Zeauskas Turns Losing Political Race into Winning Campaign $

December 6, 2010

“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes the horseman known as Zorro…The fox so cunning and free, Zorro who makes the sign of the Z…” –Theme song to the TV series, “Zorro”

For one losing Cecil County political candidate, the sign of the Z could be transformed into a large $.

Chris Zeauskas, a losing candidate for District 2 Cecil County Commissioner in the September Republican primary, has continued to rake in campaign contributions both after his September 14 primary loss and after the November 2 general election, state election records show.

But while he lost his commissioner campaign, Zeauskas is the newly anointed chairman of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee, which underwent an upheaval in the GOP primary. Seven out of nine seats were taken over by allies of state Sen. E.J. Pipkin and Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36th Dist.

Indeed, most of the late-blooming money that went to Zeauskas after his loss in the commissioner’s race came from individuals and groups tied to his political mentors, Pipkin and Smigiel. Some of the donations came at a time when other Republican candidates were locked in spirited general election campaigns and could have used the financial support that instead went to a failed candidate who was no longer electable.

Furthermore, Zeauskas hasn’t disclosed some of his post-election contributions even though they total above a threshold that requires public disclosure. However, the money to Zeauskas shows up on new filings with the state by other candidate committees or Political Action Committees.

As the Cecil Times previously reported, Zeauskas drew most of his initial campaign financial support from another Smipkin ally, County Commissioner James Mullin (R-1st):

(Early in his campaign, Zeauskas also received $270 from the Cecil County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 2 for fundraiser ticket purchases and $450 from Adam Streight, the president of FOP Lodge 2, who endorsed Smipkin-backed candidates.)

But even after Zeauskas lost the Sept. 14 primary, he pulled in $1,050 in new donations, according to his 10/22/10 report to the state Elections Board. The FOP’s PAC dumped another $500 into Zeauskas’ campaign committee on 10/2/10, according to Zeauskas’ report. (However, the FOP PAC’s reports to the state show a $500 donation to Zeauskas on 8/25/10 but no listing for an October contribution. But the FOP PAC has not yet filed its report to the state that was due on 11/23/10 and covers part of October activity.)

In addition, the Republicans of Cecil (ROC) PAC—an arm of the Smipkin political organization– gave the losing Zeauskas $250 on 10/1 and came back a day later with a check for another $200—a total of $950 from FOP and ROC. (The ROC-PAC had previously given Zeauskas $450 before the primary election.)

Another $100 post-primary election donation, from Jennifer Sierra of Elkton, had a notation on the campaign report: “PAC” without any further identification of any political action committee. The chairman of the ROC-PAC is Josue Sierra, of the same Elkton address as Jennifer Sierra.

Zeauskas listed unpaid campaign bills of $334 but even with the late infusion of donations, his report showed those bills still unpaid despite a cash on hand bank balance of $1,253.

But the money still kept coming in to Zeauskas’ campaign fund, even after the general election, according to reports filed with the state by other candidates or PACS:
—The Republicans of Cecil (ROC) Political Action Committee listed on its report to the state a $1,700 contribution to Zeauskas on 11/5/10. That contribution alone was a significant portion of the total of $6,750 that ROC-PAC gave to all candidates this year, according to state election records.)

And Theodore Patterson, the unsuccessful Republican challenger to incumbent Del. David Rudolph, gave $175 from his campaign fund to Zeauskas on 10/28/10, state election records show, as Patterson was in the final stretch of his own general election campaign.

For the campaign finance report due on 11/23/10, Zeauskas did not file a detailed report of his contributions and expenditures. Instead he filed an “affidavit” with the state.

According to the State Board of Elections, an “affidavit of limited contributions and expenditures” may only be filed if donations or spending is under $1,000 in total “since either the establishment of the political committee or the filing of the last campaign finance report.”

The most recent mandatory report was due 11/23/10, covering the period from 10/18/10 through 11/16/10. While Zeauskas apparently claims his receipts were under $1,000 by virtue of filing an affidavit, other state election records show he did receive donations totaling over the threshold in that period, as reported to the state by the ROC PAC and the Patterson campaign.

(Smigiel also paid Zeauskas $175 on 11/3/10 to help Smigiel take down his campaign signs, state election records show. That money was listed as paid to Zeauskas personally and not as a donation to his campaign account.)

For other Republicans, the money dumped into Zeauskas’ account well after he lost his September primary meant there was less available to their own campaigns.

In particular, Michael Dunn, who upset Democrat Brian Lockhart for the 3rd District county Commissioner seat, was the only Smipkin local candidate still viable in the general election. The ROC-PAC did give Dunn $1,000 on 10/18/10, just before the general election, but the $1,700 ROC-PAC gave Zeauskas a few days after the election could have helped Dunn in what was widely seen as an uphill fight against an incumbent.

Although it is not unusual for political groups to help a losing candidate pay his bills after a general election, the amount of money pumped into Zeauskas’ fund far exceeds his reported outstanding bills. And an infusion of funds before a general election, when other candidates were still in play, is indeed unusual.

Since Zeauskas has only filed an affidavit for the most recently required report, it is unknown how he disposed of the funds or if they are still in his campaign bank account and available for transfer to other political organizations or candidates. Adding his last reported cash on hand balance of $1,253, plus post-election donations listed by others of $1,875, would yield a potential cash balance of $3,128. Another report to the state is due in January, 2011.

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3 Responses to Zeauskas Turns Losing Political Race into Winning Campaign $

  1. maria wilson on December 6, 2010 at 7:37 pm

    This is really disgusting! It looks like these Pipkin and Smigiel people are secretly moving money around so that the voters do not know what is really going on. I am sick and tired of these political bosses and their financial garbage.

  2. Ironside on December 8, 2010 at 8:25 am

    When are the final reports due? Looks like a full accounting by the SMIPKINS is warranted, given their complaints about back room deals and lack of transparancy on the part of others!

    • admin on December 8, 2010 at 10:50 am

      All campaign committees and PACs must file an annual report which is due on January 19, 2011. That report must cover transactions occurring through January 12, 2011. The state Board of Elections also audits campaign finance reports and notifies candidates of “deficiencies” that must be dealt with via amended reports. Several of the Smipkin-related candidates or campaign committees have received deficiency notices so far.

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