Controversial political consultant Jim Devine has been charged with three counts of voter fraud connected to filing fake nominating petitions to put his life partner, Lisa McCormick, on the ballot as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2021.
A preindictment conference is scheduled in Trenton on May 4 after the New Jersey attorney general’s office charged Devine by summons, alleging that he filed about 1,948 fraudulent petitions with the Secretary of State’s office.
He faces more than eleven years in prison on one count of falsely filing nominating petitions, tampering with public records, both 3rd-degree offenses, and falsifying or tampering with records, a 4th-degree offense. Devine was McCormick’s campaign manager and the circulator of her petitions.
McCormick had filed to challenge Gov. Phil Murphy in the Democratic primary two years ago when an executive order during the COVID-19 pandemic permitted candidates to file nominating petitions with electronic signatures.
The counsel to the Democratic State Committee, Raj Parikh, alleged that McCormick’s petition resulted from a mail merge of an outdated voter database. He produced multiple witnesses who testified that they never signed the petitions even though their names appeared as signatories.
Administrative Law Judge Jeffrey Rabin found that the “entire petition was fraudulently created without any input from actual voters” and tossed McCormick from the ballot.
Secretary of State Tahesha Way quickly referred the allegations of ballot fraud to the attorney general’s office.
Devine had served as political director of the New Jersey Democratic State Committee in the 1990s, while Raymond Lesniak was the state party chairman, but the two parted ways over 20 years ago.
This morning, Devine began a text message exchange but did not respond to a request for comment on the criminal charges filed against him.
During the 2020 congressional primary in New Jersey’s 12th district, McCormick and Devine allegedly sent emails using the congresswoman’s campaign letterhead in an attempt to trick voters into believing that Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-Ewing), one of the most progressive members of the state’s House delegation, backed then-President Donald Trump.
Watson Coleman asked authorities to investigate the fake emails after one trafficked anti-Semitic tropes in an attempt to smear her. She also called out McCormick for sending out an email using the congresswoman’s campaign logo and showing the sender at BWC Updates to make it look like it was the incumbent’s press release.
The following year, Watson Coleman urged the attorney general to investigate allegations of fraudulent McCormick for Governor petitions.
“The lack of consequences for questionable tactics, including a website that stole my identity and failing to file any required FEC reports only encourages these immoral candidates to escalate their apparent crimes,” Watson Coleman said.
State Sen. Joseph Cryan (D-Union) had also sought a probe, saying that Devine and McCormick “have repeatedly shown they have no concern for the law.”
Later in 2021, Devine and McCormick were accused of fabricating a racist quote from State Sen. Cryan’s campaign manager on a menacing website they ran that made to look like one run by the Democratic State Committee. McCormick is the website’s publisher, but Devine is widely viewed as the site’s leader.
Superior Court Judge Alan Lesnewich issued a restraining order against Devine after the Democrats filed a lawsuit against Devine and McCormick, alleging that the two seek to confuse voters by suggesting that some school board candidates have the backing of top Democratic officials. Murphy’s photo appeared on the mailers, and Democrats worry that the two are falsely giving the impression that they represent the state Democratic Party.
A trademark lawsuit filed by the Democratic State Committee against Devine and McCormick in 2022 is pending in the U.S. District Court.
In 2018, the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission levied a $120,000 fine against a political action committee run by Devine for failing to file contributors or expenditures between 2005 and 2010.
Devine also faced allegations in that he diverted $2,244 in campaign funds for then-Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz to pay for overdue child support. Devine worked for Diaz in 2008.
McCormick has never filed a campaign finance report with ELEC or the Federal Election Commission in multiple bids for public office. The perennial candidate has lost bids for Union County Clerk in 2010, Rahway Council in 2014, U.S. Senate in 2018, Union County Surrogate in 2019, and the U.S. House of Representatives in 2020.
Devine challenged Rahway Mayor Samson Steinman in the 2014 Democratic primary but lost by 57 percentage points. In 1991, he sought the Democratic nomination for State Assembly but lost the primary by nearly 2,000 votes against Elizabeth Mayor Thomas Dunn.
He got into trouble in 2005 when he was caught running a fake website that purported to be the official campaign site of two Republican Assembly candidates, Sam Thompson (R-Old Bridge) and Amy Handlin (R-Middletown). That site slammed Joseph Oxley, the Monmouth County Sheriff Joseph Oxley, and claimed Thompson and Handlin supported same-sex marriage and medical marijuana when those issues fared poorly among Republican voters.
Devine was working for the two Democratic candidates.
He made national headlines in 2017 after the shooting of then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise; it was time for Democrats to go “hunting.” Tucker Carlson called him “unbalanced.”
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Devine worked for Diaz in 2014. His last association with her was in 2008.