Unity or Strange Bedfellows in the Monmouth GOP?

Anna Little, with good reason, has been taking credit for John Bennett’s election as Monmouth GOP Chairman.  If not for Little endorsing her benefactor and encouraging the County Committee members who are also Tea Party activists to vote for Bennett, Christine Hanlon would be Chairwoman.

Little’s reward, whatever it is, will come sometime after she loses to Frank Pallone in November.

The biggest change that Bennett has made since taking over the helm of the Monmouth GOP six weeks ago is to start to make good on his campaign promise to raise the money necessary for county campaigns.   He has informed the Monmouth GOP ticket of Freeholders John Curley and Serena DiMaso, as well as County Clerk Claire French, not to worry about rasing money for the fall campaign.  He has instructed office holders not on the ballot this fall, including the legislative delegation and the sheriff, all of whom have campaigns next year, to suspend their fund raising activities effective August 1 so as not to compete with his efforts for the current campaign.

But how will he raise the money?

MMM has learned that Bennett’s finance team includes former Monmouth GOP Chairman Fred Niemann, former Freeholder Bill Barham and Brookdale Chairman Josh Elkes.

Those who remember Little’s brief and tumultuous tenure as a freeholder will appreciate the irony.

No sooner had Little been elected freeholder, by one vote over then Howell Mayor Joe DiBella, at a contentious County Committee convention charged with replacing Amy Handlin who had been elected to the Assembly, did she pick a very public fight with Niemann and Elkes by turning down a donation from one of seven PACs they had set up to collect campaign funds  from county vendors that exceeded pay to play restrictions for direct donations.

Little, Handlin and The Asbury Park Press made Neimann’s, and finance chair Elkes’ PACs toxic.  The seven PACs had similar names, all had the same treasurer and all had the same address.  $55,000 of the $68,0000 that the PACs had raised came from county contractors.   Within weeks of the APP headlines featuring the new Freeholder Little and Handlin, long the government reform champion of the APP, criticising the GOP fund raising methods, Neimann announced he would not seek another term as Chairman.

In the post Operation Bid Rig environment locally and against an anti-war – anti-Bush environment nationally, Little positioned herself as an anti-establishment reformer.  She bucked the Democratic wave of 2006, getting elected that November along with Barbara McMarrow, the first Democrat elected to the Freeholder Board in two decades.

Little spent her tenure as freeholder at war with Barham over cost overruns to the Hall of Records renovation which was being performed by a firm that had seperate business interests with Barham, and with Neimann’s successor as chairman, Adam Puharic.  Puharic and Barham manuevered Little off of the GOP ticket for reelection in 2007, but she landed on her feet when Highlands Mayor Rick O’Neil unexpectedly withdrew from his reelection race.  The Highlands GOP, where Little’s husband was chairman, tabbed her to replace O’Neil and she won a tight four-way race.   Badly damaged politically with their battles with Little, Barham and Puharic did not seek reelection in 2008.

By supporting Bennett for chairman, Little has returned Neimann, Barham and Elkes to positions of power and influence in the Monmouth GOP.

And the PACs are probably coming back.  MMM has also learned that CME Engineering, the PAC masters of the Middlesex Democratic Organization, has also been invited into Bennett’s finance circle.

When last we heard of CME in Monmouth, they were funding the Middletown Democrats.

The Little vs Neimann, Elkes and Barham situation is not the only irony in the new fund raising team.

Freeholder Director John Curley, who is running for reelection this fall, has been calling for Elkes resignation from the Brookdale Community College Board of Trustees, which he chairs, since February of 2011.

Curley was unaware that Elkes was part of Bennett’s finance team until so informed by MMM.  He chuckled. “I don’t care how much money he raises, he’s not going to be reappointed to the Brookdale Board of Trustees.  He’s part of the old guard there.  I am going to lead that fight.”

