Today’s News from

Sharpe James is the target of a federal criminal probe, Assembly will vote on dual officeholding ban, Tom Wilson has the votes to win re-election, Atlantic GOP fires Kevin Collins, and Seema Singh takes campaign dollars from utility execs



“New Jersey legislators will vote today on whether to end a state political tradition: allowing people to hold multiple elected offices.

But they are not about to immediately kill a practice that critics say promotes conflicts and allows officials to boost taxpayer-paid retirement benefits.

The Assembly is set to vote on a bill that would allow those holding more than one elected office to retain their seats.

The law, pushed by Democrats who control the Legislature, would make it illegal only for officials elected after Feb. 1 to hold more than one elected office.

Republicans decry the proposal.

"Dual officeholding is either wrong, or it's not," said Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R., Union). "If it is wrong, it should be stopped now. There is no justification for saying it is an abuse of power while granting amnesty to those who have made a habit of abusing power." (Hester, AP)



“Thirty years ago, New Jersey took the lead in taming big money's influence over political campaigns when it conducted the nation's first publicly financed election for governor.

This summer and fall, New Jersey will attempt an even more ambitious experiment: one that aims to create a truly level playing field in which every contribution — like every vote — counts equally.

After raising an initial $10,000 in seed money, candidates who sign up for the "clean elections" program being run in three of the state's 40 legislative districts will ask donors to give just $10 apiece…………..

"This is the make-or-break year for clean elections," said David Rebovich, a professor of political science at Rider University.” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)



“New Jersey is expected to usher in its second attorney general in a year this fall.

One of five appointed attorneys general in the country, Stuart Rabner took office after Zulima Farber's seven-month stint. She left amid claims that she tried to influence police during her boyfriend's traffic stop.

Anne Milgram, 36, who has served as first assistant attorney general since February 2006, was nominated by Gov. Jon Corzine last week to replace Rabner, who was tapped as chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

If both are approved, Milgram would be the eighth attorney general in 13 years. Some say electing an attorney general would provide more continuity…………..

Don Kettl, director of the Fel's Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania, said the debate over whether to elect an attorney general can be traced back a century…………

"New Jersey has resisted some of the other movements that are going on in other states," Kettl said. "It's a mistake to forget the state's history of government … the large number of local governments with power fragmented — some of these traditions go back hundreds of years.” (Graber, Express-Times)



“Multimillionaire Daniel Borislow paid himself at least $1.7 million from the Tenafly-based charitable foundation he set up — and every taxpayer in the U.S. has footed a little piece of the bill, experts say.

Cases like that of the D&K Charitable Foundation demonstrate the growing potential for abuse in the non-profit world, tax lawyers and charity watchdogs say. The number of private foundations has more than doubled over the past decade, while the resources given to government regulators have not kept pace……………….

"We worked pretty hard," said Farley, a former Tenafly resident who used his family's address when the foundation was created in 1997. Farley also had worked as CFO of Borislow's telecommunications company.

In the 10 years since D&K started up, nearly half of its spending went to the two men. From 2001 through 2005, D&K paid $2.1 million to Borislow and Farley while it gave $1.6 million to charity, tax records show.

Borislow's take in 2005 alone came to $778,000.” (Lipman, Bergen Record)


A legislative effort to forbid the use of automated political campaign calls in New Jersey is drawing mixed reaction from area political leaders, campaign managers and consultants.

The use, or misuse, of automated calls is of particular concern, and some feel those should be banned outright. Others are wary of constitutional free-speech issues that such governmental regulation would raise.

Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May, recently sponsored a bill that would ban "certain unsolicited political phone calls by political organizations or candidates to persons in the state……..

"'It's easy to have a knee-jerk reaction to the cases of a few idiots who abuse campaign calls," said Stavisky. "The problem is, regulation is a very dangerous thing when you're dealing with very basic constitutional issues. The First Amendment at its core is about political speech. You have to be very careful about regulating political speech — it's not the government's job.” (Racz, Gannett)



“Arguing that the competition for travelers' dollars is growing more intense, advocates for New Jersey's tourism industry are fighting for a $2.6 million boost in state aid to help promote the Garden State's travel destinations.

As negotiations on the state budget enter their final stages, the groups are pressing lawmakers to restore the funding to the level they believe they were guaranteed when the Legislature in 2003 approved a tax on hotel and motel stays.

