Ethics complaint to be filed against ELEC's Jeff Brindle

The "hit piece" was published on a website that was once the domain of David "Wally Edge" Wildstein.  That's before he sold it to Jared "to Russia with love" Kushner.  Yes, that Jared Kushner, the son of Governor Jim McGreevey's number one bagman and son-in-law of the sitting President of the United States, whose obscure and anything-but-transparent  business and financial dealings have led to a string of controversies.

Under the editorship of the late Peter Kaplan, the Observer newspaper was once a genuine instrument of reform in New York City.  But Kaplan left after Kushner bought the newspaper.  Later, Kushner would install establishment GOP political consultant Ken Kurson as editor.  Kurson, who ran political campaigns in New Jersey (in particular, Northwest New Jersey),  would transform the newspaper into a web-only publication that ruthlessly pushed the Kushner political agenda. 

And so Mr. Jeff Brindle, the Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, chose a most irregular venue for expounding on the benefits of campaign finance reform.  Of course, Mr. Brindle's arguments were not for the benefit of the general public or even the more specific electorate.  What Mr. Brindle presented in yesterday's Observer was a carefully crafted, opposition-research fueled, hit piece. 

Mr. Brindle argues that there should be more disclosure requirements covering organizations that spend money that could indirectly affect the outcome of an election.  We agree.  It is important to know the people behind organizations that have at their disposal mass amounts of cash and who seek to use that cash to influence the political process.  The Observer Media Group, for instance, which regularly endorses candidates and pushes a policy agenda (dare we say "lobby"?) that directly benefits the bottom line of its owners.

Or take Advance Publications -- an $8 billion corporate media giant owned by some of our region's richest -- and most politically liberal -- billionaires.  These guys hate labor unions, of course, because it means less for them and more for the people who work for them.  So they have successfully conducted a long-march through their work force.  First they came for the teamsters, then the printers, then the writers, and finally, the salesmen.  The billionaires who own Advance have a political and economic agenda.  They endorse candidates for public office and inject their opinions into elections.  And they have been so successful at lobbying that they have won for themselves a special state-mandated subsidy, directing millions in advertising to their businesses each year -- under penalty of the law.  Well, you know what they say:  Money comes to money.

In his "hit piece" in the Observer, Jeff Brindle takes aim at a group that has spent just over$275,000 on advertising in Northwest New Jersey.  Mr. Brindle hints strongly of a labor union connection with this group.  Now ask yourself, Mr. Brindle, why would working people, organized as a union, feel the need to become involved in the political process?  Perhaps they have heard about Advance Publications??  Maybe, just maybe, they seek to have some small measure of control over their personal economic well-being???  We're just guessing here... but maybe the great George Carlin has the answer...

What the Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission leaves out of his discussion is his agency's own special "little rich boy" loophole that allows the very rich mommies and daddies of wannabe politicians to fund their campaigns for public office.  Look, rich people been cleaning up the lives of their more useless offspring for as long as any of us can remember.  Generally, when it comes to employment, daddy provides young Doofwhistle with a job at which he will not hurt the company or its employees... too much.  A bankruptcy here, a bankruptcy there -- it's all part of the fun of being a (very rich) parent!

But now -- thanks to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission -- young Doofwhistle can be shoved-off on the taxpayers.  Daddy can use his millions (or billions) to get his young incompetent elected to public office, where he will receive a salary (sometimes even with benefits) and make laws and run things and generallyJe help our civilization down that long road of post-democracy.

That's right!  Under NJELEC's "little rich boy" loophole, if a candidate still lives at home with his parents, their money is treated as if it was the candidate's own money.  We shit you not. 

D. Use of Personal Funds  Use of a candidate’s personal funds on behalf of his or her campaign must be deposited into the campaign depository and must be reported as either contributions or loans to the campaign in the same manner as all other contributions or loans. If the candidate intends to be reimbursed fully or partially for personal funds used on behalf of his or her campaign, then the funds must be reported both as a loan and as an outstanding obligation to the campaign if still outstanding at the end of the reporting period. Once a candidate’s personal funds are reported as contributions, the funds cannot be later characterized as loans and be repaid to the candidate. There is no limit to the amount of personal funds a candidate may contribute or lend to his or her own campaign (except for publicly funded gubernatorial candidates). See Gubernatorial Public Financing Program Manual for more information.  Also, a corporation, of which one hundred percent of the stock is owned by the candidate, or by the candidate’s spouse, child, parent, or sibling residing in the candidate’s household, may make contributions without limit to a candidate committee established by that candidate, or to a joint candidates committee established by that candidate.

