Hoboken Councilwoman Beth Mason may face fines for election finance reporting violations. Mason is well-known for her deep pockets among those seeking to use her wealth to further their local political ambitions. Nearly anybody who wants to be anybody politically has at one time or another gone with their hand out asking Mason for money.
This has to be the first time the state has its hands in her pockets if, indeed, she even has to pay. The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) generally has about as much enforcement power as the local dog catcher, and most often doesn’t do much when it catches whoever it’s after.
ELEC filed complaints against Mason and her campaigns from 2009 and 2011, two elections, sources say, were noted for wasteful spending – campaign literature printed, but never delivered, campaign workers hired who did little or nothing to actually get the vote out.
Those campaigns, insiders claim, were so poorly run that it was little wonder that Mason went from a frontrunner in the 2009 mayoral election to dead last at the polls.
Councilman Ravi Bhalla complained this week, calling Mason a hypocrite. Mason called for his resignation in 2010 after he failed to report his being of counsel to a firm that had contracts with Hoboken. She also had complained that he didn’t get pay-to-play forms in on time. Mason called these ethical violations.
The state requires candidates to disclose where they get their money at intervals before and after an election so that the general public knows who is contributing to which candidate and how much they are giving. This information allows voters to make informed decisions about whom they want to support.
A point in Mason’s favor is the fact that most of the money used in both campaigns was her own, making disclosure a moot point. ELEC is often seen as ineffective partly because they do not normally issue fines designed to punish candidates, especially if the matter is an oversight or has some reasonable explanation. Mason’s violations are not considered flagrant. Most severe penalties are reserve for flagrant violations of the election law. While fines related to Mason’s alleged violations have been widely reported in the millions, the largest fine imposed historically was well under $1 million and that was against a state committee with a history of violations.
Rajiv Parikh, of Genova, Burns, Giantomasi, Webster, the firm representing Mason, said on Thursday that he does not anticipate fines – if any are levied – to be punitive. He said his firm is reviewing the allegations and trying to resolve the issues they were raised. While he would not say how long this process would take, he did say, “Councilwoman Mason looks forward to talking to ELEC to resolve this matter.”
Three-way race in Bayonne
You can always tell a campaign run by Vision Media: first there is a batch of endorsements for the candidate the firm represents. Then the campaign punches the opponent in the nose.
Mayor Mark Smith and his full slate of council candidates filed petitions last week to run for reelection. This came with a host of endorsements that include labor unions as well as heavyduty political people such as former Gov. Richard Codey and newly engaged state Sen. and Union City Mayor Brian Stack.
But in this velvet glove of popular endorsements hides a hand of steel, one that is likely aimed at James Davis, one of two mayoral challengers in the May election. While Davis’ nose isn’t yet bleeding, he can expect to be subject to political attacks as the race heats up. This will likely spare the other alternative mayoral candidate, Anthony Zanowic, from too much abuse.
This is going to be a personal campaign, because Smith and Davis reportedly do not like each other.
The Smith campaign is also concerned that the Davis campaign has drawn many of the same people who supported previous anti-Smith efforts – people, the Smith camp claims, have personal grudges to settle.
Smith’s reelection, however, will depend more on the good will of the general public than it will on who is opposing him. Incumbents most often defeat themselves through some political blunder. Davis and to a lesser degree, Zanowic, see taxes, the lack of a school contract, and rent control as key issues in this election.
While political fists will be flying shortly, Smith’s real success will come if voters believe that the city is recovering from an economic downturn that has all but wiped out its industrial base and left the Broadway shopping district severely depleted.
Perception is reality, and the side that sells its positive or negative vision of the Smith record will win. But expect the process over the next ten weeks to be ugly and leave more than a few political hopefuls bleeding from the nose.
The politics of scandals
The recent patch of political investigations coming out of the state legislature over the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge may have a lot less to do with uncovering a crime as producing a political opportunities.
Democrats are having a field day at Gov. Christopher Christie’s expense, and with his help.
He won’t fire Port Authority Chairman David Samson regardless of how many alleged conflicts of interest the media uncovers.
So as with former President Richard Nixon, Christie is likely to be dragged out of power by his misguided sense of loyalty.
Out from the cold
Shakespeare once pointed out that “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”
If this is true, then two political people victimized by Christie’s rise to power as U.S. attorney are dishing out a lot of cold meals this week.
Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, who was found not guilty of charges brought against him in the Bid Rig II sting in 2009, has just published his book “Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie.”
“After five years of research, I was able to document how the sting was put together by Christie and his associates for the very express purpose of advancing his political agenda,” wrote Manzo in his book press release. “I also show how this was merely just one spoke in the wheel of Christie’s other schemes to advance that same agenda.”
And if that was not enough, Sharpe James is scheduled to do a book signing for “Political Prisoner” at the Miller Branch of the Jersey City Public Library on Saturday, March 15, from 1 to 4 p.m.
James, chased out of his seat as mayor of Newark over dubious charges related to similar conflict-of-interest allegations that Samson faces currently, was convicted of five counts of fraud and was sentenced to 27 months in prison.
What comes around goes around, as the old saying goes.
Falto to run for mayor – or maybe freeholder
In Union City, Stack filed along with his slate of commissioners to run for reelection on May 13. But won’t be a free ride, since Jose Falto also filed in opposition.
Falto, a trustee on the Hudson County Schools of Technology board, has been a long time critic of Stack. But it is possible that he may still file to run for Freeholder instead. The deadline for filing for the primary is March 31.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.