State to weigh Bryant bid to use campaign cash for legal bills

TRENTON — State election law officials today will consider whether former state Sen. Wayne Bryant can use his campaign cash to pay legal bills stemming from his indictment on federal corruption charges.

Bryant’s request to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission is the first time anyone has sought approval to use campaign money to defend against criminal charges, said Frederick M. Herrmann, the commission’s executive director.

The Camden County Democrat’s latest campaign report showed he has $642,500 available. Bryant did not seek re-election after 25 years in the Legislature, and his term expired on Jan. 8.

Bryant was indicted in April on 20 counts of using his clout as head the Senate Budget chairman to steer millions in grants to two state schools that gave him no-show jobs, and using those and other jobs to triple his publicly funded pension.

He has pleaded not guilty and a trial is set for April 14.

His attorney, Richard Weinroth, filed papers with ELEC arguing that Bryant should be allowed to use his campaign money to defend against the charges because they’re tied to his elected duties.

“The criminal charges against him would not exist irrespective of his duties as an officeholder,” the filing states. “In fact, all of the allegations set forth in the indictment against Senator Bryant arise solely because of an in connection with his role as a state senator and there would be no criminal case if he had not held office as state senator.”

State regulations say campaign contributions “may be used for reasonable fees and expenses of legal representation, the need for which arises directly from and is related to the campaign for public office or from the duties of holding public office.”

The regulations also state that campaign contributions cannot be used for “fees and expenses incurred in connection with the candidate or officeholder’s personal or business affairs, or which would otherwise qualify as personal use.”

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