More Fallout from Cammarano Arrest
New Frontier PAC out after Cammarano Donations
Yesterday Hoboken411 brought you the exclusive story of how Ursa Development and construction unions poured $175,000 hidden dollars into the race for Mayor.
Today, a South Jersey Political Action Committee 411 first told you about in June is shutting down because of the fallout from it’s role in allegedly “wheeling” cash to the campaign accounts of former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano and Jersey City Mayor Jerry Healy, whose hand-picked Deputy Mayor and City Council President were among several HCDO operatives caught up in the corruption sting with Cammarano.
The Burlington County Times reports the Medford-based PAC known as The New Frontier Committee is shutting down and heads are rolling. Excerpts now from the Burlington County Times report, and the Hoboken411 perspective on the story:
Dean Buono, a Hainesport attorney and chairman of the New Frontier Committee, announced… that he was shutting down the PAC… Buono said he signed on as chairman in 2006 because he agreed with its mission of promoting ethical and progressive leadership in Burlington County. However, Buono said he never was actively involved in fundraising or deciding to whom the committee donated. His name was merely on the paperwork, he said. “Unfortunately, I took my eye off the ball,” Buono said of his lack of involvement. “The PAC, according to media reports, drifted from its core mission and from the values that I believe in. It lost the public’s trust. I am deeply disappointed.”
He said he couldn’t say who was behind the contributions made by the PAC. “I was not the decision maker. I was not involved,” he said. “I don’t know.” Burlington County Democratic Committee Chairman Rick Perr also has denied involvement with the committee. Jeff Meyer resigned as Democratic Committee treasurer earlier this month after news of the PAC’s connections to Cammarano became public. He also has claimed no involvement with the PAC.
Unlike up here in one-party rule Hudson County, they actually have a functional Republican party down in Burlington County.
The GOP view of the situation takes aim at Cammarano:
Burlington County Republican Party spokesman Chris Russell said although the PAC is dissolving there are still several unanswered questions. “The Burlington County Democrats need to explain what compelling interest they had in bankrolling the campaigns of corrupt North Jersey politicians, why they knowingly used the New Frontier PAC to help Peter Cammarano skirt Hoboken’s local pay-to-play laws, why the campaign finance reports filed by the PAC with the state are inconsistent with the ones filed by the disgraced Hoboken mayor and what is the real reason they cut ties with county Democratic treasurer Jeff Meyer so hastily in the wake of this scandal.”
What he’s referring to is the fact that – thanks to People For Open Government – Hoboken has a law on the books that restricts campaign funding from professional service firms that are seeking public contracts from the Mayor and City Council. These firms can’t contribute to the candidates directly, so they are apparently using out-of-town political committees to get the money into the accounts of the politicians of their choice. This method of circumventing campaign finance laws is called “wheeling.”
How much cash made it’s way into Cammarano’s coffers?
Find out this and much more about how the people who want lucrative contracts paid for by Hoboken taxpayers are buttering up to the politicians that make the choices… after the jump!
(Wheeling & Dealing, continued…)
New Frontier Cash for Cammarano
According to campaign finance reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission by the New Frontier Committee, the PAC donated $15,400 to Cammarano’s campaign. The committee also donated $3,500 to Michael Novak, who ran for Hoboken City Council and filed a joint campaign finance report with Cammarano and two other Democrats. But according to reports filed with the state by the Cammarano slate, the New Frontier Committee donated $21,100 to the Democrats, a discrepancy of $2,200.
In fairness, Mike Novak probably wouldn’t have been the one to take in this contribution. His name appears first among the three original Cammarano running mates (with Angel Alicea and Frances Rhodes-Kearns) on the joint ELEC report referred to by the newspaper. Novak is not directly implicated in any “wheeling” activities. A check was deposited into a joint committee account in a race that he was running in.
