Democrats have big fundraising lead, NJ Congressmen are flush with cash, closing arguments in Devereaux trial, Cryan's unorthodox statement, Bush ignores Lautenberg and Menendez in judicial pick.
DEMS HAVE 4-1 FUNDRAISING LEAD
“Democrats have widened their huge fundraising lead over Republicans less than four months before the fall elections, with money from funeral homes, unions and even the governor's girlfriend pouring into the party's statewide campaign funds, new reports show.
Trenton's ruling party now has $6.2 million in the bank, while the minority party has just $1.7 million stashed away, according to the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. It released reports yesterday on the so-called "Big Six" political action committees — the two state parties and the PACs controlled by their Senate and Assembly leaders.
The Senate Democratic Majority committee alone raised more cash during the past three months ($1.4 million) than all three Republican committees combined ($921,677).
Along with the governor's post, Democrats hold 22 of the 40 Senate seats, and 50 of the 80 Assembly seats. All 120 seats are up for grabs Nov. 6.
With $3.5 million already in reserve, Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex) said he "definitely" expects to surpass the $4.4 million record for a state Senate fundraising committee, set in 2001 by Republicans. "We realize the focus will be on us, and what we've tried to do is keep down overhead until the election came," he said. "We're very hopeful and anticipate increasing our margin, whether that's by one, two or three."……………
Sen. Tom Kean Jr. (R-Union) said Democrats will be forced to spend heavily, and Republicans will need less, because public senti ment favors the challengers.
"The Democratic party has increased spending 50 percent over the last five years. They've doubled borrowing. Taxes have gone up $12 billion. And now they are talking about selling the Turnpike," said Kean, referring to Gov. Jon Cor zine's plan to "monetize" the toll road. Corzine has pledged it will not be sold.” (Donohue, Star-Ledger)
Despite the funding setback, Republican legislative leaders have said they plan to run on a platform promoting ethics and fiscal responsibility, and place the ambiguity surrounding Corzine's toll road idea at the forefront of the races.
But assessing the funding numbers, Rider University political scientist David Rebovich said the Republicans still have a tough battle.
"While there are many questions that citizens have about the Legislature and the Corzine administration … donors are betting on the Democrats keeping the majority," Rebovich said. "It's pretty hard to regain the majority if you're the Republicans with those numbers." (Graber, Gloucester County Times)
“New Jersey's congressional lawmakers are so far ahead in the race for campaign cash that challengers will find it tough to unseat them in November 2008.
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, the Democrat who's seeking re-election next year, and eight House members who represent Central and South Jersey and the Morristown area have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Their declared opponents — with one exception — raised virtually no money, according to campaign records filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Only Assemblywoman Linda Stender, D-Union, raised $15,000 from April 1 to June 30, the period covered by the latest federal filings, which were due last Sunday. She had $17,000 in cash on hand, which includes money left over from her previous congressional bid…………
s' lopsided financial advantage doesn't surprise Brigid Harrison, a Montclair University political scientist, who said it's still early enough in the electoral cycle and there's time for strong challengers to emerge.
"Unless there is a particularly damaged incumbent, most of the data show that the incumbents receive as much as 90 percent more campaign contributions," Harrison said Tuesday. "The people who contribute money understand that the odds of incumbents being returned to office are great. Therefore, it's a calculated decision.” (Chebium Gannett)
THE LEGACY OF REV. WILLIAM WATLEY
“A former high-ranking state official on trial for misusing funds was either an overbearing officeholder out to help herself and her family or an overwhelmed administrator who may have committed ethical missteps, jurors were told yesterday during closing arguments in the six-week case.
Former commerce commission Chief of Staff Lesly Devereaux is accused of funneling contracts to relatives and using state resources and staff on her private legal work.
Deputy Attorney General An thony Picione told jurors the schemes began to unravel in early 2004 when state auditors launched a routine review of the New Jersey Commerce and Economic Growth Commission. Hoping to hide the private work, she obstructed the audit, created false documents and ordered the destruction of numerous records, he said.
