Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee members unanimously approved a bill sponsored by Senator Joe Cryan that would provide $500,000 funding to a shadowy organization that could funnel the taxpayer money into dark money political activities.
The group has a website comprised of gibberish, it’s PayPal donation page misspells its one name and the limited social media posts about it appear to by from people with clear political leanings…
The New Jersey SOS Veterans Stakeholder Group, which is hosting an event on Wednesday, May 3rd in Cranford featuring the politician as speaker about one month before voters decide if he should remain in the Legislature.
The dark money organization misspelled its own name on a PayPal page set up to accept donations, listing “New Jersey SOS Vetean Stakeholders” as the recipient of such funding.
Social media posts associated with the group appear to promote various New Jersey politicians, including Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker, Newark Councilwoman at Large Louise Scott-Rountree,
Records show that the New Jersey SOS Veterans Stakeholder Group is registered at 8-22 Chester St #1X, Fair Lawn, NJ 07410, a property owned by Jenny Borja, whose LinkedIn page shows no connection to the US military service or veterans.
Other names associated with the group on social media posts are politically active individuals such as Ariel ‘AJ’ Luna, a Bergen County employee; David Pearson, who is associated with the Diocese of Paterson, which celebrated news that the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Martha Rodriguez, a community engagement coordinator at the US Department of Veterans Affairs, identified Luna and Pearson as co-chairs of the NJ SOS Veterans Stakeholders Group. The group appears to take credit for the activities of more established service groups, including government agencies and real charities, but this two-man front is not ready for prime time and not qualified to responsibly handle $500,000 in taxpayer money.
Senate Minority Leader Steven V. Oroho was the only member of the panel who did not cast a vote on the measure because he was absent from the March 13 meeting.
New Jersey Veteran SOS Stakeholders Group corporation cannot currently be evaluated by Charity Navigator, although the absence of a rating does not indicate a negative assessment; it only indicates that this organization has not yet been evaluated.
The New Jersey Veteran SOS Stakeholders Group was registered as a New Jersey corporation in 2018, the year Cryan because a senator and bought a home in Pennsylvania, but the Internal Revenue Service only granted the group tax free charitable status only a year ago, according to a letter dated March 14, 2022.
A page on a shabbily constructed website claims, “NJ SOS Vets is active in the following counties: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Morris, Union, and Sussex. The organization was established in 2013.”
Donations are tax-deductible, which means that the organization is strictly prohibited from engaging in any political activity, but Cryan has a history of accepting illegal campaign contributions from tax-free charitable organization.
Among them are groups that after giving money to Cryan’s political campaign fund have been rewarded with taxpayer financed grants, including the Boys and Girls Club of Union County and the Center for Hope Hospice.
Cryan has benefited from secretive dark money in the past.
Some of the firms are among the most prominent and politically connected law firms in New Jersey used school district money to fund a dark money group run by political operative Sean Caddle, who worked on Cryan’s re-election campaign and admitted to hiring two men to kill an associate.
Caddle, a Democratic political operative who pleaded guilty on January 25, 2022, to hiring hit men to murder an associate — and is reportedly cooperating with federal investigators.
“This was a callous and violent crime, and this defendant is as responsible as the two men who wielded the knife,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. “There is no more serious crime than the taking of another person’s life. The defendant has admitted arranging and paying for a murder by two other people.”
Area residents can get a look at the group in action, since it is hosting an event in Cranford where Cryan—the would-be benefactor who wants to hand over your money—is the featured speaker.
The bill, S-3589, says id would allocate $500,000 to the organization for services that include emergency financial assistance, housing support, transportation, benefits counseling, and help for blind and disabled veterans.
Joining the so-called veterans organization, whose website appears to be largely comprised on gibberish, are other groups legally prohibited from advancing political candidates like Cryan such as Catholic Charities and the County of Union. Cryan is Catholic and he has stated that he would outlaw abortion except in cases of rape, incest or when pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.
“Veterans often encounter emergency needs that require more immediate assistance,” said Senator Cryan, the chairman of the Veterans Committee. “We should be prepared to provide that help to the men and women who have served and sacrificed for our country. We have the ability to work in partnership with private, non-profit groups that share our commitment to veterans.”
Critics say turning taxpayer money over to private, non-profit groups eliminates the ability to monitor how such funding is spent, and promoting the political prospects of the individual who orchestrates a $500,000 grant is precisely the kind of thing they worry about.
The New Jersey Office of Legislative Services claimed the half-million dollar appropriation would be used for operational needs, including educational seminars, community events, administration, personnel and unforeseen expenses.
“We are a team of community professionals who are here to provide the best possible community service to all veterans and their families in New Jersey regardless of gender, race, colour or religion,” said one page on the group’s website.
“This information appears on this page because you have not yet added content to it. It’s just a placeholder,” said another page. The group’s home page said, “At vero eos et accusamus et iusto odio. Dignissimos ucimus qui blanditiis praesentium.ucimus qui blanditiis praesentium voluptatum.”