Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Pay attention

Are special interests funding campaigns of Trenton candidates?

While Trenton citizens collect their breath between last week’s municipal elections and the June 15 runoff for Mayor, Council At Large and three of the city’s four Ward council seats, it’s time to catch up on some homework that we should have been doing all along.

In the final hours before last Tuesday’s elections, there was a lot of hand wringing and expressions of shock and dismay as revelations were made about the funding of Tony Mack’s Mayoral campaign.

At issue is this: Mr. Joseph Giorgianni contributed the $2,600 maximum allowable amount for an individual to a candidate committee. Mr.Giorgianni is a long-time Mack supporter. The concern that has been raised is that Mr.Giorgianni has had some legal problems of his own in the past.

This doesn’t sit well with Tony Mack’s detractors. Many question the candidate’s judgment in taking money from a convicted felon. Others are wondering half out loud where the money Mack loaned his campaign ($20,000 according to ELEC reports) really came from. Mack has been essentially unemployed for the past couple of years and is in arrears on his property taxes.

While this is all quiet titillating and sensational, what about the financing of other candidates?

No one has made quite as much fuss about apparent runner up Manny Segura’s campaign funding.

Isn’t it odd that the candidate who used to use the slogan “Segura Para Trenton” (Segura for Trenton) has received the bulk of his campaign donations from politicians and businesses from North Jersey? Sounds to us like Senor Segura is more for himself and his cronies than for Trenton. In his 2006 run for City Council, Segura received 45% of his $53,625 war chest from individuals and entities with addresses in North Jersey. Assemblyman and Union City Mayor Brian Stack alone gave Segura $10,000. Another 7% ($4000.00) of Manny’s money came from unions or union officials. And let’s not forget the $2500 that found its way from former Sen. Torricelli’s wife to the joint candidate’s committee for Segura, Paul Pintella and Cordelia Staton.

All for a city council at large candidate in poor little old Trenton.

In this year’s campaign, Manny again has tapped his “friends” beyond Trenton. He raised some $19,200 in contributions from individuals and businesses in North Jersey. Included in his contributor list are elected officials from Passaic and Newark. One might be able to understand why they might be interested in helping Segura out. But what about the employees of TY Lin International; one who lives in Hackettstown and the other in Oxford, an engineer and a surveyor respectively. What interest might they have in who becomes Mayor of Trenton? Or is this all party money being channeled into Segura’s accounts? How much will he be “for Trenton” if elected and the donors behind these contributions start calling in favors?

Contrast the above with the fact that apparent third place finisher Eric Jackson raised all of his money through modest contributions from local individuals.

The special interest funding is not only going to the Mayoral candidates. Looking at the At-Large race (also in a runoff), we found some interesting items.

Where front runners Kathy McBride, Alex Bethea and Phyllis Holly-Ward all show modest (if any) campaign contributions from locals; T. Missy Balmir shows $2900 in contributions from employees of Washington DC based political consultants Field Strategies, Inc.

Field Strategies is a company used by politicians to design and execute effective campaigns. And who are some of their clients? How about everyone from Senators Lautenberg and Menendez, the New Jersey Democratic Party, and various labor unions.

So tell us, Ms. Balmir, why are five employees of this consulting firm so interested in seeing you get elected in Trenton, NJ when they all live in the D.C. area?

And while you are at it, how about explaining how it is that Mr. Green (Darren “Freedom” Green) appears on so much of your campaign literature and such and yet shows no major fundraising on his part? And you might as well extend your answer to Ms. Reynolds-Jackson who is in the run-off for the East Ward Council seat.

Come clean: are you a slate put up by party bosses to wrest control of poor old Trenton?

Juan Martinez, the 4th place finisher in the At Large race has raised money but we are not sure where it came from as the reports seem a tad incomplete.

At the Ward level, we have the aforementioned Verlina Reynolds-Jackson going up against Joe Harrison in the East Ward runoff. Reynolds-Jackson hasn’t reported any major contributions but did roll over slightly more than $1000 to Missy Balmir’s campaign. Presumably this was for some joint advertising, but wouldn’t that then necessitate the formation of a Joint Candidate’s committee?

Harrison has filed papers stating he will not raise nor spend more than $4000 in his campaign and not more than $300 will come from any one contributor.

In the West Ward, former school board head Joyce Kersey has raised about $8500. Most came from a $6000 loan she made to her campaign and the rest appears to have come from local supporters. Her opponent in the runoff, Capital Health employee Zachary Chester, has had his own issues with fundraising but seems to have built a treasury of over $31,000 from a mix of local friends and distant contributors.

In the North Ward, surprise 2nd place finisher Divine Allah has no reports posted on contributions or expenses, not even a declaration that he would spend less than $4000.00 on his campaign. Contrast that with Marge Caldwell-Wilson’s nearly $19,000 in money raised…more than 35% of which came from union political action committees around the state.

An informed voter is a better voter. Do your homework before you go into the booth and cast your ballot.

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