Posts Tagged ‘Chris Christie’

Chris Christie’s Extramarital Affair Under Scrutiny In Gay Marriage Appeal

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Chris Christie and Michele Brown

Can Governor Chris Christie appeal the gay marriage ruling based on protecting the sanctity of traditional marriage while having a highly visible extramarital affair? This is a question many in New Jersey are asking as the Christie Administration launches an appeal of a same-sex marriage ruling. Christie’s longtime mistress, Michele Brown, has been a fixture throughout his career as both a US Attorney and Governor of New Jersey.

Brown first came into the public eye during Christie’s campaign for governor when it was revealed by the New York Times that Christie had been providing Brown with “improper aid” including special monetary favors that were not appropriately disclosed.

When news broke in August that the former United States attorney, Christopher J. Christie, had lent $46,000 to a top aide in the federal prosecutor’s office, he said he was merely helping a friend in need. He also said the aide, Michele Brown, had done nothing to help his gubernatorial campaign.

But interviews with federal law enforcement officials suggest that Ms. Brown used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.

Christie put Brown in charge of reviewing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for his US Attorney office where she also served as a lawyer. Brown attempted to stymie requests for Christie’s travel records. As would later be revealed, the travel records that Brown initially blocked would show that Christie and Brown traveled together frequently, often staying in the same hotels.

Brown would later resign from the US Attorney’s office over the scandal but her role as Christie’s mistress was never made an issue by the Jon Corzine campaign due to a an agreement with Christie’s campaign. The agreement was essentially a non-aggression pact on the issue of inappropriate professional relationships – that for generally leaving the Brown issue alone the Christie campaign would not invoke attacks involving Governor Corzine’s questionable relationship with Carla Katz.

Despite resigning from the US Attorney’s Office over suspicious conduct, (now Governor) Christie provided Michele Brown with a job in his administration. Brown was recently implicated by the Newark Star-Ledger as being the government official that approved a controversial ad campaign.

Instead, Christie’s appointed cronies chose to spend $2 million more for a campaign produced by MWW, a public relations firm based in East Rutherford that’s known for its abundant political connections in both parties.

Why? The governor’s office dances and shuffles around this point, and the woman in charge of this selection process, Michele Brown, wouldn’t comment.

Now the question is whether or not Governor Christie can have credibility fighting for traditional marriage while having his mistress in such a high and visible position.

Must Read Norcross Expose By Steve Volk Of Philadelphia Magazine

Sunday, May 12th, 2013

As has been written about here a year ago in DRPA and the Norcross Question, the Norcross Machine has essentially suspended democracy in large parts of New Jersey.

Now Philadelphia Magazine, in the tradition of Richard Rys, published an extensive expose on George Norcross which includes interviews with Norcross himself.

The writer, Steve Volk, asks the fundamental question.

Is this democracy?

It’s a question I asked pretty much all my interview subjects for this story, and the answers ranged from an emphatic “Of course not!” to a meandering “Ye-es” to a grossly realistic “It’s the only democracy we have.”

Norcross admits he is a political boss something he fought successfully to have removed from Courier-Post profiles

“My biggest mistake was allowing myself to be defined and branded in the ’90s,” he continues. “I stayed in the background because I thought that’s what political bosses did. And I got portrayed, you know, as the guy with the cigar and the horns.”

The Norcross machine raises oceans of money to bury opponents – money gained in pay to play contracts.

For the next 20 years, Norcross focused on the battlefield of New Jersey politics, to the point that he is now said to “own” South Jersey. The Camden County Democratic party has ratcheted down its fund-raising in recent years—incumbents don’t need as much money—but still ranks fourth among all the counties in the state, and when he wants a race badly enough, he flattens opponents under the heft of cash. He raised $2 million, for instance, for the 2003 state senate race that installed unknown challenger Fred Madden over incumbent George Geist. It was the most expensive senate race in the history of New Jersey, which raises a question: Is this d­emocracy—or an auction?

Norcross steered money to his daughter’s private school.

