Signs of the Time?

Campaign posters snared in trademark flap and thefts 

By Liz Schevtchuk Armstrong

Election signs emerged as a political issue this past week after a national newsmagazine claimed a candidate’s campaign logo violated its trademark and a bipartisan chorus decried the theft of placards from Highlands yards.

TIME objects

Tim Greco, the Republican candidate for one of two open seats on the Philipstown Town Board, ran afoul of Time Inc., which warned that the appearance of his slogan — TIME for a Change — improperly replicated the TIME magazine title, including its deep red lettering.

Greco is challenging Democratic incumbents John Van Tassel and Mike Leonard for a four-year term on the board.

The minister and former Putnam County News and Recorder reporter agreed to alter his campaign materials, although he predicted that, less than two weeks before the Nov. 7 election, his supporters likely would not change their lawn signs. In addition to signs, his logo appeared on his Facebook campaign page and other materials.

The dispute began on Tuesday (Oct. 24), when Greco received a letter from a Time Inc. lawyer demanding that he “immediately cease” using TIME for a Change because it employs “the same style, serif typeface, font, and red color” as TIME and “suggests an affiliation or endorsement, neither of which was authorized.

“As an independent source of news and information, we do not allow the TIME name to be used to support political candidates or causes,” wrote Jennifer Chung, an assistant general counsel with the company.

An altered Greco campaign sign

Greco, who told The Current he believes an unknown political adversary alerted Time Inc., initially had a different color scheme for his logo but changed it to red, white and blue. He told Chung this in an email, after she said that “it seems a deliberate decision was made to transition to a red TIME,” thereby “suggesting an intention to trade off the TIME magazine brand and fame.”

She directed Greco to remove all postings and photos that showed a red TIME, and to “cover the E” on signs, as Greco had proposed.

Greco subsequently called Time Inc.’s objections “petty” and told Chung, “I’m just running for a local election. It’s sad that the opposition had to contact you.” He likewise said he found it “very sad to know that such a great American magazine like TIME would take such efforts to place themselves squarely in the middle of a local election.” (Chung did not respond to inquiries about how the company learned of the signs.)

Greco told The Current that the font in his slogan was recommended to him by an online advertising firm.

On his campaign website, the candidate suggested the conflict would boost his chances. “How low will the opposition go? Read it and roll!” he told supporters. “Vote Greco. TIMe for a change. This is campaign gold!”

Do Yard Signs Work?

The greatest yard-sign study ever conducted — a 2016 effort that involved six researchers from Columbia University who worked with four campaigns in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia — found that yard signs placed in people’s lawns have essentially zero effect while those placed in public places may raise a candidate’s share of the vote by about 1 percentage point. That might matter in a very tight race — but only about 1 in 50 are decided by that margin, according to one estimate.

Notably, the researchers found that signs are not as effective when they include references to a political party or ideology.

A few hours after the exchanges with Time Inc., the candidate’s Facebook page showed a yard sign in which the red “E” had been replaced by a white “e.” It also featured a photo of Greco, stamped with “This candidate from Philipstown is not endorsed by TIME.”

Stolen signs

Campaign yard signs commonly get stolen or defaced all over the country, and the Highlands has not proven the exception. Greco said that at least 11 of his signs, valued at about $15 each, disappeared, along with those for Putnam County Sheriff Don Smith, a Republican running for re-election.

“Could it be that the Democrats are actually scared that they may lose a seat this year, that they have to resort to stealing?” he asked online. He said he had called law enforcement authorities, who assured him they would keep an eye out for pilferers.

Cold Spring Police Officer-in-Charge Larry Burke said on Oct. 26 that the department had received eight complaints of various campaigns’ signs being taken or knocked down. The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office said it had not received any formal complaints.

On the other side of the aisle, a half dozen residents, mostly from Cold Spring, said their signs for the Democratic candidate for Putnam County sheriff, Robert Langley Jr., were stolen between Oct. 20 to 22.

A row of signs on Route 9D near the Garrison School. A few days after this photo was taken, the Greco sign disappeared.

On Oct. 24, Langley said he condemned the theft of any signs. “I ask everyone to refrain from tampering with the signs of any candidate, on public or private land,” that latter of which involves trespassing, he said. “Political signs are free speech, and we need to respect our neighbors’ rights to express their support of any candidate.”

He added on Facebook: “Keep in mind they can steal the signs, they can steal ideas, they can steal everything — almost! — but not the spirit!”

Langley did not respond to questions about the number of signs that had been stolen, their value, or whether any signs had been taken elsewhere in Putnam.

Myron Tice reinforces a campaign sign in his front yard. (Photo provided)

In Beacon, meanwhile, the Republican candidate to represent Ward 3 on the City Council, Andrew Gauzza, complained on Facebook on Oct. 20 that his signs were being stolen from front yards.

“I am extremely diligent to ask people if I can put signs outside their house and even ask where I can put them,” wrote Gauzza, a college student. “It is troubling that I spent $400 of my own money to purchase signs, and they keep getting taken…. I find this a troubling sign of the times. Too much hate.”

12 Responses to "Signs of the Time?"

  1. Chris Daly   October 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Mr. Greco’s campaign Facebook group has since been set to “private” with an entrance quiz required of new members to demonstrate their patriotism.

    It’s quite telling that a candidate for public office would require constituents to join his private group in order to show their support.

