Eight days before the 2017 election, Jay Webber went to a Parsippany law office to make phone calls to help re-elect the Republican mayor, Jamie Barberio. Like any respectable politician,Webber posted a proof of life photo on his Facebook page to let everyone know he was doing his part by volunteering on the campaign.
One of the people who saw the post was the Democratic candidate for mayor, Michael Soriano. He showed the photo to his campaign manager, Tom Jones, who spotted that Webber was using a Voter Activation Network (VAN) phone list. The VAN database is proprietary for Democratic party organizations and candidates. There is quite a bit of security that comes with access to the VAN network.
That’s where CSI: Parsippany comes in. The local Democrats were able to enhance the image on Facebook to identify whose account accessed the database. With the help of the Democratic State Committee, the culprit was identified: John Castellano, a Democratic political consultant from Hoboken.
Castellano allegedly got to Parsippany through a client, a Democratic fundraiser with a political action committee that was supporting Barberio because his firm had a contract with Parsippany.
“I can’t really comment until I have a chance to make a call,” Castellano told the New Jersey Globe. Castellano promised to call back in thirty minutes and did but said he had decided not to comment on the Parsippany issue.
After Democrats became aware that the Barberio campaign was using the VAN phone lists, they contacted the state party, which immediately shut down Castellano’s access. Sources say that Castellano has been banned – maybe for life – from using VAN, although the state party has not returned calls seeking confirmation of that.
To be clear, there is no evidence that Barberio knew that his campaign was using phone lists owned by the Democrats, and Democratic donors who financed the creation of the database didn’t know they were unwittingly helping the Republican mayoral candidate in the largest town in Morris County. Webber was just there to make phone calls; it wasn’t his fault that Soriano and Jones were laser-focused on every aspect of that campaign.
What did happen, sources say, is that the Democrats immediately shut down Barberio’s access to the database. That meant he went into the final week of the campaign without any voter lists, any of the data that had been accumulated, and with his access to technology effectively gone.
Soriano ousted Barberio by 813 votes, 7,378 to 6,565, with Democrats picking up two council seats. That race has made Soriano a rising star of the Democratic Party. The state’ new governor, Phil Murphy, went to Parsippany to swear in the new mayor. And now vote-rich Parsippany is up for grabs in a pivotal race for departing Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 11th district congressional seat, where Soriano is actively supporting Democrat Mikie Sherrill.