We all remember how Hank Lyon won a seat on the Morris County Freeholder Board in 2011.  He used NJELEC's "little rich boy" loophole to get a late infusion of cash from a corporation controlled by his father. 

That infusion of corporate cash was improperly reported.  A judge overturned a close election, a lawsuit followed, another judge overturned the first decision, while an appeal wasn't pursued after the opposing candidate received a gubernatorial appointment.   Lyon's campaign still owes a huge amount of money to this corporation -- $75,966.66 -- according to Mr. Brindle's own New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Per NJELEC's "little rich boy" loophole, this large infusion of corporate cash is only legal while Freeholder Hank Lyon and his father reside in the same household (according to corporate records, Lyon's mother resides in Texas). 

And now it's happening again.  Freeholder Hank Lyon recently found himself before a judge again, accused -- once again -- of violating New Jersey election law.  Lyon, who is a candidate for the state Legislature in next week's Republican primary election, could face serious ethical and legal issues in the weeks and months ahead -- and could endanger the seat (even handing it over to a liberal Democrat) if a court finds that, as in 2011, he violated the law.

Hank Lyon has long chaffed at the idea of his political career simply depending on "daddy's money."  He's worked to appear to be outside his father's shadow, going as far as lying on his official Freeholder biography:

"He is a lifelong resident of Morris County, specifically the Towaco section of Montville Township, where he was a member of the Montville Housing Committee.  He now lives in Parsippany."

Lyon even pictured his new home in legislative campaign advertising, with the words:  "Recently bought his first house, pictured above."  But if Hank Lyon no longer lived at home with his father, then how is he still using his dad's corporate money and keeping to the law? 

In February 2016, Freeholder Lyon did purchase a residential property in the Lake Hiawatha section of Parsippany-Troy Hills.  However, Lyon never occupied the property.  Neighbors claim to have no idea who lives at 45 Manito Avenue.  Mail has piled up and apparently gone unanswered.  Repairs and renovations have been pursued in a more or less desultory manner.  Then, on April 3, 2017, Lyon executed a mortgage on this property -- borrowing $125,000. 

According to Mr. Brindle's New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Freeholder Hank Lyon loaned his legislative campaign $35,000 on May 12th and $83,000 on May 16th.  His campaign then purchased $99,997 in cable television advertising that began airing on May 19th.

The mortgage stipulates that the borrower (Freeholder Lyon) "shall occupy, establish, and use the Property as Borrower's principal residence within 60 days after the execution of this Security Instrument."  This Saturday, June 3rd, those 60 days are up.

When Freeholder Hank Lyon moves in three days' time, the loan his father's corporation has with him will go sour.  It was only allowed while Freeholder Lyon made his father's home his principle residence.  Freeholder Lyon should have paid off the loan that will clearly place him outside normal, ethical, campaign finance limits.  Instead, he borrowed more to finance another campaign for political office.

Now this drama is taking place in one of those legislative districts Mr. Brindle mentioned in his hit piece.  Shouldn't the Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission -- maybe, just maybe -- be writing about this money too?  Shouldn't Mr. Brindle be demanding that his agency end its "little rich boy" loophole?  And if NJELEC can't do it, then shouldn't he be writing columns suggesting that the Legislature do it?

It's not like this isn't a growing problem.  We now have a candidate for Governor -- yes, for the job of chief executive of the state -- running around with nearly a million dollars to spend on a political campaign, courtesy of NJELEC's "little rich boy" loophole.  Do we really want elected officials whose main qualification for office is their ability to fan daddy's ass?  Like... aren't things kind of f'ed up enough all ready?

As the Executive Director of the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Mr. Brindle's choice of opinion venues was highly questionable.  But it is what he wrote -- and his obvious bias against some and blindness towards others -- that should earn him a review.  And to that end, we have been made aware that someone intends to provide him with such a forum at which he can answer those questions.