Posted: July 31st, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Anna Little, Brookdale Community College, Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, Christine Hanlon, CME Associates, ELEC, Frank Pallone, Freeholder, John Bennett, John Curley, Middlesex County Democrats, Middletown Democrats, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Freeholders, Monmouth County Republican Committee, Monmouth GOP | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments »

35 Comments on “Unity or Strange Bedfellows in the Monmouth GOP?”

  1. Who are they all fooling said at 9:43 am on July 31st, 2012:

    This is a travesty. A well-run political party has been destroyed because of the egos of many “old-timers” glorifying the “days of old”. Well you are all going to live to regret this decision. The party is now more divided then ever. The concerns of corruption and back dealing have already become fodder for the Dems. There appears to be no “grass roots” efforts for the county candidates. If Anna didn’t have an army (hehe) she wouldn’t have any campaign action either. When people go to headquarters to volunteer they are told there is no work being done now.
    Looks like these old coalitions are only serving to line the pockets of the party bosses.
    btw. Did the daughter give up her county work yet as promised?
    What about the list of promises from the new chair are those being kept?
    What’s really going on Art?, inquiring minds want to know.

  2. Daughter said at 9:48 am on July 31st, 2012:

    Did the daughter give up her county work yet as promised?

    According to her LinkedIn page, she’s currently First Assistant County Counsel at County of Monmouth

  3. TR said at 11:11 am on July 31st, 2012:

    Bennett has been meeting non stop with engineers, accountants and insurance brokers to ramp up fundraising. To the dismay of many local firms he has been meeting with out of county firms.
    Monmouth County Republicans have been raising enough money to win their campaigns. Bennett is ramping that up and raising more. The question is at what cost?

    The really interesting part about the Nieman / Elks fundraising machine is how they designed it to legally circumvent pay to play. Here is how it would work Borough A republican chairman would get a call from Nieman or Elkes. Hey R.C. xyz engineering is donating $5,000.00 to your organization. BTW if I need your help to support another town I can count on you right?
    Three months later R.C. gets another call. Hey buddy, you know Town B has a close council race this year. You think you could help them out with a $3,000.oo donation.
    The Republicans win in Town B and the Chairman recomends XYZ engineering for some work. Brilliant.
    While some may object to this it points out the futility of pay to play laws. They just make the money less transparent. Money in politics is like water. It will seep in somehow.

  4. Art Gallagher said at 11:34 am on July 31st, 2012:

    Did the daughter give up her county work yet as promised?

    According to her LinkedIn page, she’s currently First Assistant County Counsel at County of Monmouth

    Meghan Bennett has resigned as First Assistant County Counsel. However, the Bennetts’ firm, Dilworth Paxon, has retained the legal work that had been assigned to Meghan.

    As far as other promises go, the chairman still has some time to keep his promise regarding by-laws.

  5. TR said at 12:30 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    “Bennetts’ firm, Dilworth Paxon, has retained the legal work that had been assigned to Meghan.”

    Ahhh the legal loophole promise. Well played Mr. Bennett. Exactly how does this cure the conflict that never actually existed?

  6. Name (required) said at 1:54 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    I heard that Meghan Bennett not the firm retained any work, it was assigned out to others as quickly as possible. Maybe double check that, Art.

    I also heard that the Monmouth GOP bank accounts were negative when Bennett took over, and that the Gala money is gone?

    What gives?

  7. I heard. said at 2:53 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    That there were unicorns running through Howell. Enough with the speculation! I know that there is payback (or retribution) being delivered on anyone who did not support the winning Chair.
    Uhoh, for those that made the mistake of supporting CH
    Guess they should have picked the winning side.
    Let’s see what picking the losing side does for them

  8. Monmouth Girl said at 3:05 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    “I heard” does that mean the Bennett is going to replace Kyrillos, Beck, Angelini, Clifton, Rible, Handlin, French, Peters, Golden, Arnone, DiMaso and Rich?

    As Woody Allen said in the movie “Bananas” about the insane rantings and orders of the Caribbean Dictator in the movie – “What’s Spanish for Straight Jacket?”

  9. Art Gallagher said at 3:16 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    1) Meghan did resign and Dilworth Paxson is finishing the work.

