State GOP accuses Buono of campaign finance violations, calls for investigation

The New Jersey Republican State Committee is accusing state Sen. Barbara Buono of apparent violations in campaign finance spending.

In a letter to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, the state committee argues Buono used her Senate campaign to finance her gubernatorial run in an apparent violation of campaign finance rules. The committee is asking for an investigation into the presumptive Democratic nominee’s spending.

The committee cites expenditures from Buono’s Senate account to pay $2,500 for her “Buono for Governor” campaign website and $4,000 spent on a professionally produced video announcing her gubernatorial run.

Neither expenditures were listed on the senator’s gubernatorial account.

Buono’s camp dismissed the call for an investigation as a way for Republicans to divert attention from the real issues facing the state.

Her campaign called the allegations “a blatant attempt by New Jersey Republicans to distract from [Gov.] Chris Christie’s failed recovery on the economy, inability to reduce education costs and failure to bring down the highest property taxes in the country,” said spokesman David Turner in a statement.

“So instead of answering for three years of failed fiscal policies, they are lobbing false attacks,” he said. “Our campaign has always followed New Jersey’s finance laws and always will.”

An ELEC spokesperson told PolitickerNJ he could not comment on specific candidates or committees, but under election guidelines, candidates are required to set up separate accounts for legislative and gubernatorial races.

All campaign expenditures must be itemized in the appropriate account, according to guidelines.

Additionally, account balances from a Senate account cannot be transferred to a gubernatorial account, said Joseph Donohue, deputy director of the ELEC.

“If a candidate is running for office at the same level of government they can transfer money to their new account,” Donohue said. “But, if they want to run for higher office they cannot.”

Any transfers between accounts are prohibited, inclduing in-kind donations.

Candidates could face a fine of up to $6,800 per violation for each contribution or expense that is incorrectly reported, according to ELEC rules and regulations.

"It’s not a political environment that’s particularly warm for incumbents, but it looks like Booker has little to be worried about as the campaign season draws to a close."
—Krista Jenkins, poll director and professor of political science, FDU.