Montclair’s Mikie Sherrill, the Democratic challenger against Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen next year, criticized the Congressman after spending $32,000 on lawyers in response to an ethics complaint filed against him in May.
Frelinghuysen hired ethics lawyers after the Campaign for Accountability filed an ethics complaint against him for calling West Caldwell resident and local Lakeland Bank employee, Saily Avelenda, a “ringleader” of NJ 11th for Change in a fundraising letter to her employer. Avelenda ultimately resigned from her job, “at least in part due to ‘the pressure she received over her political involvement,’” the ethics complaint detailed.
Avelenda is part of the steering committee of NJ 11th for Change which is an organization dedicated to advocating for all citizens of the 11th Congressional District. The group has been actively demanding that Frelinghuysen hold an in-person town hall, according to their website.
The Congressman reportedly made a payment of $27,000 to Wiley Rein in Washington and $4,900 to Herold Law in Warren to fight the complaint, according to NorthJersey.com.
“Congressman Frelinghuysen’s unethical targeting of his constituent for exercising her first amendment right merits a serious investigation,” Sherrill said in a statement to Baristanet. “Now, he has hired a high-powered Washington lawyer and has yet to apologize. He is putting more effort into self-preservation than serving his constituents.”
According to the complaint, the fundraising letter that was sent to Lakeland Bank included a handwritten note at the bottom that read, “P.S. one of the ringleaders works in your bank!” It also had a copy of a news article quoting Avelenda attached to the letter.
The complaint argues that Frelinghuysen violated House rules for intentionally interfering in Avelenda’s business relations and for using official actions for personal gain.
“After 22 years in Washington, Congressman Frelinghuysen keeps showing us that he is out of touch with the district,” Sherrill said.