The $2.6 million would go to regional tourism groups that promote specific locales within New Jersey. Most of the state's tourism spending currently goes toward marketing New Jersey as a whole, but Marilou Halvorsen, president of the New Jersey Travel Industry Association and tourism director for Jenkinson's Boardwalk at Point Pleasant beach, said that approach is only part of a comprehensive strategy.” (Tamari, Gannett)



“An 11th-hour switcheroo in the polling place for some voters in the Sixth Ward could be confusing during tomorrow's run-off election………

Regardless of the impact on the election, it certainly seems that it will create voter confusion without justification," Foley said yesterday.” (Hack, Jersey Journal)



“FRANKLIN TWP. Three top contributors to the political campaigns of three Democrat township committee members now have jobs with the township.

Consulting Engineer Services of Sewell, Churchill Consulting Engineers of Berlin and Adam, Rehmann & Heggan of Hammonton contributed a total of $13,100 over a two-year period. Each engineering firm was hired in 2007 the same year that Democrats took control of the township committee for the first time.

Dave Ferrucci, the lone Republican on the committee, has raised issues with the recent hires, calling it the epitome of pay-to-play. Pay-to-play is the practice by which professionals and developers contribute large sums of money to political campaigns in return for government contracts.” (Brown, Gloucester County Times)



“After agreeing to purchase one of the largest pieces of open space in the township, the Gloucester County freeholders have also earmarked four other properties in the county to add to the preservation list in 2008.

The Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the township have signed an agreement with the owners of the 52-acre Zimmerman Farm, to purchase the property for $4 million.” (Beym, Gloucester County Times)



Tax rates levied by the Burlington County Board of Freeholders would go up for most county property owners this year under a $223.8 million spending plan introduced last month.” (Reitmeyer, Burlington County Times)



“WILLINGBORO — A state audit found that inappropriate financial reporting and a lack of oversight lead to the $5.9 million deficit for fiscal-year 2005.” (Hayes, Burlington County Times)





”Federal prosecutors have formally notified former Newark Mayor Sharpe James, one of the state's most enduring and powerful politicians, that he is the target of a grand jury investigation and could soon face corruption charges.

James received the notification, known as a target letter, within the past two weeks, The Star-Ledger has learned.

Details were unclear, but such letters typically outline potential charges and offer the target an opportunity to testify before the grand jury. They also represent unofficial 11th-hour invitations to negotiate a plea, suggesting charges could be weeks away.

Neither James nor his attorney, Raymond M. Brown, returned calls seeking comment. They have repeatedly declined to discuss the investigation. A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie also would not acknowledge any developments in the case……………

Several sources who have been briefed on the investigation say the government is examining whether James used his office to pay for lavish vacations and is also focused on the sale of city real estate to his friends and associates.” (Shearn and Marin, Star-Ledger)



“New Jersey Republican Chairman Thomas Wilson, whose party has watched its power drain away since losing the governor's office in 2001, appears headed for another two-year term.

Ocean County Chairman George Gilmore said yesterday he was confident Wilson had enough support to ward off challenges from Morris County's Peter Mancuso, a retired New York Stock Exchange executive, and Bergen County's Paul DiGaetano, a former assemblyman and unsuccessful 2005 gubernatorial candidate, in an election set for Thursday. Gilmore is the chairman of the 21 county leaders……….

Wilson's critics, however, are running a vigorous campaign to replace him, citing a string of electoral losses and anemic fundraising.” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)



Atlantic County Republicans have given the boot to a political consultant accused of running a startlingly racist campaign against a Korean-American opponent.

The consultant, Kevin Collins, managed the 40th District state Senate primary campaign of Todd Caliguire of Bergen County, which now has drawn the condemnation of Republican Party leaders around the state.

Caliguire's campaign — which ended in defeat Tuesday — sent out mailers that pictured the opponent, Assemblyman Kevin O'Toole, alongside civil rights leader Al Sharpton and labeled him an exploiter of affirmative action.

“Kevin Collins will not be doing any work for us,” Davis said. “We're not going to be involved in the kind of tactics he used in Bergen County, which are reprehensible. That's not the way we run campaigns in Atlantic County.”

Collins — who also had interviewed with state Sen. Nicholas Asselta's campaign and campaigns in Ocean County — claims O'Toole's photograph was not altered. He also disputes the account of the robocalls.

