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Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo.

Rizzo will appeal public fund match denial

Gubernatorial candidate submitted application late and without saying how he intended to spend funds

By Nikita Biryukov, April 14 2021 4:02 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo intends to appeal the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission’s decision to deny his campaign matching public funds over late and deficient paperwork, his campaign announced Wednesday.

“Hundreds of people made their voices heard to get us to this point and we believe the facts merit a re-evaluation by ELEC,” Rizzo said in a statement. “We aren’t about to let down the people of New Jersey who are ready to get their lives back and want a change from the status quo.”

In a letter to the Hudson County pastor’s campaign first reported by Politico New Jersey, ELEC said Rizzo submitted his application for matching funds a day after the April 5 deadline and failed to submit required information about how his campaign intended to spend the roughly $537,000 it raised, among other unspecified deficiencies.

The pastor’s campaign said it filed late because it experienced technical difficulties when attempting to upload its documents.

The decision was a major blow to Rizzo’s bid to defeat frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli for the Republican gubernatorial nomination.

Ciattarelli has already been approved for public funds and has received just under $2.9 million from the state.

Rizzo’s campaign charged they gathered the $490,000 needed to qualify for matching funds before the April 5 deadline, buoyed by a last-minute fundraiser they said brought in more than $250,000.

“We’re fighters and we’ve been a grassroots campaign from the beginning,” Rizzo said in the statement. “We believe we can get our message to New Jerseyans regardless of ELEC’s decision. But with that said, we’re optimistic that ELEC will reconsider based on the facts we present.”

New Jersey’s public fund matching program awards qualified candidates with $2 for every $1 raised, up to a cap of $4.6 million for the primary and $10.5 million for the general.

Candidates who accept public funds are subject to spending limits, with primary expenditures limited to $7.3 million and general election disbursements capped at $15.6 million.

Ciattarelli and Gov. Phil Murphy are the only candidates who have qualified for the program. The incumbent has already maxed out his fund match for the primary.

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