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News Clip: Mayor in corruption sweep has county ties

From the Aug. 2, 2009 edition of the Burlington County Times:

Burlington County Times

A North Jersey politician charged in last month's federal corruption sweep has ties to Burlington County political leaders, who raised large sums of money for his campaign this year.

According to state Election Law Enforcement Commission reports, the Medford-based New Frontier Committee raised $15,400 for Hoboken Democrat Peter Cammarano III between April and June.

Cammarano was elected as Hoboken's mayor in a runoff election in June but resigned Friday 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 included state Assemblymen Daniel Van Pelt, R-9th of Ocean Township, and L. Harvey Smith, D-31st of Jersey City.

The New Frontier Committee is an ideological political action committee formed in 2006 by former county Democratic Committee Chairman Gary Karr and Medford attorney Jack Senechal, who serves as treasurer. Shortly after its creation, Evesham Democrat Dean Buono took over as chairman.

In its three years, the committee has raised about $119,000 and donated about $115,000 to Democratic candidates and political committees, mostly in Burlington County and South Jersey.

The largest donors to New Frontier were Hudson County-based Royal Printing Services; Hammonton engineering firm Adams, Rehmann & Heggan Associates; engineers from CME Associates in Howell; and Palisades Park resident Joseph Dell'Aquila, who works for Hoboken development firm JDA Group LLC.

In addition to the New Frontier PAC, county Democratic Party Chairman Rick Perr and party treasurer Jeff Meyer both solicited donations for Cammarano's campaign.

"While we tend to stay within our geography, this is one time that your assistance in another part of the state will help Burlington Democrats," Perr wrote in a March 9 e-mail to party members and donors. "I am asking you to donate $300-$500 to Peter Cammarano for mayor in order to put into place other young, progressive Democratic leaders like our own in Burlington."

In the e-mail, Perr asked that donations be sent to Buono's home in Evesham.

Meyer, who is executive vice president of Capital Public Affairs Inc. in Princeton, a lobbying and public relations firm, hosted fundraisers on Cammarano's behalf in the spring, and he was one of more than 75 people who served on Cammarano's mayoral transition team after the June election.

Perr and Meyer said they were shocked and sickened by the federal charges against Cammarano, who was considered a promising young Democratic leader.

"We publicly and categorically denounce corruption in public office and those associated with it. To the extent that Peter is convicted [or] pleads guilty, he deserves the fullest sentence that the law will allow," Perr said Friday after being asked about the county party's connections.

The Burlington County Republican Committee revealed the connection between Cammarano and the New Frontier PAC on Thursday in a news release.

The release pointed out that New Frontier donated $1,500 to Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy's campaign in March, and that it also donated $3,500 to Cammarano's running mate, Hoboken City Council candidate Michael Novak, in May.

Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Deldini was among the 44 people charged in the federal corruption probe. Healy was not charged but was named in a federal criminal complaint. He has declined to resign.

Novak was unsuccessful in winning a seat on Hoboken's council but was named chairman of Cammarano's transition team.

New Frontier also donated $4,000 to A Voice for All Hoboken PAC last year, according to election commission reports.

Republican political consultant Chris Russell questioned why Burlington County Democrats were taking interest in North Jersey political campaigns.

"Burlington County property taxpayers deserve to know the truth about what interests county Democrats have with corrupt public officials in Hoboken and Hudson County," Russell said.

Perr and Meyer criticized the county GOP's attempts to connect them to corruption by association.

"I find it ironic that the Republican Party, whose very own membership rolls are filled with individuals who have been the subject of federal and state criminal investigations and who are involved in a proven scheme in which millions of dollars of inflated bills at the [Burlington County] Bridge Commission were funneled back to their party coffers, is in a position to lecture anyone about ethics or corruption," Perr said.

Meyer said the GOP was trying to "distract the voters from their record on taxes, spending and government."

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.

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Tags: Burlington-County-Times, News-Clips, Politics

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