“Todd Caliguire, who is the candidate, issued an apology,” Collins said, referring to a statement Caliguire issued on Friday apologizing for the Sharpton mailer. “If Kevin doesn't want to accept the apology, that's between Todd and Kevin.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)



“In her former role as the state's ratepayer advocate, Seema Singh's task was to represent consumers against profit-minded utility companies appearing before state regulators.

Now, a Democratic candidate for state Senate in a district that's part of a state pilot project to rid campaigns of special interest donations, Singh has collected donations from those connected to the utility companies she used to oppose.

Running in an uncontested primary, Singh collected $2,600 from Laurence Downes, chief executive officer of New Jersey Natural Gas; $500 from Aqua America's political action committee and $500 from John D. McMahon, president and chief executive officer of Rockland Electric Company.

Her general election fund shows a $300 "seed money" contribution from Ralph Izzo, chief executive officer of PSE&G…………..

"I don't think one has anything to do with the other," Singh said. "As the ratepayer advocate, I held my positions, which were totally in sync with my mission. I protected the ratepayers."” (Volpe, Gannett)



“A key figure in the absentee ballot manipulation case against former Jersey City Mayor Gerald McCann has changed his tune.

Last month, Carl Czaplicki Sr., a resident of Newport Nursing Home in the Greenville section of the city, signed a certification submitted to a state Superior Court judge stating that McCann came to his room holding Czaplicki's absentee ballot for the April school board election in his hand – an election no-no……………..

Czaplicki Jr. called McCann a "senior predator" and predicted the courts would ultimately void his election.

McCann has previously called Czaplicki a "selfish son" who never visits his dad.” (Thorbourne, Jersey Journal)




“Bill Clinton was the big draw last night as New Jersey Democrats raked in a cool $2.1 million at their largest fundraising event of the year.

The former president spoke for about 10 minutes and spent more time than that shaking hands among the more than 600 guests at the Governor's Gala, held at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark.

"New Jersey has become a great Democratic state. You voted for me in 1992. You voted for me in 1996. You voted for Al Gore," Clinton said.” (Howlett and Margolin, Star-Ledger)



“A government records dispute is heating up between Gov. Jon S. Corzine and New Jersey Republicans over e-mails that could shed light on his relationship with an ex-girlfriend to whom he gave millions of dollars in gifts.

The case raises a legal question that state open record laws generally do not have exact answers for: Are elected officials' e-mails open for public scrutiny, like many other records?

In New Jersey, it's a debate likely to be decided in court. State Republicans are challenging Corzine's contention that some of his e-mails are private. They think his communications with ex-girlfriend Carla Katz, a powerful state labor leader, might back their contention that it's unethical for a governor to haggle over state worker contracts with a past lover whom he reportedly gave millions in gifts after they broke up.

The next step in the legal process comes Aug. 3, when Corzine is due in court to explain why the e-mails should not be public.” (Mulvihill, AP)



“New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine's approval rating has dropped slightly since March but remains strong, a new poll released last week found.

The poll by Fairleigh Dickinson University's PublicMind found 50 percent of voters approve of the Democrat's job performance, compared with 55 percent in March. The poll has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.” (AP)



“It was the stuff of municipal nightmares. Confidential police information, extracted from discarded Ewing Township computers, posted on the Internet for all to see.

Now, as Ewing officials breathe a sigh of relief that the computers have been returned and the Web site shut down, computer experts say government agencies across the state should view the embarrassingly public security breach as a modern-day cautionary tale.” (Coryell, Trenton Times)



“Early this week, lawmakers plan to announce exactly how the state will compensate hospitals to care for the uninsured.

Unlike last year's epic battle over a sales-tax increase, it's not a sexy issue, nor one that threatens to shut casinos down.

But it has been the single most contentious issue in this year's budget talks, and it has highlighted the haphazard way in which the state has been funding New Jersey's 123 hospitals.” (Ung, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“After a bruising primary, Sussex County's riven Republican party started burying hatchets in preparation for taking on Democrats in the general election.

About 65 members of the party faithful attended a "unity breakfast" yesterday in Lafayette to begin mending deep wounds candidates inflicted upon each other in the run-up to Tuesday's primary.” (Lockwood, Star-Ledger)



“On the heels of last week's bruising loss in the primary election for four council seats, Edison Democratic Chairman Thomas Paterniti is expected to face a challenge when the fractured local party meets tomorrow night to elect a new leader.

