JERSEY CITY -- The mayoral campaign for Charles Mainor, a retired police detective and former state assemblyman, is returning a $100,000 loan after The Jersey Journal asked questions about the legality of the donation.
The loan, from attorney James Lisa, violates state campaign finance laws, which say campaigns cannot accept loans that exceed contribution limits. Lisa told The Jersey Journal in a phone call earlier today that the campaign had advised him the loan was legal.
The returned contribution leaves the Mainor campaign with a paltry sum. Records made public today by the state Election Law Enforcement Commission say the Mainor campaign reported raising $104,250 in the last quarter of 2016, including Lisa's loan.
Mainor told The Jersey Journal he has commitments from other donors so his campaign will soon have a "substantial" sum.
The mayoralty and all nine City Council seats are up for grabs in November. Mayor Steve Fulop is seeking a second term, and he reported raising $201,188 on his own in the last quarter of 2016. Bill Matsikoudis, who is challenging Fulop, reported raising $73,250.
Jeff Brindle, executive director of the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, declined to discuss the details of Mainor's campaign donations. But Brindle confirmed that New Jersey candidates for elective office are not allowed to accept loans that exceed campaign donation limits, unless the loans are from the candidates themselves.
"Any candidate can only take a loan from an individual up to the contribution limit of $2,600," Brindle told The Jersey Journal this afternoon. "Anything over that would be in violation of the campaign act."
Mainor also reported receiving a $2,500 donation from Lisa, who may be best known to readers of The Jersey Journal as the attorney who defended the Newport mall Easter bunny and one of the three individuals arrested outside the Holland Tunnel in June after a cache of guns were found in their car.
Reached by phone, Lisa told The Jersey Journal the Mainor campaign told him the loan is legal. In a follow-up phone call, Lisa said the campaign was returning the $100,000 to him.
"They're cutting a check right now," he said, adding, "I won't do anything that's illegal."
Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.