If you wished to learn more about the candidacy of John J. Flynn Jr. for Erie County district attorney, you might click on flynnforda.com as a logical place to start.
But if you click on that website, the smiling face of his opponent – acting District Attorney Michael J. Flaherty Jr. – greets you instead, complete with his website and all the reasons to vote for him.
Flaherty’s opponents in the September Democratic primary are leveling “dirty tricks” charges.
But the Flaherty supporter behind registering the website – James J. Eagan – appears proud of his move.
“Why wouldn’t I?” he asked. “This is a campaign, and it’s very competitive, and part of our campaign is planning and strategizing. We’re playing to win.
“It’s not dirty politics, it’s smart politics,” he added.
Buying web domains of potential opponents sometimes occurs in political campaigns.
But Flaherty’s opponents – John J. Flynn Jr. and Mark A. Sacha – are less than amused. They see no room for such tactics in a district attorney campaign, especially one where ethics is a major issue.
Flynn said candidates for district attorney and judge should conduct themselves at a higher level, noting they carry the title of “honorable” for a reason.
“They should be above childish games and held to a higher standard,” he said. “I have some real ethical concerns about this. Mr. Flaherty should be conducting himself as the acting district attorney.”
Sacha first noticed what he called a “dirty trick” and traced the web domain’s registration to Eagan. Though his campaign remains unaffected by the move, Sacha was even more outraged, adding he is running to restore a stronger sense of ethics to the office.
“It’s a DA race, and a DA’s number one responsibility and attribute should be integrity,” he said. “This goes absolutely against that.”
Sacha took aim at Eagan, who has loaned or donated the Flaherty campaign $45,000 and acts as the effort’s treasurer. He said domain registry records indicate Eagan paid for flynnforda.com, and questioned why he did not issue a Flaherty campaign check for payment.
Eagan has until July 15 to list the payment on campaign finance reports as an in-kind donation, but Sacha said the corporate check issued was an attempt to hide the Flaherty campaign’s involvement.
Eagan says he’s not hiding anything, adding he bought several other domain names based on Flynn’s name.
Eagan also noted criticism by Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy J. Zellner, a Flynn supporter, and hinted the chairman may lack the sophistication to employ such methods.
“If Jeremy isn’t experienced enough to do something like this, then well, God bless the boy,” he said.
Eagan said he saw nothing unethical or even questionable about the move, and said he would release the name to Flynn if he feels strongly enough.
“John Flynn is my friend. He’s a good guy and a competent guy,” he said. “He’s just not the right guy for DA.
“It’s not unethical, it’s not underhanded and it’s not a dirty trick,” he added. “It’s part of running a campaign. Period.”
Flaherty did not return a call seeking comment. email: email@example.com