    2) The Monmouth GOP had over $34K cash on hand as reported in the 6/30/12 ELEC report.

    3) The unicorns in Howell are unconfirmed. Joe DiBella, John Costigan and Bob Walsh are all working together. Anything is possible.

  10. Art Gallagher said at 3:20 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    4) Chaqueta recta

  11. Eww, those grapes are still sour!.. said at 3:34 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    Fact: the day after her father was elected, Meghan quit the county, as promised.. as of July 1, the firm’s last work’s done..( it really is a stretch to be concerned with an old Linked-in bio, for heaven’s sake!!.. people update them all the time, and am sure she will, she is a working mom, as well!).. Fact: after,(frankly,)the most paltry fundraising in a few years, with the lowest Gala $ net in years, the Chairman simply wants to exceed it, and help as many Reps. as possible, and, as Chair, takes that responsibility seriously.. how is that a bad thing?..Fact: for the newer among us, it was ALWAYS the Chair,( Danskin, Kniesler, Dowd) and the Freeholders, with their own contacts, lists, and calls, that helped raise a lot of money for our candidates: I’d take legally-raised hundreds of thousands, and 50-70,000 vote pluralities for the county from the days”of old”, which you disparage, (which always helped down-ballot in towns, too!),over just “getting by”, any day!..Fact: John supported Anna in steering committee this year, because he never met Ernesto til that day, and .p.s: she WON the Primary, and, like it or not, IS our other Cong. cand.,this year-get over it.. so, Anna supported John, whom she knows better, for staying with her-what’s so hard to grasp, here??.. there are obviously a few who just refuse to get over the results of the chair election: it’s like Men’s Gymnastics losing the medal: life, and losing some things,happens,ok??..Fact: another promise kept: the regions are busy picking their rep’s for the new Bd. of Directors: when they get their acts together and submit them, they’ll be listed on the website for all to see.. Fact: the by-laws are being drafted, and will be approved at the next convention that is called,also as promised.. Fact: we had nearly 50 volunteers for the Fair booth, even though the weather didn’t entirely cooperate, to use them all.. Facts: HQ is open every day, the broken machines have been fixed, the website and e-mails are updated, giveaways and palmcards were ordered and in, signs ordered, various groups are using HQ for mtgs., events keep getting added to the calendar,and the campaigns are also meeting: other than a different face “in-charge,”what the hell else do you want, for 6 weeks in??..

  12. Howell Sasquatch said at 4:16 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    Please don’t feed the unicorns.

  13. TR said at 4:23 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    Ok if Dilworth finished on July 1 I withdraw my snarky comment about loopholes.

  14. Ralph said at 4:44 pm on July 31st, 2012:


    Bennett for Senate!


    Bennett for Senate
    Cassagrande for Assembly
    McMorrow for Assembly


  15. Well, if you really want to know... said at 6:03 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    Q: “what the hell else do you want, for 6 weeks in??..”
    A: Blog comments from you that no longer consist of one extraodinarily long and meandering run-on sentence. Do that and I for one, will consider what you have to say without dismissing your thoughts as unreadable.

  16. Name (required) said at 7:45 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    34k on hand AFTER the Gala?

    Oh oh. That ain’t good.

  17. How much said at 7:47 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    If only 34k was on hand on June 30, how much did the Gala make, and how low was the account before the Gala?

    Doesn’t sound like the County GOP was as “saved” during the last few years as Oxley apologists want us to believe.

  18. Romney_all_the_way said at 10:27 pm on July 31st, 2012:

    You bloggers keep running chairmen out of office and now your stuck w/ this one. We had a good chair in Adam Puharic, a uniter not a divider. Adam was a proven fundraiser & media expert. You might not like what he said but he told it like it is. In 2 yrs youll all be begging Adam to come back!

