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How New Jersey power brokers bankrolled the election of Atlantic City Mayor Frank Gilliam

Screen Shot 2018-12-29 at 15.31.37Frank M. Gilliam Jr.

(photo courtesy of The New York Post)


by Amy S. Rosenberg, / Philadelphia Inquirer

ATLANTIC CITY — The election of Frank M. Gilliam Jr. as mayor of Atlantic City Screen Shot 2018-12-14 at 13.46.59 probably hasn’t worked out the way a lot of powerful people hoped.

It was, in tried and true Atlantic City fashion, a bad bet.

Gilliam’s allies were distancing themselves before the 2017 election was officially certified. Before long, local Democrats were airing grievances about misdirected checks under the warm, Tiffany lamp glare of the city’s Irish Pub, a place on storied St. James Place whose walls have surely heard similar talk before. There was a pricey inaugural gala that filled 46 tables at Resorts to benefit the mayor’s own nonprofit, Connecting the Dots.

There was a fist fight outside a casino, then a raid on his home by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service, never a good sign. Federal agents, two sources said, had to borrow a cash counting machine from the city’s police department, also never a good sign. Dots are no doubt being connected.

But how did this mercurial councilman who wanted to be a point guard for the city, a man whose volatile temper was known, whose work history was vague, whose personal finances resulted in a bankruptcy declaration, whose claim of a master’s degree in social work from the University of San Francisco was later debunked by the New York Times, whose cozying up to developers was well known, get elected in the first place?

‘Our Atlantic City’

How did Frank Gilliam raise more than $261,000 for his campaign and get the benefit of a Super PAC, Our Atlantic City, that raised another $229,000 and ultimately paid Craig Callaway, Atlantic City’s influential vote-by-mail wrangler, $80,180 on his and other Democrats' behalf?

How was it that New Jersey’s power brokers — top Democrats, unions, online gaming companies, moribund Boardwalk landholders, the company that owns the Claridge and vacant Atlantic Club, and, crucially, the Callaways — rallied around this candidate for a position that, while still paying a $103,000 annual salary, the state had through its takeover rendered essentially powerless?