Friday, May 27, 2011

Sharpe James Under Investigation For Misusing Campaign Funds

Sharpe James, the former mayor of Newark, New Jersey is under investigation once again. This time, it's for illegally using campaign funds to pay for his criminal defense team when he was convicted in 2008 on fraud and tax evasion charges. Such is the way of life for the Democrat who once was a Newark institution all to himself:
The new case, brought by the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, could force Mr. James and his onetime campaign treasurer, Cheryl Johnson, to repay the campaign money, pay $30,000 in penalties and reimburse the state for its costs in the case. The suit was filed on Wednesday in Superior Court here.

In 2006, Mr. James opted not to run for re-election after 20 years as mayor. But he had raised money for a possible campaign; the commission said his campaign account still had $744,201.07 as of last month.

In its suit, the commission said that in the months after Mr. James left office, Ms. Johnson called it twice to ask whether he was allowed to use that money to pay defense lawyers. The commission contends that after the second call, one of its officials advised Ms. Johnson that the campaign committee needed to seek a formal advisory opinion from the commission.

The suit says that neither the “defendants, nor any of their representatives, ever requested an advisory opinion.”

Calls to two of Mr. James’s lawyers on Thursday were not returned. A call to his home was not answered.

The commission publishes a compliance manual, which says that candidates and officeholders may pay lawyers with campaign contributions “when the need for legal representation arises directly from, and is related to, the campaign for public office or from the duties of holding public office,” but not when it is related to “personal or business affairs.”

The agency said five payments from Mr. James’s campaign account to his lawyers violated that rule.
It's not surprising that James would have broken this rule, just as surely as he broke numerous other rules during his time as Mayor of Newark. Despite the grinding poverty, he managed to hold on to a lavish lifestyle and helped out friends and confidants benefit from his corrupt methods.

James is now seeking to have that verdict overturned, claiming that a juror had not been truthful in pretrial questioning.

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