"The coverup by the defendant started when the state auditors came," Picione said. "She knew she had breached her duties."…………………
Devereaux's attorney, Jack Fur long, called his client an overwhelmed administrator who may have committed ethical lapses.
"She may be guilty of bad judgment," Furlong said. "But she is not guilty of the global conspiracy alleged by the indictment.” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)
CRYAN GETS PRAISE FROM…. REPUBLICANS
“A Republican could not have said it any better.
This week, Joseph Cryan, the Democratic Party chairman in New Jersey, gave the state’s political establishment a bit of a start when he said on a television program that two state senators under indictment on corruption charges — Sharpe James, Newark’s former mayor, and Wayne R. Bryant of Camden — should resign immediately.
In fact, the comments were so pointed that Tom Wilson, the state Republican chairman, issued a news release on Monday that praised Mr. Cryan and challenged the party’s de facto leader, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, to do the same thing.
Then, on Tuesday, Assemblyman Bill Baroni, a Republican from Mercer County, applauded Mr. Cryan as well (while reminding the public that he had sponsored a constitutional amendment intended to suspend any indicted official from office).
This is not the way these things ordinarily play out, especially when the cases have not yet gone to court. As Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst with The Cook Political Report, put it, “It’s pretty unusual for the party chairman to say, ‘Time to go.’”………..
By speaking out so bluntly against two veteran lawmakers, he was trying to mute corruption as an issue in this election year, in which all 120 legislative seats are up for grabs……………….
There are risks in that strategy, as well, however, since some partisans value loyalty above anything else.
“It’s very premature, and I think it’s out of line for the state chairman to get involved,” said Assemblyman William Payne. “It sends a very, very bad message to those of us who are loyal Democrats.”……………
Not that Mr. Cryan asked, but State Senator Joseph M. Kyrillos Jr., a former Republican chairman, was eager to offer advice.
In 2002, Mr. Kyrillos recalled, he faced a similar predicament when a leading candidate for United States Senate, James W. Treffinger, the Essex County executive, faced a thicket of corruption allegations. Mr. Kyrillos asked publicly for Mr. Treffinger to resign, despite protests from other Republicans.
“I understand the pressures that Chairman Cryan has, but at the end of the day, when this kind of episode occurs, it hurts the entire political establishment and all institutions of government,” Mr. Kyrillos said. “Joe did the right thing.” (Chen, New York Times)
BUSH IGNORES NJ SENATORS
“President Bush yesterday selected New Jersey attorney Shalom Stone for a seat on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the nomination could be blocked by the state's two Democratic senators.
Stone, who will turn 44 at the end of July, is a partner of the Roseland law firm of Walder Hayden & Brogan, and has specialized in complex commercial litigation, real estate matters and white-collar defense work.
If confirmed, Stone would fill the vacancy created when Samuel A. Alito Jr. was sworn in as a Supreme Court justice in February 2006.
But Stone must get the okay of New Jersey Democratic Sens. Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, who have the power to prevent his nomination from being brought up for consideration. If he clears that hurdle, Stone would then have pass muster with a Democratic-controlled Senate that has been skeptical of President Bush's conservative appellate court nominees.
The White House, which ordinarily consults with a nominee's home-state senators, gave Lautenberg and Menendez no input, and informed them after the selection was made.
"Until this nomination, the White House has worked with us in a cooperative bipartisan fashion to pick good judges for New Jersey," said Dan Katz, the chief of staff to Lautenberg.
"For whatever reason, President Bush has decided to break from our cooperative approach and has veered toward a partisan political exercise," said Katz. "Right now we will examine Mr. Stone's record and qualifications, but given the way the president has moved forward on this nomination without consultation, we are skeptical that this a good-faith effort to pick a judge for New Jersey.” (Cohen, Star-Ledger)
COINCIDENTALLY, THE DCCC WANTS TO TAKE HIM ON
“As U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo takes the four-hour drive from the Jersey Shore to Washington each week, he's thinking about the war in Iraq and whether he should join the handful of fellow Republicans who have broken with President Bush and now say they want the troops out in nine months.
