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Former New Jersey Democratic State Committee Executive Director Stephen C. Edelstein. (Photo: Weiner Law).

Top Democratic campaign lawyer admits to illegal contributions

Stephen Edelstein, seven other lawyers, will pay $50,000 fine

By David Wildstein, October 06 2021 11:32 am

Stephen Edelstein and other lawyers at a now-defunct North Jersey Law firm known for their political connections, have been fined $50,000 by the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission for making campaign contributions in the names of three associates at their law firm as a way of skirting the state’s pay-to-play law.

Edelstein, a former counsel to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee, acknowledged as part of a settlement of a campaign finance complaint reimbursing an associate at the firm, Schwartz Edelstein Law Group, for contributing to mostly local candidates in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

He was considered an election law expert and frequently represented clients with issues before ELEC.

The attorneys — Lawrence Schwartz, Nicholas Celso, III, Stefani C. Schwartz, Denis G. Murphy, Matthew I. Kane, Andrew B. Brown and Allan P. Dzwilewski — also admitted their violations.    Schwartz was among the state’s dominant school board attorneys.  

After decades as a top Democratic lawyer — he served as Essex County counsel after playing a key role in Peter Shapiro’s campaign for county executive in 1978 — Edelstein was among a group of Democrats who helped Chris Christie unseated Gov. Jon Corzine in 2009.   He served as general counsel to Christie’s transition team that year.

Edelstein and the others have already paid $12,600 of the fine.

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