Trump pardon empowers convicted tax cheat poised to reshape NJ GOP: report
Gage Skidmore.

George Gilmore, a one-time Republican powerbroker in New Jersey, fell from grace after three federal tax fraud convictions — but then former President Donald Trump pardoned him on his way out the door and, according to POLITICO, he has rebuilt his sphere of influence not just among New Jersey Republicans, but even Democrats.

"Just two years prior, the 73-year-old Gilmore, who had been the undisputed boss of the most powerful Republican organization in New Jersey for more than two decades, had been largely written off as one in a long series of disgraced politicos," reported Matt Friedman. "He was hit with three felony tax-related convictions after a federal trial that included embarrassing personal revelations, like those about his profligate spending on antique Coca-Cola machines, a $33,000 bronze George Washington statue and other items. His defense attorney characterized it as a hoarding disorder."

"But a key connection to Donald Trump got Gilmore a pardon on the president’s last day in the White House," said the report. "By the following year, Gilmore had again become a force in New Jersey politics, so much so that the state’s Democratic governor and a Democratic state senator in a neighboring county — Vin Gopal, one of Republicans’ top targets in state legislative elections — broke bread with him."

Per the report, Gilmore — who still faces liens on his home and owes millions of dollars to the IRS — could exercise significant influence in the next New Jersey governor's race in 2025. He potentially has influence over Republican endorsements for governor, which matters because a quirk of New Jersey election law means local endorsements affect how prominently candidates appear on the ballot.

This could be a particular obstacle to Jack Ciattarelli, the GOP candidate who came within 3 points of beating Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy in 2021 and who is reportedly interested in running again. Gilmore didn't support Ciattarelli the first time around, instead backing far-right alternative Phil Rizzo.

"Gilmore’s return as chair didn’t start smoothly. He blamed the officials who had controlled the party during his absence for removing items from the party headquarters late at night and quickly transferring funds out of party accounts," noted the report. "He filed a lawsuit seeking emails and other records, with one defendant, Republican Assemblymember Greg McGuckin, calling him 'someone in severe financial distress who managed to escape federal prison only due to his political connections,'"

However, the report said, "tensions have quieted as Gilmore has worked to restore his grip on power. This month, he agreed to drop his lawsuit, under the stipulation that the party’s former executive director admitted in writing to deleting a Google account to block Gilmore’s access to the former party leaders’ emails."