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It's Been A Slow Start. But We Are Off! And Jackson Stumbles Out of the Gate!

Trenton’s 2014 Municipal Election season got off to a very slow start, almost two years ago. This week, less than 3 months before the May poll date, things seem to be picking up. I am not encouraged by what I see.Today that means the news about Eric Jackson and his campaign.

In today’s Trentonian there are two stories involving Mr. Jackson, both written by David Foster. In the first, Mr. Foster passes along the announcement from Julie Roginsky, a political consultant with prior experience on other recent New Jersey Democratic campaigns who has been hired to assist Mr. Jackson’s effort.

That article was noted approvingly by Jackson on his Twitter feed:

However, Mr. Jackson fails to note as approvingly, or even at all, the appearance of the second article by Mr. Foster in the Trentonian. This piece describes how a contribution of $500 at the end of 2013 to Mr. Jackson’s campaign by the firm acting as the City of Trenton’s bond counsel, McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, LLC, may be in violation of Trenton’s Pay-to-Play campaign law.

This law, passed by public referendum back in 2006, prohibits companies providing professional services to  the City from making any contributions to the city’s political candidates. A violation such as the $500 contribution to the Jackson campaign may lead to the cancellation of any city contract for that firm.

Now this story is in its early stages, and there will likely be more information forthcoming soon from our city’s media about this alleged campaign finance violation.

But I find it curious that we have heard no statement as of yet from Mr. Jackson. It is very probable that he saw the story: it was posted online last night one minute before the story about Ms. Roginsky that Eric Jackson gushed about on Twitter. Mr. Foster also writes that “Jackson did not respond to several calls for comment.”

It is also curious that we have heard no comment as of yet since Mr. Jackson prominently features this issue on his campaign website, and takes a stance that sounds to me to be even more severe and stringent than the City’s own Ordinance.

In the “Issues” section of his website, on a page titled “Ethics,” Mr. Jackson states “As Mayor, I will put in place a series of ethic reforms including an open process for all director positions, pay-to-play contribution protections, and limit political influence on zoning related issues.”  [Emphasis mine - KM]

What might those “pay-to-play contribution protections” be, and how would they differ from the City’s current Ordinance? Weaker? Stronger? In the context of today’s news, what does Mr. Jackson think about our Pay-to-Play law?

Eric Jackson wants to make sure that we know he takes the issue of Ethics very seriously. In his “Issues” section, he lists only “Public Safety,” “Education” and Ethics. There are no tabbed sections for Trenton’s Finances, Taxes, Residential or Commercial Development, Unemployment, Infrastructure (including the woeful Trenton Water Works), or any others.

Just Public Safety, Education and Ethics.

To underscore his commitment to an ethical Administration, he declares

“Let me be clear, I have and will maintain a zero tolerance for any unethical behavior or actions. A true leader does not look to personally benefit on the backs and taxes of the residents.”

So let me ask: Mr. Jackson, in the context of today’s news story about an apparent Pay-to-Play violation in your campaign, what exactly do you mean by “zero tolerance?”

What does that mean in this instance? What will be the consequences of your zero tolerance policy inside your campaign, or with McManimon, Scotland & Baumann’s future with the City of Trenton under a Jackson Administration?

What does today’s story tell us about a future Jackson Administration? Also, while I have your attention, there are still several unanswered questions I raised a few months ago about your prior service to Trenton that I think it would be helpful to discuss.

You may choose to use some other medium than Twitter to reply. Sounds like you may need more than 140 characters to answer.

Oh, and Congratulations on your new consultant! Seems like she got here just in time.

9 comments to It’s Been A Slow Start. But We Are Off! And Jackson Stumbles Out of the Gate!

  • This is what’s known as a home run.

    Hold their feet to the fire, Kevin.

  • Kevin

    Thanks, Joey!

  • Robert Chilson

    I disagree, especially if the donation was made via Eric Jackson’s website, EJ himself may not have known about the donation but a campaign worker sure did and probably was clueless as to who McManimon was. I made my campaign donation via the website and EJ probably doesn’t even know I donated. I’m sure now that has occurred, all donations will have to be cross referenced with a list of names that cannot make a contribution. I blame this on impersonal electronic fundraising. That is where the mistake occurred on EJ’s side. As for McManimon, as a lawyer, he should have known he cannot make a donation I suspect.

  • Robert Chilson

    “The contributions to Jackson were reported as McManimon, Scotland & Baumann, so there was no concealing where the donation originated.

    McManimon said the donations came from two other members of his firm.”

    What we need to find out is how the donation was made, I am sure they did not hand a check directly to EJ.

  • When you’re running for mayor — especially in Trenton — you better know where every penny is coming from, from the outset. Eric is no rookie in the politics game. Otherwise, he’s keeping one eye closed on purpose, and is that really the kind of mayor you need right now (well, ever)?

  • Kevin

    Robert – Thanks for the notes.

    A political campaign is a bigger operation than the candidate, as would be the administration of that candidate should he or she win.

    I did not make any suggestion or claim about Mr. Jackson’s personal role in this matter. I said that there would probably be more information coming out about this, and I look forward to it.

    However, I want to say again that I find it odd that on the same day that Jackson tweets approvingly about a news story announcing a new political consultant, he is silent about a news story – in the same paper by the same reporter posted one minute before the puff piece – about a possible campaign finance violation.

    Look, this contribution story is probably a small one; it will probably be forgotten in a day or two.

    But Eric Jackson has made ethics a cornerstone of his campaign, in a way that Taxes is not, in a way that Development is not, in a way that Unemployment is not.

    Eric Jackson is the one who announced a “zero tolerance” policy concerning ethics violations. It is in that context that I think it is essential for him to reply to these questions.

    He is running largely on his personality and his character, not his plans or positions. The kind of campaign he is running requires him to ace up to this. The kind of future Jackson Administration he is selling to us demands it.

    You say you “disagree.” What is it you disagree with?

    I concur with Joey who above says that Eric is no rookie. His continuing silence on a matter that he openly declares is the cornerstone of his candidacy is telling. And not in a good way.

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  • Robert Chilson

    I disagree with EJ knowing about the donation, but as you just corrected me, you did not allege he knew. Either way the pay-to-play law offers a remedy for mistakes like this, EJ’s campaign will refund the $500, I do believe the violation was unintentional on EJ’s part and I will stress to him at a campaign meeting tomorrow that we need better checks and balances especially when it comes to donations made via the website.

  • ed w

    Eric does Ethics, has a nice ring to it, when will that start?