Famously, during the trial of state senator Wayne Bryant, we learned that the State of New Jersey had been doling out what government officials dubbed “Norcross Grants.” These were discretionary funds to be given to worthy causes. Norcross said that he received a phone call in 2004 from then-governor Richard Codey telling him that he—George Norcross III, a private insurance executive—could steer $500,000 in public money any way he saw fit. Norcross chose Pennsauken High School, his alma mater, and the private Lawrenceville School that his daughter Lexie attended.

And finally Governor Chris Christie more or less admits Norcross broke the law.

For students of Jersey politics, the elephant in the room, of course, is Christie’s role in the Palmyra investigation, and those notorious tapes of George Norcross practicing politics. I ask Christie to discuss the subject.

“I made it a practice not to talk about that kind of stuff from when I was U.S. Attorney, in terms of ‘shining any new light’ on things,” he replies. “I think if you want to know what my view of the investigation was, then read the letter I sent to the acting Attorney General.”

In that letter, addressed to the state Attorney General’s office, and ultimately disseminated to the media, Christie explained that he would be unable to prosecute Norcross because investigators bungled the case. They failed to obtain wiretaps on their principal subjects, including Norcross, and didn’t equip an informant with a wire at one key political function. Christie even wondered, in print, if the investigation had been purposefully undermined for political reasons.

Federal prosecutors, as a rule, don’t discuss their decision-making. So the New York Times covered the largely unprecedented event. “In a scathing letter,” reads a 2006 Times story, “Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey, wrote that his office would be unable to bring charges against Mr. Norcross because lawyers for the state attorney general had mishandled their investigation before turning it over to his office in 2004.”

“Reviewing the letter again,” I say to Christie, “as I did this morning … you look like a guy lamenting the one that got away. Right? And one of the ones that got away there was George Norcross.”

The entire time I speak, Christie sits there nodding. Then he responds: “Well, listen, you know, you change roles. Um, I’m now—here I was the United States Attorney, a prosecutor, and I was doing my job as I saw it. And now I’m the governor. And now I’m a political leader, on top of being a governmental leader. And so certain things that I couldn’t do as a prosecutor, I can do now, and I’m really obligated to do, and certain things that I could do as a prosecutor I can’t do anymore. So, you know, your power is in some ways expanded and your power in some ways is limited, as the governor, as compared to being U.S. Attorney.”

As close as anyone is going to get, the article is definitely worth a read.

Governor’s Brother’s Ties To Solar Industry Raise Questions Over Bailout

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

 

 

Governor Chris Christie’s public persona has been built around a free market small government agenda. According to Christie, state government wrongly interferes in market processes while correspondingly spending taxpayer money with little oversight or care.

This agenda, this persona, stands in stark contrast to the bailout of New Jersey’s solar industry that Governor Christie signed into law. Not only an act of big government but a direct intervention in the marketplace using the taxpayer’s credit card. This action left many of Christie’s supporters confused and upset, from Save Jersey Founder Matt Rooney:

The part that really confounds me is that Governor Christie argued so effectively in 2009 against healthcare mandates. Why can’t he see the analogous qualities between (1) forcing a 21 year old male to pay for breast cancer examination and (2) forcing an electricity supplier to purchase useless green energy credits?

This is just another example of government making life more expensive — for job creators and market consumers – all in the name of “job creation.” Exactly what we worked so hard in 2009 to stop? Correct?

In his remarks memorialized in the video below, the Governor says “this is not a Democratic or Republican issue.” It sure is when you’re asking taxpayers to foot the bill!!!

Ugh…. just ugh, folks.

But other conservatives are going further and not just claiming Christie betrayed campaign promises but that he may have intervened to help relatives. From Conservative New Jersey:

Since he took office, Governor Chris Christie has promoted “green” energy projects throughout the state.  Unlike true conservative Republicans who know that the free market should determine which technologies are developed, he acts just like a liberal democrat and uses taxpayer monies to fund corporate welfare.  But is this the only reason he has taken this liberal, RINO stand on green energy?

Chris Christie recently signed into law a bill that will require the electric ratepayers in New Jersey to subsidize the construction of solar projects, just like the ones that Vanguard Energy Partners installs.  I wonder if his brother Todd handed him the pen to sign the bill.

