ALBANY – Rob Astorino faced his first public relations storm Friday after a group his campaign promoted tapped into the anniversary of D-Day – complete with 1944 images of soldiers storming the beach in Normandy – to help the Republican gubernatorial candidate raise money.
Rob4NY, which calls itself a grassroots effort dedicated to the elimination of the Common Core program and the New York SAFE Act, launched a 24-hour, online fundraising blitz in what it called the “D-Day Money Bomb” on behalf of Astorino.
The Astorino campaign said it had no involvement in the money-raising effort or the Web page that highlighted the D-Day anniversary.
The group’s effort had a self-stated goal to “make headlines” and raise money, though it ended up raising questions about the appropriateness of tying in images of the D-Day invasion in which thousands of American soldiers died to a political campaign.
“To them we have a solemn obligation,” a scrawl across an online video at the group’s website read Friday, in reference to the D-Day soldiers.
“Remove tyrants,” the next screen read, as the video cut to photographs of an angry-looking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who is running for re-election against Astorino. The next screen asks people to elect a new governor: Astorino. The website, Rob4NY.com, featured an image of a military cemetery, a quote from Dwight Eisenhower and a black-and-white image of a D-Day soldier holding a crucifix.
Astorino spokesman William O’Reilly said the campaign was not involved in creating the fundraising effort, but was done by a private, Second Amendment advocacy group called Midnight Riders.
“We’re enormously grateful for whatever outside, grassroots help we can get, but we would always prefer that discretion be used in imagery. We have passed along our feelings about this, along with our thank-yous for the support,” O’Reilly said in a statement.
Asked if there was any intention not to accept the money raised, O’Reilly said that would happen when Cuomo refunds $150 million in state money used in what he called “bogus’’ economic development initiative ad campaigns.
Earlier in the day, O’Reilly took to Twitter to say: “Will be watching the grassroots ‘money bomb’ for @RobAstorino roll in today! Thanks to all doing it!.’’ He then gave the group’s website where the D-Day images and video were displayed and a counter checked off how much money had been raised each hour.
Peter Kauffmann, a state Democratic Party spokesman, called the video a case of “Rob Astorino’s small mindedness and ignorance at politicizing this sacred event.’’
Hector Miranda, a Poughkeepsie resident, took credit for creating the money-raising effort and the website, and said Astorino’s campaign had nothing to do with the idea. “I believe I am on the right track here,” he said of the effort done by the Midnight Riders group, which he created.
Miranda said Cuomo, with the enactment of the SAFE Act, has stripped away rights that, he said, were fought for by soldiers on D-Day. “You honor people by doing something that makes a difference, not eating hot dogs or hamburgers,” he said in defending linking D-Day to a fund-raiser for Astorino. Miranda said he is not a military veteran but that his stepfather served in World War II, and his brother was in the Marines.