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Beth Mason’s wheeling pay to play practice under threat by new state bill

A bill introduced by a State Senator champion of pay-to-play legislation is working to undermine the games played with monies bypassing the intent of existing law.

The practice called wheeling occurs when donations to an organization or candidate are in turn sent directly to another – a customary but unacceptable inversing of the of pay-to-play laws says Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Teaneck).

Sen. Weinberg acting outside of party lines intends to pursue legislation that will stop the end run from the intent of her pay-to-play legislation when she was in the State Assembly.  The bill, should it become law would tighten the loophole where candidates feed monies through third parties and then have it deposited where they like.

In Hoboken the practice was most recently deployed by Councilwoman Beth Mason who funneled $13,400 to Tim Occhipinti’s campaign.  The tightening of this legislation would  restrict such unethical bypassing of pay-to-play laws.

“The wheeling loophole in the current pay-to-play law has allowed unscrupulous contractors and politicians an opportunity to circumvent the intent of pay-to-play protections.  This is a practice which has to come to an end.”
                                                                      
                                                                          State Senator Loretta Weinberg

Councilman Mike Russo used the same wheeling practice where a Weehawken PAC sent him a tidy sum in his last Council race back when Peter Cammarano was his campaign manager.

Here’s the key area of the legislation to stop circumventing the intent of pay-to-play laws:

Beth Mason used her 2007 candidate committee, Friends of Beth Mason as the vehicle to exceed the maximum contribution of $2,600.  She’s listed on Tim Occhipinti’s ELEC report along with her husband providing the maximum in in-kind donations.  How they both managed to hit the exact amount via in-kind donations is a question for another day.

In addition to those two maximum contributions, Beth Mason sent another $8,200 just before the fourth ward special election when Tim Occhipinti’s street money operation was in full gear.  As his paper factory express was in full operation to the hundreds and hundreds of ‘campaign workers,’ the money was being doled out.

The New Jersey State Attorney General is reviewing a host of problems in that election and there’s been no word since it was fowarded by the Hudson County Prosecutor weeks ago.  Among the problems are at least several criminal referrals originated at least in part by an independent investigation of the Hudson County Board of Elections before the election.

In addition, there are close to 200 ballots in question by the Lenz for Council campaign.  Where this all yet goes is still very much in question.

Except for the Tim Occhipinti investors like Beth Mason who along with her Mason411 ghostwriting minion would like to see all of it end so they can shill that the people of Hoboken have spoken.  Well, they in fact have already been doing so, the facts otherwise be damned.

Here’s the key component of the draft legislation from PolitickerNJ:

Most importantly, the bill would prohibit campaign contributors from making any contribution to a political organization which contributes to one in which they would otherwise be prohibited from donating to under pay-to-play restrictions.

The full bill is available here:

Weinberg-Johnson-Vanieri Huttle Comprehensive Pay-To-Play Reform Bill, 12-6-10

Related: Once again it’s Timothy J. Carroll, formerly of the Hudson Reporter who is like a new man now at PolitickerNJ. He authored this article that is the basis for MSV’s story:

http://www.politickernj.com/43292/weinberg-goes-rogue-pay-play-bill

Update: Questions from commenters have wondered about the applicability of this legislation to a candidate committee referencing the highlighted portion of the pay-to-play legislation above.

Political committees of candidates is also highlighted in the legislation and it’s a complex legal document so MSV is going to follow up to identify the areas properly scoped.  An inquiry was sent previously to the Citizen’s Campaign and one will also be sent to Hoboken’s People for Open Government.

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