"This is something I think about – not just once in a while, but all the time," he said.”
LoBiondo is still siding with the president on the war. He voted against legislation last Thursday that called for a withdrawal by April 2008. But he is becoming increasingly frustrated with the Iraqi government's failure to take control of the war………….
Frustration similar to LoBiondo's has been heard from Republicans in New Mexico, Maine, Maryland, North Carolina and Indiana, with U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar (R., Ind.) saying the "costs and risks of continuing down the current path outweigh the potential benefits." (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)
FERGUSON RIGHT THERE WITH LOBIONDO
“Republican Rep. Mike Ferguson has supported President Bush on every vote over the Iraq war, from the invasion to the surge.
But he talks today like a man who's getting ready to switch sides. "I am beyond frustrated," he says. "Either we get good news by September, or something radical has to change. And it's tough to imagine a scenario where they will meet the benchmarks by then."
The fate of the American adventure in Iraq now hinges on moderate Republicans like Ferguson.
Without them, Democrats trying to force a withdrawal from this increasingly hopeless war don't have the votes to override a certain presidential veto. That's the hard math we now face in Washington.
Ferguson is facing another kind of math at home in New Jersey. His 7th District stretches across the belly of the state, from Pennsylvania in the west to the outskirts of Newark in the east. It is among the wealthiest congressional districts in the nation, and supported Bush in both 2000 and 2004.
But the war has created an opening for Democrats. Ferguson won re-election last year by less than 1 percentage point, his smallest margin ever.” (Moran, Star-Ledger)
REPUBLICANS TELL KATZ TO STAY OUT OF IT
“A lawyer representing the head of New Jersey's Republican Party filed court papers yesterday seeking to keep Gov. Corzine's former girlfriend from joining a lawsuit to force public disclosure of e-mails between the governor and his ex.
Republican State Committee Chairman Tom Wilson argues in the papers that state worker union leader Carla Katz failed to demonstrate that her intervention in the suit "is appropriate and warranted…………..
Tuesday's brief by Republican lawyer Mark Sheridan asks the court to keep Katz from becoming part of the suit.
He said Katz's interests are adequately represented by the Attorney General's Office, which represents Corzine, and she has never acknowledged the existence of e-mails between her and the governor.
"I don't know how you claim an interest in something you haven't acknowledged exists," Sheridan said." (Delli Santi, AP)
The courts should also ignore Katz' argument that all collective bargaining is exempted from public disclosure by the open records act and therefore the e-mails should remain private, Sheridan said.
"Absent an admission that collective negotiations between Katz and Corzine took place outside of the formal collective bargaining process," he argued, "there is no basis upon which to assert the ap plicability of this exemption." (Howlett, Star-Ledger)
LEVINSON TO MCGETTIGAN: “SIT DOWN”
“NORTHFIELD — The political battle over who will be elected Atlantic County executive in November spilled over into a public meeting on Tuesday, with both candidates quarreling over what amounts to county pay-to-play legislation.
Democratic challenger James McGettigan again asked the Atlantic County Board of Chosen Freeholders to ban candidates running for county office from taking campaign contributions from agencies or persons holding professional contracts with the county.
Once again, Republican Atlantic County Freeholder Director Joseph Silipena said the legislation wasn’t necessary.
But this time, he was joined by incumbent Republican Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson, who showed up at the meeting to argue that McGettigan’s request: could cost the county millions of dollars more in professional contracts; isn’t needed, as the county already puts its professional contracts out to public bidding; and will eventually be addressed by county pay to play legislation currently in development stages.
