In LD2, Whelan-backing Dems double down on Polistina’s contracts as GOP fights back

In a contest that would never wait until after Labor Day, Democrats backing state Sen. Jim Whelan (D-2) yesterday unveiled a website attacking the record of Whelan’s GOP opponent, Assemblyman Vince Polistina (R-2), who in turn reanimated his core arguments against Whelan.

Each side charges the other with being a public sector glutton – unacceptable to a public besieged by a tough economy.

But the Democrats insist the website proves Polistina is the much worse transgressor – on a different level, in fact, when it comes to public dollar ingestion.

Feeling nibbled at by Polistina after his latest attack over what they say are the senator’s far less egregious public job stacking, Team Whelan went on offense with the site, denouncing Polistina and his engineering firm as a colossal taxpayer milking machine.

The New Jersey Senate Democratic Majority PAC highlights the more than $6.5 million in no-bid contracts Polistina’s firm has been awarded, or more than 85% of the firm’s business.

The site points out that Polistina’s three-biggest municipal contracts – with Egg Harbor Township, the Egg Harbor Township School Board, and the Egg Harbor Township Municipal Utilities Authority – all in Polistina’s hometown – have alone awarded him more than $5.1 million in no-bid contracts. According to records from the state Election Law Enforcement Commission, the Republican assemblyman’s firm was also one of the largest contributors to the Egg Harbor Township Republican organization in 2007.

“Vince Polistina has painted himself as the poster-child for the pay-to-play politicians who enrich themselves off of residents’ property tax dollars,” said Derek Roseman, spokesman for the Senate Democratic Majority, which is sponsoring the site. “The more Atlantic County residents learn of his double-speak and hypocrisy, the more they will realize he is the wrong choice for state Senate.”

Reacting to the website, Polistina partisans concluded that Whelan is panicking, and made sure to sprinkle their response with adjectives underlying a depiction of Whelan as a fat cat in his own right.

“Greedy, pension-padding politician Jim Whelan is feeling the heat,” said Polistina Campaign Consultant Chris Russell.  “In just the last month, we’ve exposed how Jim Whelan has been gaming the system and lining his pockets at taxpayer expense for nearly three decades.  By launching a smear web site like this in early August, the Trenton Democrats are conceding that Whelan is in trouble and now they are trying to bail him out with a campaign of lies and personal attacks.”

Sources say pre-summer polling showed Whelan leading Polistina by ten points. Anticipating an upswell in the Democrats’ engineering firm arguments, the GOP’s strategy has been to wail on Whelan as steadily as possible in an attempt to drive down his favorables, disaffect the electorate, and get the fight on even terms.  

“Here are the facts about Jim Whelan: His cronies in Ventnor created a job especially for him so he could pad his public pension; he pocketed astronomical pay raises as a swim instructor in the Atlantic City Schools immediately after returning from a 12-year leave of absence as Mayor; and he raked in more than $175,000 in taxpayer money last year alone courtesy of just two-part time jobs and the first of his two public pensions,” said Russell.  “This is all in addition to Whelan’s failed tenure as Mayor where he mismanaged Atlantic City’s finances so badly that Moody’s Investors Service had to downgrade the city’s credit rating.”

Regarding the big dollar amounts attached to their candidate, the GOP has repeatedly made the case that Polstina employs 11 people at his firm and has healthcare and operational costs, and so dismiss the implication by Democrats that their candidate is wantonly ripping off residents for only his own benefit.

Fighting back for Whelan, Roseman said that when Polistina introduced legislation earlier this year ostensibly eliminating perks for public officials, the bill conveniently exempted those who hold certain part-time public jobs – such as Polistina’s own post as Egg Harbor Township municipal engineer.

“Vince Polistina is just another ‘do as I say, not as I do’ politician, hoping he can pull the wool over the eyes of voters,” said Roseman. “But facts are tricky things, and there’s no way Vince Polistina can paper over the way he has used his contacts to benefit himself at the cost of Atlantic County’s already beleaguered property taxpayers.”

Russell said Polistina’s position with the Egg Harbor Township MUA mandates that he is enrolled in the pension system.  It’s not a choice.  Polistina introduced legislation that would allow people like him to opt-out.  He has publicly stated that he does not intend to take the pension upon retirement.

“Vince Polistina has consistently supported and introduced legislation that would directly impact him because it’s the right thing to do,” said Russell. “Jim Whelan’s own words in these newspaper stories prove that Whelan is the one who is unwilling to support legislation that would negatively impact his own bottom line and his ability to line his own pockets at taxpayer expense.”