Property Tax Relief for Moorestown, PREIT’s referenda campaign committee, has spent $57,000—nearly all of it coming from PREIT—on its campaign to sway Moorestown voters to allow liquor licenses.
According to campaign reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), Moorestown Mall owner PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust) contributed $50,000 and $75,000 to the campaign committee in July and October, respectively. The only other contribution, for $100, came from PREIT president Joe Coradino in July.
Thus far, Property Tax Relief for Moorestown has spent $57,045.52, according to the 29-day pre-election report filed Oct. 11.
Tax Relief spokesman Chris Russell said the money was spent on educational mailers, signs, media advertisements (including those on Moorestown Patch), and other public relations materials, including Russell’s salary. Legal expenses also account for a portion of those expenses.
Another section of the report shows an “outstanding obligation” of $150,000 to the law firm Capehart & Scatchard for legal services.
Moorestown resident William Cox, who has waged a () legal battle to strike PREIT’s referendums from the ballot, said the campaign report was telling in that all the money for the company’s campaign is coming from the company, not private citizens.
He said PREIT’s misleading people by describing Property Tax Relief for Moorestown as a “grassroots citizen’s organization”—as it states on the group’s website—if, as the reports show, all its support is coming from PREIT itself.
“I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a grassroots citizen’s group,” said Cox. “I would say our (opposition) group is a grassroots citizen’s group. We are not a formal group, but we are absolutely aligned. We communicate. We coordinate.”
Russell rebutted Cox’s accusation, insisting PREIT has been transparent since the beginning of the campaign.
“From day one we’ve never tried to hide that PREIT and the citizen’s group were connected,” said Russell.
While Property Tax Relief is not receiving monetary support from the citizenry, he said the group has people on the ground talking to their friends, making phone calls to supporters and putting up lawn signs.
“There are a lot of people working that are citizens of the community,” said Jacob DerHagopian, chair of the township’s Economic Development Advisory Committee.
DerHagopian has aligned himself with PREIT and Property Tax Relief for Moorestown, but said neither he nor anyone else involved was ever asked to give monetarily—only their time.
Russell said PREIT has plans to conduct another tele-town hall at 7:20 p.m. on Nov. 2. The time and date haven’t been set officially yet, but he said it’s “pretty firm.”
According to Cox—who has paused his legal battle until after the election—“there’s been something of a backlash” to PREIT’s campaign, which included another .
“It’s maybe a little heavy-handed approach,” Cox said, alluding to conversations he’s had with other residents. “Like PREIT’s coming in and saying, ‘We’re going to tell you what’s good for your town.’”
On the other hand, Russell said, “We’ve gotten very positive feedback about the campaign … Our feedback on the ground is a lot of people who were opposed last time (in 2007) have been very open about revisiting the issue and looking at it in a very clean way.”
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