So, what’s a bigger “scandal” for a state senator from tony Morris County?
Charging a few low-budget meals to your campaign account or hanging out in fast food joints?
That tantalizing question comes to us just before primary day courtesy of the campaign in LD-26. This contest went “off the rails” weeks ago and this latest dustup just confirms that.
Incumbent state Sen. Joseph Pennacchio was accused over the weekend by opponent Tom Mastrangelo of charging food to his campaign account.
The practice of politicians running up costly restaurant tabs and letting their donors pay for it is hardly new. But the controversy usually involves dinners of lobster, prime rib and fine wine.
We kid you not.
Mastrangelo’s statement refers to state Election Law Enforcement Commission records showing Pennacchio “charging $11.26 at a McDonald’s restaurant in Butler on May 7 and $12.42 at the same McDonald’s on May 13 – claiming both were for meetings with campaign staff. He also wrote off $23 for another staff breakfast at the Red Barn diner in Towaco on April 30.”
I’ve never been a restaurant critic, but in case you are wondering, the Red Barn in my opinion is a few grades above McDonald’s. But still, we’re not talking The Capital Grille.
Mastrangelo’s point could be that Pennacchio as a state senator ain’t showing much class when it comes to dining out.
But it isn’t.
The argument is that Pennacchio is “out of touch with people living in his district. … The average person doesn’t have the option of getting a donor to pay for his or her meals or gas. Joe does.”
Yes, Mastrangelo also brings up the fact Pennacchio’s ELEC report shows that he charged about $85 worth of gas to his campaign account.
Dining and driving habits aside, the contest here is a real one.
Pennacchio has the backing of the Morris County Republican Committee, but Mastrangelo has support as well from the likes of John Sette, a former county chair, and Jamie Barberio, the mayor of Parsippany, the largest town in the district.
Pennacchio, who says his opponent has no real issues, is taking this latest charge as a joke, wondering Monday morning if the FBI was investigating.
He also said he did it again. That’s right. He went to McDonalds and bought a meal for $8.