Legal Expert Weighs in on Norcross’ Alleged County Coordination

U.S. Representative Donald Norcross

U.S. Representative Donald Norcross

Congressional hopeful Alex Law dropped the last his campaign’s many social media bombs days before Tuesday’s primary when he posted purported internal documents from opponent Donald Norcross’ campaign. Those memos, mailed to Law with no return address, suggest that the Norcross campaign enlisted members of the congressman’s staff to distribute campaign materials and mobilized county officials to help discredit Law after his unsuccessful lawsuit against the Camden County Clerk’s office.

Though his campaign has shed light on a vocal progressive contingent’s opposition to the powerful Democratic party establishment in South Jersey, Law looks slated for a crushing defeat tonight. Judging from early mail ballot tallies, overkill spending from the Democratic coalition founded by Norcross’ brother George has done its work.

Brendan Fischer of the Campaign Legal Center, a public advocacy group that works through the courts to uphold existing campaign finance and voter registration laws, told PolitickerNJ that while machine politics may be distasteful, it is not illegal.

“As long as they’re doing the campaign work on their own time, not while being paid a salary by congress or by the county, then there wouldn’t be any issue,” Fischer said by phone. “You have to do it as a volunteer.

“My presumption would be that these individuals would be aware of those roles, and that they wouldn’t be conducting that activity on the taxpayer’s dime. But absent more evidence, you couldn’t really come to that conclusion.”

Though Law, a passionate supporter, has shied away from direct comparisons between his campaign and that of Bernie Sanders, Fischer said objections like Law’s to the primary process speak to a massive divide between the way voters understand it and the way it really operates.

“There’s the legal ethical questions, and then there’s maybe the broader, more popular conception of what’s ethical. And it does seem sort of analogous to the way that the DNC has treated Hillary Clinton versus Bernie Sanders.

“Political parties are private organizations, so if they desire they can choose to support one candidate over the other. So it may be less democratic than we might hope, we might hope that during the primary process the officials in the party would stay neutral and allow voters to decide which candidate that they prefer. But there’s no laws governing how party leaders express a preference for one candidate or the other in the primary process.”

As for Sanders’ chances against Clinton in today’s primary, Fischer said that when it comes to winning over both delegates and voters, nothing succeeds like success. The Associated Press reported last night that Clinton has a firm enough lead in delegates to declare her the presumptive nominee.

“People tend to like supporting a winner.”