Last Thursday, February 1st, an individual named Craig Callaway, who is a Democrat operative and former president of the Atlantic City council, was arrested.
He is accused of being the mastermind behind a mail-in ballot fraud operation that took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
At the time of his arrest, Callaway was working for the Jeff Van Drew re-election campaign.
It’s worth noting that Van Drew had switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 2020 and denies any knowledge or involvement in this operation.
for the Jeff Van Drew re-election campaign. The former Democrat-turned-Republican in 2020 denied any knowledge of the operation.
From the New Jersey Monitor:
U.S. Attorneys accused Callaway and other unnamed subordinates of paying Atlantic City residents between $30 and $50 to act as authorized messengers and request mail-in ballots for voters whom they had never met. Prosecutors allege that those ballots were later cast without the actual voters’ knowledge.
The charges appear to stem from work Callaway did for Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s 2022 reelection campaign. There’s no indication Van Drew (R-02) knew about the alleged scheme.
According to the New Jersey Monitor and as reported by the New York Times, Representative Van Drew paid Callaway’s consulting firm a total of $65,500 for “strategic consulting”.
A significant portion of this amount, specifically $25,000, was paid in October just before the 2022 election.
It is worth noting that Van Drew had also previously paid Callaway’s firm $110,000 during his 2020 re-election campaign.
As for Callaway himself, he is currently facing charges related to fraudulent ballots, which could result in a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of $250,000 if convicted.
This isn’t the first time he has faced legal trouble though. The former Atlantic City council president has been convicted twice in the past on corruption-related charges.
The charges are not the first Callaway has faced. In 2006, he admitted accepting $36,000 in bribes from a contractor he helped to obtain city contracts. In 2008, he admitted guilt in a separate blackmail scheme targeting an Atlantic City councilman while serving the sentence of his bribery conviction.
In 2017, Assemblyman Don Guardian, then the city’s mayor, accused Callaway of a similar ballot harvesting scheme to boost Frank Gilliam, who won the election but resigned in late 2019 after pleading guilty to wire fraud over the theft of $86,000 from a youth basketball team he ran.
“It’s no secret that candidates from both parties have hired Callaway in the past to help them win elections. Those who hired him cannot plead ignorance now. Everyone in Atlantic County knows exactly what Callaway’s operation is and the blatant illegality of it all,” said Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman.
Rep. Van Drew, the winner of New Jersey’s 2nd District in 2022 with a 19-point lead, denied any knowledge of the alleged scheme. He referred to an agreement he had signed with Callaway’s organization aimed at preventing such activities.
According to The Press of Atlantic City, Callaway is recognized as an expert in mobilizing mail-in-ballot votes. In 2018, New Jersey expanded its “motor voter” law, which automatically registers individuals who obtain a driver’s license.
This expansion allowed state agencies like the Office of Disability Services, Parole Board (after completing a sentence), and Division of Medical Assistance and Health Services to register voters as well.
Automatic voter registration laws have been passed in at least 11 states and Washington DC. These laws provide ample opportunities for malicious actors like Callaway to manipulate voters.
Especially when these actors gain real-time access to voter roll updates under the guise of halting Get Out The Vote campaigns once a person has cast their ballot.
During the 2020 election, Michigan Center for Election Law and Administration (MCELA), a non-profit founded by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and funded with $12.04 million from David Becker’s CEIR in 2020, obtained this type of access.
Jen McKernan, President of MCELA, informed Michigan radio host Tracy Samilton that once someone has voted, elections officials inform advocacy groups urging people to vote that they have already done so, effectively ceasing further messages.
With real-time access to updates like this, malicious actors are not only aware of who has voted but also who hasn’t.
People who haven’t voted rarely take the initiative to check with election offices if they indeed refrained from voting.
An example is a woman from Illinois who was surprised to discover she had allegedly participated in multiple elections despite claiming that Trump’s 2020 election was her first time voting.