JERSEY CITY – According to the Tax Day edition of PolitickerNJ.com, City Councilman and mayoral candidate Steven Fulop has released a new campaign ad that takes opponent Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy to task, mentioning an infamous 2009 FBI sting operation in which an informant offered cash to New Jersey politicians and political candidates in exchange for favors.
The Reporter has not seen the referenced campaign spot. But according to PolitickerNJ.com, the ad features the now-familiar FBI surveillance footage of Healy’s diner meeting with FBI informant Solomon Dwek, who was posing as a prospective developer in Jersey City.
In the months leading up to the arrests of dozens of New Jersey politicians and public figures in July 2009, Dwek met with officials, hoping to expedite real estate projects. The projects were, in fact, bogus and were part of the sting, known as Operation Bid Rig.
While Healy was never arrested or indicted in the sting, several of his key allies – including former Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, and political consultant Jack Shaw – were. Healy has repeatedly defended his reputation, stating that he never did anything that was illegal and noting he was not arrested for any crime. While many politicians who met with Dwek were accused of taking the cash, Healy was never among the accused.
But the timing of this new Fulop ad seems ironic.
In recent weeks, as the four mayoral campaigns have stepped up their get out the vote efforts, Fulop’s Ward B candidate, Khemraj “Chico” Ramchal, has been seen on at least two occasions campaigning with Phil Kenny.
A former Ward B Jersey City councilman, Kenny pleaded guilty in October 2009 to taking $5,000 in bribes from Dwek. Kenny admitted in court that he met with Dwek twice in March of 2009 and agreed to help Dwek fast-track a development project he said he wanted to build on Garfield Avenue. Kenny admitted in court that he received two $2,500 cash payments in exchange for this promise.
Kenny – who had been appointed to the Ward B City Council seat vacated by Mary Spinello in April 2009 before winning the seat in May of that year – had been in office for less than eight months when he entered his guilty plea.
In 2010 he was sentenced to a year behind bars.
With his jail stint behind him, Kenny is apparently back on the campaign trail – this time not for his own election, but to help Ramchal, with whom he is friends. Two Ward B residents have said that they have seen Kenny accompany Ramchal as he canvasses the community seeking votes, most recently on Saturday, April 6.
Ramchal did not respond to two e-mails seeking comment.
But when asked about the unusual pairing of Kenny and Ramchal on the campaign trail, Fulop acknowledged the two are friends and repeatedly stressed that Kenny, “has nothing to do with my campaign. No title. No role. Nothing. We have hundreds of volunteers who show up at every event. I have no idea of everyone who walks or speaks to their neighbors with Chico.”
After doing some further digging, Fulop added that Kenny has not signed up to be an official volunteer for the campaign and the candidates on his slate have been told that, “going forward, if they do their own literature [distribution] or canvass for their own campaign to let us know with whom they walked, as obviously I can’t control that directly.” – E. Assata Wright