New Jersey grand jury investigated PACs, nonprofits Caddle operated

New Jersey prosecutors investigated several super PACs and nonprofits run by Sean Caddle, the political consultant who has admitted hiring two men to kill an associate, and empanelled a state grand jury that issued related subpoenas to government entities, according to two people familiar with the investigation.

It’s not clear what came of the investigation, which began in 2019 and lasted until at least 2020. But, according to the people familiar with the inquiry, prosecutors asked questions about super PACs and nonprofits that POLITICO identified in articles in 2017 and 2018. Some of those groups appeared designed to hide the source of money they channeled into local races around the state.

The investigation focused in part on the Elizabeth Board of Education, a major source of political patronage, said the people, both of whom were granted anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the matter.

Caddle’s super PACs and nonprofits helped shift control of the board from opponents of former state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) and Elizabeth Mayor Chris Bollwage to their allies. Caddle worked as a consultant for Lesniak.

In response to the subpoenas, the school board hired Michael Critchley, one of New Jersey’s most prominent attorneys who’s known for his work defending politicians accused of corruption.

“All we did was go through documents for privilege. It took a while, but we got the documents over. That’s all we were involved in,” Critchley said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Critchley said he believes his work for the school board ended by April 2020.

POLITICO reported in December 2019 that state authorities had issued subpoenas to the Elizabeth school district and to the city government of Perth Amboy seeking requests for proposals, bid awards and contract payments and other information for about a dozen companies and organizations, mostly public contractors.

At the time, two people familiar with document demands told POLITICO they believed the Elizabeth subpoenas were related to a super PAC and nonprofit organization Caddle ran that influenced the 2016 school board race. POLITICO has since confirmed that.

Lesniak said in a phone interview Tuesday that he was aware of the investigation but believed it “went nowhere.” Lesniak said he was not subpoenaed.

Caddle pleaded guilty last week to hiring two men to commit the 2014 murder of his former associate, Michael Galdieri. Galdieri had worked with Caddle’s political consulting firm, Arkady, and according to a news report had done political work with Caddle in Elizabeth.

According to the Federal Election Commission’s website, Caddle’s firm received more than $760,000 from the super PACs he set up between 2013 and 2018. Lesniak’s unsuccessful 2017 gubernatorial campaign also reported paying Caddle’s firm almost $460,000 over a five-month period.

Because political nonprofits generally do not disclose details about spending and because of limited search functions of campaign finance disclosure databases, Caddle may have earned more that cannot be immediately accounted for.