Middlesex County Democratic Committee Chairman Peter Barnes struck back at Gov. Chris Christie in a letter to committee members today, accusing the governor of hypocrisy in his criticism of the organization’s fundraising tactics.
In the two-page letter, dated May 15, Barnes tells committee members that all county fundraising is done legally, a fact that he, as a 26-year veteran of the FBI, ensures.
“As a retired FBI special agent for 26 years, I can assure you that all fundraising is done within the letter of the law and any attempt to insinuate otherwise is one hundred percent deceitful and disingenuous,” the letter says.
Christie has several times attacked Barnes over his role in the county and for what Christie says is the new chairman’s failure to clean up a network of political action committees, first exposed by PolitickerNJ, which take in money from dozens of vendors and dole it out to various candidates and committees throughout Middlesex.
The PACs are not illegal, but they do circumvent local pay to play laws that prohibit vendors from donating in counties and municipalities where they have contracts. According to several sources, state Sen. Bob Smith is at the heart of the PACs and a PolitickerNJ analysis found numerous potential conflicts between the PAC donations and Smith’s role as a local land use attorney.
In the letter to committee members, Barnes says Christie plays “fast and loose” with the facts.
“The truth is the governor is quick to attack Democrats in order to deflect scrutiny away from the wheeling of money through his 501c4 group Reform New Jersey, Republican County Organizations and Washington PACs like GOPAC. The governor and his subordinates use these accounts to secretly distribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to state and county campaigns and promote his far right agenda,” the letter says.”
Barnes also takes aim at Christie’s credibility with a shot at the governor’s cancellation of the ARC tunnel, which was criticized in a Government Accountability Report and for reports that the governor placed patronage hires at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“New Jerseyans continue to grow tired of Christie’s act and need a leader, not someone who ignores corruption within his own party and places unqualified political cronies in plush Port Authority jobs while simultaneously raising tolls on thousands of Middle Class families,” the letter says.
The letter escalates the war of words begun by Christie in April, when he slammed Barnes for his failure to clean up what he called the “corrupt” Middlesex County Democrats.
“The responsible guy that they sent in there – the former FBI agent – to clean up the corrupt Middlesex County Democratic Organization when asked about this conduct said ‘talk to Bob Smith’,” Christie said. “Boy I’ll tell you I sleep easier at night now knowing that Barnes is on top of cleaning that place up.”
A spokesman for Christie called the letter and the accusations from the county chairman a farse, and said Christie was simply stating facts about the organization.
“Wow, that’s downright delusional,” said spokesman Michael Drewniak. “The extent of our involvement in those (PAC) stories was to read them with fascination but not with surprise. It’s an undisputed fact of history that the Middlesex County Democratic Organization is a corrupt organization. The governor just pointed out the obvious.”