SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Councilman Rob Bengivenga this week called upon Democrats to explain a $1,000 campaign donation linked to Liquid Assets their party received in 2006. The donation occurred the same year the town passed up an opportunity to close down the infamous go-go bar that up until recently did business on New Market Avenue.
According to records from the New Jersey Election Enforcement Commission, the wife of the bar’s owner made the donation to the South Plainfield Democratic Committee. The records list an address in Old Bridge, the same address that appears on the liquor-license renewal application for Liquid Assets.
“You have to wonder whether that donation influenced things,” said Bengivenga. “When the Democrats were in control, they ignored the constant problems that plagued that neighborhood.”
After the mayor and council forced Liquid Assets to close earlier this year, the bar’s owner, John Colisanti, wrote to a local newspaper saying he was the victim of “changing political tides.”
“You have to wonder if this is what he meant,” said Bengivenga. “Did the Democrats look the other way because Liquid Assets donated?”
The move to close Liquid Assets came after political tides shifted and Republicans took control of the council in 2010. According to Mayor Matt Anesh, he and the council established a zero-tolerance policy, and after suspending the bar’s liquor license, twice voted not to renew it. The owners of Liquid Assets challenged the decisions in court, but chose to shut the business shortly before trial.
When Democrats received the donation in 2006, then-Councilman Charlie Butrico was running for mayor and prevailed over Bengivenga, who was his Republican rival. Butrico served for four years and chose not to seek a second term. He no longer holds public office, but according to election records he is still politically active, serving as campaign chairman for Democratic mayoral candidate Chrissy Buteas.
Bengivenga called upon Buteas to address the donation: “She should explain why her party accepted it. As the leader of her party, she should also demand that the party return the money. Otherwise, her campaign is tainted.”