Was the reason because the penalty for Lori Serrano's ELEC violation is less severe than that for mail fraud, and the Feds chose to 'throw the book' at her?
GA has no idea.
But let's look at the use of street money.
NJ statute 19:44A-11.7 prohibits candidates from distributing actual currency, or hard cash, to individual workers. Campaigns are prohibited from issuing bank checks made out to cash, which the law considers the functional equivalent of cash. Violations of the 'street money statute' rise to the level of a fourth degree felony and are punishable by a prison sentence of 18 months.
If the disbursement of street money- cash, can be ascertained from a campaign's ELEC reports, then presumably the NJ Attorney General or Hudson County Prosecutor could press charges.
If that same ELEC report is sent by the U.S. Postal Service or electronically, then the U.S. Attorney could pursue a mail fraud charge- a federal offense punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years. Here are the applicable mail/wire fraud statutes in the U.S. Code under Title 18:
Title 18 § 1341. Frauds and swindles (U.S. mail ELEC submission)
Title 18 § 1343. Fraud by wire, radio, or television (electronic ELEC submission)
A mail fraud prosecution for mailing (or submitting electronically) an ELEC with street money violations would result in much stiffer jail sentence than a prosecution for the offense itself. It would be up to the discretion of the NJ Attorney General and U.S. Attorney in cooperation with each other to decide which way the prosecution goes.
So let's look at an actual example.
Here is the certification of then mayoral-candidate Beth Mason's ELEC submitted "as of May 2009".
The following ELEC report General Ledger show the checks that Mason's campaign made out to cash (highlighted), in violation of NJ statute 9:44A-11.7.
Below on ELEC Attachment 1 are the individuals splitting the checks made out to "cash". Per the statute, any checks made to a named committee, person, association or group "... shall be made by check payable to the named committee, person, association, or group" not to cash.
Now, if one were to assume:
- this ELEC showed sufficient grounds to investigate the 2009 Mason campaign for violating NJ statute 9:44A-11.7
- the Treasurer and candidate were aware that these violations were recorded on the ELEC
- the ELEC report was MAILED or submitted ELECTRONICALLY to the NJ Law Enforcement Election Commission
Which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
I ran it quickly by Not-Stempler and he seemed to think it was entirely possible.