Todd Christie, Governor Christie’s brother, has considerable experience in the New Jersey solar industry.

After his brother was elected Governor in 2009, Todd became a “clean energy consultant” founding S.G Builders LLC a company whose main client was Vanguard Energy Partners. Vanguard Energy Partners, with an office located in Branchburg, does considerable business in New Jersey including business with the state and various municipalities and authorities – business that reportedly ticked up after Todd Christie became Vanguard’s consultant.

This not the first time Todd Christie has become an issue for his brother. During both the primary and general election in 2009 Todd Christie’s involvement in a securities fraud scheme became part of the campaign. From the New York Times:

Todd J. Christie, the brother of Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey, was among 20 specialist stock traders charged with civil fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday, accused of cheating their customers to benefit their firms…

Mr. Christie, 40, of Mendham, N.J., is the youngest brother of a prosecutor who has built a reputation for aggressively rooting out political corruption in the state. He is also a major political donor, having contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Republican candidates and committees in recent years, according to state and federal election reports…

While Mr. Christie faces only civil penalties and fines as a result of the charges, 14 of the 20 brokers cited by the S.E.C. were also indicted on Tuesday on criminal fraud charges by the United States attorney for the Southern District of New York. The practices outlined by federal prosecutors in the criminal cases largely mirror those in the civil complaints. Those charged criminally face jail terms of up to 10 years if convicted…

Asked why Todd Christie had not been charged criminally, Mr. Shecktman [Todd's Attorney] said: “I’m confident that Todd was not the beneficiary of his brother’s government position because I’ve known the Southern District long enough to know that they made their decisions on who to prosecute on the merits. At the end of the day what mattered to them was the strength of the evidence for a criminal conviction and not a numbers issue.”

But that very charge would resurface when then US Attorney Chris Christie gave the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, David Kelly, a sweetheart appointment as a federal monitor. From the New York Times:

Mr. Christie, who was appointed United States Attorney for New Jersey after serving as a major fund-raiser for George W. Bush, appointed former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss, as the monitor of a medical-supply company that had been accused of paying kickbacks to doctors; the contract was valued at $28 million to $52 million.In settling a similar case, Mr. Christie awarded a contract to David N. Kelley, another former United States attorney appointed by President Bush. Mr. Kelley, as the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, had declined to prosecute Mr. Christie’s brother, Todd Christie, in a 2005 stock-fraud investigation involving his trading firm, Spear, Leeds & Kellogg.

It remains unclear what amount of money, if any, went in Todd Christie’s direction due to the law his brother signed. What does remain is a highly suspect flip flop from Governor Christie on government’s role in the economy and a question about what led to such a radical change in position.

 

The DRPA Report and The Norcross Question

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

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The law is like a spider’s web; the small are caught and the great tear it up. – Solon

An investigation of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) by the State Comptroller’s office has yielded an incendiary report on the practices of the bi-state instrumentality. One of the most explosive revelations was a kickback scheme orchestrated by none other than the South Jersey maestro himself, George Norcross III. From the Comptroller’s Report:

In an effort to understand why Willis would have been selected and notified of the appointment in this way, OSC interviewed Norcross. Norcross stated that at some point prior to the December 30, 2002 e-mail, someone from Governor James McGreevey’s office had offered Norcross’ insurance company the opportunity to be DRPA’s New Jersey insurance broker. Norcross could not recall who that person was, but stated that it was not the Governor himself…

Norcross acknowledged sending Willis the e-mail informing them of the appointment, explaining that he probably would have learned of Willis’ appointment from someone at the Governor’s office or DRPA. Norcross said he could not recall the identity of that person.

DRPA Vice Chairman Jeffrey Nash told OSC that shortly after Governor McGreevey took office in 2002, the new administration directed DRPA to appoint Willis as its New Jersey- designated insurance broker. Although Nash could not specifically recall the person from the Governor’s office who had directed the appointment...

While it may not be entirely clear how, why or by whom Willis ultimately was selected as DRPA’s insurance broker, it is clear, based on contemporaneous documents and OSC interviews of Willis officials, that Willis believed that Conner Strong took action to secure its appointment and compensated Conner Strong accordingly.