    Reply
  2. Dick Weissbrod   October 27, 2017 at 3:03 pm

    This news outlet might take time-out to review its editorial practices. In the story above, it devoted 11 of 19 paragraphs to the Greco campaign. The story had three photos, all of which contained Greco yard signs. And two of the three photos were Greco signs exclusively. What’s more, one of the Greco signs was smack dab in the middle of a section devoted to stolen signs. Nowhere did it advise on Greeks bearing gifts.

    This editorial practice seems reminiscent of this passed mayoral election when a very one-sided story emerged on the Butterfield builder suing the current Cold Spring major. And his wife. Just before the election.

    Kevin Foley would never have let this happen.

    Reply
  3. Ann Beddingfield   October 27, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    TIME is just protecting its trademark, which it really has to do. As to how TIME became aware of the similarity of the campaign sign to its logo, that could have happened in a number of ways: some people who live here work in NYC and possibly even at TIME. Tourists come up for the weekend. Any of these residents or visitors could have called TIME and reported the similarity or asked about it. We don’t know. But TIME is absolutely entitled to protect its mark.

    Reply
  4. Carolyn C. Bachan   October 27, 2017 at 4:50 pm

    As a lifelong Republican (and my late, beloved dad got into Republican politics when he was asked to escort Gov. Thomas E. Dewey around an Air Force base in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, in Dewey’s first race for the presidency of the U.S.; and I worked on the campaigns of former Sen. Jim Buckley in 1976 (he lost) and the 1994 campaign of Gov. George Pataki (he won, thankfully) I am grossly offended by the toxicity of politics in not only our community but also in the U.S. nationwide.

    My pro-Langley sign was torn down, too, in the middle of the night. I got another one and it will stay up, hell or high water, until the elections are complete! Shame on those who resort to these tactics! I’m quite sure I know who you are!

    Why can people of all races, religions, ethnicities, political persuasions or other things get together and help and respect one another in times of tragedy (like the hurricanes, as we’ve seen) but when it comes to relatively small stuff like local politics — or even Congressional politics, not so small — we act like barbarians? This is not right; this is not what America is about.

    Leave any other party’s signs alone — or just leave.

    Reply
  5. Patty Villanova   October 27, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    It is not just national politics that is often referred to as a “blood sport.” Just ask anyone who’s lived in Putnam County for a few election cycles.

    Reply
  6. Suzanne Willis   October 27, 2017 at 10:41 pm

    It would be wonderful if there was an ordinance barring all signs until a week or so prior to the election. It is a most beautiful time of year with the fall foliage and these signs are nothing short of visual pollution. Do residents actually learn anything of value from the proliferation of these signs? I don’t think so, and they certainly are unsightly and a source of trouble.

    Reply
    • Tim Greco   October 28, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      I agree and I think it’s a wonderful idea. Perhaps the Philipstown Town Board could address it. Especially the measurements of the signs, as well.

      Reply
      • Dick Weissbrod   October 29, 2017 at 7:32 pm

        Does candidate Greco really believe in the suppression of free speech?

        Reply
  7. Jonathan Kruk   October 28, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    I concerned about what the candidates call for their election signs. Why is it “time for a change,” let alone “Tim?” We benefit greatly from having an experienced town board. The budget came in fairly at above the rate of inflation, in spite of required cost increases for fire, ambulance and highways. This board works diligently to finds ways to decrease property taxes and energy costs. Individually they are hard-working and approachable. If you want something changed, tell our town board. They listen and get things done.

    Signs for “our sheriff” are out of place. The man holding the office “acknowledged he misled the public with untrue statements about the prosecutor” (Adam Levy). “Our sheriff” is liar who got the county into a $45 million lawsuit. We’ll do better with Sheriff Langley. He has more police experience, has worked behind the scenes on the opioid crisis, and is above all, honest.

    Reply
  8. Dan Willson   October 30, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    The Republican candidate improperly using TIME magazine’s brand tries to deflect blame, saying it was recommended by “an online advertising firm.” As someone who has worked in advertising for more than a decade, I find it highly questionable that an ad agency would recommend trademark infringement, especially involving one so readily recognizable and iconic like TIME. Nope, this appears to be the work of an amateur, something we don’t need more of in government. Reelect Mike Leonard and John Van Tassel!

    Reply
  9. Ann Fanizzi   October 31, 2017 at 11:29 am

    Toxicity is rampant, none more so than in the recent slanderous campaign waged against Dini LoBue, the only legislator who worked tirelessly for the residents of her Mahopac district and the county. The Courier cruelly labeled her a “lame duck” in a photograph taken during the debate on legislative raises, which LoBue opposed. Her opponent was supported by none other than the sterling occupant of the sheriff’s department, Donald Smith, and former advance man for Sen. Leibell, Robert Buckley. Need I say more. We have lost a watchman, or watchwoman, on the ramparts.

    Reply
  10. Jose Rodriguez   November 3, 2017 at 8:35 pm

    Do Republicans have a problem accusing opponents of offenses they themselves are guilty of? Apparently Donald Trump is not the only one who employs this tactic. The local GOP candidate says Democratic opponents “resort to stealing” his signs, yet on those very signs are the stolen likeness of TIME magazine’s font, style and brand color. But the hypocrisy wasn’t enough, he whined about TIME magazine’s justifiable objection to his improper use of their brand property, calling it “petty.” He also complained that someone had turned him in.

    I can understand why TIME, or any organization, would not want to be linked against their will to a hypocritical politician. It’s not time for a change. It’s time to reelect Mike Leonard and John Van Tassel to Philipstown Town Board.

    Reply

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