In true Edison political style, the election promises to be a raucous event because the challenger would face Middlesex County's longest-tenured chairman in Paterniti, who has held the seat for the past 15 years and had another earlier eight-year stint.” (Walsh and Din, Star-Ledger)



“A federal monitor cited serious billing irregularities at the state's medical university, after discovering an associate dean and other doctors improperly submitted charges and signed medical charts involving patients actually seen by other physicians……….

In a report to be publicly re leased tomorrow, the monitor also found the university's trustees were asked to approve no-bid contracts for work that had already been completed — circumventing new rules requiring approval of such spending in advance.” (Sherman, Star-Ledger)



“Gary Rose is widely considered the second-most powerful official in New Jersey state government — right behind Gov. Jon Corzine.

While he's never run for office and works far from the public eye, Trenton insiders describe Rose as Corzine's de facto lieutenant governor.

Holding a Cabinet job created specifically for him, Rose has authority over all or parts of two dozen state agencies, including every important state panel dealing with economic growth.

In short, he controls virtually every dime the state is spending to boost the economy.” (Howlett, Star-Ledger)



What a difference a few months makes.

When state Sen. James “Sonny” McCullough campaigned for the senate seat left vacant by state Sen. Bill Gormley's retirement, he sold himself as the “anti-Gormley,” promising to unite a Republican Party he said his predecessor had divided. Three months into his predecessor's old job, McCullough now says he wants to see Gormley's name immortalized.” (McAleer, Press of Atlantic City)



“One sure way of protecting the state's water-generating Highlands land is to buy it, but state funding sources are running dry.

And that has led to renewed calls for a water-user fee to pay for land acquisitions envisioned in the yet-to-be-completed Highlands regional master plan.” (Barry, Bergen Record)



“A sprawling package of regulations proposed by the state would limit development and the amount of pollution that can run into large parts of 15 rivers and their tributaries, including the Rockaway, Pequannock, Wallkill, Musconetcong and Pequest rivers in Morris, Sussex and Warren counties…………

"I'm certainly all in favor of protecting water quality, but it may be that these rules have overreached," said Eric Snyder, Sussex County's director of planning.” (Saha and Alloway, Star-Ledger)



“If anyone thought a monthlong suspension without pay would cure Mercer County Judge Bill Mathesius of his irreverent outspokenness and sarcastic courtroom demeanor, they were wrong. Six months after the state Supreme Court ordered Mathesius to take time off to ponder his caustic judicial manner, the self-proclaimed "impolite and impolitic" jurist has published his reflections in a scathing critique of the state judicial system.” (Coryell, Trenton Times)



“The state is looking to revoke or suspend the credentials of four Trenton school administrators accused of tampering with grades.” (AP)



“One mayor resigned after a conflict of interest, another was almost indicted, and the clerk last month was fined $1,000 by the state for holding back public records. The police chief, too, is facing disciplinary charges. South Bound Brook officials have had a hard time steering clear of controversy. But they insist they have suffered more from a series of recent missteps, not misdeeds. Residents enjoying a recent revitalization appear not to have noticed.” (Ortega, Star-Ledger)



“Fed up with what he called out-of-control spending by the administration, Council President Dave Kenny this week proposed the council approve all township spending before the checks are written.” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)



“In the end, the money and the campaign signs simply weren't enough. No one can pinpoint why a guy with an 8-0 record of getting his candidates elected couldn't win his own bid for Warren County clerk.” (Satullo, Express-Times)



“Known for her pleasant demeanor, Deborah Trout, a Mercer County sheriff's officer, has an added reason to smile. On Tuesday, Trout beat three other candidates for the Republican nomination for sheriff in Hunterdon County. Trout, 55, of Delaware Township, started out in the Hunterdon County Sheriff's Office 20 years ago, first as a clerk, then a secretary, moving on to confidential aide before becoming a sheriff's officer. She became a Mercer County Sheriff officer in 2003.” (Stein, Trenton Times)



“PRINCETON BOROUGH — Ask Linda Gochfeld why she wants President Bush out of office and you'll get a list…………..Gochfeld, a psychiatrist and physician and co-chair of the Princeton Community Democratic Organization's Impeachment Task Force, has written a resolution calling for Bush and Cheney to be kicked out of office — part of a national movement to do so.” (Trently, Trenton Times)


“The Salem County Board of Chosen Freeholders approved a resolution last week to purchase nearly $100,000 worth of office furniture, and at least one freeholder didn't think it was the right move with taxpayer money.” (Moore, Today’s Sunbeam)

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