Monday, April 7, 2014

Beth Mason: Legal complaint for hundreds of campaign violations "hyped up"

MILE SQUARE VIEW EXCLUSIVE


Councilwoman Beth Mason in her first public comment on the massive campaign violations filed last month against her by the state's campaign watchdog agency denied their severity calling them "hyped up."

The complaints filed against Beth Mason's 2009 and 2011 election campaigns include 19 counts with hundreds of violations listed in the two reports issued by the New Jersey Election Law Commission (NJ ELEC). Even a fraction of the campaign violations finalized would mean Beth and Richard Mason of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz being hit with the largest campaign fines in NJ history.

In an exclusive interview Wednesday night at the City Council meeting, Beth Mason demonstrated frustration with several brief questions surrounding the complaint issued by NJ ELEC.  Of her campaigns noticed with over 350 violations, Mason repeatedly shrugged her head in denial and said "no" before casually declaring them "hyped up... like you said."  

MSV however in previous reports did not conclude similarly and the 386 cited violations collectively compiled in fines against Beth and Richard Mason of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz may total over $3 million.

Mason followed her "hyped" comment declaring the ELEC complaint inaccurate.  "The numbers are false," she insisted. Asked to explain, Mason declined while exiting saying she wouldn't "debate" it.

On mention of the report being written by NJ ELEC, Mason paused before leaving the council chambers and shot back, "ELEC didn't. We actually talked to them." It's not clear who Mason believes wrote the campaign complaint but the parting salvo appeared to suggest she was a victim of the NJ watchdog agency working with others.

In a phone interview with ELEC on Friday, a representative declined to comment on the ongoing Mason case but differed with the claim any written report by the agency is outsourced.

Wednesday night Beth Mason spoke for the first time about her campaign violations calling them "hyped up."
An examination of her campaigns going back to 2009 shows consistent flouting of campaign laws
under New Jersey and Hoboken. She also claims NJ ELEC didn't write it and "the numbers are false."

NJ ELEC's detailed complaints for Beth Mason's 2009 and 2011 campaigns however do not include extensive violations highlighted by MSV earlier.

Those Mason campaign violations range from TV ads never accounted for in her ELEC reports for 2011 and print advertising appearing over weeks on Hoboken411 and Hoboken Patch as just two glaring examples.

MSV is investigating allegations Beth Mason has been using prepaid credit cards to disguise election campaign payments to political operatives including Hoboken411. Confirmation would explain how at least some payments were made to Hoboken411 but not Hoboken Patch.  

In 2011, Hoboken Patch was an entity of America Online (AOL) and credit cards are likely not a payment vehicle allowed. However, Beth Mason's use of credit cards paying her political operatives has been alleged previously back in 2012 and came to MSV's attention by way of this eyewitness via a twitter notification. 



The tweet explained how Mason political operative Matt Calicchio was able to jet around the country and be seen in the first rows of professional wrestling events on a salary previously reported as $400 a week.  Calicchio is reportedly on another such trip currently in New Orleans.


Beth Mason's "transparent" campaign history

Beth Mason's history flouting election law is neither accidental or incidental. A clear pattern emerges with the slightest scrutiny.

In 2009, Beth Mason's campaign for mayor saw extensive revelations of street money being illegally disbursed in multiple checks paid out illicitly to numerous individuals off each and in other instances checks distributing cash to individuals with no addresses as legally required.

Mason brushed off the problems calling them clerical errors.

The full summary of questionable payments were detailed in this May 2010 MSV story:
http://www.hobokenhorse.com/2010/05/elec-mason-violated-law-councilwoman.html

In 2010, Mason wheeled albeit at the time legally at least 14K using her "Friends of Beth Mason" political committee to the Timmy Occhipinti campaign in the fourth ward special election. A laughable, some would call mocking four figures were attributed in campaign reporting for "nails" and "two by fours."

That controversial Occhipinti campaign where over 550 "campaign workers" were paid $40 or more, mostly in the confines of the Hoboken Housing Authority led to signed voter fraud complaints reaching the NJ Attorney General's Office.

One of the people named in the alleged pay for Vote by Mail scheme is Matt Calicchio. The following year, Calicchio became a paid political operative for Beth Mason and is believed to be on the Mason payroll today. He's been charged by a Hoboken senior on numerous charges where he allegedly raised his fists against her as reported exclusively on MSV. The case is pending and being heard in Union City.

In 2011, when reform regained the council majority from the short-lived Mason-Russo led council, an update to the pay to play ordinance instituted an anti-wheeling requirement. The alternative benefit to limiting contributions from outside Hoboken, contributions beyond the individual maximum of $2,600 is severely restricted.

Nevertheless, In 2011 the Mason campaign doled out $55,000 in street money in her bid to win re-election for the second ward council seat. That ELEC report filing however showed nothing about the how those tens of thousand money were spent. Months later, MSV reports and follow up questions led to a detailed filing oddly showing large four figure sums being paid to Church Towers residents who live not in the second but third ward.

In 2012, Mason blatantly exceeded Hoboken contribution limits to the nationally infamous Move Forward Nazi Truck BoE campaign. Beth Mason was put on notice by the City's Corporation Counsel she was $7,000 over the legal contribution to the controversial BoE campaign which paraded the Nazi flag in a looping attack video up and down Washington Street and in front of City Hall and the BoE on two separate evenings.

Among those listed in NJ ELEC's extensive complaint are her husband Richard Mason and de facto treasurer Ines Garcia Keim.

Richard Mason of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
faces potential million dollar fines for his role as de facto treasurer
to his wife's political campaigns.
He's treasurer for another Mason entity named breaking Hoboken election law:
the "Friends of Beth Mason" political committee.

Beth Mason campaign violations unaddressed

Questions how Beth Mason paid for advertisements on Hoboken Patch, expensive TV spots on ESPN among other unreported 2011 campaign expenditures remain unanswered to this day. (MSV posed questions then to Beth Mason in a council meeting on these exact campaign items but she offered no reply.)

The answers may lie behind the questions swirling around the firm Mason claimed to found and "led" from 1993 - 2005: Newtown Lao, Leonard & Locke (NLLL).

Questions surrounding the company arose again in a "new" 2010 NJ entity filing, making the shell firm a plausible vehicle Mason uses to pay various entities including numerous political operatives who have never appeared on Beth Mason ELEC reports, some admittedly paid for working under the Mason Civic League.

The Mason Civic League is a declared non-profit registered 501(c)(3).  The three members of its board are Beth Mason, her husband Richard Mason of Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and long time Mason political operative James "FinBoy" Barracato.