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Rev. Phil RIzzo, a candidate for the Republican nomination for Governor of New Jersey. (Photo: Rizzo for Governor.)

Rizzo’s public financing bid proved costly, filings show

consultants, media buys account for most of GOP gubernatorial candidate’s spending

By Nikita Biryukov, May 12 2021 3:08 pm

Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Rizzo spent heavily on consultants and media buys through May 7, but his unsuccessful bid for public financing carried a costly toll, filings submitted to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission show.

Rizzo reported raising $563,263 in 29-day pre-election reports submitted to ELEC. Those figures make his campaign the second wealthiest among Republicans seeking to oust Gov. Phil Murphy, though they pale before those of frontrunner Jack Ciattarelli’s, who qualified for matching funds and has raised nearly $5.7 million.

The Hudson County pastor paid $83,244 to 14 individuals and firms for consulting services. Chief among them was Bellwether Marketing Group, a Georgia-based advertising firm. The Resolute Group, which handles the candidate’s campaign communications received $15,000 through May 7.

He disbursed another $89,239 for various media buys and other methods of voter communication.

The largest expense in that sector went to Super Cheap Signs, an Austin-based firm that was paid $34,511 for billboards and law signs. He spent $20,000 with Arsenal LLC, a Muncie, Indiana, consulting firm, for unspecified media expenses.

Election law attorney John Carbone was the single largest recipient of Rizzo campaign funds reported in the filing released Tuesday.

Over four payments, three of which coincide with filings for New Jersey’s public fund match program submitted by Rizzo’s campaign, Carbone received $42,500, about a fifth of the campaign’s total spending.

ELEC denied Rizzo’s initial application for public dollars because it was filed late and without required information about how the candidate intended to spend his money.

The campaign appealed the decision to ELEC, claiming it filed a late and deficient application because of technical difficulties, but the commission shot that appeal down. A later attempt to overrule ELEC’s decision in appellate court was also unsuccessful.

The candidate also paid $15,500 for an email survey conducted by Data Orbital, a political consulting and data analysis firm based in Phoenix.

Rizzo was charged $5,822 to hold a fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Club in Colts Neck. The Spadea Consulting Group, a firm run by vaccine-denying radio host Bill Spadea, received $1,750 for a March 25 fundraiser.

Some New Jersey notables contributed funds to Rizzo’s campaign. Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Holmdel) gave the pastor $2,500. He received $2,600 from Joanne Gilmore, the wife of former Ocean County Republican Chairman George Gilmore, whose fundraising organization SOC R PAC also gave Rizzo $2,600.

The Gilmore donation is notable. Candidates backed by the former chairman in Ocean County are running with rival gubernatorial candidate Hirsh Singh.

The Local 102 PAC, an independent expenditure group run by IBEW Local 102, donated $4,900 to Rizzo, while former congressional candidate Billy Prempeh transferred $1,000 to Rizzo from his campaign committee.

He got another $1,000 transfer from former Roseland Mayor John Duthie’s candidate committee and received a collective $1,770 from Morris County Republican Committee recording secretary Stephanie Sharratt and her husband.

Sharratt is the Republican municipal chairwoman in Montville. Karen Arakelian, another Montville Republican, gave him $4,900.

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