A rather stunning case of collective amnesia as to who in the McGreevey administration both offered the deal then informed Norcross and Nash about the contract. Though such cases of temporary and clearly self-interested amnesia have yet to be documented medically, they often occur in the course of investigations into the Norcross Machine.

And while Norcross has claimed there is no connection to the payments to Norcross’ firm and Willis receiving the contract through McGreevey officials, the other player in the scheme had no such illusions:

Both Willis and Conner Strong agree that Willis paid Conner Strong $410,000 over the course of six years and paid Michael Martucci $45,000 over the course of two years. Willis attributes the payments to Conner Strong’s efforts in securing the DRPA business for Willis. In contrast, Conner Strong takes the position that the payments to Conner Strong were attributable to general marketing and referral efforts and had nothing to do with DRPA…

Ultimately, though Conner Strong provides contemporaneous documents to indicate that they accounted for the payments as if they were general marketing as opposed to DRPA referral payments, it is clear that Willis paid Conner Strong $455,000 of DRPA-originated commissions and that Willis considered this to be a referral fee. As Willis stated in its response to our draft report:

Willis: (1) made such payments to Conner Strong and/or Mr. Martucci because Willis reasonably believed that Conner Strong and Mr. Martucci played a role in having Willis appointed as a broker for the DRPA and continuing to act as a broker for the DRPA; and (2) made such payments solely in connection with the DRPA account.

So Norcross tried to pretend the payments were for “North Jersey Marketing” despite it being clearly understood that the payments were a reward for Norcross securing Willis the contract from the McGreevey administration. The official within the McGreevey administration who consulted with Norcross and secured the contract for Willis remains unknown, for now.

But is this the first instance of George Norcross being caught red handed manipulating public contracts? Hardly.

From Richard Pearsall “Norcross again denies alleged contract-rigging”, Courier-Post, Apr. 7, 2005:

On Jan. 3, 2001, Norcross is heard on a secretly recorded tape describing a meeting at which he told Voorhees Committeeman Harry Platt to hire JCA as the township engineer. This despite an interview process that had the township committee leaning toward another firm, Norcross said on the tape.

“. . . we said to Harry, wait a second, JCA was going to be the engineer of record. I don’t care about your f—— review process,’ Norcross said.

Also present at the meeting with Platt, according to Norcross, were Camden County Clerk Jim Beach and Assemblyman Louis D. Greenwald, D-Voorhees…

Voorhees Township Committee appointed JCA as its engineer on the evening of Jan. 3, 2001…

The contract was originally going to go to another firm, Norcross said, because three “do-gooder’ committeemen wanted to name another firm “based on the interviews.’

But at the meeting attended by Platt and the others, Norcross said, he set Platt straight that, regardless, “JCA was going to be the engineer of record.’

And a mere year later Norcross was arranging the kickback scheme with Willis for their DRPA contract. Busy busy.

But there is no need to reach so far back to see Norcross’ modus operandi. From the Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 2012:

Consider Cooper’s heavy borrowing to pay for all that expansion. In the last decade, Cooper’s bond sales have generated $5.1 million in fees to a variety of law firms, title companies, and financial advisers. On top of that, the hospital has handed out big-ticket contracts for other legal work, such as malpractice defense, its public disclosures show.

Many of those who received work via Cooper are major political donors, giving across the state to both parties. But they have been especially generous in Camden County, Norcross’ home base.

During the last decade, firms involved with Cooper have given more than $1.5 million to Camden County Democrats.

As an example, lawyers at Cozen O’Connor, a Philadelphia firm that worked on four Cooper bond issues, have given Camden Democrats $115,060 since 2002. That represented more than 70 percent of its local political contributions in New Jersey. A Cozen spokeswoman said all donations reflected candidates’ merits.

In interviews, Norcross conceded he had input into who was selected to work on hospital bond issues, managed by state and local authorities.

“Have I made recommendations of quality firms?” he said. “Absolutely.

There is of course little doubt that Norcross steers money in Cooper University Hospital as chairman – but where does Cooper get the money Norcross directs from? Same article:

Late last year, the Delaware River Port Authority, its once-vast development kitty finally running dry, approved its last round of project spending. Among the lucky few recipients: Cooper University Hospital. It got $6 million for the cancer center.

