August 6, 2018 • New York Times

Democrat Accuses Charter Spectrum of Censoring Political Ad

By Shane Goldmacher

A Democratic candidate for Congress in Central New York, Anthony Brindisi, accused Charter Spectrum, the national cable company, of trying to “censor” his campaign by refusing to air a television ad that criticizes the company’s record — along with his Republican opponent.

“If you’re watching this ad on Spectrum cable, you’re getting ripped off,” Mr. Brindisi, a state assemblyman, says to the camera at the start of the ad.

But Spectrum, which is the name under which Charter Communications operates in New York, has refused to air the campaign commercial, Mr. Brindisi said in an interview. He said that his campaign has successfully aired other ads on Spectrum in recent weeks, but the cable operator rejected this one over the weekend.

“They are trying to censor us,” Mr. Brindisi said, adding that Charter had not given a clear reason to his media team as to why they had rejected the ad. Mr. Brindisi, who is challenging Representative Claudia Tenney, a Republican, in a key battleground race, said he had hoped for the ad to also air on a dozen or so cable channels, such as CNN and MSNBC, in the Utica and Binghamton media markets. He said the ad is set to begin airing on broadcast networks, which Charter does not control, on Monday.

“The ad did not meet our criteria,” said Maureen Huff, a spokeswoman for Charter Spectrum.

“It’s a scary precedent for them to be setting just because I’ve been a vocal critic of the company,” Mr. Brindisi said. “I don’t think I should be precluded from informing the public about their practices here in New York State and letting people know that, at the same time they are raising your cable rates, they are a big beneficiary of the tax bill and a major supporter of my opponent.”

In the ad, Mr. Brindisi says that Spectrum “has jacked up rates almost double” and says that he has “fought to have the state take legal action” against the company.

In late July, the New York Public Service Commission voted to revoke approval of Charter’s merger with Time Warner, ordering the company to sell its operations to another provider, citing a failure to fulfill promises to build out broadband service in rural parts of the state. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has repeatedly attacked the company for that failure, as well.

The company also faces a lawsuit by the state’s attorney general, Barbara D. Underwood, and a labor strike, which has lasted more than a year, by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 3.

Mr. Brindisi says in the ad that “Claudia Tenney’s campaign is bankrolled by Spectrum;” federal records shows Charter Communication’s political action committee gave Ms. Tenney two $2,500 donations in 2017, a small share of the nearly $2 million she has raised.

“She even voted to give Spectrum a $9 billion tax cut while they were raising our rates,” Mr. Brindisi says in the ad, referring to the tax bill signed by President Trump. “Claudia Tenney won’t hold Spectrum accountable … I will.”

The race is expected to be among the most contested in the country this fall, with the independent Cook Political Report rating it a tossup district.

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