Dark Money Feeds into Hoboken Election


Conflicting accusations generate heat going into the last week of Hoboken municipal elections.

Councilman Michael DeFusco raises the alarm about a political action committee funded by a Jersey City-based developer possibly helping candidates on a ticket supported by Mayor Ravi Bhalla.

Meanwhile sources close to the Bhalla camp question a flyer apparently paid for by a donation from Frank Raia, a developer convicted of voter fraud in the 2013 election cycle.

In a press release, DeFusco claims the PAC funded by Mack Cali is poised to hijack the Hoboken City Council election.

Mack Cali’s involvement in Hoboken seems to verify the fears of those running against Bhalla, who secretly suspect Bhalla as being pro-development. Mack Cali, however, has been closely aligned with Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, who has been an ally of Bhalla’s.

DeFusco said he expects the PAC to dump money into the race to help bolster Bhalla candidates.

According to documents filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, real estate giant Mack-Cali has just funneled $30,000 in special interest money into the NJ Community Initiatives PAC. The documents show that the powerful developer has already spent nearly $20,000 to support Mayor Ravi Bhalla’s handpicked candidate in the First Ward, Migdalia Pagan-Milano, in an attempt to defeat DeFusco’s reelection bid.

“Much like what we saw two years ago, special interest groups are pouring dark money into Hoboken in an attempt to alter the outcome of our municipal elections,” said DeFusco. “We are now just eight days away from an election that will determine the future of our city, and it is outrageous that Migdalia Pagan-Milano is willing to accept this kind of shady support. Money from major real estate players like Mack-Cali doesn’t come for free, and First Ward voters deserve to know exactly what kind of shady deal Migdalia and the Mayor made to win this support.”

Meanwhile sources close to Bhalla are questioning a flyer put out by the DeFusco campaign which has been paid for by the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s LTBGQ Caucus, on which DeFusco serves as director.

This is the same caucus to which DeFusco redirected $4,000 campaign contribution after developer Frank Raia was convicted of voter fraud.

“In other words, Raia’s money paid for the flyer,” one source inside the Bhalla camp said.

Bhalla is reportedly “outraged” by the fact that the HCDO is funding DeFusco’s campaign in this way, backing one Democratic candidate against another in a non-partisan election.

Phil Swibinski, of Vision Media, said the donation made sense.

“Michael is the first openly gay elected official in Hudson County, and this is a recognition of his accomplishments,” Swibinski said.

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