The race for the Republican gubernatorial nomination heated up today, with Doug Steinhardt taking a shot at Jack Ciattarelli’s ties to a Trenton lobbying firm in what was the first public criticism of his primary opponent since launching his candidacy one week ago.
In an offer to help launch “Lobbyists for Ciattarelli,” the Steinhardt campaign took a direct shot at Princeton Public affairs, where two of his top campaign advisors are partners,
“Are you a lobbyist who can’t find an empty suit to carry your message?” the Steinhardt campaign said in a press release. “If you’re worried that Jack Ciattarelli already took a public position against your clients, don‘t. You don’t know Jack! The Ciattarelli for Governor campaign will flip an opinion or flop a position; anything you want. In return, all Jack asks is for a campaign contribution, to utilize your office space, or borrow your staff at events.”
Steinhardt is referring to a New Jersey Globe report in February that Democrats criticized Ciattarelli’s quick opposition to a proposed 61% tax on cigarettes as related to his ties to the Trenton lobbying firm, which represents Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris.
“All lobbyists seeking a career politician well-versed in corrupt practices, should look no further. Jack Ciattarelli is your guy,” said Steinhardt. “The Trenton Swamp is bankrolling, housing, and staffing Jack’s campaign already. Heck, they’re even writing Jack’s policy agenda for him. The insiders and lobbyists know they can count on Jack to maintain the same status quo that’s resulted in New Jersey leading the nation in property taxes and the outmigration of jobs and people.”
The NJ Globe story reported that Ciattarelli had early campaign meetings at the lobbying firm’s offices and that one of their employees accompanied the ex-Somerset assemblyman on the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce Walk to Washington in February.
The Ciattarelli campaign punched back with a shot about Steinhardt’s law partnership with influential Democrats, calling it laughable.
“Maybe someone needs to remind Doug that he’s been busy lining his pockets with tens of millions of dollars in no-bid contracts on the backs of taxpayers. Then he splits those profits with his Democrat partners like former Gov. and registered lobbyist Jim Florio, Democrat (Camden) Freeholder Lou Capelli, and Democrat mega donors to Bob Menendez’s legal defense fund like Michael Perrucci,” said Eric Arpert, Ciattarelli’s campaign manager.
Florio, Cappelli and Perrucci, a former Warren County Democratic chairman, are Steinhardt’s law partners.
“Doug Steinhardt wasn’t very good at winning elections as state party chair, but he’s apparently great at leading with his chin and lying through his teeth as a candidate for Governor,” said Eric Arpert. “The record is clear – Doug Steinhardt is the swamp. He can’t fix New Jersey, because he and his Democrat partners are a big reason it’s broken in the first place.”
Steinhardt made it clear that Ciattarelli’s ties to the lobbying firm will become part of his campaign to take on Gov. Phil Murphy next year.
“If that all sounds disgusting to you, it is. If you don’t know Jack, now you do,” he said. “If you want to take power away from Trenton’s politicians, get to know me. I’m a true conservative running for Governor.
After Murphy proposed the cigarette tax in February in his pre-Covid budget address, Democrats accused Ciattarelli of using tobacco industry talking points in his response.
Dale Florio and Al Gaburo, both former Somerset GOP chairs, are playing an outsized role in the Ciattarelli campaign.
Earlier this year, Florio said he wasn’t advising Ciattarelli on policies related to his clients.
“Jack has a long record of doing what he thinks is right, Florio told the Globe at the time. “He’s probably the most independent person I know.”