“It’s a second ‘no,’” Levinson told McGettigan. “Sit down.”(Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)
LIVIN’ LARGE WITH THE PARKS COMMISSION
“Already under siege for questionable spending, the Somerset County Park Commission now faces an investigation by the state attorney general and last night received a strongly worded directive from county officials to clean itself up.
At their meeting in Somerville, the freeholders warned the park commission to immediately implement 13 recommendations contained in a county-ordered report that spotlighted abuses in spending and operations, or else the freeholders would try to dissolve the 50-year-old commission and take over the park system.
The directive came the day after the Attorney General's Office issued a subpoena giving commission director Ray Brown until July 30 to provide records on employees' expenses, housing and cars provided to staff and the use of an exclusive vendor for all park-related electrical work, according to county officials.
"Drastic and immediate changes need to be implemented in order to cure these failings and inadequacies and to restore the public trust," Freeholder Rick Fontana, liaison to the park commission, said at last night's meeting…………..
Despite the tough talk, the freeholders faced skepticism from audience members who accused them of having ignored the problems until now and of making scapegoats of Brown and other park officials.” (McCarron and Tyrell, Star-Ledger)
NO SHOW JOBS IN NORTH BERGEN
“The political fallout of the state's Attorney General's Office's ongoing investigation of North Bergen's Department of Public Works claimed its first casualty yesterday.
U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman, D-Fair Lawn, yesterday pulled $500,000 from a spending bill that was earmarked toward construction of a garage in North Bergen slated to house a repair shop for the town's Department of Public Works vehicles, along with the North Hudson Regional Fire and Rescue's fire trucks, officials said.
"I learned through this morning's Jersey Journal newspaper that the North Bergen Department of Public Works is under investigation and has received subpoenas from the New Jersey Attorney General's Office. Until this matter is cleared up, it would be inappropriate to proceed with this funding request," Rothman said in a written statement.
"I will not endorse sending taxpayers' money to an entity under investigation for alleged violations of the law," he added.” (Renshaw, Jersey Journal)
"The Democratic leadership made a poor decision in removing North Bergen from this bill," spokesman Craig Schmalz said. "They have effectively made themselves judge and jury, condemning the vast majority of residents on baseless grounds." (Hsu an Jackson, Bergen Record)
HERE’S A FIRST: GOP ATTACKS ASSEMBLY CANDIDATE FOR NOT RAISING TAXES
"MOUNT LAUREL — Township Solicitor Michael Mouber says he has been told there is no apparent conflict of interest in his serving as the council's attorney and the Mount Laurel Republican Municipal Committee chairman.
Mouber sought an advisory opinion from the state's Local Finance Board after the question of a potential conflict was raised by Councilwoman Tracy Riley at the annual reorganization meeting on Jan. 8.
Mouber announced the finance board's opinion at a council meeting Monday, where the members of the GOP-controlled council blasted Riley, who is a candidate for an 8th District Assembly seat in the November election………..
Riley cast the lone “no” vote to reappoint Mouber as solicitor at the reorganization meeting. At the time, she said she would seek an advisory opinion on whether Mouber could hold the solicitor and party chairman posts.
On Monday, other council members and Planning Board Chairman Jim Keenan, a Republican, accused Riley of playing “politics from the podium……………..
Keenan also criticized Riley's dissenting vote on the township's $34.9 million budget, which calls for a 3.8-cent increase in the local-purpose tax. He asked her what specific cuts she recommended to deal with the township's “spending problem” she referenced in a prepared statement last week.” (Camilli, Burlington County Times)
CORZINE SLAPS DOWN UNSOLICITED MONETIZATION PROPOSAL
“Aides to Gov. Jon S. Corzine said Tuesday the administration has rejected a private company's unsolicited "monetization" proposal that called for significant toll increases on the Garden State Parkway and New Jersey Turnpike in order to raise $30 billion in cash.
