Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com

“Best was ahead” for Blakely
Political consultant Tom Blakely’s sudden death on Saturday left his New Jersey friends and colleagues shocked at the passing of a man who had realized success and who, at only 46-years-old, had the potential to achieve so much more.

“The best was ahead of him,” said state Sen. Kevin O’Toole, a friend of Blakely and a cousin by marriage. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Sabrin: You disagree with me? Drop out!
Seventeen years after it was written, a booklet authored by U.S. Senate candidate Joe Pennacchio has reemerged as a campaign issue.

Pennacchio’s Republican rival, Murray Sabrin, has begun distributing copies of the book, calling it a “fascist manifesto” and demanding that Pennacchio not only drop his Senate candidacy, but resign from his state Senate seat as well. Sabrin plans to hold a press conference on the topic this afternoon. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Jersey Joe: So what if I was a fascist?
Some of the ideas Joe Pennacchio wrote 17 years ago may seem unusual – or to Republican rival Murray Sabrin, even “fascist.”

But Pennacchio said they’re nothing more than ideas he penned years before he held public office. Some, he says, have been proven to be good ideas. Others he’s “evolved” beyond.

The important thing, Pennacchio says, is that even before he entered the political realm, he was thinking of ways to help his country. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

And just what’s in that manifesto?
In 1991 Joseph Pennacchio sent then-Assembly Minority Leader Chuck Haytaian a 94-page manifesto containing what he thought were solutions to the nation’s problems.

Pennacchio said in a cover letter that he had started “The Nationalist Party” to address the issues. (Matt Friedman, PolitickerNJ.com)

Soap Opera Digest at the TGIF
Former governor James E. McGreevey and his estranged wife traded public barbs yesterday over their sex life, effectively accusing each other of lying about whether they had three-way trysts with a young campaign staffer.

Dina Matos McGreevey said Theodore Pedersen‘s claims that he regularly joined the couple for threesomes at McGreevey’s Woodbridge condo between 1999 and 2001 were “completely false.”

She charged that McGreevey had helped Pedersen get jobs and was now orchestrating his lurid confessions to smear her. “This was obviously payback,” she told the Associated Press. (Judith Lucas and Jonathan P. Martin, Star-Ledger)

Republicans prepare for Communist invasion
Lawmakers yesterday unveiled plans to bring universal health care to New Jersey within three years by requiring its 1.3 million uninsured residents to buy coverage and using state funds to provide reduced-cost policies.

“I believe that every man, woman and child deserves access to affordable health care here in New Jersey and more importantly, so do an overwhelming majority of New Jerseyans who live this challenge every day,” Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), a sponsor of the bill, said at a packed Statehouse news conference.

The proposal would eventually offer a state insurance program administered by private insurers to provide lower-cost insurance to those who can’t afford market prices. That’s expected to cost $1 billion when fully implemented, a figure Vitale says will go down as cost-cutting measures kick in.

Yesterday, however, sponsors focused primarily on the proposal’s first year, which would cost about $29 million and concentrate on signing up children. (Susan K. Livio, Star-Ledger)

Criminal probe urged in EnCap project
A bipartisan panel of state lawmakers called Monday for a criminal probe of the EnCap Golf project, saying evidence suggests that the failed Meadowlands venture rose and fell on fraud, conspiracy and theft by deception.

“And that’s just the beginning,” said Sen. Bob Smith, a Middlesex County Democrat who headed the special committee. “This is not walking like a duck, or quacking like a duck. This looks pretty clear to be fraud.”

The committee grilled Inspector General Mary Jane Cooper for more than two hours, focusing on gaps in her yearlong inquiry into how the financially shaky EnCap got hundreds of millions in state loans and subsidies on a mere $19 million in working capital.

Sen. Nia Gill, D-Essex, expressed indignation that Cooper never interviewed former Govs. James E. McGreevey or Richard Codey about EnCap while knowing that key Cabinet members of both governors had problems with the project. (Jeff Pillets and John Brennan, The Record)

And they didn’t even grandfather in legislators who were already there
A bipartisan package of ethics reform bills that would prohibit current legislators from serving on a key panel that investigates ethical complaints against their fellow lawmakers and staff was approved yesterday by the Senate.

Sponsored by Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D- Camden) and Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris), the bill would amend the state Conflicts of Interest Law and the operation of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards to require that committee members come solely from the general public.

“Consider these measures a down payment on our promise to institute a wide range of ethics reforms this year,” Codey said. “First, it’s important that we have the right oversight in place to investigate ethical complaints and help eliminate conflicts of interest. In the coming months, we look for ward to addressing a number of other pressing ethics issues that will help restore the public’s faith in their elected officials.” (Star-Ledger)

Vote verification delayed
The Senate yesterday reluctantly approved a later deadline for paper verification of votes after the state acknowledged it could not have the technology ready by the November presidential election.

If the measure is signed by Gov. Corzine, New Jersey voters will cast ballots in what could be a very close presidential contest without being able to see their recorded votes on paper.

Sen. Nia Gill, who sponsored the original legislation mandating backup verification for electronic balloting, said she opposed granting the state an extension until January 2009. The law originally required paper receipts by January 2007. (Angela Delli Santi, Associated Press)

Digital memorabilia… or trash
Republican Bill Baroni was elected to the state Senate in Central Jersey’s 14th District last fall, but his campaign lives on at billbaroni.com.

The website offers supporters the opportunity to volunteer to help his campaign, notes that the New Jersey Education Association endorsed his candidacy eight months ago, and offers news clips and photos of the energetic candidate knocking on doors in search of votes.

The site is one of thousands of remnants of campaigns long-since fought at all levels of politics — by candidates for everything from town councils to the White House — spread across the vastness of cyberspace. Some candidates deactivate their sites, others devote them to new endeavors, and some simply leave them in whatever state they happened to have been in on Election Day — allowing them to turn into a kind of digital political memorabilia. (J. Scott Orr, Star-Ledger)

Union backs down on voting machine checks
Union County backed off its plans yesterday to have a Princeton University computer scientist inspect electronic voting machines where errors occurred in the presidential primary tallies.

Sequoia Voting Systems, the manufacturer of New Jersey’s voting machines, threatened to sue the county if it allowed Princeton professor Edward Felten to conduct an independent study of the machines.

A Sequoia executive, Edwin Smith, put Union County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi on notice that an independent analysis would violate the licensing agreement between his firm and the county. In a terse two-page letter, Smith also argued the voting machine software is a Sequoia “trade secret” and cannot be handed over to any third-party.

Last week, Rajoppi had persuaded the statewide clerks’ association to hire Felten, who made national headlines two years ago when he demonstrated how a computer virus could alter the result on Diebold voting machines. (Diane C. Walsh, Star-Ledger)


Today’s news from PolitickerNJ.com