Hoboken Council Votes on Campaign Finance Ordinance Tonight, Cohen Calls on DeFusco to Abstain

Phil Cohen & Mike DeFusco

How much money should be allowed as campaign contributions?  That’s a question which will be debated at tonight’s Hoboken City Council meeting.  You see, there are differing views on the proposed ordinance.  The existing currently sets the limit at $500 for union campaign contributions.  The law was reformed and adopted following a thorough review during Mayor Dawn Zimmer’s tenure.

This afternoon, 5th Ward Councilman Phil Cohen is calling on 1st Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco to recuse himself from any discussions pertaining to the campaign finance contribution ordinance prior to tonight’s vote, citing DeFusco’s previous track record in terms of accepting campaign contributions..  Cohen also wants DeFusco to abstain from voting on the proposed ordinance.

Here is the letter written by Councilman Cohen and sent to Councilman DeFusco:

Dear Councilman DeFusco,
As you are aware, on the City Council agenda tonight is an ordinance pertaining to Hoboken’s Campaign Finance ordinance and union contribution limits.
Our local ordinance currently permits contributions of up to $500 per union entity, rules that I have diligently adhered to, as has Mayor Bhalla and the candidates who have run on his Council slate. Sadly, the same cannot be said for you. You’ve openly disregarded our campaign finance regulations, routinely taking tens of thousands of dollars of contributions over the local, permitted amount. If it were not for your blatant disregard for the law, we would have a level playing field with candidates abiding by one set of fundraising rules for union contributions.
As you know, in your loss to then-Councilman Bhalla for Mayor in 2017, it was estimated that you took over $90,000 above the local, permitted limit, while Councilman Bhalla and his team didn’t take a dime over the limit. In your City Council race in 2019, you similarly took tens of thousands of dollars over the legal limit, including the following contributions:
$8,200 contribution from UA PAC ($7,700 in excess of our ordinance)
$8,200 from International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers ($7,700 in excess of our ordinance)
$5,600 from Plumbers ($5,100 in excess of our ordinance)
$4,900 from NRCC ($4,400 in excess of our ordinance)
$3,000 from pipefitters union ($2,500  in excess of our ordinance)
$2,500 from sheet metal workers ($2,000 in excess of our ordinance)
$2,000 from UA plumbers ($1,500 in excess of our ordinance)
$1,900 from sprinkler fitters ($1,400 in excess of our ordinance)
$1,300 from asbestos workers ($800  in excess of our ordinance)
$1,500 from NRCC ($1,000 in excess of our ordinance)
$1,500 from NRCC Education ($1,000 in excess of our ordinance)
Your disregard of Hoboken’s limits on union contributions is central to the pending lawsuit in which you are the defendant, Farina v. DeFusco.  A decision in the Farina v. DeFusco case will go to the heart of whether Hoboken’s present union contribution limit is enforceable, as you have decided to litigate whether the City lawfully can regulate your union fundraising practices.
Accordingly, because of your personal interest in the matter, it is clear that you have a conflict of interest in voting on the Campaign Finance ordinance, and I ask that you recuse yourself from participating in the discussion or vote on this ordinance. Please confirm in writing before the 7:00 pm council meeting that you will do so.


Very Truly Yours,


Phil Cohen
5th Ward Councilman
City of Hoboken