July 02, 2000|
Moran campaign violations uncovered
By CLINT RILEY
City Councilman Francisco "Frank" Moran
was treasurer of a nonprofit corporation that illegally
funneled $5,000 into his election fund during his 1997 run for
office, state election records show.
The records also reveal the first-term Democrat and mayoral
hopeful failed to account properly for more than $16,000 that
flowed through two campaign accounts that he controlled and
benefited from that November.
The campaign irregularities are surfacing as federal
authorities continue to investigate the activities of Mayor
Milton Milan and those close to him, including how they raised
and spent campaign cash in 1997.
A federal grand jury indicted Milan in March on 19 criminal
charges, including allegations he diverted $7,500 from a
campaign fund to help pay for a trip to Puerto Rico in May 1997
and extorted a $5,000 political contribution later that
The mayor and his political allies actively supported
Moran's council bid in the same election in which they backed
Jim McGreevey's failed gubernatorial run. The Moran-controlled
campaign funds were used in large part to hire street workers
to ''get out the vote'' for Moran and McGreevey, a fellow
Moran garnered 988 votes to win the 3rd Ward city council
seat over challenger Kirk Jones by 186 votes. Milan hand-picked
Moran to run in a special election for the council seat he
vacated when he became mayor five months earlier.
A Courier-Post analysis of hundreds of New Jersey Election Law
Enforcement Commission records found widespread election law
violations by Moran's campaign and the city Democratic
committee, for which he served as treasurer.
Among the findings:
-- The Alliance for Hispanic Political Effort, set up as a
nonprofit group to conduct Hispanic voter registration drives,
gave $5,000 to the Friends of Frank Moran account without
registering as a political committee, records show. Moran is
the group's treasurer.
State law requires any entity that contributes more than
$3,000 to a candidate to register with the state and disclose
its sources of income and spending.
City Councilman Israel Nieves, who founded the Alliance in
1992, said he did not authorize the contribution to Moran's
campaign or sign a check, so the actual source of the money is
unclear. Checks drawn on the Alliance account require both
Moran's and Nieves' signatures.
-- The Camden City Democratic Committee reported spending
$10,765 to pay Election Day street workers to ''get out the
vote,'' a practice allowed by New Jersey law. The city
committee, however, never disclosed the names and addresses of
the workers, or check numbers, as required by law.
-- The Friends of Frank Moran account failed to record check
numbers for 191 checks the campaign reported giving to street
workers on Election Day, a computer analysis shows. They
account for 62 percent of all checks written to pay for the
final days of the campaign.
In an additional 73 cases, the campaign did not provide
addresses for people it reported as receiving checks, most for
$35. And a dozen names listed as receiving checks appear
So far, there is no record of any sanctions or action being
taken by the Election Law Enforcement Commission against Moran,
Nieves or the political campaign funds they were affiliated
with. Citing department policy, the commission's executive
director, Frederick M. Herrmann, refused to confirm or deny the
existence of any investigation by his office or other
authorities into how campaign monies were raised and spent in
Camden during the May and November 1997 elections.
In an interview June 8, Moran said that a commission
official he identified as Lisa Foley gave him permission to not
individually account for the $10,765 in street money reported
as paid by the Camden City Democratic Committee because he did
not have a computer. Commission officials said they never had
an employee named Lisa Foley and have no record of Moran
receiving an exemption.
As for the checks issued by the Friends of Frank Moran where
no check number was provided, the councilman said his campaign
treasurer, Guillermo ''Bill'' Santiago, used temporary checks
with no numbers. The law requiring check numbers applies to all
Moran said full addresses were not reported to the Election
Law Enforcement Commission because some street workers did not
provide them. He initially offered to provide the Courier-Post
with copies of all canceled checks and other documentation, but
failed to show for a scheduled meeting at his council
Repeated attempts to contact him since then about the
documents, and the $5,000 his campaign received from the
Hispanic Alliance, were unsuccessful.
Moran, a safety inspector for the Camden County Parks
Department, did not return numerous messages left in recent
weeks at his council office, county office and home.
Nieves, president of the Alliance, said the group never
supported or provided money for any candidate.
"The Alliance is not a PAC (political action committee)," said
Nieves, director of the county's Office of Hispanic Affairs and
Community Development. "The Alliance is completely
nonpolitical. It's for education and voter registration.
"I can assure you the Alliance never gave Moran $5,000."
