WASHINGTON - It's not every day that a British tabloid weighs in on a House race in South Jersey.
But the Daily Mail last week wrote about insurance disputes involving a company formerly chaired by Tom MacArthur, who is running for Congress in a Republican primary against Steve Lonegan.
The MacArthur campaign called the story a "hatchet job" by a reporter who previously coauthored articles with a writer who is now a Lonegan researcher.
The duo had collaborated on stories for a conservative website - including pieces on thinly sourced allegations that Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) used prostitutes. The accusations were widely discredited.
Lonegan on Friday said that he had "no knowledge" of any tie between the Daily Mail's article and his campaign but that "the facts are the facts. . . . This is what [MacArthur] did."
The article cited three instances in which a company MacArthur built and led, Parsippany-based York Risk Services Group, was accused of shortchanging victims of hurricanes or fires who made insurance claims.
York and other firms were sued in Texas by the Port of Galveston and Houston Baptist University after Hurricane Ike struck in 2008. York was an adjuster for the insurers. California regulators also cited York and one of its clients in 2012 for allegedly mishandling claims arising from a 2008 fire that ravaged a mobile-home community.
The cases were settled after MacArthur left the firm in late 2010, with no finding of wrongdoing.
The Port of Galveston received all $15 million its suit sought, said Joseph Russo, a lawyer for the port. "The companies paid and washed their hands of it," he said.
In California, York paid a $142,500 fine. Officials at Houston Baptist declined to comment.
MacArthur's campaign said the cases were but a "handful" among more than a million claims, and accused Lonegan's "dirt diggers" of planting the story. MacArthur attorneys warned Friday of legal action if Lonegan keeps issuing "false and defamatory" press releases saying MacArthur was accused of fraud.
"MacArthur has never been accused of insurance fraud," the lawyers wrote.
"The Daily Mail piece is a poor excuse for journalism. . . . Its author is little more than an extension of the Lonegan campaign," said MacArthur campaign spokesman Chris Russell.
- Jonathan Tamari