Roselle Mayor Donald Shaw finds himself embroiled in controversy as his re-election campaign takes a questionable turn as the candidate is implicated in unlawful collaboration with an independent expenditure group.
Shaw, who spent three years in prison on Rikers Island and probation after he admitted to selling heroin, has been distributing signs that were paid for by a dark money super PAC, purportedly waging an independent expenditure campaign on Shaw’s behalf and against his challenger, former mayor Jamel Holley, raising serious concerns about potential violations of campaign finance laws.
The signs attacking Holley were paid for by a dark money group that claims to be waging an independent expenditure campaign that says it is not acting in coordination with any candidate, but they were being posted on public property in Roselle by Mayor Donald Shaw, Holley’s opponent in the June 5 Democratic primary election.
“Donald Shaw was spotted placing these ‘Roselle not Jamel’ lawn signs on public property around the area of Dunkin Donuts and Roselle Catholic on Raritan Road,” said former Councilwoman Sylvia Turnage, who posted photos on Facebook. “When confronted, Shaw sped off In a cream-white colored Infiniti Qx50.”
“The car Shaw was driving belongs to an employee that works in the recreation department for the Township of Union. Allegedly he is one of Cryan’s flunkies,” said Turnage.
Turnage said Shaw was driving recklessly trying to avoid detection and further confrontation.
“This reckless driving could have seriously injured someone,” Turnage said. “Like a trapped Rat, Shaw was desperate to save himself.”
The organization, Middle Ground—which has spent at least $140,000 so far, on campaign staff, various ‘consulting fees, and purchases of $7,984 worth of Facebook ads— is explicitly prohibited from coordinating with Shaw’s official campaign operation.
Collusion between a super PAC and a candidate’s campaign is a grave offense and a blatant violation of campaign finance regulations.
“The action that took place last night was illegal,” said Turnage. “No candidate can coordinate with a federal PAC in an election. A PAC campaign must be an independent campaign.”
That was confirmed by the Campaign Legal Center, the group that recently said that former president Donald Trump’s 2024 presidential campaign has been illegally coordinating with a super PAC formed, Make America Great Again, and his leadership PAC, Save America.
In 2012, former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards was charged with multiple violations, including illegally coordinating with an independent expenditure group called “Bunny Mellon” during his 2008 campaign.
During the same year, Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry faced accusations of illegal coordination with the Make Us Great Again super PAC and Ron Paul’s presidential campaign faced allegations of unlawful coordination with the Revolution PAC, but no criminal charges were filed in those cases.
However, the improprieties go beyond merely pushing the legal boundaries governing an independent PAC’s financial collaboration with the candidate’s campaign.
The content of the campaign has taken a sharply negative and personal turn attacking Holley—a former assemblyman, mayor, and councilman—who is widely respected in Roselle.
This attack strategy even attempted to smear Holley by his association with Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy and son of the slain US Senator Robert F. Kennedy.
The involvement of a dark money group, which fails to provide the necessary layer of transparency and accountability, merely exacerbates the situation.
The super PAC responsible for these controversial ads and the signs Shaw was posting has been identified as Middle Ground, a political action committee formed in late March.
It is led by Christina L. Gawler, a registered Republican residing in Ocean County.
The formation of Gawler’s PAC and her collaboration with Scott J Snyder, a political operative associated with Cryan’s previous campaigns, raise questions about the motives behind this independent expenditure campaign.
The attack launched by Middle Ground refers to a member of one of America’s prominent Democratic families as a ‘dangerous conspiracy theorist,’ in a clear attempt to smear former Assemblyman Jamel Holley.
It is concerning that such negative campaigning is being facilitated by a dark money group run by a Republican and involving a political operative connected to Senator Joseph Cryan, whose conservative stances on gun control and abortion have drawn criticism.
Cryan, who made over $333,000 in taxpayer-funded paychecks last year, has even been endorsed by groups that also support former President Donald Trump.
In addition to these campaign finance and coordination concerns, there are other allegations surrounding Shaw.
Reports indicate that he and his wife purchased a four-family house in Elizabeth using a Federal Housing Agency loan, which stipulates that they must reside in the property.
Last year, Shaw allegedly evicted a disabled senior citizen who was a 24-year tenant in the house, raising questions about his adherence to the loan’s terms and his treatment of vulnerable individuals.
Experts have weighed in on the matter, highlighting the dangers posed by online ads, which allow campaigners to make false accusations without facing immediate accountability. The lack of transparency in the activities of dark money groups further complicates the issue and undermines the integrity of the electoral process.
As the controversy surrounding Shaw deepens, questions about campaign finance violations, negative campaigning, and adherence to ethical standards continue to loom.
Instead of addressing these concerns, Shaw has refused to debate his opponent and relied on the financial and other advantages afforded to him as part of the corrupt political establishment to protect him from accountability to the voters.