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Disqualifying

elec 10-4-17

Above is a screenshot taken this morning of the results of an inquiry made of the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) database. It shows that, as of this morning, not one person has filed any documents with ELEC in connection with the upcoming May 2018 Trenton mayoral election.

Over the last few weeks, there have been multiple articles in the local press discussing who the likely prospects might be who would jump in to the race. Last week, for instance, LA Parker in the Trentonian discussed by name the candidacies of current City Council member Alex Bethea (“’I’m running for mayor,’ Bethea said”), unsuccessful 2014 candidates Paul Perez (”‘The real answer is that right now we’re currently in the exploratory phase’… Perez…said”) and Walker Worthy (”appeared in campaign mode while attending a city affair several weeks ago”) , and current mayor Eric Jackson (”expected to seek reelection”).

Here’s the thing. As of today, as the screenshot above shows, Not One Person has as of yet filed any required documents with ELEC. Not one quarterly financial report, not one certificate of campaign organization and designation of Treasurer. Nothing. Even though each and every one of the individuals named above qualify already as candidates under state law.

According to ELEC’s Compliance Manual for Candidates, “Individuals who engage in ‘pre-candidacy’ activity, commonly known as ‘testing the waters,’ are defined by law as candidates” (Page 5). That would qualify Bethea, Perez, and Worthy, at least. The Manual also says, “If elected to office, the officeholder remains a candidate throughout the period of time the office is held” (Page 5).  This most definitely applies to Mr. Jackson. However, as readers of this space well know, the Mayor is three years overdue with his reports. He owes 11 reports at this point, covering the close-out of his 2014 campaign as well as any fundraising and spending he’s been doing for his assumed re-election campaign.

So, everyone who’s running or thinking of running or who’s been serving as Trenton’s Mayor is blowing off ELEC and keeping the public in the dark regarding who’s been supporting these campaigns. I don’t believe that’s acceptable.

In July 2013, in a survey of the lack of ELEC compliance among then-candidates and officeholders I wrote,

I would suggest, once again, that a candidate’s – or office holder’s – record of compliance with the commonly-known and pretty easily-followed ELEC Rules of The Game is a pretty good way to predict how conscientious that person will be to following the rules in office…

If these three can’t handle their own campaign finances properly, can we expect them to do so for Trenton’s?

For the last three years, we have our answer to that question, as it applies to Mr. Jackson. He is three years behind on his ELEC reporting, as he was similarly three years delinquent in his 2010 campaign. The charity he founded in 2014 had its non-profit status yanked by the IRS after three consecutive years of failure to file tax returns.  And those problems have paralleled his poor management of the City of Trenton. I don’t need to go over all of that here, but will point you to this still pretty-current review.

If anyone wants to replace Eric Jackson next year, the bare minimum he or she needs to do to even be considered as serious is show they can comply with campaign finance disclosure. It’s not the only thing they will have to do to earn votes, but NOT doing so will be, simply, disqualifying.

Candidates who can’t manage their campaign can’t manage Trenton, and they have no business trying.

Look, Trenton has been through the wringer for the last several years.

When he left office in 2010, Doug Palmer left the City’s finances in a fragile and vulnerable condition, made worse by Chris Christie’s abandonment of Capital City Aid to Trenton that same year.

Then Tony Mack – say no more!

Followed by three years of the amiable incompetence of Eric Jackson. Which was entirely predictable, to anyone who paid any attention in 2014 to the very visible warning sign he showed us by totally fucking up his campaign finances.

The next deadline with ELEC is next week, October 15. Reporting will be due for the three months of July, August, and September, and any applicable activity before the last quarter. I am very curious to see if we see any filing from Alex Bethea, Paul Perez, and Walker Worthy – or any others. If any of them want to be taken seriously, they need to show they can do this much.

I’ve given up on seeing any reporting from Eric Jackson. Even if he starts filing now, three years late like he was in 2014, it will just be Too Little, Too Late.

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