A few days ago on the Montclair Watercooler there was a discussion of the political race for the 3rd Ward Council seat in Montclair between Sean Spiller (the incumbent) and resident Maureen Edelson. I initiated that thread based upon other comments I had read about mailed campaign literature (ads) by Mr. Spiller. At one point in the discussion, a member of the group inquired, “Where does the money come from for all these ads.”
Since I have recused myself of any discussion of education issues on the Montclair Watercooler, I could only answer that query with a comment that the information is available, and someone should report back on it. Here is that “reporting.”
Donations to public campaigns are public. This is a good thing for our democracy of course. You may see who donates to a campaign (amounts greater than $300 are listed in detail) in NJ in advance of the election as well. Anyone may use the power of the internet to see the documents for Mr. Spiller’s campaign here
Please note that the linked document only shows a subset of the total pre-election portion of donations. One may see the “this report” and the “cumulative to date” columns on the first page. This file discloses the following:
- The single largest contributor in the given time period is the New Jersey Education Association’s PAC. They donated $5550 (including a private NJEA contributor). The NJEA is Mr. Spiller’s employer. This accounts for 42% of the donations in this time period.
In the reported time period, $12,500 was contributed by organizations or donors outside of Montclair. This is approximately 90% of the total funding received.
- The firm of Zazzali, Fagella, Nowak, Kleinbaum, & Friedman contributed $700 in this time period. They are the same law firm which the NJEA employs (you may see NJEA IRS Form 990s for this), and they represented Mr. Spiller in his failed defense of conflict or interest charges in Montclair earlier this year.
- The campaign expense document shows $11,813.02 paid to Publitics Solutions, LLC. It’s public web site shows Mr. Henry de Koninck as a Principal and Consultant to the firm. Mr. de Koninck is the son of Montclair’s Board of Education President, Mrs. Jessica de Koninck. Mrs. De Koninck was appointed by Mayor Jackson (Montclair 2012 was a client of Mr. de Koninck in 2012).
There are other contributions of note, but I leave that to you to review.
Why does this matter? I would like you to consider the following:
- Third Ward residents have received no fewer than six full-color mailings from Sean Spiller over the past few weeks, not to mention Working Families Party door-knockers canvasing the neighborhood in support of Mr. Spiller.
The largest percentage of Mr. Spiller’s donations have come from the PACs of Teachers Unions Mr. Spiller is or has been involved with (the NJEA and the Wayne, NJ Teacher’s Union). He is currently the 3rd ranking official at the NJEA as Secretary. Did Mr. Spiller recuse himself from the decision to make these contributions? It is impossible to know.
- For what purpose are the union dues of teachers in New Jersey all of those other contributions outside of Montclair being spent on a municipal election in Montclair?
- Speaking of union dues, Montclair teachers pay dues to the NJEA. Our taxes pay their salaries (~80% of the yearly BoE budget).
In light of the recent decision by Judge Moore in regard to Mr. Spiller’s conflict of interest issues which forced Mr. Spiller to vacate his position on the Board of School Estimate, I believe it is reasonable and fair for residents preparing to vote to know the contribution information that is public for all. It is also noteworthy that our local newspaper has not helped to share this information for residents of Montclair. For all the mailers received and the other campaign activity, an informed voter should follow the money.
Please do make a point to vote on Tuesday, May 10th. The 3rd Ward Council race is the one with a choice.