By Matt Rooney | The Save Jersey Blog
How is the Cesaro-Myers-Tedesco team running in Morris County’s open GOP primary reacting to the curious flood of Democrat money (you read a disturbing new wrinkle here on Wednesday) coming to their aid?
Dismissing criticism as hypocrisy from “desperate” opponents.
“Incumbent Freeholders Scappicchio and Krickus have accused me of having ‘sold’ my soul to out-of-county ‘special interests’ in an attempt to ‘cling to power’ and ‘prop up’ a failing campaign,“ said Freeholder John Cesaro in a lengthy statement received by Save Jersey. “Sounds like a perfect description of their negative campaign.”
“The hypocrisy of it all becomes very clear when you study their election reports and realize that well-over 50% of their reported contributions have come from a combination of out-of-county and out-of-state donors,” he continued. “The truth is that we have received over $25,000 in small donations from a countless number of Republican supporters throughout Morris County. By law, small donations of less than $300 are not required to be reported.”
Cesaro cited donations to the slate comprised of Freeholders John Krickus and Dave Scapicchio and their 2015 running mate, Denville Councilwoman Deborah Smith, from a Philadelphia engineering firm and a New York-based developer, respectively, as evidence of the alleged hypocrisy one day after they savaged Cesaro and his running mates, Christine Myers and Angelo Tedesco, for accepting a significant amount of campaign cash from labor unions.
Okay. Let’s soar up to 30,000 feet for a second before the important points get lost the back-and-forth. As I see it, Save Jerseyans, the problem highlighted by this increasingly depressing North Jersey pissing contest is actually two-pronged.
First, there’s the general campaign finance systemic issue. Transparency should be priority #1 in this arena. Donations from the political class are one thing provided pay-to-play laws are honored; I am firmly in the camp that believes donations = free speech in the political context even when donations come from juridic persons. Donations we can’t track – as is the case with this mysterious Super PAC backing Freeholder Cesaro’s slate – are another matter altogether. Voters have a responsibility to inform themselves. If I don’t like who’s spending big money to elect Cesaro or Krickus, then I can make an informed choice and vote accordingly IF, and only if, I KNOW WHO/WHAT THOSE DONORS ARE.
When I can’t find out? Democracy suffers.
Issue #2? The partisan/macro-political problem of protecting Morris taxpayers from an apparent attempted Democrat takeover. Candidates, in theory, can’t control outside expenditures. Allegations are exactly that: unproven accusations. Moreover, most politicians receive donations from self-interested folks. Good? Perhaps not, but it’s not a phenomenon unique to Morris County. Again, what’s made this particular spring contest remarkable is the extent to which powerful Democrats are intervening to prop up one team in a Republican primary.
New Jersey Republicans have a tough enough road ahead of us in the coming cycles. We can’t afford to hand a key county over to the machines!
Unsolicited, snark-free advice? Freeholder Cesaro would do himself, his ticket and his party a whole lot of good in these final few weeks by addressing the Democrat PAC issue head-on rather than shooting back with the old “everyone is doing it” defense. It doesn’t apply here given the extraordinary nature of this statewide Democrat invasion of his deep-red county.
And Republican elected leaders up there need to weigh in on all of this. Yesterday. These races are a mess and not likely to end positively without their intervention. Silence is consent.