Thursday, June 27, 2019

Frank Raia political hangover begins with a trail over a decade long

The political hangover in Hoboken is underway after the blockbuster conviction out of federal court in Newark for one Frank Raia.

Cue the Monty Python and the Holy Grail retreat, run awaaayyyyyyyy!

Councilman Mike DeFusco was quickly joined by Councilman Ruben Ramos yesterday in getting ahead of any affiliation with the Pupster. Both elected to announce donations to local causes of Raia political contributions in the immediate aftermath.

Frank Raia chats in the back of City Council chambers with Michelle Russo
as his VBM soldier Dio Braxton center watches a 2011 council meeting.
Raia's political influence was directly connected to his VBM activities during elections.

Calls for others to join in have been met with steely silence. Frank Raia's money and ensuing political influence was a staple of Hoboken politics. In the wards where the Hoboken Housing Authority and senior buildings reside, his Vote by Mail operational power extended deep and Hoboken political incumbents and climbers paid homage.

With the exception of Jen Giattino in the sixth ward, Tiffanie Fisher in the second and mostly Peter Cunningham in the fifth ward, almost every other ward officeholder was engaged, influenced or beholden going back more than a decade to the ever-expanding political ego residing within Frank Raia and his checkbook.

Yesterday, the Jersey Journal dug into the history of Raia's influence with the rampant use of Vote by Mail ballots. The usage greatly expanded through laws enacted under former NJ Governor Jon Corzine in 2009. Spanning the rise of Pupie power more than a decade back, the story points to Mayor Ravi Bhalla most recently and his praise of Raia back to Dawn Zimmer more than a decade ago.

Raia’s influence was widespread and he had many political alliances over the years. As a councilman in 2016, Mayor Ravi Bhalla called Raia an asset to the city. And former Mayor Dawn Zimmer backed him for his run for county freeholder in 2008.

Back to 2007, ELEC campaign reports show Hoboken elections replete with campaigns paying Hoboken residents $37.50 to $50 on average with campaign "captains" or local organizers recruiting within the Hoboken Housing Authority earning hundreds and on rare occasions, thousands more.

The examples are legion in Hoboken municipal and Board of Education campaigns in almost every election year since. Some of the witnesses appearing in the federal trial appear on various campaign reports over years. From Dawn Zimmer in 2007 and 2009 to Tim Occhipinti in 2015 and Mike DeFusco in 2017, the Hoboken tradition using Vote by Mail in questionable voter tallies is seen over and over.

As one example, Tracy Stepherson who testified to her $50 payment in the 2013 Hoboken election appears repeatedly on Dawn Zimmer ELEC reports in the 2009 election cycle.

That year, Hoboken saw two elections for mayor, one in the spring and one in the fall with the departure of 30-day mayor Peter Cammarano arrested for receiving $25,000 in bribes from an FBI informant posing as, wait for it... a developer.

But the pattern is self-explanatory. Here's one November payment for $100 for "Get Out the Vote Support" in early November:



Yet another payment, this one for $50 later in the same month:



And yet another for $40.




Another Hoboken resident who testified also appears on a 2009 Dawn Zimmer campaign report, Latasha Swinton:



Although some repeatedly point to Raia and Zimmer in an elevator on video back in 2007, he was an opposition candidate for mayor against Zimmer in 2009. So while Raia is most often the common link in all these payments, it's not always the case.

Hoboken acted as if it was immune to any law enforcement across many years as the rampant epidemic of Vote by Mail abuses dramatically grew.

Talking Ed Note: The Feds are clamping down in Hoboken so all those paid political operatives pushing their party line might want to be more mindful of their own glass houses. The only thing saving some is the statute of limitations.

For months, there's been an effort pointing at Councilman Ruben Ramos alleging he was the candidate who Matt Calicchio worked for in 2015. Ludicrous on its face, it didn't stop their foaming. Those efforts from the Ravi Bhalla campaign and paid political operatives have not diminished with their being wrong since.

They've morphed with a "we'll get them" yet as they seek to target the core remnants of the demolished Reform Movement: Jen Giattino, Tiffanie Fisher and Peter Cunningham for their Hoboken-centered stance on the issues.

A year ago, the same political operatives claimed all three took orders on the council but now it's a different kind of tarnish they wish to inflict leading to the November ward elections.

None of them however are on record at any public event calling Frank Raia an "asset to Hoboken."
Only Ravi Bhalla can stand up and own that declaration.