The New Jersey Democratic Party has paid more than $42,000 to settle allegations that it improperly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a series of controversial automated campaign calls meant to pull support from Chris Christie in his 2009 campaign against former Gov. Jon Corzine. The party had faced more than $200,000 in fines stemming from the six in-kind contributions, which totaled $227,120.64, most of which were used to pay for automated phone calls, known as robo calls, that supported third-party candidate Chris Daggett, who was seen as drawing votes away from Christie.
Democrats didn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, which was announced Wednesday but signed on Dec. 12. They agreed, however, to pay the state $42,433.88 – making the agreement the ninth-largest settlement of its kind in state history.
The Election Law Enforcement Commission, which filed its complaint against the Democratic Party in 2010, said the contributions vastly exceeded campaign limits put in place for gubernatorial races and that the party needed to make the contributions through a separate campaign account.
The robo calls, which targeted Somerset County voters, came days before the election and capped a campaign that turned increasingly bitter as the race narrowed between Corzine, who had low job approval ratings and struggled to work with Democrats in the Legislature, and Christie, a former federal prosecutor who pledged to clean up Trenton.
The calls slammed Christie and promoted Daggett, who denied any knowledge of them, feeding into Republican accusations that the Corzine and Daggett campaigns were secretly working together to undercut Christie.