The campaign of Jersey City mayoral candidate Steven Fulop today called on the state Attorney General and the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate a fundraiser for Mayor Jerramiah Healy where the mayor encouraged donors to circumvent pay-to-play laws by contributing to an independent expenditure committee.
The campaign also filed a complaint in Hudson County Superior Court seeking to compel full disclosure of donors to the independent expenditure committee, known as For New Jersey Families.
“The public deserves to know who these secret donors are and what they expected in return for their unlimited donations,” Fulop campaign manager John Thieroff said. “The public deserves to know whether Healy’s re-election effort is being secretly financed by interests that don’t have the best interests of Jersey City residents at heart.”
The complaint also seeks to stop Healy’s campaign from coordinating with For New Jersey Families in violation of the law and to not make any expenditures during the campaign unless they are reported as an in-kind donation subject to contribution limits. A 1993 state law clearly prohibits coordination between candidate committees and outside political committees that could be used to circumvent contribution limits.
The Healy campaign brustled over the complaint.
“Steve Fulop’s desperate campaign of lies and innuendo continues to roll on,” said Joshua Henne, Healy campaign spokesman. “Through the years Fulop has shown he’ll say and do anything for the next power grab and this is just more of the same. It’s ironic that Fulop – the same guy blocking the release of public emails and denying his role in steering contracts to contributors – would try to drum up interest on an issue that, has nothing to do with the Healy campaign over an invitation we never even saw. The very second this information came to his attention, Mayor Healy immediately made sure no money was accepted, let alone deposited. And Steve Fulop knows that. Perhaps, today, Fulop should dive into the deep-end and explain why he and his campaign staff have their names and fingerprints all over redacted email exchanges with Jersey City BOE members, and why Fulop appears to have been recommending his biggest donors for contracts.”
For New Jersey Families, which was created in January, can receive unlimited donations and is not required to disclose its donors. It is also known as a 527 organization. The complaint requests to have For New Jersey Families register as a political action committee in New Jersey, which would require its contributors to be made public and its donations subject to contribution limits. Healy’s Feb. 27 fundraiser was at a private home in Cedar Grove and was hosted by lobbyists whose clients have business interests with the city, including United Water, Hartz, PPG Industries and NW Financial Group. The invitation noted that there would be “no limits, no pay to play,” if donors wrote checks to For New Jersey Families, rather than the Healy campaign, which is restricted by pay-to-play laws and contribution limits.
The complaint asks the court for a declaratory ruling that substantial coordination has already taken place between Healy’s campaign and For New Jersey Families. Healy has already promised to return the money raised at the fundraiser.
But Thieroff said that is not enough.
Thieroff noted that Healy has still not returned campaign contributions that he received from Solomon Dwek as he promised he would more than three years ago. Dwek is the confidential FBI informant who bribed Healy campaign officials and running mates with bags of cash in exchange for help with purported real estate deals.
“The public can’t trust a mayor who promised to return Dwek’s tainted contributions, then lied when it became clear he never returned the money,” Thieroff said.
The latest fundraiser is just more evidence that Healy’s brand of back-room politics no longer has a place in Jersey City, according to Thieroff.
“Why would the mayor encourage his donors to contribute to an account where their identities won’t be disclosed? What’s he hiding? Who is he protecting? The public deserves to know,” Thieroff said.