Wake voters up with a 4am robocall purporting to be your political opponents and you could go to jail for 3-5 years if legislation proposed by Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon becomes law.
O’Scanlon and his colleague, Assemblyman Scott Rumana of Wayne, have proposed amending the “Fair Campaign Practices Act,” to provide that no person can direct, order or assist another person to produce, transmit or disseminate any communication that purports to originate from the campaign of a candidate for public office but is actually for the purpose of impeding the campaign of that candidate. Such activity would become a third degree crime which calls for a 3 to 5 year prison term and a fine of up to $15,000.
“What we’re talking about here is a form of identity theft. In this case, this measure is needed to prevent identity theft for dirty campaigning,” said Rumana, R-Passaic, Bergen, Essex and Morris. “The purpose of campaigning is to inform voters about a candidate’s background, record and views on the issues so they can make an informed decision when they go to the polls.
“Too often we hear about individuals who attempt to derail a competitor’s campaign by pretending they represent the candidate they are actually trying to smear whether it’s through robo calls or written communications,” he continued. “Such tactics cheapen the process and do a huge disservice to voters.”
“Candidates must be held accountable for their messaging and communications,” explained O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth. “When a campaign knowingly acts in a deceptive manner or creates false information, they are not only breaching the public’s trust they are creating a terrible precedent for future candidates. We can’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch, people should have faith in those running for any public office.”
O’Scanlon and Rumana has both been victims of such tactics.
Earlier this month, a 4am robocall went out to GOP primary voters in O’Scanlon’s district which claimed to be from O’Scanlon and his running mates, Senator Joe Kyrillos and Assemblywoman Amy Handlin. The voice on the call sounds very much like the voice of Dwayne Horner, the campaign manger for the Bayshore Tea Party backed slate of candidates, Leigh-Ann Bellew for Senate and Edna Walsh and Stephen Borochhia for Assembly, who were defeated, 80%-20% by the incumbents.
The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that they are investigating the June 4 call. Bayshore Tea Party Group co-founder Bob Gordon called the call “reprehensible,” denied the group’s involvement and said he offered the Prosecutor’s Office his cooperation with the investigation. Gordon told MMM that neither Bellew nor Horner have answered the group’s inquiries about the call.
A 2009 call into Rumana’s district was prosecuted by the State Attorney General’s office. Kevin Collins, the campaign consultant responsible for the anti-Rumana call, plead guilty to violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act. He received one year probation and a $1,000 fine.