County GOP chief’s ultimatum to insiders rakes in the cash

In Uncategorized on November 2, 2008 at 8:19 pm


Since the Bergen County Republican Organization launched an internal, pony-up-or-else fund-raising campaign this fall, I thought it worth noting which Republican officials capitulated to Chairman Bob Yudin’s demands and who didn’t.

State Sen. Kevin O’Toole of Essex County and 40th District running mates Assemblymen David Russo of Ridgewood and Scott Rumana of Wayne pitched in a combined $10,000. State Sen. Gerald Cardinale of Demarest, who has emerged as a behind-the-scenes broker in the new Yudin regime, gave $5,000; U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett’s SCOTTPAC chipped in $5,000; and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce of Morris County and Westwood Assemblywoman Charlotte Vandervalk contributed $2,500 each.

Not surprisingly, Assemblyman John Rooney of Northvale didn’t contribute anything. He told this column last month that he considered Yudin’s tactics — no contribution, no party support for next year’s reelection campaign — tantamount to extortion.

Meanwhile, Washington Township businessman Bob Schroeder contributed $10,000, which helps explain why Yudin is eager to ditch Rooney and replace him with Schroeder in next year’s 39th District Assembly race. (Rooney, meanwhile, did make a $500 contribution to County Clerk Kathe Donovan’s reelection race.)

Other contributions worth noting: Princeton biotech executive John Crowley, a Bergen County native who is considering a run for public office (governor in 2009, possibly) gave $5,000. Crowley also gave $2,500 to Donovan, who also received $1,000 from Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr.

Willing donors?
Passaic County employees pay a payroll tax. Part of the salary is set aside for their pension. And, for some, a small part of their income goes to the Passaic County Democratic Committee.

Seventeen employees with the county government or related agencies contributed a combined $8,100 to the county party between July 1 and Sept. 30, campaign finance records show. The donations, ranging from $350 to $700, represent a little more than 5 percent of the $149,000 raised over that period.

The contributions are perfectly legal and it’s hardly a new practice — county employee contributions have been a mainstay of the Bergen County Democratic Organization for years. I’m sure some contribute because they believe in Democratic Party principles. Maybe some give because they think it a wise investment: call it a “Political Job Protection Assessment.”

Cleaner than clean
Last year’s Republican “Clean Elections” grass-roots campaign in the solidly Democratic turf of the 37th Legislative District was doomed to fail.

Now, it seems it was cursed.

The New Jersey Election Law Enforcement slapped Republican Assembly candidates Wojciech Siemaszkiewicz of Bergenfield and Frank Cifarelli of Hackensack $200 fines on Sept. 30, for failing to file a final campaign report after last year’s election.

Never mind that the two Assembly candidates dutifully filed weekly reports. Never mind that they raised a scant $1,795, far below the $4,000 needed to qualify for a minimum of $50,000 in public funds. Never mind that they got throttled at the polls.

ELEC rules are ELEC rules and all candidates, whether they’re being groomed by the Bergen County Democratic Organization’s money machine or are two scuffling-for-pocket-change novices like Siemaszkiewicz and Cifarelli, must file post-election reports.

The two men said they were unaware of the requirement, and believed they diligently followed the rules by filing weekly updates to ELEC throughout the election — a requirement in the first Clean Elections experiment.

To Cifarelli, the fine was the final rub in a campaign “where everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong.” But he decided to pay the fine rather than contest it.

“I believe in following the law and my feeling was pay the $200 fine and take the lumps,’’ said Cifarelli, a research analyst for a shareholder identification company. “I wanted to get it behind me.”

Siemaszkiewicz was philosophical. “It was a learning process,” he said.

Obama’s Jersey guy
Speculation is already swirling that if elected on Tuesday, Sen. Barack Obama will pick a New Jersey resident for a prominent position in his administration. And it’s not Governor Corzine.

The November edition of the American Bar Association’s Journal says Seton Hall University Professor Mark Alexander is on Obama’s short list of candidates for White House counsel. The journal said it spoke to “dozens” of people who know the candidate well.

Alexander served as issues director for former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential race, and later gave legal advice to Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s 2006 campaign. He was picked as Obama’s New Jersey director last year, before joining Obama’s inner circle in Chicago as a senior adviser.

His father, Clifford Alexander, was secretary of the Army under President Jimmy Carter.

E-mail: stile@northjersey.com


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