A Seton Hall law professor running for Congress in New Jersey’s 8th district says that the Hudson County Democratic Organization violated a federal campaign finance law by challenging his nominating petition.
Eugene Mazo is citing a Federal Election Commission decision that “when a party moves to remove a candidate from the ballot, its activities are done for the purpose of influencing a federal election and thus constitute a ‘contribution’ to a federal campaign.”
He says that the endorsement of another candidate, Robert J. Menendez, by the Hudson Democrats, means that the party organization is limited to a market value of $5,000 for legal services connected to the challenge of the petitions.
Steven Kleinman, the attorney representing Hudson County Democratic Chair Amy DeGise, spent more than 16 hours in court over the last two days challenging the petitions of another candidate, Brian Varela.
Mazo faces a similar challenge to his petitions – he filed with 221 signatures – from DeGise and Kleinman, in a hearing set with Administrative Law Judge Gail Cookson on Tuesday afternoon.
“DeGise and the Hudson County Democratic Organization are ‘attempting to influence a federal election by preventing the electorate from voting for (their preferred candidate’s) particular opponent,” Mazo wrote in a letter brief to Cookson.
Mazo told Cookson that he would have no objection to challenge filed by Menendez.
“I have no objection to Amy DeGise or the Hudson County Democratic Organization brining this challenge either, so long as their challenge obeys federal law,” he said. “I take it that Ms. DeGise and the Hudson County Democratic Organization are not very knowledgeable about federal campaign finance law, or they would not have brought their challenge. Instead, they would have asked Mr. Menendez to bring it directly, for the expenditures he makes on such a challenge would not be capped by any federal limits.”
DeGise is limited to spending no more than $2,900 personally on election challenges, and the Hudson Democrats are limited to $5,000
“The law here is clear. As this Court knows, Ms. DeGise and the Hudson County Democratic Organization reviewed each of the 589 petition signatures submitted by federal candidate Brian Varela and each of the 221 petition signatures I submitted with my nominating petition before they filed their challenge,” Mazo said. This effort was time-consuming, painstaking, and surely expensive. It also had a market value. Ms. DeGise and the Hudson County Democratic Organization have now spent two full days challenging Mr. Varela’s signatures. That effort likewise has a market value.”
Mazo said he’s worried that DeGise and the Hudson County Democratic Organization have already violated federal campaign finance law” and noted that “they continue to pursue their challenge against me, they will now be doing so ‘knowingly and willfully.’”
“I happen to be an expert in federal campaign finance law and know a great deal about it,” said Mazo. “I am a published authority on this topic, having written many articles and books on the subject.”