The proposal, by a private firm, first surfaced in a posting on the Web site TollRoadsNews.com, which tracks road sale and lease plans. The site's editor, Peter Samuel, said he obtained the plan from the private firm that submitted the idea in February but noted that there was no indication that it formed the basis for the administration's thinking on how to leverage the roads for a cash infusion.
Corzine spokeswoman Lilo Stainton brushed off the plan, saying the proposal was not being used and is one of many the administration receives.
"It's an unsolicited proposal. We're comfortable with the advice we're getting from our financial adviser," Stainton said………..
The proposal calls for letting a private firm take over management of the Turnpike and Parkway with the ability to raise tolls, by as much as 173 percent on the Parkway in 2009, according to the details reported by the Web site.” (Tamari, Gannett)
“The New Jersey Institute of Technology has finished testing printers designed to bolster confidence in electronic voting machines. But don't bother asking NJIT about the results. And forget about touring the lab where the tests were performed over the last two months.
"The attorney general didn't even see it," said the institute's Mitchell Darer, who even papered over the lab windows, lest anyone sneak a peek and taint the proceedings.
Yesterday, the Newark school gave three reports to the state At torney General's Office. About 120 pages each, the reports scrutinize reliability and security of printers designed for three "touch-screen" machines used across the state, Darer said.
By January, all e-voting machines are required by state law to have such printers, so voters can verify their ballots are recorded accurately, and so officials have a "paper trail" for recounts.” (Coughlin, Star-Ledger)
NEW JERSEY AVOIDS GETTING SHAFTED NEXT YEAR
“Federal grants will increase this year for regional anti-terrorism projects in North Jersey and for statewide security efforts, Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. said Tuesday.
Some state officials had been fearing funding cuts when the Department of Homeland Security announced awards to the 50 states today.
A federal DHS spokeswoman would not comment, but Pascrell said he learned from a reliable source that the North Jersey urban area will get an extra $2 million, or 5 percent, for security projects in a region that includes Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic and Union counties.
Two other statewide security programs that distribute money to counties for security planning, equipment and training will see a combined increase of $8 million, to $24.2 million. That's a 44 percent increase over last year, but less than the $36.3 million New Jersey received in 2005.” (Jackson, Bergen Record)
"I am encouraged that the Homeland Security Department is finally realizing the real risks and vulnerabilities facing our state," said Pascrell. But he said he is troubled that New York City is again being funded at an "inadequate level" since the entire region is "inextricably linked." (Star-Ledger)
“WE PAY THAT AMOUNT TO LABORERS”
“Mayor Donald Cresitello got a $12,000 raise — just under 50 percent –Tuesday night in a 5-2 town council vote on a salary ordinance.
Some other town employees' salaries were covered in the same ordinance, but their wage range increases were much smaller…………
Among the pro-raise speakers was Lee Colapone who drew light applause after saying, "He's not a ceremonial mayor. He works, he works hard. Do the right thing: give the mayor his raise."…………….
On the other side of the mayoral pay-raise question, however, speakers drew much louder applause.
Karen Ann Kurlander said, "The raise is clearly indefensible" and these kinds of raises can't be given in the real world, she told council members as the mayor looked on. "It looks like a done deal," she lamented. Her remarks drew loud applause.” (Hassan, Daily Record)
The new salary costs each resident of the 19,000-person town about $2 annually, he said. It works out to about $30 an hour, as he works 20 to 30 hours a week, he added.
"We pay that amount to laborers," said Cresitello, who also receives $107,000 as a director at the Schools Construction Corp.
“BRIDGETON — A civil rights group and a farm workers' organization have dropped a lawsuit that questioned the city's commitment to providing an adequate forum for free speech.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the Farm Workers Support Committee, or CATA, had filed suit last week challenging the $1,500 city officials billed the organization for expenses related to a demonstration held in the city May 1.
The city requested CATA pay the money for police overtime and other expenses, and has made similar requests to other organizations.
