A super PAC linked to the LeFrak Organization, one of two entities who sued the City of Jersey City over this year’s newly implemented 1 percent business payroll tax, expects to spend $250,000 on the Jersey City Board of Education race, according to campaign finance records.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Fairer NJ registered a continuing political committee with a New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission on August 20th, campaign finance records show.
Jeremy Farrell, a former Jersey City corporation counsel and currently the senior director for the LeFrak Organization, is listed as the chair of the political action committee, while Peter Nichols has signed on as the treasurer.
Farrell had recently been in the running to be appointed to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey as a board commissioner, but that idea has since soured, with Robert Menendez, Jr., the son of the state’s senior United States senator, entering the mix.
Additionally, Mark Matzen, who was briefly the executive director of the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee during the tail end of Vincent Prieto’s tenure as Assembly Speaker, is also listed as a political consultant for the PAC.
According to the filing, the PAC says they “anticipate independently supporting candidates and advancing issues to improving policy-making in New Jersey,” estimating fundraising $400,000 and spending $250,000 on election-related activity.
Politico first reported this morning that the PAC will be supporting the Change for Children ticket, the five-person slate challenged the Jersey City Education Association-backed “Education Matters” team that includes three incumbents.
Matzen appeared to confirm that information in a statement sent to Hudson County View.
“Fairer NJ supports responsible policies that put the education Jersey City’s children first. That means responsible long term financial and programmatic planning that will position Jersey City’s schools to provide the best education to its children now and for the long term,” he said.
“Jersey City’s Board of Education under its current president has not shown leadership in addressing the coming school budget crisis in Jersey City’s schools. We fear that schools will continue to deteriorate, education will suffer and good teachers will leave unless sustainable funding is secured and there is new leadership on the Board,” adding that the PAC will follow all of the pertinent New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission laws.
Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted that he expects this fall election cycle to be extremely expensive, given the BOE contest and the referendum question related to Airbnb reforms, expecting approximately $5 million to be spent overall.
“Between the $3m+ that @Airbnb is saying they will spend on their campaign of misinformation + this BOE election w/the superPAC – I bet there will be close to $5m spent on the #JerseyCity November election – all in the name of “good government” (but not really),” he wrote.
The New Jersey Education Association, one of the most politically active groups in the state, is typically one of the biggest benefactors of the JCEA.
The LeFrak Organization, along with Mack-Cali, unsuccessfully sued the city earlier this year to stop the implementation of the payroll tax, which was estimated to provide the Jersey City BOE with about $27 million in revenue for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.
The case, which was decided in Hudson County Superior Court in May, has been appealed.
Jersey City BOE President Sudhan Thomas, who is seeking re-election on the Education Matters ticket, slammed the PAC and his opposition slate, calling them “an unholy alliance.”
“[This is] an ‘unholy alliance’ between out of town billionaire developers who have benefited from hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements and the ‘Change for Children” group essentially aimed at de-funding the Jersey City public schools,” he said in a statement.
“There is nothing ‘fair’ about ‘Fairer NJ’ which is aimed at rolling back the ongoing effort to ensure Jersey City contributes its local fair share to school funding through innovative initiatives like the 1% payroll tax authored by Senator Cunningham, championed by Mayor Fulop and supported by the entire City council except Council President Lavarro.”
Change for Children spokeswoman Wendy Paul said that the team will fight for real solutions to issues such as school funding, noting that the JCEA has benefitted from over $1 million in PAC funding over the past few years.
“The Change For Children slate are all highly respected individuals who are known for making children and communities their priority. We will be the needed strong voice of children and parents. That will never change,” she said in a statement.
“Additionally, we intend on proposing real solutions to our schools’ funding crisis, not the gimmicks we’ve seen as of late. Also, our opponents have taken advantage of over $1 million from the Garden State Forward Super PAC in the last three years. We will refuse PAC assistance as soon as our opponents do the same.”
Furthermore, candidate Asheenia Johnson, seeking a three-year term, said she is proud of her track record standing up for children and disadvantaged communities, while her running mate Noemi Velazquez said “now is the real time for real leadership with real solutions.”
Velasquez, also seeking a three-year term, also said that the payroll tax “is a huge step in the right direction.”
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Jersey City Board of Education President Sudhan Thomas, a member of the Education Matters slate, as well as members of the Change for Children group.