By David Levinsky
July 7, 2014
A Republican super PAC is calling out Democratic congressional candidate Aimee Belgard for accepting a salary for her position as a Burlington County freeholder after previously promising not to during a 2010 campaign.
The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super political action committee dedicated to maintaining and expanding a GOP majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, issued a release attacking Belgard for accepting a freeholder salary after she pledged last month to not use taxpayer-funded travel allowances to pay for first-class airfare or transportation in luxury vehicles if elected to Congress.
Belgard also said that she would forgo using a members-only congressional gym, that she would not use taxpayer dollars to send campaign-style mailers to constituents, and that she would push for legislation or rules to require members of Congress to disclose if they would benefit from any tax breaks they vote on.
Other Democratic congressional candidates have made similar pledges in recent weeks.
“I got into this race because of the dysfunction and hypocrisy in Washington. Congressional perks are just one more example of how out of touch Congress is with the lives of average Americans,” Belgard said in a statement that urged her Republican opponent, Tom MacArthur, to make a similar promise.
“As a nation, we are failing to keep the promises we’ve made to our veterans and seniors. Meanwhile, members of Congress enjoy perks like first-class airfare, luxury cars and a members-only gym at the expense of taxpayers. It’s simply wrong, and that’s why I’m calling on my opponent to join me in rejecting these perks,” she said.
The statement from Belgard’s campaign also said she previously forfeited her salary during her tenure on the Edgewater Park Township Committee.
The Congressional Leadership Fund called the pledge a “campaign stunt” and pointed to a previous campaign promise made by Belgard during her unsuccessful 2010 campaign for the Burlington County Board of Freeholders to not accept a salary if elected to the county office.
There’s no record of her repeating the pledge during her successful 2012 freeholder campaign.
Records show Belgard earned a salary of $13,597 during her first year as freeholder in 2013.
Emily Davis, deputy communications director of the Congressional Leadership Fund, said Belgard repeatedly has highlighted her decision to forfeit a salary in Edgewater Park while forgetting her 2010 promise to do the same if elected freeholder.
“Aimee Belgard thinks she can fool voters with her old campaign stunts, but New Jerseyans can see right through her two-faced politics,” Davis said. “Instead of making up phony pledges, Aimee Belgard should come clean about her record and start answering basic questions about where she stands on issues affecting hardworking New Jersey families.”
Belgard’s campaign manager, Hannah Ledford, said the PAC was trying to distract voters from MacArthur’s background as an outsider.
“Washington Republicans will do anything to distract voters from the fact that Tom MacArthur — a multimillionaire North Jersey insurance executive — seems to expect taxpayers to foot the bill for ridiculous perks like luxury cars and first-class airfare. But no one should be surprised. MacArthur made millions while helping insurance companies shortchange the victims of hurricanes and wildfires. No one should expect him to start standing up for hardworking middle-class families now that he’s running for Congress,” Ledford said.
MacArthur’s campaign responded that the Republican forfeited his salary and benefits during his time as councilman and mayor in Randolph, Morris County, and that Belgard has “zero credibility” on the issue.
“It is pure hypocrisy. Belgard pledged to refuse a taxpayer-funded salary if elected freeholder and then pocketed the money after she was elected. Now Belgard wants voters to trust her on this bogus pledge? What a joke,” Chris Russell, spokesman for MacArthur’s campaign, said Thursday. “Tom MacArthur, on the other hand, refused a taxpayer-funded salary and benefits as a councilman and mayor. Tom walks the walk, while Belgard just talks the talk.”
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