In addition to the Cammarano connection, the New Frontier PAC has been accused of being a vehicle for “wheeling,” a process that allows donors to circumvent individual campaign contribution limitations. Under New Jersey campaign finance laws, individuals can donate only $2,600 per election directly to a political candidate’s campaign. However, an individual can donate as much as $8,200 to a political action committee such as New Frontier, which can send up to $8,200 to an individual candidate.
In addition to bypassing donation limits, wheeling provides a loophole for most pay-to-play laws, restricting businesses and firms from receiving lucrative contracts from officials whose elections they helped finance. The state’s pay-to-play law restricts businesses that contribute more than $300 to state or county candidates from receiving contracts of more than $17,500. Many municipalities have their own laws, including Hoboken and Evesham, which disqualify businesses from receiving work if they have donated more than $300 to a local candidate or candidate committee.
The laws don’t restrict those businesses from donating to political action committees, which then can donate the money to candidates.
If it looks like a big loophole it’s because it is. Hoboken can only do so much to restrict political contributions on its own. It would take a massive pay-to-pay reform effort at the state level in Trenton to stop this once and for all. It would also take an ELEC and Attorney General’s office that cared to prosecute those who broke the law. But then the U.S. Attorney wouldn’t be so busy arresting New Jersey politicians. Back to the paper…
Donors thumb nose at Pay-to-Play ordinance
Among the donors that contributed to the New Frontier PAC were engineering firms CMX Inc. and Remington & Vernick, as well as the law firm Gluck Walrath. All three have received contracts from Hoboken, according to public records. CMX Inc. donated $2,500 and received a $65,185 contract last year to perform environmental engineering at a public works garage the city is interested in selling. That contract was increased to $98,445 in June. The firm donated $2,500 to New Frontier in May, according to campaign finance records.
Remington & Vernick received an engineering contract that could not exceed $50,000 from Hoboken in 2007. The firm donated $4,000 to the New Frontier Committee in February 2008. Gluck Walrath received a $104,606 contract from Hoboken and a $171,187 contract from the Hoboken Municipal (Hospital) Authority. Records show five attorneys from the firm donated $275 each to the New Frontier PAC in February 2007.
Gluck Walrath is Hoboken’s Bond Counsel.
They get paid every time another bond is issued. This would be a good time to point out that although POG and others have been watching Gluck Walrath’s contributions you won’t hear boo about them from Councilman Peter Cunningham.
The Fifth Ward rep is also a sales rep for the arm of BNY/Mellon that brokers Municipal Bond deals. He sells his bank’s services to municipalities and has to play nice with firms like Gluck that handle the bond deals. (Whoops! There goes that pesky “truth telling” again! Some people really hate it when I do that!)
You heard about the New Frontier PAC here – months ago
Regular readers will remember that Hoboken411 first reported on the New Frontier Committee’s interest in Hoboken back on May 11th when estevens went through all of the candidates ELEC reports:
“New Frontier Committee ($5200) Ryan Graham ($2600): More insurance brokers! Graham is an associate with Fairview Insurance Agency. Fairview has provided Risk Manager services for Caldwell, Highland Park, Livingston, and West Orange, among others. Fairview was a regular contributor to the Russo organization years ago: $5000 to the Russo-controlled Hoboken Democratic Party in 1999, $5000 to Russo Team in 2000, and $5000 again to the Hoboken Dems in 2001. Looks like they’re getting back in the game.
By a remarkable coincidence, John Graham, founder and CEO of Fairview, made a $5000 contribution to a Medford NJ PAC, The New Frontier Committee, on March 30. Two weeks later, New Frontier made a $5200 contribution to Cammarano. Huh. Side note: In February 2008, Remington & Vernick Engineers – they were given a $50K city contract in August 2007 – made a $4000 contribution to New Frontier. Three weeks later, New Frontier made a $4000 contribution to the Cammarano-managed committee Voice for All Hoboken. Huh.”
So, the fallout continues. Comment on the latest developments below!