In a move that may be more about landing a lucrative public insurance contract than about political ideology, a Washington-based super PAC with close ties to a prominent New Jersey Democrat has started spending money to help a Republican win a Parsippany mayoral race.
The decision to back James Barbiero’s comeback bid could force party leaders to ask John F.X. Graham, the founder of Fairview Insurance Agency Associates, to resign his post as Democratic National Committeeman, three party leaders told the New Jersey Globe, with Democrats making it clear that they have the back of the Mayor Michael Soriano, who unseated Barbiero in 2017.
The super PAC, America’s Future First, is controlled by Graham’s son, Ryan, and has already sent out a mailer to Parsippany voters attacking Soriano.
Democratic State Chairman LeRoy Jones, Jr., has personally asked Graham to stand down on their involvement with Parsippany, but his request was refused.
“LeRoy is a strong supporter of Soriano and was really upset when Ryan refused his request,” said one of the Democrats involved. “There are going to be repercussions.”
Graham’s firm had Parsippany’s insurance contract until 2018, when Soriano tossed them.
Super PACs have been involved in Parsippany since 2015, when a related dark money 527 organization, New Jersey’s Future First, played in a Republican primary in support of township council candidates supported by Barbiero.
As a federal super PAC, America’s Future First is not required to disclose spending on state races – although they did report spending on the Atlantic City mayoral race and a West Orange council race in 2020.
The PAC reported raising $190,810 so far this year, including $121,210 from Garden State Forward, a super PAC formed by the New Jersey Education Association. Fairview directly contributed $21,000 to the PAC, with other contributions coming from the Wilentz law firm.
Last year, Fairview and a related company, Foundation Risk Partners, contributed $48,950 to the PAC, with another $185,000 coming from Garden State Forward.
The Fairview-connected PAC spend money to boost the 2020 congressional campaign of Democrat Amy Kennedy in the 2nd district – John Graham was a Kennedy fundraiser – and on the unsuccessful re-election bid of Assemblywoman Betty Lou DeCroce (R-Parsippany) in the 2021 Republican primary in the 26th legislative district.
The NJ Globe has confirmed that the NJEA money was meant to help DeCroce and that all of their money was spent on her campaign.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 102, donated $500 to America’s Future First, one week before the primary election. Local 102 is where the Republican who ousted DeCroce, Christian Barranco, works.
Fairview Insurance declined to comment. Jones did not immediately return a text message seeking comment.
Soriano’s campaign pointed to strong support from the state Democratic leadership.
“We are aware of the mailer and the PAC,” said Elise McGovern, Soriano’s campaign manager.