When Newark Mayor Ras Baraka won re-election in a landslide in May 2022, he presumably raised and spent plenty of money to boost his campaign – but it’s impossible to say for sure, since Baraka is more than a year late on filing his campaign finance reports.
According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC)’s database, Baraka has not filed any campaign finance reports from all of 2022. Neither has his affiliated joint candidate committee, which includes himself and the nine city council candidates he initially backed in last year’s election.
Baraka’s most recent available report is from the fourth quarter of 2021, and even that was quite a bit late; he filed it this February, more than a year after he was required to do so.
In his 2021 report, Baraka reported $487,033 cash-on-hand, while his joint candidate committee had another $21,070. But since those are from before Baraka’s campaign really kicked into gear, there could be hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of expenditures and contributions that the voting public is unable to see.
Baraka’s campaign is clearly still active, given that earlier this month, he filed paperwork with ELEC for a 2026 re-election campaign.
Reached by phone, Baraka’s campaign treasurer, David McKnight, had no comment on the missing forms and directed the New Jersey Globe to contact PKF O’Connor Davies, an accounting firm which he said handles compliance for the campaign. A representative at PKF O’Connor Davies did not immediately respond.
Baraka himself also did not respond to a Tuesday afternoon call to his cell phone.
Given that Baraka won the 2022 race with more than 80 percent of the vote, it’s understandable that there has been little attention given to the state of his finances. That won’t be true, though, if Baraka chooses to run for governor in 2025, which he is widely expected to consider doing.
This isn’t the first time Baraka has run afoul of ELEC rules. In 2021, ELEC fined Baraka more than $30,000 for a huge assortment of campaign finance violations his 2014 campaign committed – 264 of them in total.
Most of those violations were for late or incomplete filings, but six were for the more substantial problem of accepting donations over the contribution limit. Baraka’s campaign blamed the issues on his ex-campaign treasurer, Frederick Murphy, who ended up serving jail time for embezzling campaign funds.
“This settlement, and the court’s earlier order, affirmatively eliminates any suggestion that the Mayor or his campaign was in any way complicit or did anything wrong,” said Angelo Genova, an attorney representing the Baraka campaign, after ELEC issued its fines in 2021.
Thanks to new limits that the state legislature and Gov. Phil Murphy recently put on ELEC, Baraka may not be subject to similar punishment this time. The Elections Transparency Act, which Murphy signed on April 3, puts a two-year statute of limitations on ELEC complaints, down from the current limit of ten years, meaning that ELEC will have to work fast if it intends to take action on Baraka’s late reports.
And that’s difficult right now, given that ELEC currently has no governing body at all; Murphy has yet to appoint four new commissioners, who have the authority to approve final decisions.
Ironically, the new limitations on ELEC have significantly increased public attention on campaign finance filings. Just this week, the Bergen Record reported that Senate President Nick Scutari’s campaign did not disclose details on $600,000 in expenses, and Politico NJ wrote on the campaign finance woes of the Somerset County GOP and Bridgewater Mayor Matt Moench.