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The Courier Post in my old home state of New Jersey has an intriguing investigative piece into the shady candidacy of a self-proclaimed “Tea Party” candidate — whose candidacy was sponsored and promoted by Democrats apparently in need of a spoiler.
Everyone wants to know “Who the hell is Peter DeStefano?” Some answers (hat tip: JWF)…
Peter DeStefano, the independent Tea Party candidate this fall, didn’t announce himself as a candidate. Rather, his name surfaced for the first time as a viable candidate in an internal poll commissioned by Rep. John Adler and released to several blogs.
DeStefano has been attacking the Republican challenger, John Runyan, and avoiding face-to-face meetings with local Tea Party activists and the media. The Dems’ (incomplete) release of the internal poll including DeStefano raised eyebrows among veteran political observers in Jersey.
Adler’s campaign would not release the complete poll to the Courier-Post, nor did the campaign respond to numerous attempts for information over the course of the week about the poll and why it was released.
“This poll is not reportable in terms of the numbers,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Really the issue is why they released it.”
“Internal polls are notoriously unreliable, because often times, pollsters are going to skew data in favor of the candidate paying the bill,” said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University.
Buried at the end of the Courier Post story, some tell-tale ties:
Republicans said it was troubling that longtime allies and donors to Adler had signed DeStefano’s petition. They include Marshall Spevak, who has worked for the Camden County Democratic Committee, pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, Adler’s 2008 congressional campaign, and Adler’s state Senate office. He works on the campaign of Chris Coons, a Democrat running for the U.S. Senate in Delaware.
sked through a Facebook message last Thursday about his signature on the petition, Spevak wrote: “Yes, I signed that petition. I did so with regret because I was very disappointed in the Congressman’s (Adler’s) vote on health care.”
Runyan campaign adviser Russell responded: “That’s the most ridiculous, dishonest political spin I’ve ever heard. Mr. Spevak is a professional political operative. He’s paid to run campaigns.”
Christy Gleason, Spevak’s boss on the Coons campaign, declined comment through a spokesman. Gleason also worked for the Camden County Democratic Committee last year.
Runyan aide Chris Russell has more:
“We always knew that career politician John Adler would literally say or do anything to salvage his career in Congress and keep feeding at the trough,” said Runyan General Consultant Chris Russell. “But for Adler associates to get caught propping up a fraudulent third-party candidate in an underhanded attempt to hijack the tea party movement and split the Republican vote takes the cake. The fact that the Adler campaign and leading Democrats refused to talk to the Courier Post about the evidence linking them to Peter DeStefano, and DeStefano himself cancelled all interviews, tells you all you need to know. This is nothing more than political dirty tricks, and it’s going to backfire on them in a big way.”
…“Marshall Spevak’s claim in the Courier Post, that he signed DeStefano’s petition because he was mad at Congressman Adler is preposterous,” said Russell, who pointed out that Spevak only recently deleted his facebook links to Adler and his LinkedIn profile detailing his many connections to Adler and South Jersey Dems, and that his family has close ties to Adler personally. “Mr. Spevak is a paid political operative who knew full well that a candidate running under the tea party banner in November could only help his old boss by splitting the Republican vote, not hurt him. Frankly, I wouldn’t doubt if his involvement in this petition drive didn’t go a lot further than just his signature. Given his grassroots campaign experience it’s more than plausible to believe that Mr. Spevak helped coordinate the petition drive itself. Don’t you have to wonder how Mr. DeStefano just magically wound up going door-to-door for signatures in Mr. Spevak’s neighborhood?”
* The Notaries who signed off on Mr. DeStefano’s petitions both appear to be politically active Democrats in Burlington and Ocean counties, respectively. Leonard Niedermayer contributed to Jon Corzine’s re-election campaign and is a perfect Democrat voter, while his facebook page contains numerous references bashing House Republicans. He certainly doesn’t sound much like someone with an active interest in or affinity for Tea Party candidates for Congress. The other lawyer was Harold Hensel of Toms River. Also a Democrat, he has contributed campaign funds locally to Democrats in Lakewood.
“Based on their backgrounds, I don’t see any other logical reason for two politically active Democrat lawyers from opposite ends of the district to help an unknown, self-proclaimed tea party candidate secure a position on the November ballot unless they were intentionally trying to aid Congressman Adler’s campaign,” said Russell, pointing out that notarizing a few petitions isn’t profitable legal work and is largely done by attorneys with a personal and political connection to the candidate. “The questions I have are: Did someone instruct them to help Mr. DeStefano? Were they paid for their work? If not, then what was their motivation for helping him? How did Mr. Hensel in Ocean County even meet Mr. DeStefano? Our campaign, for one, would love to get an answer to these questions.”