Home>Governor>Ciattarelli asks ELEC to deny Murphy matching funds over 2017 campaign debt

Gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe)

Ciattarelli asks ELEC to deny Murphy matching funds over 2017 campaign debt

By Nikita Biryukov, June 30 2021 11:37 am

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jack Ciattarelli filed a complaint asking the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission to withhold public funds from Gov. Phil Murphy, charging debt posted by his 2017 campaign committee after that election barred him from receiving money under the state’s fund-matching program.

The governor’s 2017 campaign account remains open. It had a cash balance of $99,386.10 on April 8, according to quarterly filings submitted to ELEC.

It received $24,085.80 in a single refund from the governor’s 2021 campaign over the three-month reporting period and carries $44,118 in debt to two accounting firms, Duane Morris and Perkins Coie. The two firms were paid for compliance, legal and accounting services.

That debt, the Republicans say, is cause to withhold public dollars that’ll make up the bulk of general election spending from Murphy.

“Failing to return the unspent money back to New Jersey taxpayers is illegal and yet another signal Phil Murphy has no regard for the people of our state,” Ciattarelli campaign manager Eric Arpert said. “In no uncertain terms, Phil Murphy broke the law. Jack is calling on ELEC to withhold Murphy’s public financing until he plays by the rules.”

State law requires candidates who receive public dollars to pay the remainder of their account balance to ELEC in the six months following the general election. It also bars candidates from spending or incurring debt after an election has ended, except to pay off existing debt and close the account.

The governor’s campaign said Ciattarelli’s complaint was a bid to pull attention away from a separate ELEC complaint filed against his campaign.

“Assemblyman Ciattarelli will do anything to draw attention away from the fact that he skirted public financing rules by raising money for the general election during the primary,” Murphy campaign spokesman Jerrel Harvey said.

The Republican’s filing comes less than two weeks after the Democratic State Committee submitted a complaint alleging the former assemblyman began raising funds for the general election too early.

Ciattarelli, they charged, advertised a general election fundraiser in late May. The Democrats alleged that amounted to a violation of state law that bars candidates receiving matching funds from soliciting general election contributions before the primary is over.

The State Committee asked ELEC to delay approvals for matching funds headed to the challenger, whose campaign said it first received donations for the event more than a week after the primary.

Ciattarelli’s complaint, like the one filed by Democrats is not likely to impact the campaign. Complaints filed with ELEC tend to move slowly, and it’s not clear there’ll be a decision in either case before November, or even this year.

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