No other hospital in New Jersey or Pennsylvania has ever received DRPA assistance, the authority says.

The DRPA money was one of many ways in which Cooper has benefited from government action during the Norcross era. This year, Cooper received $52 million in state funding, more than any hospital in South Jersey – and in the top five for all 72 New Jersey hospitals.

OK. So where does some of that DRPA and State Budget money that flows through Cooper go? From “George’s grand vision: Norcross sees Camden rising” Courier-Post, Feb. 11, 2012:

Norcross is not paid as chairman of Cooper, according to the nonprofit’s 2008-2010 tax returns, the latest publicly available. But those returns also showed that the hospital did nearly $1.6 million worth of business with Norcross’ insurance firm over those three years.

Kickbacks from the DRPA insurance contract and a cut of Cooper’s DRPA funds, now that is quite a business model!

 Is George Norcross Above The Law?

It is Norcross’ control of the state budget and agencies that allows him to accumulate wealth and influence. This unchecked power has now culminated in perhaps the most craven of all Norcross looting operations: the Rutgers-Rowan (-Cooper) merger. With his cronies that were specifically mentioned on the FBI tapes now in positions of power, Norcross has made a bold move to grab even more state money for himself by giving Cooper Hospital access to enormous sums of money. From the Star Ledger:

The report, never made public but obtained by The Star-Ledger, warns that creating another “major research university” will mean a “substantial augment in the funds available to the New Rowan University to build the infrastructure a successful major research university will require.”

That is serious money that the Norcross Machine can siphon off of, just in the nick of time too as the DRPA buffet is shutting down and Cooper Hospital has borrowed so much money for graft and other expenses its credit is at risk, from Philadelphia Inquirer, March 25, 2012:

In 2008, Cooper’s revenue exceeded expenses by 5 percent. Last year that edge had shrunk to just 1 percent.

And Cooper’s bond rating is one level above junk status.

That is what happens when you need to keep bonding and building so the lawyers, insurance firms, and other consultants who kickback to the machine have money to kick back – your credit sucks. So here comes a poorly planned merger, a Norcross Bailout, to make sure Cooper can still pump out the fees and the machine can keep rolling on.

And the question remains, why isn’t George Norcross in jail? What exactly would he have to do at this point? He has been caught numerous times, once even on tape, corrupting public officials and receiving personal benefits for doing so. The answer seems to be if you have enough money and power you are above the law in New Jersey.

Even Chris Christie has changed his tune. Christie once publicly admonished Attorney General Peter Harvey for not prosecuting George Norcross and went so far as to accuse public officials of taking a dive. From the New York Times:

In a scathing letter dated Tuesday, Christopher J. Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey, wrote that his office would be unable to bring charges against Mr. Norcross because lawyers for the state attorney general had mishandled their investigation under two administrations before turning it over to his office in 2004…

His letter also harshly criticized state prosecutors for deciding not to secretly tape conversations at a Camden County Democratic fund-raiser in 2001, where Mr. Norcross and his associates were expected to discuss a wide variety of political deals. Mr. Christie said that that decision was so inexplicable that it raised the possibility that state investigators were trying to shield political figures.

Very strong charges. But what does Christie say now that Norcross can advance his political career? From “George’s grand vision: Norcross sees Camden rising” Courier-Post, Feb. 11, 2012:

“You know, I think there has been a lot of mythology built up around George Norcross,” Christie says through a spokesman. “I think the reality is he is someone with passion about things that are important to New Jersey.”

That amnesia must be going around. And this while his own Comptroller is exposing kickback schemes. Pathetic. But not just pathetic, a clear indication that Christie and his Attorney General will not be doing much vis a vis Norcross. It is a free ride. In truth, they have not been doing much at all about public corruption it seems Mr. Christie was apparently only interested in doing that when it advanced his political career (notice a pattern?).

So George Norcross is apparently above the law, at least for now.