  19. Edith T. Nowels said at 1:49 am on August 1st, 2012:

    Will the real Art Gallagher please stand up? Exactly, what in the world is your mission, other than allowing space for the persistent evil warped energy of a few? A total of 49 days in office as Chair, spent reconstructing destruction and loss, rekindling faith and future, John Bennett has already created a positive path for the disappointed and despaired. For 42 of his 49 days, as a 9 to 5 volunteer at headquarters, I can attest to the affirmative and enthusiastic atmosphere of our county organization through daily communication. Oh yes, one local employee determined on her lunch hour to make calls for Joe Kyrillos dejectedly left, but not before connecting her directly with the daily active phone bank in Middletown and imminent plans for a phone bank in headquarters.

  20. Art Gallagher said at 5:56 am on August 1st, 2012:

    Will the real Art Gallagher please stand up? Exactly, what in the world is your mission

    To inform people about the political process that determines their government and to encourage people to eat at Chick-fil-A today.

    I leave the eradication of disappointment and despair to Senator Bennett.

  21. TR said at 10:42 am on August 1st, 2012:

    True statements about Adam. i had high hopes for him. Unfortunatly he made some bad situations worse by mishandling them. He has nobody to blame but himself for what happenned during his reign.

    “reconstructing destruction and loss, rekindling faith and future, John Bennett has already created a positive path for the disappointed and despaired.” Really? what flavor cool aid do they serve at headquarters cause I want some. Look John might do a good job and he might not. It is a little early to say and will depend on what challenges show up. However whatever else might be said about him I doubt he is the second coming. Your praise seems a little over the top.
    The interesting thing about John is he is also usually the cause of his own problems. I say let’s see what happens.

  22. Meghan Bennett Clark said at 10:58 am on August 1st, 2012:

    Art: I resigned as County Counsel the day after the election. All files were closed out by my firm returned to the County Counsel as of July 1st. End of story.

  23. Art Gallagher said at 12:47 pm on August 1st, 2012:


    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Anything else you can add? About PACs? CME?

    Best to Joseph631 and Pam417

  24. Gosh, is it A.D.D., or said at 2:22 pm on August 1st, 2012:

    can u just not “handle the truth”?..suffice it to say,it’s going ok so far, despite the expected, protracted,and residual grousing, really!.. anyone with positive suggestions or volunteer time is welcome to contribute to the mutual goal of winning elections….and, when more time has passed, the “proof will be in the pudding,” in promises kept, and results achieved, no?..and, if u want to worry about PACS, first, some are actually properly done, handled, and are legal, and second, why not look up all the PACS the D’s use, statewide, and compare any possible “wheeling” concerns, if that is the issue?.. again, to throw out insinuations/accusations, and scrutinize from somewhere “on-high,” and apply separate standards without all appropriate info, seems naive,biased, and short-sighted..as for “CME”, as do most lawfirms and engineering firms, they apply for, are sometimes awarded, and sometimes contribute, to both sides, all over the state.. don’t get the worry, there..

  25. Adam, a uniter?? said at 2:42 pm on August 1st, 2012:

    that’s a joke, right?.. the infamous quote, while being the only chair in history to actually throw volunteers out of his HQ, was:” you have to throw out some of the good to get rid of the bad”!.. unreal..some people never came back..and, it went rapidly downhill, after that, which is why he didn’t dare run for re-election….

  26. brian said at 4:19 pm on August 1st, 2012:

    Can we make a command of the English language–grammer, sentences, etc-part of the dialouge or shall i just not read these indecipherable rantings………………

  27. Art, said at 4:54 pm on August 1st, 2012:

    can we make spelling (“grammar”, not “grammer”), some respect for others’ opinions/ experiences, and a smaller ego,- brian, chrissy, jenny, tommy?- requirements, too?.. how about: read/believe what you want, or not, it’s still America, until the Rep’s screw it up again, and Obama gets re-elected?.. and, why wonder how much county $$ has been/is in the kitty, when all one has to do is go on the ELEC site, and read the latest public records/ reports?..yes, Virginia, after the last great Gala, we’re at around $34,000…hence, the chair’s trying to raise enough dollars for this campaign, is that ok with you?

  28. TR said at 7:48 am on August 2nd, 2012:

    OH Art that was classic. Very funny. You just skewered them all. ROFLMAO.