As part of the settlement, the city will not seek the $1,587.43 from this year's rally.” (Landau, Daily Journal)
IN SOUTH BOUND BROOK
“An official in a small, trouble-plagued Somerset County town paid an unprecedented $1,000 fine earlier this week for denying public records, while another remained in limbo after being brought up on disciplinary charges.
The Somerset County Prosecutor's Office also obtained copies of South Bound Brook Borough Council's meeting notes from February and March, confirmed the borough's clerk and administrator, Donald E. Kazar.
Somerset County Prosecutor Wayne J. Forrest declined to confirm or deny that his office had pulled the records, but it was no secret to local officials, who have been besieged by problems since the resignation of a beloved mayor almost two years ago.
"You see the problems in a little town? You got to be kidding me!" said the current mayor, Richard Eickhorst.” (Ortega, Star-Ledger)
IN HADDON HEIGHTS
“A frustrated Haddon Heights Borough Council last night criticized tax assessor Thomas Glock, but declined to offer a resolution that would have called for him to resign.
Public discontent at the crowded meeting hall boiled over as one homeowner after another complained of the recent property assessments that left some residents with stiff tax bills. Glock did not perform an adequate review of property in the borough, council members said. The revaluation was county mandated and was the first for the borough in 10 years.
"We feel it was inadequate, the information that he has given us," Council President Trish Shields said. "We acknowledge the fact that there are some 'disparities' in the reassessment."” (Dangremond, Philadelphia Inquirer)
“"I think he should be gone," said Margie Kanther, who said the assessed land value of her Kings Highway home had more than quadrupled due to revaluation. It went from $60,600 to $337,300.
"If he (Glock) had looked at what happened to these homes, he should have had the sense to say, "This doesn't make sense.' He didn't, and he moves forward." (Forde, Courier-Post)
IN MONMOUTH COUNTY
“A good-government watchdog says Monmouth County officials are wrong to keep secret the details of a settlement of a lawsuit in which the county traffic engineer alleged that superiors ignored her complaints of discrimination and sexual harassment.
The Board of Freeholders passed a resolution authorizing the settlement at its business meeting Thursday.
County Counsel Malcolm V. Carton said attorneys for the county and the engineer — Carol C. Melnick, 47, of Jackson — had agreed not to divulge settlement details.
The Asbury Park Press filed an Open Public Records Act request for the information Friday. Under state law, access to such requested records "shall be granted or denied by the custodian as soon as possible." Carton said Tuesday that no decision has been made on the newspaper's request.” (Jordan, Asbury Park Press)
IN LOWER TOWNSHIP AND STONE HARBOR
“Two heavily Republican towns passed resolutions opposing Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s proposal to lease the state’s toll roads.
Lower Township Council and Stone Harbor Council passed resolutions this week.
Three Republican candidates for state office are asking towns in the 1st Legislative District to pass resolutions opposing the plan, which would lease roads including the Atlantic City Expressway to raise money to pay off state debt.
Democratic challengers, too, oppose the plan.” (Press of Atlantic City)
“The battle is not over for a resident who has been campaigning for two years against pay-to-play activity within township government.
Mickey Walker, project coordinator for the Deptford Township Initiative Committee, said the committee is contemplating legal action after their pay-to-play ban petition was declared invalid by the municipal clerk………..
The committee's petition contained 915 signatures, but only 332 were declared valid by the municipal clerk. The committee needed 782 valid signatures.
Municipal clerk Dina L. Zawadski declared some of the signatures invalid due to a membership change within the committee on March 1.” (Driscoll, Gloucester County Times)
“City council rejected an ordinance that would have shifted day-to-day control of the police department from a chief to a full-time public safety director by a 4 to 1 vote Tuesday night.
Council had approved the ordinance, which effectively would have eliminated the police chief's position, on first reading by a 3 to 2 vote earlier this month.
Public opinion clearly played a role in the reversal, as an often hostile crowd that spilled out into the lobby of city hall criticized city officials on the proposed move for nearly an hour and a half prior to the vote.” (McCullen, Bridgeton News)