TOMS RIVER – Rep. Tom MacArthur (R – 3rd District) held a breakfast buffet event featuring speeches by him and Rep. Devin Nunes (R – CA) and a roundtable discussion with local officials Saturday morning.
Congressman Nunes is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and one of the most visible Republicans in the national political scene.
The event, which took place at the Days Hotel on Route 37 in Toms River, was attended by municipal and county Republican leaders and featured a free buffet breakfast. Another portion of the event featured a round table discussion with local officials and the congressmen.
The California Republican congressman previously made headlines – and became a lightning rod for controversy – for his opposition to and criticism of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal probe into allegations of possible election meddling by the Russian state actors in the 2016 presidential race.
MacArthur, for his part, is facing a contentious reelection battle with Democratic challenger Andy Kim. The two have been going at it with television and print mailer ad wars, and polling data indicates that the 2018 race could be closer than past cycles.
Republican officials who spoke off the record about the content of the event downplayed the significance of Nunes’ remarks & appearance at the MacArthur event.
MacArthur, OC GOP Staffers Order Removal Of Journalists
Since being invited to attend the event, Ocean County Politics intended on covering the remarks of Reps. MacArthur and Nunes but was immediately confronted by Tom Bonfonti (R – Forked River), who is the executive director of the Ocean County GOP, as we attempted to enter the event, which took place at the hotel’s Atlantis Ballroom, where many Ocean County GOP events are hosted.
During our live video from the event, Bonfonti, a former MacArthur campaign staffer, was seen walking to approach the front desk where he directed assistant general manager Jennifer Hayden Schel to tell us to leave the hotel. We complied with her demand but questioned the motivation of MacArthur’s staffers for placing a shroud of secrecy over the event.
Ms. Hayden Schel ordered Ocean County Politics to vacate the premises, despite the fact that this reporter was an invited guest of an attendee. Hayden Schel did not immediately return a call seeking comment and clarification about the event, her role and hotel policies.
Frank Luna, MacArthur’s district chief of staff, also did not immediately return a call to his cell phone seeking comment about the event.
Sheriff’s Officers Seen Guarding Event
A uniformed officer of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Department was seen guarding the premises and blocking access to portions of the hotel’s lobby during our interaction with hotel staff. That department is currently headed by another Republican elected official, Sheriff Michael Mastronardy (R- Toms River).
We filed an OPRA request with the sheriff’s department to find out how many personnel the sheriff’s office allocated to secure the private event.