In February of 2009 Lou Magazzu officially announced his second run for 2nd Vice President of NACo – the National Association of Counties. NACo is a non-political position. It is due to this fact that many questions have arisen.
On February 26, 2009, the Freeholders voted to change the county code of ethics, adding language for the sole purpose of allowing Lou to campaign for contributions from companies and persons that do business with the county. That same day he began officially receiving money.
Immediately we had concerns of the appearance of pay-to-play. For instance, “On February 26, 2009, Fralinger Engineering was awarded a no-bid contract with the County to provide surveying services to the County Planning board through December 31, 2009. It was only about a week later, March, 6, 2009, that Magazzu reported that Fralinger Engineering gave his secret NACo slush fund $5,000.
In June we heard about various County Freeholders, Sheriff and Surrogate (it is not common for constitutional officers to attend NACo conferences) attending the NACo conferences with Lou. In fact, there is a photo from the NACo publication of Lou and his team in front of his Lou 4 NACo campaign banner, a sort of endorsement of his campaign. We asked who paid for these trips? Who paid for Lou’s expenses and campaign.
In 2008, Lou charged the county thousands for flights, lodging and even advertising during his first NACo campaign. We find no evidence that any of that money had been reimbursed. We asked who was paying for these contributions.
On July 27, we reported that Lou had withdrawn from his NACo bid. The word was that when he was nominated, the states of California and Texas objected to the nomination. This is uncommon. Nobody was willing to second the nomination, and Lou dropped out so that it would appear that it was his decision. Lou spent $80,000 to quit.
On July 30, after constant questions from MagazzuWatch, and the Republican and Independent candidates, Lou finally issued a statement to the press.
“No public money was spent,” he said. “I paid for everything on the trip from my PAC. No government money was spent … no taxpayer funds.” (News of Cumberland County, 7/30/09)
We researched and discovered that there was no PAC. Lou had lied. He promised to come clean, claiming it was going to take 30 days for him to get receipts. It seems that he had received $81,000 in contributions to this fake PAC, which we understand was his personal bank account.
Furthermore, on August 8, 2009 we discovered that Lou did not pay for everything. He announced that he was reimbursing the county $65 registration fees for a NACo conference. We wonder if he would have done that if we had not been analyzing his expenditures?
He also reiterated that his “PAC” paid for everything else.
Even though there is no legal responsibility to report the amounts, I will within the next 30 days report all expenditures and contributions related to the NACo campaign,” Magazzu said. “I’m still waiting for some outstanding bills. But the PAC paid for all hotels and any travel related to all political officials who attended the NACo conference.”
As the facts began to unravel, we were left with more questions than when we started. One question concerns a $10,000 personal loan from the Cumberland County Democratic Organization. The loan was made on June 17, 2009. We have been asking to see the cancelled check to know who signed it, but Lou has refused to make this information public. Why?
Who approved the loan? Lou told the press that he discussed the loan with his “campaign manager, Brendan Kavanaugh.” This is a lie. Brendan Kavanaugh was appointed campaign manager September 1, 2009, almost a month and a half after Lou took the loan. Where is their time machine?
The loan was repaid in September, just prior to Lou releasing the NACo accounting. It was just after Jon Corzine donated $5,000 to Lou’s NACo campaign, even though Lou had already lost a month before.
So these questions remain:
- Was the loan from the CCDO legal? It was a personal loan, not for a political campaign, and that seems to fall out of the clearly written guidelines of acceptable use of campaign donations.
- Who approved the loan?
- Why did Lou lie about having a PAC?
- Why did Lou lie about his campaign manager approving the loan? Did anybody else from the CCDO have knowledge of this loan?
- Why did Corzine give Lou $5000 for NACo, a month after lou has lost?
- Did Lou claim any of the $81,000 in gifts on any tax return? This is a federal violation.
- When is Lou going to come clean about the 2008 expenses that apparently were paid by the taxpayers?
- Who is Rabbi Mordechai Neustadt of Brooklyn, and why did he give Lou money?
In fact, five months after we started asking questions about NACo-Gate, we are left with more questions than ever. Let us hope that we don’t see a county Freeholder Director led off in handcuffs, as has happened to so many other New Jersey politicians recently.