The campaign of Rep. John Adler (D-N.J.), who faces a serious GOP challenge this fall, is being accused of manufacturing a Tea Party candidate in New Jersey's 3rd congressional district to help the incumbent's reelection bid.

A report in Friday's Courier Post points the finger at Adler consultant Steve Ayscue and Geoff Mackler, who was sent by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to head up Adler's reelection campaign.

According to the paper, the two recruited Democratic volunteers at a meeting in May to gather signatures to get Peter DeStefano on the ballot in the hopes that he would siphon off votes from Republican challenger Jon Runyan. DeStefano will appear on the "NJ Tea Party" ballot line in November.

From the report:

Ayscue and Mackler had a plan to ensure Adler's victory. They just needed volunteers.

Internal numbers-crunching showed the difference between Adler and his Republican opponent — then undetermined — would hover around 5 percent. To give Adler an edge, Ayscue had recruited a then-unidentified man to run as a third-party candidate.

That candidate would act as a conservative spoiler to confuse voters and pull votes from Adler's eventual Republican challenger. But first he had to get on the ballot. With the filing deadline just weeks away, CCDC [Camden County Democratic Committee] needed volunteers to hit the streets and collect signatures — fast.      

Several Democratic operatives who attended the May 26 meeting, or who have direct knowledge of the campaign or CCDC operations, spoke about the DeStefano plan on condition of anonymity, telling the Courier-Post they had ethical qualms with the Adler campaign. At least one pointed out the plan is already ostensibly working, since absentee ballots are being cast.

Sources said Adler's congressional and campaign staff carried out the plan with the help of CCDC staffers and volunteers.