 A Question of Legitimacy

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Who elected George Norcross? Who appointed George Norcross? America was founded on the idea, first articulated by John Locke and later enshrined by the founding fathers in the Constitution, that political legitimacy comes from the consent of the governed. Who consented to have George Norcross in charge? The answer is no one.

Norcross’ power is illegitimate by American standards and values. His power not only equals that of elected representatives but easily exceeds it as those politicians beg for his campaign money which in a tragic and ironic twist they provide much of by allowing Norcross to control government finances.

George Norcross’ constant refrain of “defending South Jersey” as justifying every greedy and selfish act he engages in is a sad and tired tune after 20 years in power. In the final analysis it is really about him and his gang defending their fiefdoms not improving the lives of others. Just ask the people of Camden City.

But let us imagine Norcross isn’t lying to camouflage his corruption – why then doesn’t Mr. Norcross take his argument to the people of South Jersey? Stand for office; Freeholder, State Legislator, Mayor of Camden City. If he is only looking out for the people they should gladly elect him.

Aye there’s the rub. The people of South Jersey, about whom Norcross claims to care about so deeply, are so woefully ignorant they would probably not sign on to his agenda or his grand “visions.” They would probably even ask why all that money Norcross promised went to “North Jersey Marketing.”

 

Christie Announces Contracts Review: Will Boxer Finally Investigate Lumberyard?

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

New Jersey Comptroller Matthew Boxer Promised To Clean Up Pay To Play

 

Chris Christie ran for Governor on a platform of reforming Trenton, draining the swamp if you will. Christie appointed Matthew Boxer as his Comptroller. Comptroller Boxer put on a grand show in September regarding the problems with the pay to play reforms New Jersey has enacted, namely that they do not do anything substantial to curb corruption.

Now Governor Christie has ordered a complete review of the public contracting process on the state and local level, from the Star Ledger:

Gov. Chris Christie has ordered a complete review of state purchasing laws and the public contracting processes, prompted by a report that showed one in five multimillion dollar purchases made by governments in New Jersey broke the law…

Towns, where many professional services contracts are not subject to the same stringent rules as state departments thanks to the “fair and open” exemption, are under increased pressure to voluntarily improve the transparency of their bid processes.

Interesting claim, but where is the evidence for that pressure?

While Comptroller Boxer was busy posing for the cameras to decry the sorry state of affairs in New Jersey the town of Collingswood was watching its Bond rating go to Junk and become a national joke being labeled by Reuters as the Absurdity of the Year for such gross financial mismanagement. But was it mismanagement or corruption, or both?

It would later be revealed that the developer which bankrupted the project, and subsequently the town, had received a no-bid contract at the Mayor’s urging, from Collingswood’s local paper the Retrospect:

[Collingswood Mayor] Maley said that the borough is currently finalizing an agreement with Costanza Residential LLC, to redevelop the Peter Lumber site. Costanza was awarded a no-bid professional service contract in Jan. 2004 to act as development manager to oversee the project. Costanza receives $5,000 a month from the borough, plus expenses.

This same developer, John Costanza, paid to play, donating money to Mayor Maley’s campaigns:

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[Source: NJELEC]

If Governor Christie is serious about honest public services its time for his administration – of which he has designated Comptroller Boxer to represent – to get to the bottom of the Lumberyard Boondoggle.


“Pay to Play” A Primer

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

 

 

  Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it’s set a rolling it must increase.
   – Charles Caleb Colton

 

 

 

Bribery is legal in New Jersey. Those outside New Jersey may find this shocking, those within merely annoying, but indeed it is legal in the state of New Jersey for businessmen (and women) that are seeking to receive benefits from public officials to give those same public officials money – provided the bribes meet certain specifications.

Wouldn’t that cause lots of conflicts of interest and compromise honest government services leading to inefficiency and higher costs for taxpayers? Wouldn’t a state that allowed such obvious corruption face a lack of trust in government as a result? Yes and yes.

 History

As anyone who has watched Boardwalk Empire knows, corruption is not particularly new to New Jersey.

New Jersey was corrupt even before it was part of America having  possibly the most disgraceful British Governor in the American colonies, Lord Cornbury. Lord Cornbury was notorious for taking bribes and stealing from the treasury, partly to pay for a cross-dressing habit. Pay to Play Dress Up.

