The fight for the Democratic nomination in Leonard Lance’s district has taken a bitter turn, with Tom Malinowski and Linda Weber hurling attacks on fake news and residency issues in what might be the final days of the 7th district campaign.
For Malinowski, the issue is a Weber Facebook ad that they say includes a false headline from a news story on InsiderNJ. Weber is challenging Malinowski’s New Jersey residency, charging that the former Obama State Department official received a homestead property tax reduction for his home in Washington, D.C. that is only offered to District of Columbia residents.
The Weber ad used the headline: “Tax Cheat Tom: The DC insider Leonard Lance wan…” Above the photo, Weber’s campaign wrote: “Tom Malinowski says he’s from New Jersey, but he’s getting an illegal tax break on his home in DC.”
In a statement published on BlueJersey, a political news site, Weber campaign manager Tony Coppola denied changing the headline for their ad.
“We did not alter the InsiderNJ article, Coppola said. “We simply linked to it from our ad because it provides documentation regarding Tom Malinowski’s tax issues.”
InsiderNJ saw things differently.
“The headline that the ad is using is not headline of the Insider article,” said Pete Oneglia, the general manager of InsiderNJ. “The Weber campaign agreed to take the ad down after we requested they do so, this morning.”
Colston Reid, Malinowski’s campaign manager, took issue with the Weber campaign’s initial denial.
“You can’t deny something so many people saw. The reality is that the Weber campaign intentionally manufactured a piece of propaganda for the purpose of misleading voters,” said Reid. “This is exactly why early in our campaign we took a pledge to keep a public record of all digital advertising produced by our campaign. At the time we did so with the intention of insulating ourselves against dark advertising by Republicans. Not once did we consider such a dishonest tactic would be employed by a fellow Democrat.”
Democrats claim that residency attacks and Washington, D.C. homestead rebate issues are part of a coordinated effort by national Republicans to smear a large group of former Obama administration officials who are running for Congress throughout the country this year.
Malinowski grew up in Princeton, lived mostly in Washington, where he served as director for Human Rights Watch, and then as Assistant U.S. Secretary of State. He moved to Rocky Hill last year to run for Congress against Lance.
The Weber campaign says that Malinowski has been voting “off and on in New Jersey since 2004, even though he has owned a home in Washington.
“If he voted in New Jersey, he should not have been collecting a tax break for his primary residence in DC,” said Coppola. “Voters deserve to know whether he took an illegal tax break and for how long.”
Coppola says that tax issues are a traditional part of the candidate vetting process, saying that’s the reason President Trump’s refusal to release his income tax returns “is so appalling and dangerous.”
“Transparency and accountability are sorely needed in our politics, which is why we’re calling on Tom Malinowski to come clean about his tax issues,” said Coppola.
Malinowski’s last property tax payment was due on September 15, 2017, which Reid says covers the period in 2017 when Washington was the candidate’s primary residence.
“Tom has in no way financially benefited from the Homestead Deduction since returning to New Jersey,” according to Reid, who says that Malinowski has taken steps to notify the city government in the District of Columbia that he is no longer a resident and will not seek the deduction when his next tax bill is paid at he end of this month.
“Tom will not receive that deduction on his next property tax bill covering the period of September 16 through present, Reid said.
Coppola has challenged Malinowski to say how long he has been claiming Washington as his primary residence while voting in New Jersey, and has called on him to provide documentation that he has cancelled his homestead deduction.
“Transparency and accountability are sorely needed in our politics, which is why we’re calling on Tom Malinowski to come clean about his tax issues,” Coppola said in a statement. “If he can’t answer these legitimate and fair questions now, how can anyone think he won’t fold in the face of attacks from Leonard Lance and the Republicans?”
The Malinowski campaign acknowledged that their candidate was not paying New Jersey income taxes while living in Washington, even though he voted in Princeton by absentee ballot.
“Tom was paying income taxes in the area he worked. That’s the law,” Reid told the New Jersey Globe. “The Weber campaign can’t have it both ways: attacking Tom for being away from the district for a portion of his career and at the same time attacking him for making an effort to maintain a meaningful connection to his home in New Jersey by voting absentee while away serving his country and fighting for human rights and democracy around the world.”
Scott Salmon, who had sought the 7th district nomination before dropping out and endorsing Malinowski, says that Weber needs to apologize.
“Each candidate has his or her differences from the competition, to be sure, and each candidate should express them,” said Scott Salmon. “These expressions should be positive and constructive. Creating a false headline that attacks another candidate belies that spirit, and the spirit of the Democratic Party, and violates the pledge each candidate made to each other.”
Another former candidate, Lisa Mandelblatt, said that Weber’s Facebook ad was “eerily similar to ads Russians ran against Hillary Clinton in 2016.
“What raises this to the level of despicable is that she’s employing campaign tactics honed by Russians to undermine our democracy,” Mandelblatt said. “With all that we have learned since the 2016 about Russian meddling in our elections, it’s unconscionable that Linda Weber would approve this ad.”
The race could be over by Sunday, when thirteen Union County Democratic municipal chairs meet to award the organization line. Malinowski appears to have a slight edge over Weber, but two votes could easily change the outcome in this insider vote. The stakes are high, since Weber has said she would drop out of the race if she didn’t have the line.
_Malinowski Homestead Deduction
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