    I do however wish Gerri would us some punctuation. She writes longer sentences then Hemingway

  29. Comment Police said at 4:17 pm on August 2nd, 2012:

    Ahem(cough), …TR, I don’t think that last comment was written by Art.

    The name/header reads “Art,” (note the comma).
    It doesn’t read “Art Gallagher” which is his standard identifying name/header. This indicates that the above comment was directed “TO” Art Gallagher and not “FROM” Art Gallagher.

    Those who would write such comments in extreme idiosyncratic style are attempting to propagate just this type of confusion. They do so knowingly and without respect for the reader. The goal it would seem, is one of control; control of the dialogue, control of the thread’s overall public message, control of rebuttal, …etc.

    The stream of consciousness rantings found above, are personally attacking everyone from poor Adam P. to the blog owner himself. I don’t know all the names mentioned by this “raging ranter”, but I feel quite certain these people don’t deserve to be trashed here. Tsk, tsk, such anger!! My God, how long is “too long” to hold a grudge??? Time to give up the Hate-Fest, oh angry one.

    To Art Gallagher;
    I must say, you’ve always handled yourself with a great deal of grace and dignity (mixed with some much needed humor) in the face of such petty attacks. Kudos to you, and keep on writing! There are those of us out here who still wish to know, that which the inner-most circles would rather be kept from us.

  30. TR said at 8:35 pm on August 2nd, 2012:

    still funny

  31. Comment Police said at 9:24 pm on August 2nd, 2012:

    Ok, I admit you did make me laugh right out loud. (Yeah, I got it) Good one, TR!

  32. Art Gallagher said at 9:53 pm on August 2nd, 2012:

    To Art Gallagher;
    I must say, you’ve always handled yourself with a great deal of grace and dignity (mixed with some much needed humor) in the face of such petty attacks. Kudos to you, and keep on writing! There are those of us out here who still wish to know, that which the inner-most circles would rather be kept from us.

    Thanks, Mom.

  33. Public Service Message: said at 12:11 pm on August 3rd, 2012:

    everydayhealth.com : article on “Facing Regret and Moving On”… theravive.com and goodtherapy.com: places to find loss or grief counseling in the area..just trying to help..

  34. Steven Johnson said at 10:19 am on August 9th, 2012:

    I have but one issue for Art Gallagher. Are you gong to support Anna Little, now that she is the Republican candidate, or are you going to support Pallone?

    “Little’s reward, whatever it is, will come sometime after she loses to Frank Pallone in November.” A Galligher quote!

    Well what’s it going to be, Art. Are you supporting Little or Pallone?

  35. Art Gallagher said at 10:44 am on August 9th, 2012:

    Well what’s it going to be, Art. Are you supporting Little or Pallone?

    Does it matter?

    The district is more gerrymandered for Pallone now than it was in 2010. 2010 was the opportunity to beat Pallone.

    Little had reliable internal polling in early October of 2010 that she was within 1% of Pallone. Her professionals advised her to not release the poll results so as to not motivate Pallone to spend money.

    At the same time Pallone was telling local Democrats that his internal polls indicated that he would lose in Monmouth, but win by a large enough margin in Middlesex and Union to win the election.

    In a desperate attempt to raise money, which she refused to do over the summer, Little released the poll in mid October and took the right hard positions of promoting the FAIR tax and declaring social security and medicare as unconstitutional.

    The media, The Star Ledger in particular which is the paper of record in Middlesex and Union, painted Little as a crazy extremist.

    Pallone launched a massive GOTV effort in the urban areas of the district. He won Plainfield with over 70% of the vote.

    Had Little listened to the experienced pros…made fund raising calls over the summer, sat on the poll, and appealed to the anti-incumbent fever rather than taking extreme positions… in the last 3 weeks of the campaign, she could have come within 1% of Pallone or maybe squeeked out a win.

    Instead she lost by 11% and declared victory because no one else ever came that close.

    She blew it.

    This time out, it doesn’t matter. Even if she could match Pallone’s $4 million war chest, she can’t win.