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How much money did a Medford political action committee actually donate to a North Jersey Democrat embroiled in the midst of a public corruption scandal?
According to campaign finance reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission by the New Frontier Committee, the PAC donated $15,400 to Peter Cammarano III, who resigned as Hoboken's mayor last week.
It also donated $3,500 to Michael Novak, who ran for City Council and filed a joint campaign finance report with Cammarano and two other Democrats.
But according to reports filed with the state by the Cammarano slate, the New Frontier Committee donated $21,100 to the Democrats, a discrepancy of $2,200.
A spokeswoman for the Election Law Enforcement Commission, who declined to provide her name, said she could not comment on whether or not the commission was investigating the discrepancy because it would be a legal matter.
She said the commission launches investigations into campaign contributions when questions are raised internally and externally. She said the commission also conducts routine spot checks of campaign contributions.
Cammarano was elected mayor of Hoboken in a June runoff election but resigned July 31 amid accusations that he accepted a $10,000 bribe from a witness cooperating with an FBI investigation. He was one of 44 people arrested by the FBI on July 23. Others include state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, R-9th of Ocean Township, and L. Harvey Smith, D-31st of Jersey City.
The Burlington County Republican Committee raised the issue about New Frontier's contributions to Cammarano in a July 30 news release, questioning why a Burlington County PAC would donate to Hudson County officials.
The New Frontier Committee is an ideological PAC formed in 2006 by former county Democratic Committee Chairman Gary Karr and Medford attorney Jack Senechal, who serves as treasurer. Shortly after the PAC's creation, Evesham Democrat Dean Buono took over as chairman.
Reached Tuesday at his Hainesport law office, Buono declined to comment on the discrepancy in the reports or the committee's donations to Cammarano.
Senechal did not return a telephone message left at his office Tuesday.
Republican political consultant Chris Russell said Thursday that the funding discrepancy only creates more unanswered questions.
"The pay-to-play scandal linking top Burlington County Democrats to a North Jersey politician arrested on federal corruption charges is bad. The possibility that one or both sides violated campaign finance laws makes it even worse," Russell said.
According to New Frontier's reports, which were submitted by Senechal, the PAC donated $5,200 to Cammarano on April 8. It also made two donations to a joint campaign fund for Cammarano and his council running mates, contributing $7,200 on May 15 and $3,000 on June 1.
In addition, the PAC donated $3,500 to "Novak for Council" on May 8. However, there are no campaign finance records for such an account. Novak's fundraising is listed under the joint campaign.
Cammarano's reports record the $5,200 donation on April 13, but the other contributions don't match. The joint account lists a May 20 donation of $15,900. There is no mention of the $7,200 or the $3,500 given to Novak.
The post-election report, which would detail contributions made to Cammarano and his running mates in June, was not filed with the state, according to a spokeswoman for the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Note: Dave and I won first place in "Responsible Journalism, First Amendment (The Art Weissman Memorial Award)" in the 2009 New Jersey Press Association's Better Newspaper Contest for a series of articles including this one.