Over a million $$ on mayoral campaigns
What the six mayoral candidates raised, spent, and who contributed
by Marilyn Baer
Reporter Staff Writer
Dec 17, 2017 | 2944 views | 2 2 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Bhalla’s campaign raised and spent nearly half a million dollars. The total was $468,639.
Bhalla’s campaign raised and spent nearly half a million dollars. The total was $468,639.
Even though this fall’s heated six-way mayoral election ended over a month ago, the conversation has not, as the candidates together spent more than three quarters of a million dollars on the local races.

Only two of the six mayoral candidates appear to have filed their 20-day post-election reports by the deadline, as is consistent with state election law.

The winner of the election, Mayor-Elect Ravi Bhalla (a lawyer and current councilman), filed his report last month, as did Freeholder Anthony Romano. Bhalla takes office on Jan. 1.

According to the 20-day post election report dated Nov. 27, Bhalla’s campaign raised and spent nearly half a million dollars. The total was $468,639, according to his report.

An additional 15 percent or $70,520 was primarily spent on polling and media and came from a labor political action committee called Stronger Foundations, Inc. Among other things, the group paid for an attack ad that linked Bhalla’s chief competitor, Councilman Michael DeFusco, to Mayor Peter Cammarano, who was arrested for corruption in 2009, eight years ago. When asked about this ad at the time, Bhalla said he didn’t support it. Stronger Foundations had language on the ad saying it wasn’t on behalf of a campaign.

Stronger Foundations, Inc. is allied with the IUOE 825, which endorsed Bhalla in the election.

Anthony Romano’s campaign cumulatively raised $184,065, according to his report, which was filed two days after the Nov. 27 deadline on Nov. 29. Romano came in third in the race.

Council people Michael DeFusco and Jen Giattino, who came in second and fourth in the race respectively, both said in separate interviews that they filed their reports. However, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission website did not reflect such as of Thursday under either “Jen Giattino for Mayor” or “Michael DeFusco for Hoboken Mayor.”

According to their reports emailed to the Reporter, DeFusco ‘s campaign cumulatively collected $245,990 and spent $233,275.

Giattino’s was a joint candidate account under “Aibel Starace Ellis & Giattino for Hoboken,” rather than an individual mayoral account like DeFusco’s, Bhalla’s, or Romano’s. The emailed 20-day post election report for Giattino’s joint candidate committee showed cumulative receipts amounting to $188,652 and cumulative expenditures at $188,456. This is not directly comparable to her opponents’ individual non-joint accounts.

Independent candidate Karen Nason, who came in fifth, said she had not filed her report, but planned on doing so last week.

She said, “I haven’t because I didn’t make anything, so I have to do that…There was no harm or cause to rush to do it because I didn’t make anything.”

Her 11-day pre-election report shows that her campaign raised a cumulative total of $15,042. Total cumulative expenditures amounted to $13,149.

Candidate Ronald Bautista did not answer two calls for comment, but his 11-day pre-election report showed he raised the least amount of funds, with his total cumulative receipts amounting to $4,622 and his total cumulative expenditures as $3,699.

Notable contributions

Under state campaign finance laws, individuals can donate up to $2,600 for a candidate per election.

Political Action Committees or PACs can spend unlimited amounts of money independently on advertisements, but they are subject to disclosure requirements with ELEC.

There is also no limit to the amount of personal funds a candidate may contribute to his or her own campaign.

In addition, Hoboken’s pay-to-play laws state that “No candidate or candidate committee for any Hoboken elective municipal office shall accept any monetary or in-kind contribution, in excess of $500 per election, directly or indirectly, from any committee.”

Bhalla’s reports show Bhalla loaned himself $31,109.00 and his council slate also pitched in from the Team Bhalla account for $53,603.64.

Councilman Jim Doyle’s account contributed $12,754.00, Emily Jabbour’s contributed $18,121, and John Allen (who did not win his council race but will be Bhalla's chief of staff) contributed $9,997.48.

Bhalla’s campaign also saw contributions from New Jersey’s “Bob Gordon for Senate” for $300, and John Jahr of Petry Traffic LLC for $299, who did a southern traffic study for the city.

Hoboken’s ordinance on contract reform states that any entity which was awarded a contract with the city can not donate above $300 within one calendar year immediately preceding the date of the contract or agreement to any candidate or candidate committee.