Nieves showed a reporter the organization's check register,
which showed no checks written since April 1997. He
acknowledged the group received $10,500 from the New Jersey
State Democratic Committee in the weeks before the November
1997 election. Because the Alliance is not a PAC, it did not
submit public records to the state about its spending. It is
Moran's campaign records that indicate a $5,000 contribution
from the Alliance to his election fund two days before the
The state revoked the Alliance's right to do business as a
nonprofit in March because it failed to file required
The Camden City Democratic Committee, which Moran served as
treasurer, reported spending $10,765 to pay street workers $40
each Nov. 7, 1997, to ''get out the vote'' for a New Jersey
gubernatorial candidate - namely McGreevey. The report does not
explain the discrepancy that $10,765 does not divide evenly by
The city committee received the bulk of its money that fall
from the Camden County Democratic Committee.
Friends of Frank Moran reported spending more than $16,000
in the final days before the election, including an additional
$11,000 in street money to hundreds of Camden residents to
''get out the vote.''
Get-out-the-vote money, commonly known in New Jersey as
''street money,'' is used by political campaigns or parties to
pay Election Day workers for their candidates. The practice is
legal in New Jersey as long as campaign officials pay workers
by check. The check numbers, the names of the workers, their
home addresses and the amount they were paid all must be
submitted in writing to the Election Law Enforcement Commission
under a 1994 change in the state election law designed to cut
down on street money abuses.
Violating any section of the state's election law is a civil
offense, punishable by up to a $3,500 fine for each
New Jersey State Democratic Committee Chairman Thomas P.
Giblin said Moran's explanation that state election officials
gave him permission not to itemize street money payments did
not ring true.
''That's a bunch of bull. That's not the same ELEC I deal
with,'' he said. ''I wouldn't give out checks to people unless
I have all the information. They are leaving themselves open
for further focus.''
Zawdie Abdul-Malik, a city school board member and Moran's
predecessor as treasurer of the Camden City Democratic
Committee, said he has repeatedly asked Moran and others for an
accounting of city committee funds to no avail. He said he even
made the request in a certified letter mailed to Moran in June
1999, but the councilman never signed for the letter.
''Why won't they open up the books? Now I see why,''
Abdul-Malik said after being shown the newspaper's findings.
''These guys are guys who felt they could get away with
anything. There was no accountability.''
Abdul-Malik said Moran and his allies were misusing funds
''to ingratiate themselves and to get themselves elected while
totally disenfranchising the African-American members of the
Camden City Democratic Committee.''
Widespread irregularities in campaign fund raising and
spending in Camden during 1997 occurred during a watershed
election year in the city.
After he became the city's first Hispanic mayor that July,
Milan tried to expand his influence beyond the tight circle of
Camden County politics. He openly chose to support McGreevey
over Rep. Rob E. Andrews, a Camden County native and resident,
in the Democratic primary for governor.
McGreevey, mayor of Woodbridge, Middlesex County, and a state
senator, appeared at Milan's inauguration in July 1997. That
November, McGreevey narrowly lost to Gov. Christie Whitman.
The campaign contribution Milan is accused of extorting from
former city public defender Elliot Stomel was initially made to
the South Jersey Friends of McGreevey. The PAC's chairman was
former Camden municipal prosecutor Joseph S. Caruso, a Milan
fund-raiser. But the PAC was not registered with the state when
the contribution was made, so the initial check was never
cashed. Instead, Stomel wrote another check, and the money was
given before the election to Businesses for a Better Camden, a
second PAC Caruso served as chairman.
Caruso pleaded guilty in federal court in January to helping
Milan extort the $5,000 contribution and is expected to testify
against the mayor. Milan has denied playing any role in the
Attorney Paul Levinsohn, a spokesman for McGreevey's 1997
gubernatorial campaign, said the campaign had ''no affiliation
nor knowledge'' of the South Jersey Friends of McGreevey
campaign fund or the $5,000 from Stomel.
But the money was destined to help the McGreevey cause,
campaign records indicate.
The $5,000 was sent to another campaign fund controlled by a
Milan supporter; that fund gave a $30,000 contribution to
Campaign '97, a depository for the New Jersey Democratic
Committee, records show.
Democratic officials sent $29,000 to the Camden County
Democratic Party, which on the same day returned a $30,000
contribution to the state fund.
The state and county committees then passed thousands of
dollars down the line to Moran-controlled local committees,
which failed to adhere to disclosure laws.
''The intent of the campaign finance laws are to disclose
where the money is coming from and how it is being spent,''
said Herrmann, head of the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
''Campaign finance laws are there to make sure government
officials are acting for the public, not special