Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan’s Chief of Staff, Jeanne Baratta and Bergen County Administrator Ed Trawinski used their campaigns for Fair Lawn council to funnel money from New Jersey government contractors who are banned from making major campaign contributions to state and local politicians according to a report in the Star Ledger
A Washington-based nonprofit political advocacy group, GOPAC, allows contractors to get around state and local laws designed to keep them from making big donations in New Jersey
The Star-Ledger review found that at least 35 New Jersey contractors gave about $850,000 to GOPAC from 2009 to 2013. Those contractors made more than $1.5 billion from state, county, municipal and other government contracts over the same years according to the report.
Under state pay-to-play laws, any contractor with more than $17,500 in state contracts is barred from giving major contributions to candidates for governor, legislative leadership committees or state, county and municipal political parties.
On Oct. 22, 2010, GOPAC gave $7,200
to the joint campaign account of Fair Lawn council members Ed Trawinski and Jeanne Baratta, $7,200 to Meadowlands United PAC and $7,200 to the Carlstadt council members David Stoltz and Richard Bartlett. Within the next three days, each of those campaign funds donated $7,200 to the Republican State Committee according to the report.
Trawinski and Baratta — who both left the council after the 2013 election — said they knew nothing about the GOPAC contribution in phone interviews with The Star-Ledger. The treasurer for Meadowlands United, Jason Dechert, could not be reached for comment, nor could Stoltz or Bartlett.
GOPAC’s campaign-finance disclosures with the IRS reveal it received about $1.1 million over the past five years from New Jersey donors that have big contracts with New Jersey state, county and municipal governments. The amount GOPAC got from New Jersey donors largely matched the $1 million it gave to Republican candidates and political committees across the state
The engineering firm T&M Associates, who recently donated to Donovan's re-election campaign, has made $2.2 million from state contracts since 2010, barring it from donating to state and county political parties. The firm has given $61,100 to GOPAC according to the Star Ledger report.