), Westhampton on Aug 2, 12 10:25 PM