Vas corruption conviction: his ties to Lenz and Marsh

In the spring of 2006, Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas had his eyes on a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The winner of his Democratic primary fight with Albio Sires was a lock to represent Hoboken in Congress. This was a year after political operative Michael Lenz ran Carol Marsh’s doomed Mayoral campaign. Lenz saw the Vas vs. Sires race as an opportunity to gain political leverage, so he and Marsh jumped on board.

Dirty money handed to Lenz for his Vas election efforts

According to reliable sources, Lenz was given thousands of dollars to help organize Vas’ Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) effort in Hoboken. Last Friday in Newark federal court, a jury convicted Vas on five of nine corruption charges relating to his quest for 2006 campaign funds to pay operatives like Lenz. The jury found Vas bought an apartment building for $660,000, then quickly flipped it for $950,000, closing the deal with a promise to give the buyer $360,000 in city redevelopment funds.

The former mayor funneled $80,000 from the sale to his congressional campaign. Over $2500 ended up in Lenz’s hands for Hoboken “Street Money” GOTV efforts, according to sources close to the 2006 Vas campaign. This money doesn’t show up on campaign disclosure forms because Lenz received it from a go-between political consultant before distributing it on the streets of Hoboken in violation of his own “Clean Campaign Pledge” stunt.

Vas was convicted of two counts of mail fraud, along with single counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions, lying to FBI agents and misappropriating city funds.

Lenz gets paid, Marsh gives endorsement to Vas

Marsh and Lenz work as a political tag-team. Where Lenz goes, Marsh follows, and if you want political access to Marsh, you talk to Lenz. This was the case in 2001 when Lenz brokered a deal to place Marsh on Dave Roberts’ Council-at-Large ticket, and was rewarded with $13,000 in Roberts campaign funds. When the HCDO came knocking on Marsh’s door again in 2007, Lenz came along for the ride and was given a $65,000 county position after the campaign went down in flames. In 2006 when Vas sought Marsh’s support, Carol signed an endorsement letter and Lenz got to distribute thousands of dollars worth of street money.

Carol Marsh’s endorsement of Joe Vas, and the irony of it all, after the jump.

Carol Marsh: Join me and vote for Joe Vas

On June 13, 2006, an endorsement letter from Carol Marsh (which was likely ghost written by Lenz) appeared in the local newspapers. Here’s a sample:

“Dear Editor: On June 6th, Hudson County voters have an historic opportunity. Our votes could actually matter in an election for Congress. I am writing today to urge all Democrats – and all voters who have not yet chosen a party – to nominate Joe Vas to be our voice in Washington… My endorsement of Joe Vas is partly based on what people I respect say about him, and partly on my respect for his passionate and capable challenge of the entrenched political powers in Hudson County. If you believe there has to be a better way to run a government, I ask you to join me in voting for Joe Vas on June 6.”

- Sincerely, Carol Marsh Former Hoboken City Councilwoman

Marsh’s choice for congress was convicted Friday of using his position as Mayor to illegally funnel $80,000 into his congressional campaign fund to pay operatives like Lenz. This is particularly ironic considering the rhetoric of Lenz’s latest campaign for 4th ward councilman. Next time you hear Lenz drop Peter Cammarano’s name during the campaign ask him about what he and Carol Marsh did for Joe Vas. Better yet, ask him how he got his Hudson County job.

If you really want to be cheeky, ask Lenz how many times he met with Paul Byrne. That’s another story for another day.

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