The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) will hold a special meeting – not open to the public — tomorrow which could change the course of the Republican gubernatorial primary. While ELEC has declined to disclose their agenda item, it is widely believed that they will discuss issues pertaining to the public financing of Steve Lonegan’s campaign. Lonegan acknowledged last week that he has provided ELEC with answers to some questions concerning his affiliation with Americas for Prosperity, an anti-tax issue advocacy group.
The ELEC investigation is the result of an Associated Press story that suggests the former Bogota Mayor was obligated to disclose the details of his relationship with Americans for Prosperity, an anti-tax lobbying group for whom he served as New Jersey Director. State law requires candidates to disclose their connection to issue advocacy groups to avoid a conflict, such as avoiding spending limits that come with the public financing of gubernatorial elections.
The Lonegan campaign maintains that the candidate could not disclose AFP contributions, since he did not have access to their donor list. And they say that AFP was created and organized more than seven years ago, before Lonegan was involved.
ELEC still has not matched Lonegan’s February 24 filing of $69,820 in new contributions. The Lonegan campaign estimates that if fully matched, they will receive an additional $139,640 in public funds.
Tomorrow, ELEC could decide to authorize Lonegan’s matching funds, hold them up, deny them, or even seek a return of the $553,841 he has already received. Lonegan’s fate will be decided by the four ELEC Commissioners: 86-year-old former Assembly Majority Leader Albert Burstein (D-Bergen); former State Sen. Jerry Fitzgerald English (D-Union), 74, who served as Chief Counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne; Republican Peter Tober, 42, who was served as Senior Assistant Counsel to Governors Christine Todd Whitman and Donald DiFrancesco; and former Superior Court Judge Amos Saunders, a 76-year-old Passaic County Republican who spent 25 years on the bench.