Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Mason spokesman: 'CASH' Checks - It's legal

As reported in the Jersey Journal, a Mason spokesman Michael Makraski has come out with a statement on the charges of illegal payments on election day in May stating:

"Paying people to work on election day is legal and must be reported," Makarski said.
"No campaign workers were paid in cash. All campaign workers were paid through a check and identified by name and address in the report."  (Bold emphasis by Da Horsey.)
This is what you call in the PR business a typical non-answer answer or in political speak a non-denial denial.  Yes, we know campaign "workers" were paid via check.  But there are all of these folks running around with checks made out to CASH, not by their respective name(s).  That's the ELEC violation - by the dozens!
In addition, the checks made out to cash attached to the names don't add up to the amounts made out, again not to their respective names but to CASH.  
Michael Makarski, Mason's spokesman, contends that Bhalla's statements are completely false and calls the councilman a "clearly incompetent attorney."
The update on the Jersey Journal begins with a blanket denial and quickly devolves into name calling declaring Councilman Bhalla a "clearly incompetent attorney."  Is that worse than being an incompetent political consultant?
See the full report for yourself.  And let's begin the game of who can best imitate a Wile E. Coyote.  The real one is busy with some important personal business but Da Horsey will get you off to a good start.  Look (or download) the PDF report below and check for all the amounts with the nice words "CASH" on the general ledger page.  Then match them up with the names later in the report to the respective names and amounts.  Add up those amounts to the names and see how many people you can find who all get paid on one check.  Better yet, see how all those people paid on "CASH" checks don't add up to the amount on the check.

Da Horsey will help you get started.  Let's look at the very first check on the general ledger of the Mason Team for Hoboken - no. 1070 made out to that lovely person called "CASH" for $300.  (Remember if it's a person it's legal, if not felony violation.)  This one check is then credited on the names and address page at the very top to FOUR PEOPLE.  Now I don't know about you but that is some magic check.  Wouldn't you like to write one check for a bill and pay say four different companies.  I know I would.

Now let's take a look at the four separate people the cash check goes to.  Well the four amounts listed for the four different people are: $75, $75, $100, and $75.  Does that add up to $300 in any bank you know?  How does $325 to four different people constitute one payment made out to CASH?

Okay, that's the first check.  There's many more like this.  Go get'em.  Whoever flags more of these lovely violations will get one organic carrot per group of violations.  We're doing it sort of a reverse reward Mason system.  
Can you say even more ELEC violations Mr. Political Consultant?

Talking Ed Note: Guess that's why you get "spokesman" to issue this stuff.  It's so transparently bad when it's quickly uncovered you play dumb and say you'll deal with "the problem" and fire them never taking the blame for the attempt to deceive the public.

Don't they know there's a watch horse, well watching?

Related: For those who don't wish to play pin the tail on that "CASH" check, Grafix Avenger has already broken more of it down.  It ain't pretty but it's quite colorful.

Councilman Bhalla: Mason ELEC violations, not just one but dozens

In a morning press conference held at his law office, Councilman Ravi Bhalla countered Councilwoman Beth Mason's charges of ethical and filing violations for not submitting a timely BE form to NJ ELEC by providing documented evidence of dozens of felonious violations of illegal cash disbursements in her May 2009 mayoral run.  

The violations total at least 48 instances where checks were made out to cash, an outright illegal activity according to New Jersey State election law.  Such violations have historically been part and parcel of election "walking around money" given out to people to turn out the vote and elect a candidate.  Most recently in the same May election, at least part of a $25,000 election donation by government informant Solomon Dwek landed up in the campaign coffers of Peter Cammarano leading to his winning a razor thin election.

In addition to the dozens of violations in check disbursements made out to cash, the supporting documentation on who the Mason for Mayor campaign issued the funds also shows multiple problems.  Frequently one check issued in one amount then later appears issued to not one but multiple people, the totals not equaling what the original check made out to "cash" indicated.

Councilman Bhalla posed the question on whether Councilwoman Mason would apply her own standard to herself and resign while accepting full responsibility for not completing the form he's required to for doing business with NJ municipalities.

MSV will be following up on this story.  The complete press release from Ravi Bhalla follows.

Public Statement of Councilman Ravi S. Bhalla

Hoboken, New Jersey
May 4, 2010

Yesterday 2nd Ward Councilwoman Beth Mason raised the issue of whether a City Council Member should resign for failing to file a timely Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) report.  Councilwoman Mason raised the issue as a result of my failure to file a timely report with the Commission.

ELEC reports are an important means of disclosing to the public both significant contributions made to political officeholders and the disbursements and contributions of officeholders.  They are an important vehicle for providing transparency on the conduct of officeholders and contributors.

I regret that I did not file ELEC reports on time and make no excuse for having failed to do so. It was an honest mistake on my part. I immediately corrected this mistake within 24 hours of being notified of it.

But Councilwoman Mason should not be casting stones when she herself lives in an ethical glasshouse.  Yesterday it came to my attention that Beth Mason may have committed what the law says is a possible felony for apparently providing “street money” to election workers during the May 2009 Mayoral elections in Hoboken.

According to her ELEC report, a total of almost $15,000 was distributed to campaign workers through checks made out to “cash.” The report was also filed three and a half months late and received by ELEC two days after she announced her candidacy for Mayor in the November 2009 special election.

Beth Mason’s ELEC report also contains itemizations claiming that identical checks were given out to multiple individuals. I believe this is an attempt to materially mislead the public by covering up the likelihood that hard cash was given out to workers by Beth Mason’s campaign on election day. This again is a serious potential violation of campaign finance laws carrying criminal penalties. It would not be difficult for a prosecutor to determine if the Mason campaign was handing out cash on election day since the persons who received these payments are listed on her report.

Again, Beth Mason is throwing stones while living in an ethical glass house.  This is the height of hypocrisy.  I take full responsibility for filing late business reports with ELEC.  It was an honest mistake and I corrected it immediately.  But Ms. Mason’s report is not just late.  It certifies to apparent violations of campaign finance laws that go to the heart of the electoral process.

I am not calling on Beth Mason to resign.  People make mistakes, and when you make mistakes you should correct them.  However, if Ms. Mason holds herself to the same standard she seeks to hold me, she would resign immediately.

Photo: Councilman Ravi Bhalla pictured earlier today at his Hoboken law office.
All rights reserved.

Related: Andrew Tavani of Hoboken.patch.com has posted a comprehensive piece after attending the morning press conference.  His story is an absolute must read.