The chairman of the Cumberland County Republicans has asked Attorney General Anne Milgram to investigate an account Freeholder Director Lou Magazzu used to fund an unsuccessful race for a position in the National Association of Counties (NACo).
Cumberland County Republican Chairman Bob Greco alleges that a $10,000 loan given to Magazzu by the Cumberland County Democratic Organization, which he runs as chairman, violates the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Act because it funded funding a candidacy not related to the local party.
“My main concern revolves around the $10,000 ‘loan’ that the Cumberland County Democratic Organization isused to Mr. Magazzu on July 17, 2009,” wrote Greco. “What were the terms and conditions of the loan provided by the Cumberland County Democratic Organization? If Mr. Magazzu did not have a Political Action Committee (PAC), as he has admitted to not having, is the loan from the Cumberland Democratic Organization personal in nature?”
The letter was copied to Evelyn Ford, the Election Law Enforcement Commission’s (ELEC) compliance officer.
Republicans have hammered Magazzu over funding for his campaign for Second Vice President of NACo for months, issuing near-daily press releases about a controversy that they’ve dubbed “NACo-Gate.”
Their original question was whether Magazzu used any public funds for his NACo-related trips, which he has done in the past. In an effort to demonstrate he did not this time, Magazzu released the list of almost $80,000 in donations and loans to the press, which included vendors who did work with the county and several prominent statewide Democrats (including Governor Corzine). Magazzu has said that he discussed the $10,000 loan with Millville Democratic Chairman Brendan Kavanagh – his slate’s campaign manager – and has since paid it back.
Earlier this year, Magazzu referred to the fund as a Political Action Committee, but later said that it was technically a different kind of account. Magazzu said that he was not required to disclose donors by law, but did so for transparency’s sake. Republicans have been needling him on the account’s classification since then, and Greco raised the point in his letter today.
“Due to the fact that Mr. Magazzu himself was originally quoted as indicating that the NaCO campaign fund was a true Political Action Committee (PAC) calls into question the impression that was given to the list of contributors to Mr. Magazzu’s NaCO fund,” he wrote.
Magazzu, whose party swept all the county offices up for election last November, now finds himself in a much more perilous political environment. He and two other current Democratic freeholders are up for reelection against three Republicans and three independents who are all former Democratic freeholders.
Magazzu, who said local media representatives told him that Republicans had issued two dozen press releases on NACo, accused Greco the GOP freeholder candidates of manufacturing a controversy.
“This is a final desperate attempt by candidates who have no positive message,” he said in a statement. “My opponents cannot criticize the county finances under my leadership as we have the lowest tax rate in forty years. Cumberland County has had none of the layoffs, furloughs and reduction of services of many other counties, municipalities and the state and continues to be well positioned financially. They cannot criticize economic development because of the results we have brought to the county through the Empowerment Zone and the motorsports park. They cannot criticize education because we have broken all attendance records at the county college after obtaining over twenty million dollars in state investment.”
The Attorney General’s Office has not yet received the letter, which Greco plans to send this morning via overnight mail.
Jeffrey Brindle, executive director of ELEc, said that he can't comment on cases before the commision but that "generally speaking,running for something like a national association, or even running for a party office, is outside of our jurisdiction."
Magazzu's attorney on the matter, election law specialist Angelo Genova, said that the complaint is "just another illustration of political grandstanding and the improper evoking of government offices for the political purposes of a campaign."