It additionally states that, “The contribution limitations prior to entering into a contract do not apply to contracts which are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder after public advertising for bids or are awarded in the case of emergency,” and that any business entity which violates the ordinance will be disqualified from eligibility for future contracts with the city for four years after the violation.

Regarding the Stronger Foundations labor PAC that helped Bhalla, DeFusco had criticized its contributions in a November press release stating that the outside special interest group had the goal of getting Bhalla elected in order to develop in Hoboken.

At the time Bhalla’s campaign spokesman Rob Horowitz said, “As a Councilman, Ravi Bhalla has an eight year track record of standing up to the developers and opposing overdevelopment,” and criticized DeFusco for having a negative campaign.

DeFusco faced his own scrutiny. During the election Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher filed a complaint with the Hoboken City Clerk and city attorney’s offices stating that DeFusco has violated Hoboken’s local laws which limit political contributions from PACs and committees to $500.

Fisher’s complaints outlined several donations reported in DeFusco’s July 15 ELEC report including the Sprinkler Fitters 898 of Millburn for $600, Sprinkler Fitters 696 Millburn for $600, Pipefitter Local 274 Political Action Committee of Parsippany for $1,100, Local Union 164 IBEW of Paramus, NJ $5,000, NRCC [National Republican Congressional Committee] Non-Partisan Political Education Committee of Edison for $1,500, B.A.C Administrative District Political Action Committee of Bordentown for $1,500 and UA Pipefitters 274 of Parsippany for $1,700.

When asked about the complaint last week, DeFusco said. “My campaign has always been in full compliance with all relevant election laws. I am aware that during the heat of the campaign a complaint was made regarding the city’s local campaign finance ordinance, however I am not aware that the contributions in question constitute a violation.”

Last week, in an interview, Fisher said she was provided with a response that requested additional proof that the contributors were a PAC or committee, and she had not responded to the response with additional information.

DeFusco also saw contributions from a variety of labor unions, according to his emailed and earlier reports.

His campaign received donations from Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters Non-Partisan Political Education Committee for $3,300, Hoboken PBA Local No. 2 for $500, UA Pipefitters Local 274 for $$2,600, Local Union No. 164 IBEW for $7,700 and the and UA Plumbers Local 24 for $900.

He also drew contributions from former Hoboken Councilman Tony Soares for $550, and running mate Michael Flett and his wife Michelle Flett for $2,600 each, as well as former school board president and Hoboken based developer Frank Raia, for $2,000.

Romano received contributions from other towns’ municipal candidates, including Bayonne’s “Mark Smith for Mayor” account for $2,600 and Guttenberg’s “Team Raja” account for $1,000. He also received contributions from local unions including IATSE Hudson County Local 59 for $500, and both the Port Authority PBA for $2,000 and the PBA Local No 2 contributed $500. Romano is a former police captain for the Hoboken Police Department.

Giattino’s individual campaign saw contributions from fellow council people Tiffanie Fisher for $1,000 and Peter Cunningham for $1,000 as well as former school board president Michael Lenz for $1,000.

Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner David Denning also contributed $400, and North Hudson Sewerage Authority commissioner Kurt Gardiner contributed $500.

She also saw contributions from her slate, as council candidate Jason Ellis donated $200.

As for payouts, Bhalla’s report and Giattino’s report both show that during their campaigns, they each paid about $1,000 to local political bloggers.

No politicians or unions or government board members appeared to have donated to Ronald Bautista or Karen Nason.

Marilyn Baer can be reached at marilynb@hudsonreporter.com.

Comments-icon Post a Comment
December 17, 2017
This story is filled with incorrect information. Based on filings on the ELEC website to date, DeFusco has reported about $ 340,000 of receipts/expenditures. The number will al.ost certainly increase substantially when he finally files his overdue 20 day post election report.

Anthony Romano, whose reports were all timely filed reported about $280,000 in expenditures between his ticket's joint and personal committees.

There also is no open question as to whether union PACs are committees under Hoboken's anti-wheeling law. They are. It's clear from the definition in the law. There is no need for Fisher or anyone else to "prove" it. It's a legal fact. As are the flagrant intentional violations of that law by the DeFusco campaign.

December 18, 2017
Yes it needs followup, this was a good start and good on the HR for keeping up with it but if there are CLEAR violations like Anon says then dont stop!