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Republican congressional candidate David Richter. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for New Jersey Globe)

Richter claims Gibbs skirted campaign finance laws

Candidate charges union improperly secured speaking role for rival at GOP summit

By Nikita Biryukov, June 15 2020 12:33 pm

House candidate David Richter filed a campaign finance complaint against his primary opponent more than a month ago, claiming then that Kate Gibbs received a speaking role at the Republican State Committee’s annual summit because of a $25,000 donation from a political committee run by the union that employs the former freeholder.

“Our campaign filed the complaint with the FEC after learning of the circumstances around Kate’s speech at the NJGOP Leadership Summit,” Richter said. “Gibbs is employed by an affiliate of Local 825.  The union’s donation that purchased a speaking slot for Kate to promote her campaign not only exceeded campaign contribution limits but she also failed to report it as a contribution.”

Gibbs is deputy director of the Engineers Labor-Employer Cooperative Local 825, a subsidiary of the Operating Engineers Local 825.

The New Jersey Republican State Committee reported receiving $25,000 from the union’s PAC on March 11, days after the conclusion of the state party’s annual summit, in filings submitted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Organizations or individuals that donate $10,000 or more are given a speaking role at the convention. In this case, Gibbs was speaking as an agent of her employer — she has done the same in previous years — but Richter’s camp claims the speech was more about her House bid than it was about the union.

Only party leadership, meaning Republican State Chairman Doug Steinhardt, Minority Leaders Jon Bramnick (R-Westfield) and Tom Kean (R-Westfield) and possibly Republican members of the state’s House delegation, are provided speaking roles at the event free of charge.

Richter made a $10,000 donation to the state party on March 13, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission.

“The FEC complaint is frivolous and solely intended to drive a newspaper headline,” Gibbs campaign spokesman Chris Russell said. “The only candidate in this race who faced an actual federal investigation is David Richter, when the Securities and Exchange Commission brought charges against his company for accounting fraud.”

In January, the SEC announced charges against former Hill International Chief Accounting Officer Ronald Emma and Nicholas Tornello, a senior accountant reporting to Emma, claiming the two attempted to bleed out roughly $5 million in currency exchange recording errors to blunt the impact the losses would otherwise have on the firm’s financial statements.

Richter served as Hill International’s CEO between 2014 and 2017, though the SEC’s complaint does not claim the candidate was involved in the alleged fraud.

“Kate and her team can try and deflect all they want, but multiple independent sources have now confirmed what our campaign has found, that Kate Gibbs continues to show no respect for obeying the law,” Richter said. “I wish I could say I’m surprised, but this has become par for the course for a candidate with a long history of ignoring the law when it is inconvenient to her. The law-abiding citizens of the Third District deserve better from their next representative in Congress,”

The existence of the complaint was first reported by NJ.com.

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