`Wheeling' decried in
'04 Ocean campaign
Author: LILO H. STAINTON/GANNETT STATE BUREAU
with more than $100,000 in contributions pouring in from powerful
Democrats around the state, the party had a chance to
build a countywide message and energize voters for local races in
more than a dozen
Campaign finance records show that three weeks before the Nov. 2
election, Ocean County Democrats also received $14,400
from Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise, who was busy fighting a
tough battle to get Jerramiah Healy elected as
the same day DeGise's contributions were logged in
"It's either illegal or it's wheeling, which should be illegal,"
said Assemblyman Bill Baroni Jr., R-Mercer, an election law
specialist who has sponsored legislation to eliminate such
county-to-county transfers. "If someone makes a contribution and
is a conduit, that's illegal.
Baroni said such transfers let party leaders funnel contributions
that exceed the legal limit to key players, with little oversight.
"It's like the
Former state Sen. John F. Russo, a Democrat who represented
"To me, it's utterly shocking. I think it will be utterly shocking to all Ocean County Democrat! s, especially those who were trying to get a decent campaign going," R usso said. "It's mind-boggling, these kinds of things."
Beach Haven Mayor Deborah C. Whitcraft, a 2004 freeholder candidate, was angry but not surprised. "That's outrageous," she said. "We went into it knowing it was a long shot. But it was made so much worse by the fact there was so little support by our own party."
Both DeGise and Ocean County Democratic chairman Fred Potter defended their contributions, which they said are part of Democrats' efforts to strengthen the party statewide.
DeGise insisted there were no requirements when he made
"We file an election report. We comply with election regulations," Potter said.
"It is what it is. We made a contribution and it's there," Potter said, adding that the Ocean County Democrats spent generously on the freeholder race.
"I'm not going to apologize for d! oing something that turned out very good," DeGise said, adding that Healy won and the party is stronger as a result. "Those of us who are in these positions don't make the rules, we play by them."
DeGise also defended contributing $7,200 each to four
"There was an understanding they were supporting Jerry Healy there," DeGise said, adding that he never told the councilmen how to use the funds. "There were no strings attached."
Prompted in part by a growing number of government corruption scandals, state lawmakers have begun changing the state's campaign-finance rules. Acting Gov. Codey signed a law last month that bans some contributions by state contractors.
"The governor thinks there is some legitimate function to the transfer of funds in the general elections, but perhaps there should be some restrictions in the primary," Heck said.
next year, there will be. A law signed in June 2004 by then-Gov.
James E. McGreevey includes a provision that will outlaw
transfers between county committee accounts between Jan. 1 and June
30, starting in 2006. The law would not apply to
municipal or statewide election accounts, and therefore would not
have impacted the transfers from
practice is common among both parties, campaign records show. A
Gannett New Jersey analysis last fall showed
This financial gimmick is frustrating to some, like Whitcraft, the
Potter and Patrick Sheehan, the treasurer f! or the
we had more money, we would have done more in September," Potter
said. "People don't realize what it costs to run a
Whitcraft, meanwhile, has left the Democrats and become an
independent."If I had known we were not going to get the support
Lilo H. Stainton: firstname.lastname@example.org
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