One of the most notorious post-independence powers-that-be, also featured in Boardwalk Empire, was Hudson County boss Frank Hague.  Hague was the very definition of a Jersey machine boss once even declaring “I am the law” during his 30+ year tenure as Mayor of Jersey City. Pay to Play was so institutionalized in Jersey City that Hague’s desk had a specially designed lap drawer which could be pushed outward towards the person with whom he was meeting to collect bribes in the form of envelopes full of cash.

And let’s not forget those friends of ours, whose main concern is wetting their beak in construction and other public works projects. Pay to Play is their Bread and Butter.

 Today

In 2004, before resigning over corruption relating to a real estate developer (being gay is not illegal), Governor McGreevey signed a law (P.L. 2004, c. 19) and issued Executive Order 134 which somewhat reformed Pay to Play – most notably adding additional transparency to no-bid contracts, where a good deal of nepotism and cronyism goes on. If there is no bidding process by definition the contract is given to someone already known by the public officials usually those known persons know how to return a favor. In 2005 McGreevey’s Executive Order was essentially codified into law (P.L. 2005, Chapter 51). All these laws culminated in the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act (N.J.S.A. 19:44A-1 et seq).

Despite these reforms, as recently as September 15th a report was released by the State Comptroller claiming the Pay to Play reforms were basically meaningless on the local level. Let’s pretend this was not released in September as part of a Republican election strategy (which it totally was), what is the substance of Comptroller Boxer’s argument?

Boxer claims an exception added in the previous reform laws, namely the “fair and open exception”, is so weak and easily bypassed it leaves the old Pay to Play system unchanged.

One of the hallmarks of New Jersey’s traditional no-bid contracting system was the nearly unlimited discretion of the agency awarding the contract in selecting a politically favored vendor. In practice, fair-and-open requirements do not materially change that substantial discretion. (pg 6)

In other words the law did not stop the corruption in any meaningful way. Boxer concludes:

In practice, the system of fair-and-open has multiple weaknesses. As a result, it presents few, if any, real obstacles to a government entity seeking to award a contract to a politically favored vendor. As long as the contract opportunity is minimally advertised and selection parameters of any kind are drafted, the ultimate award is within the entity’s discretion and immune from outside review. In effect, no-bid contracts may be awarded to favored local vendors much as they had been prior to the passage of the pay-to-play law, and without regard to issues such as vendor cost. While no legislation can eliminate all risk associated with political corruption and donor influence in the government procurement setting, it is apparent nearly six years into its implementation that the fair-and-open system offers notably few hurdles for wrongdoers to overcome. (pg 14)

So Pay to Play continues, fully. The law, according to Boxer, is merely a speed bump on the way to hog highway. But before you think Boxer has some solutions here comes the next sentence:

In arriving at that conclusion, we acknowledge that campaign contributions are an appropriate and necessary part of a robust democratic process.36

What? Says who? Boxer’s footnote is quite revealing:

 36 See, e.g., N.J.S.A. 19:44A-20.13; Citizens United v. Federal Election Comm’n, 130 S. Ct. 876, 898 (2010); Melanie D. Reed, Election Law: Regulating Political Contributions by State Contractors: The First Amendment and State Pay to Play Legislation, 34 Wm. Mitchell L. Rev. 635, 645 (2008).

The Citizens United decision was a corporate license to steal (elections). It seems Boxer’s actual objection is not corruption but the size of the businesses engaging in it. Beware of politicians baring righteous indignation.

In any case, Pay to Play is alive and well in New Jersey. And why not? It’s tradition.


What’s That Sound?

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop,hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

- Buffalo Springfield, For What It’s Worth

 

Welcome to Swamp Watch, a blog dedicated to studying New Jersey’s political system. You may have a heard about New Jersey’s political system, if not don’t worry we’ll catch you up.

Unlike most news and opinion sites, Swamp Watch will be dedicated to long term in-depth studies of issues and agendas. We laugh at the news cycle (ha ha). Our audience is more for people trying to make cases than headlines and voters trying to understand that which governs them. But of course anyone can read for free.

Everybody look what’s going down.