Desperately Seeking Equivalence?

Someone out there must be getting hot and bothered, as the June 12 mayoral runoff election approaches. A great deal of time and effort is being taken by parties unknown in an attempt to – apparently – smear mayoral candidate and 15th District Assemblyman Reed Gusciora with a guilt-by-association charge.

It’s seriously odd, and from what all I can see so far, it’s a whole lot of nothing.

Listen, I will warn you right now. This is really inside baseball. There’s a lot of hair-splitting, and mountain out of molehill stuff. I record it here only to pass along the circumstances by which this whole thing came up. If you’re not interested, or if it strikes you as petty, fine. Leave it. Move on with your day. You’ve got better things to do.

Just don’t whine, ok?

So, yesterday I come home to a plain white envelope, mailed to me without return address, postmarked (as far as I can tell) May 21 in Titusville NJ (I think). Another Trenton resident had previously texted me to ask whether I’d gotten a similar package. So there are at least two out there, for what that’s worth.  No name, no return address.

Inside is a cover page labeled “Reed Gusciora -Mayoral Campaign contributions and associations.” That’s all it says. Otherwise the package consists of excerpts from recent campaign finance reports filed with the NJ Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) over the last several weeks; primarily reports filed on April 9 and April 27. The ELEC excerpts highlight some individual transactions, and include additional material.

This is the weird part: the additional material include State Business Registration listings, news clippings, court filings, and pictures of properties in Trenton – seemingly selected for their advanced condition of decay – allegedly owned by companies supposedly owned by some of these contributors.

That’s it.

There’s no narrative, no explanation, just a lot of individual dots left to be connected. There is an organization-chart-style “cheat sheet” graphic intending to show relationships among several individuals and companies, which I suppose is intended to tie the whole thing together, Big Lebowski-style.

There’s not a lot of connection to be made, frankly.

OK, the first set of dots laid out for me regards a $2500 donation on the report filed on April 27, from an entity labeled as “Province Line Ventures, Inc.”

province line 1

My Anonymous Correspondent (going forward, “My AC”) was no doubt pleased to call that out as a mistake or violation. I was provided by a state Business certificate showing that Province Line Ventures is a LLC, a Limited Liability Company, not a Corporation. The contribution should have been recorded and reported to ELEC under the name of the owner (properly, “member”) of the LLC.

province line 2

My AC has that one correct! That contribution, received three days before the report was filed, and fourteen days before the election, was improperly recorded, and will need to be revised.

No argument here.

But from this point on, My AC provides only small beer.

As mentioned above, My AC included a lot of material connecting several contributors to each other using business and family connections. As I mentioned above, some business entities allegedly connected to some of these donors appear to own real estate properties in the City of Trenton.

However, the named individuals highlighted on the ELEC excerpts I received in the mail are all associated with contributions at or under the legal limit set by state Election Law. They are reported properly, from what I can see, and reported on a timely basis. Other than the one business entity listed above, none of the other businesses listed on the Big Lebowski cheat sheet appear anywhere on Mr. Gusciora’s reports.

So, in other words, BFD?

I don’t want to put words into the mouth of My Anonymous Correspondent, but I don’t really don’t see anything egregious out of all this. Are there accusations to be made about the businesses and holdings of some of these individuals? If so, I don’t see it, and I don’t hear it. I won’t make any on my own.

Is there a suggestion that somehow a candidate is required to vet the background of anyone presenting a check at a fundraising event? I’m not hearing it. If there is a longer history somewhere here that puts the present  one-off records of this current campaign in some relevant context, it’s not here.

Is there some problem with family members making individual contributions to the same candidate? As long as the individual donors stay under the maximum contribution limit, and are properly identified in the appropriate timeframe, I say Go At It!

I will not identify any of these persons or businesses any further, because frankly I don’t see any problems by their contributions. Reed Gusciora’s ELEC reporting seems pretty buttoned-up to me, with the notable exception of that one mis-recorded corporate contribution. Notable only because it’s the only major problem surfaced by this mailing.

What I do see in this anonymous white envelope is an attempt by someone – I won’t speculate on who that might be – who feels that my notes on campaign finance reporting discrepancies and failures might be rather too one-sided or biased against one candidate and in favor of another.

The fact is that both of the remaining candidates in our election threaten the status quo that’s existed in this City for far too long. There are too many people defending too little turf to feel comfortable with either Mr. Perez or Mr. Gusciora coming into office in July. There are several folks who might feel that wounding both with mud in the run-up to June 12 might neutralize them somewhat coming into office.

Let me say this again. I will not speculate who My Anonymous Correspondent is. I will not accuse the Perez campaign. I will not accuse any other failed mayoral campaign or supporter. Someone has a grudge, and took the time and effort to take it this far.

Both candidates have faulty and misleading ELEC reporting, so the two sides should sort of cancel each other out? Is that what My Anonymous Correspondent intended?

There’s no equivalence I see here.

This anonymous package is an attempt to smear a candidate by association with individuals whose only links to the candidate that can be seen are legal and timely contributions. That’s all. Period.

Nothing to see. Let’s move along.

Now, on the other hand, if you want to see what a more serious allegation looks like, here’s some other material I was sent some weeks ago. I haven’t published it before, because I could not verify it. Because I couldn’t verify it, I couldn’t stand behind it. But it’s worth printing here, today, to show what a substantive charge really looks like. So to avoid the issue of credibility, I’ve scrubbed these sheets of all individual identifying information, since none of this is about the individuals. These are included here today as an example of what would be good, credible evidence of campaign finance reporting problems.

brushed perez funds1 5-3-18brushed perez funds2 5-3-18brushed perez funding 3 5-3-18

brushed perez funding 4 5-3- 18

What these have been described to me as being are screenshots of a contribution log recorded for an election fundraising event supporting  the 2014 mayoral campaign of Paul Perez. An event with donations recorded both by Check and by Cash.

None of which donations and donors were reported to NJ ELEC before, during or after the 2014 campaign.

Do you now see the difference between the treatments of the the 2018 Reed Gusciora and the 2014 Paul Perez campaigns?

The charges made by My Anonymous Correspondent apparently intend to tarnish this year’s candidate by connecting him – by nothing more than innuendo – to legal, timely contributions made by individuals whose non-campaign-related lives and businesses that may be less than sterling. So what? The candidate and his campaign have Nothing. To. Do. With. That.


The 2014 material alleges that the candidate and his campaign failed to disclose to the State – at least concerning  this one campaign event – individual donations made by check and cash. During a campaign which has claimed for the last four years not to have received ANY cash donations.

This behavior, as compared to that of the 2018 candidate discussed above, continues to be the responsibility of the Candidate – as it has been for the last four years.

You see? These two situations are not remotely similar.

If My Anonymous Correspondent – are you out there? – feels that I didn’t understand what he or she intended to tell me about the Reed Gusciora campaign, I am still open to hearing an argument and seeing the evidence.

You still have unmarked envelopes and stamps?

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