The West Deptford Republicans have taken a page from the Democrats’ playbook—one they disdained last year—raising the bulk of their campaign fund ahead of the June primary from large donations from several of the township’s new professionals, state Election Law Enforcement Commission reports reveal.
The Republicans are sitting on $11,150.75 at the moment, the 29-day pre-election report shows, and more than two-thirds of that has come from professionals’ donations.
The largest contributions have come from the law firm of Capehart and Scatchard, insurance broker Anderson Jackson Metts and engineers Richard Alaimo Associates, all of which donated $2,000 each so far to the fund backing Republican challenger Jeff Hansen.
In addition, township auditor Holman and Frenia kicked in $1,000, and planning board engineers Pennoni Associates and special counsel for redevelopment Mark Cimino donated $500 each. Gary Stuhltrager, the former Republican Assemblyman who shares space with Cimino, also contributed $500.
After lambasting the Democrats for doing the same in the 2011 township committee race—committeeman Sam Cianfarini called large donations from professionals “”—the Republicans backed off that hard-line stance this year.
The issue lies in the imbalance, Mayor Ray Chintall said, contrasting his party’s taking several thousand dollars versus the Democrats raking in tens of thousands—sometimes in a single shot, as with one dinner that brought the Democrats $32,000 last year—to fund their efforts.
“There is a difference,” Chintall said. “Campaign donations are a part of the process.”
But West Deptford Democratic Party chair Gerald White called it clear evidence of a double standard, no matter what the Republicans said this time around.
“Their pay-to-play principles only applied to Democrats,” White said.
It didn’t surprise White the Republicans have made a shift in their previous stance regarding donations from professionals, either.
“Campaigns are an expensive proposition,” White said.
To that point, the Democrats have already raised just over $19,000 for Denice DiCarlo’s campaign, with many of the same names that drove DiCarlo’s run with Hunter Kintzing last year making a reappearance, from former solicitor Michael Angelini’s law firm to former township engineers T&M Associates, among many other professional firms.
Her opponent went so far as to say he had no general issue with either side raising money from professional firms.
“As long as everything’s above-board and legal,” Hansen said. “Whatever the rules are set in front of you, you play by them.”
Those rules are spelled out in the state’s pay-to-play law, which governs contracts in excess of $17,500 where there isn’t a fair and open process for bidding. That law doesn’t cover donations by any of the township’s professionals, or any other professional firms who could potentially jockey for a seat at the table, because they’re all open-bid positions.
The Democrats’ connections to law firms representing both Sunoco and the township, given the ongoing property tax dispute at , go over the edge of what’s ethically acceptable, Hansen said.
“There’s a definite conflict there,” he said.