State Sen. Tony Hwang said he will stop using the logos of two after learning about complaints made against him by two nonprofits.
Cathy Curley, vice chairman of the Fairfield Democratic Town Committee, issued a press release last week stating that Hwang has committed copyright infringement.
Curley wrote that copyrighted materials such as logos and graphics from Ben’s Bells and Hate Has No Home Here Project have been found on Hwang’s campaign materials, “including on yard signs, T-shirts, and digital advertisements.”
“Because endorsement or support of any political candidate is not permitted by 501(c)(3) organizations, Senator Hwang’s actions could put the tax-exempt status of Ben’s Bells, a 501(c)(3) organization, at risk,” the release said.
Hwang, a Fairfield resident, is running for re-election in the 28th Senate District, which is made up of Fairfield, Easton, Newtown and parts of Weston and Westport. He has been a state senator since 2014. A Republican, he is being challenged by Democrat Michele Lapine McCabe.
According to the Fairfield DTC release, the Hate Has No Home Here Project notified Hwang’s campaign “via email message that this use falls outside our guidelines, and asked the campaign to address it at their earliest opportunity.”
In the release, Steve Sheinberg, chairman of the Fairfield Democratic Town Committee, said Hwang’s action “calls into serious question [his] judgment and his ethics as well. 501(c)(3) organizations are absolutely prohibited from participating in political campaigns, or even indirectly endorsing candidates for public office.”
“Senator Hwang’s use of these logos for his benefit could cause an organization to lose their tax exempt status. That is reckless and irresponsible. Furthermore, it is difficult to comprehend how Senator Hwang thought using these logos in his campaign materials was permitted,” the release said.
Hwang responded that “It was not intentional,” and added that the values promoted by both nonprofits are very important to him.
The mission of Ben’s Bells is to inspire, educate, and motivate people to realize the impact of intentional kindness, and to empower individuals to act according to that awareness.
The Hate Has No Home Here project seeks to declare neighborhood residences, businesses, and places of community free from hate speech and behavior.
“I strongly believe in the powerful message and personally inspiring values of Ben’s Bells and Hate Has No Home Here,” he said. “I have been an advocate in past years in promoting and sharing the messages and values of both organizations and will continue to champion their cause into the future.”
Hwang said he “is truly sorry” his actions created “hardship and unkind attention” for the nonprofits.
He has also “respectfully agreed” to no longer use their logo in any future campaign material.
Hwang added he was never notified directly about this matter.
“Unfortunately, it’s the environment that we’re in. The individual could have happily called me and I would have immediately removed it,” he said. “It took a political campaign to cause such a ruckus.”
He said that going forward, he will continue advocating for and believing in the views of both the nonprofits.
He added that in his “positive and affirming exchanges with both organizations,” he has reiterated his “continuous support of their mission and more importantly, practice of their aspirational message.”
“I hope this exchange will raise awareness to visit their websites and inspire, educate, and motivate people to contribute toward being a kinder and more positive difference in our communities,” Hwang said.
He said that “this adversity” reminds him more than ever “that believing in the values of being kind and no hate requires even more resolve to focus on serving the better interests of our community.”