Josh Zeitz, who's trying to unseat New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith, is -- to put it charitably -- stretching details of our Tuesday report that Smith's daughter obtained an in-state tuition waiver at a Virginia public college.
In an E-mail sent to supporters yesterday, Zeitz uses the story to suggest Smith committed election fraud by representing his Jersey district while claiming legal residence in Virginia for the purposes of his daughter's tuition break:
In addition to proving that Chris Smith defrauded the State of Virginia out of tens of thousands of dollars, the article also suggests that Smith may not be eligible to be a Congressman from the state of New Jersey. We expect more stories on this fraud to unfold over the next several days.
Needless to say, this story could end Smith's bid for reelection. However, we need the resources to move on this. Time is running out. In order to get this message out to people in our district as quickly as possible, we urgently need to buy upwards of $20,000 worth of radio ads within the next week...
Does our article "suggests that Smith may not be eligible to be a Congressman from the state of New Jersey"?
Or that he "defrauded" anybody?
Not so much.
Somebody else may come up with new information -- but our story made no such assertions.
Smith's campaign says the congressman's wife -- not Smith himself -- sponsored the application. If that's true, the congressman wouldn't be on the hook legally if allegations of fraud arose, his wife would.
Many questions would be answered if the Smith campaign provided a copy of the tuition reduction paperwork -- but they have refused to do so. And a recent attempt by Democrats to obtain the document through freedom of information laws was rebuffed by the university's counsel.