The mystery consultant who set up a shadowy Wyoming firm to work for Republican campaigns in North Jersey is King Penna, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
Penna, a controversial and sometimes toxic political consultant, is the man behind Checkmate Action Group, which operates out of a mail forwarding facility in Sheridan, Wyoming. State records do not attach a name to a corporate filing for the firm, just a business agent.
Several sources have conformed to the Globe that the Wyoming firm belongs to Penna.
Checkmate Action Group appeared on reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, including Tim Pino’s campaign for Somerset County sheriff.
Penna was in attendance at Pino’s election night headquarters, and he was spotted last night outside a restaurant in Bridgewater where Pino’s campaign team was meeting to discuss a challenge to a 240-vote loss in the GOP primary.
In Morris County, where sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity confirmed that Penna is a constant presence at the county Republican headquarters, Checkmate Action Group was listed on ELEC reports filed by Donald Dinsmore, William Felegi and Cathy Winterfield in their unsuccessful bids for freeholder.
Dinsmore declined to identify the name of his consultant.
Denville Councilman Brian Bergen used Checkmate Action Group in his campaign for the Republican State Assembly nomination in the politically competitive 25th district, records show.
Bergen says he won’t use the firm in his general election campaign against Democrats Lisa Bhimani and Darcy Draeger.
“I am very proud of the campaign I put together for the Republican Primary. I understand that there is some controversy over Checkmate Action Group because some individuals within the party want to know the name of the consultant who this company is owned by. I have an agreement with this organization which prevents me from disclosing this information and I will honor that agreement as I would any other,” said Bergen. “I will say that my campaign was a culmination of advice from a variety of sources and that every decision made was ultimately made by me based on advice from all of these sources. I will not be using Checkmate Action Group in the general election or any election in the future.”
Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) announced last month that she was introducing legislation that would require candidates to identify their paid political consultants.
“There is no room in our state politics for candidates that use shell corporations to conceal the identity of their consultants,” said DeCroce. “At a time when our nation is concerned about foreign interference in our elections; how do we know that unidentifiable political consulting firms aren’t shell corporations financed by foreign governments.”
During the primary campaign, Republicans circulated a dossier in Penna that alleged that he had been indicted on child endangerment charges in 2009 and that he entered into a plea agreement.
Alan Zakin, an attorney for Freeholder Tom Mastrangelo, filed a lawsuit against Checkmate Action Group and the losing Morris freeholder candidates seeking to identify how $42,000 in campaign funds was spent.
Mastrangelo contends that an attack mailing that hit an estimated 10,000 Morris County homes includes a disclaimer that it was paid for by an individual who does not exist.Checkmate Action Group CivilCaseJacket (2)