DeFusco will dump Raia’s ‘tainted’ dollars

Local causes get donations as Hoboken 1st Ward council race heats up

Migdalia Pagan Milano and Mike DeFusco
Migdalia Pagan Milano and Mike DeFusco

Frank “Pupie” Raia’s conviction on June 25 for directing a 2013 vote buying scheme has spurred 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco to announce he will donate the $5,400 Raia gave to his 2017 mayoral campaign to the Hoboken American Legion Post 107 to help provide housing for homeless veterans as well as the Jubilee Center.

“Politics must work for everybody, and the money donated to me from Frank Raia in 2017 has no place in my campaign,” DeFusco said.

Following DeFusco’s announcement, however, 1st Ward council candidate Migdalia Pagan Milano on the Team Bhalla slate, who works for the city’s Department of Constituent Affairs, called on DeFusco to return the total of $9,400 in contributions he received from Frank Raia, including $4,000 given by 600 Monroe Street, an LLC Raia controlled.

“As a lifelong resident, I have seen firsthand the negative impact of political corruption on our city,” Pagan Milano said. “It is critical that all Hoboken elected officials send a strong message that political corruption that undermines the integrity of our elections will no longer be tolerated in Hoboken.”

DeFusco echoed the sentiment.

“Illegal vote buying has tainted the electoral process in Hoboken for decades, stripping residents of their right to let their voices be heard,” DeFusco said. “Frank’s conviction should send a strong message that this type of illegal behavior is unacceptable, and those guilty of corruption must be held accountable for their actions.”

Raia’s financial largess was known to be widespread.

“I hope the dozens of local and state leaders and Democratic organizations who have also received contributions from Frank Raia will follow my lead by doing the right thing,” DeFusco said. “Giving his donated money to community organizations will make a positive impact on peoples’ lives for years to come.”

“As the recipient of a large total of $9,400 in contributions from Mr. Raia, it is especially incumbent on Councilman DeFusco to return the money,” Pagan Milano said. “Failing to do so sends precisely the wrong message.”

Caitlin Mota, a spokesperson for DeFusco’s campaign, replied: “Councilman DeFusco has already donated every dollar personally contributed to his campaign by Frank Raia.”

She cited a 2016 Hudson County View story, reporting that Mayor Ravi Bhalla, who supports  Pagan Milano’s campaign, called Raia an “asset to the City of Hoboken.”

“People in glass houses should not be throwing stones,” Mota added. “If Migdalia and Ravi truly cared about this serious situation, they would be calling on everyone who received donations from Raia to return the money instead of taking cheap shots at Councilman DeFusco.”

“Instead of doing the right thing, Mike DeFusco chooses to do what he does best, launch a misleading attack,” said spokesperson for the Team Bhalla slate, Rob Horowitz. “He is simply refusing to return nearly half the money Frank Raia contributed, arguing that money he received from Raia through his business somehow doesn’t count. He is fooling no one.”
Then, DeFusco announced he would donate the remaining $4,000 from Raia’s business to the Hudson County Democratic Organization’s LGBTQ+ Caucus on June 28 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that occurred on the same day in 1969.
The money will be used to promote equality and help the caucus work with all 12 towns in Hudson County achieve a perfect Municipal Equality Index score from the Human Rights Campaign.