Today’s news from PoliticsNJ.com

BUT SHE WORE A WIRE “The Marlboro home of state Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth) is assessed as a working farm

BUT SHE WORE A WIRE

“The Marlboro home of state Sen. Ellen Karcher (D-Monmouth) is assessed as a working farm because she grows and sells half-a-dozen Christmas trees a year, saving her tens of thousands of dollars in property taxes over the years, according to county and state records.

Karcher has been in the Legislature for nearly four years, but did not report the farm income on mandatory financial disclosure forms until five months ago, when she amended three years of reports after questions were raised on a local Web site.

In an interview yesterday, Karcher defended the tax break, saying her property is indeed a working farm, and termed the omission on her disclosure reports "an oversight."

"We wanted to move to a farm," said Karcher, who's running for a second term representing the 12th District. "We bought a qualified farm. You do a plan. You file it with your municipality and it's done. … It was filed and put on record, as it's supposed to be."

Questions about a farmland assessment nearly derailed Christie Whitman's successful campaign for governor in 1993. Whitman defused the issue by taking reporters and photographers on a tour of her 50-acre property in Far Hills.

Karcher said she knows voters are sensitive to the perception that an official might be using a loophole to trim her tax bill. But she was adamant that she and her husband, John Hochberg, deserve the break they get for their 8.7-acre parcel.

"I can tell you without question that I am a much more hands-on farmer than Governor Christie Whitman ever was," Karcher said. Whitman could not be reached yesterday………..

During her winning 2003 campaign against Republican Sen. John Bennett, she criticized him for omissions on his own disclosure forms. In one flier, she said: "Why did John Bennett break state ethics laws at least 17 times in 11 years? … Senator Bennett. A lot of money. A lot to hide.

Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, Karcher's opponent in next month's election, criticized the Democrat for taking the farmland tax break. "This is clearly an abuse and clearly she's been hiding it by not reporting the income on her financial disclosure forms," Beck said.

Karcher and Hochberg, who's a physician, paid $23,989 in taxes on the property this year, records show. Had the property been assessed as residential land rather than a working farm, the bill would have been closer to $39,000. " (Howlett and Margolin, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1191559943217180.xml&coll=1

It's going to be a long slog in the 12th.

Members of state Sen. Ellen Karcher’s entourage were all but shaking up the bubbly following their candidate’s showing at a debate Tuesday night. Then a Star-Ledger story hit Thursday and Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck said the Democrat should relinquish the money she saved through a farmland tax abatement program.

Suddenly Karcher was explaining how she grew up on a farm in Hunterdon with burros and Nubian goats, riding horses and driving a 1954 tractor that hauled a brush hog.

Beck didn’t buy Karcher as a farmhand.

"I obviously think she’s been inappropriately taking a property tax reduction,’ said the Republican challenger.

"That’s ridiculous," Karcher said of her rival’s entreaty that she pay roughly a quarter of a million dollars saved from the tax abatement since she and her husband bought the 8.7-acre Marlboro property in 1991, which Karcher says was farmed for 100s of years.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/karcher-s-christmas-tree-and-cordwood-items-8

 

“WHEN IT COMES TO THIS ETHICS PANEL, IT’S NOT TIME TO PATCH IT UP – IT’S TIME TO BLOW IT UP”

William Kersey, a politically connected public member of the Joint Legislative Committee on Ethical Standards, has resigned his post, citing personal commitments.

Some Republicans have questioned whether Kersey should be a member of the Legislature's ethics oversight committee since it was revealed that he and other members of the Morris County Board of Taxation traveled extensively on the taxpayers' dime.

He is also a former Morris County Democratic chairman and brother of Sen. Shirley Turner, D-Mercer, who was targeted in an ethics complaint that was dismissed this year. He works for Schoor DePalma, now CMX, which is listed as the city engineer in Union City — whose mayor, Assemblyman Brian Stack, D-Hudson, has been accused in an ethics complaint of sending state grants to a day care center where Stack's estranged wife is executive director.

"I think he made the right decision," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Morris, who had called for Kersey's resignation. "He was not really a true public member, having been a real political insider."

Kersey could not be reached for comment. His resignation letter — effective Sept. 20 — cites only "personal time restraints and commitments."

Kersey was one of eight non-lawmakers on the 16-person, bipartisan panel. He was appointed by Assembly Speaker Joseph J. Roberts Jr., D-Camden, who may not replace him.

"I'm not inclined to fill Bill Kersey's vacancy," Roberts said through a spokesman. "When it comes to this ethics panel, it's not time to patch it up — it's time to blow it up."” (Volpe, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS03/710050397/1007

 

MONETIZATION HEARING SET AFTER ELECTION DAY

“A state Superior Court judge has ordered Corzine administration officials to appear in court next month to explain why they are keeping under wraps a study of the revenue-raising potential of the state's three toll roads.

An order by Superior Court Judge Linda Feinberg — issued Sept. 28 but made public yesterday — set a Nov. 16 court hearing.

Feinberg's order was in response to a Republican lawsuit demanding the governor release an $800,000 study of the toll revenues and traffic trends by Steer Davies Gleave of London. The firm's study focused on the New Jersey Turnpike, Garden State Parkway and Atlantic City Expressway, along with Route 440 between the Turnpike and Parkway………

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Morris) said he is pleased with Feinberg's ruling but expressed dismay that she did not order a hearing before Election Day.

"The Corzine administration shouldn't even be wasting taxpayer dollars to fight a request to see public documents," said DeCroce. "But since it is, I have no doubt the governor will use every legal trick in the book to keep his super-secret monetization report locked away until well after the election so Democrats can escape any real debate of any issue that can break the back of the state budget and New Jersey taxpayers." (Donohue, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1191559921217180.xml&coll=1

 

ELEC NEEDS MORE MONEY AND A NEW WEB SITE

Frederick M. Herrmann's office on West State Street overlooks the increasingly busy intersection of political ethics and partisan money in New Jersey.

Herrmann is executive director of the state's Election Law Enforcement Commission. Its mission is tracking, disclosing and analyzing the intricate finances of state politics at all levels, and making sure candidates comply with an array of ethics laws.

But that task has been complicated by a lack of funding from lawmakers, which has left the commission's budget $1 million short of what it needed each year since 2004. That is when ELEC notified the Legislature that it needed that much more money to fulfill its mandate.

In fact, its fiscal year 2007 budget was cut from $5 million to $4.7 million, complicating its effort to keep track of new pay-to-play regulations, according to ELEC's annual report……….

New Jersey had an ethics reform upheaval in 2004, and the aftermath shook up ELEC's list of priorities.

Twenty-five bills targeting government and political ethics became law that year. The commission was given a role in 17 of the new laws. The counterbalance to the commission's new responsibilities was a roughly $1.9 million increase in funding. That money was enough to add 36 staffers to the 54 people already working at the commission………..

At its inception more than four decades ago, access to the commission meant traveling to its office, or to the county clerk's office, to drop off or review paperwork. The fax, the computer diskette and finally the Internet changed all that. Most ELEC business now can be done on the Web.

The ELEC Web site (www.-elec.state.nj.us) is 10 years old this year. Despite changes, its users and reviewers find room for significant improvements.

Assemblyman Robert Gordon, D-Bergen, was the prime sponsor of the 2004 law that directed the commission "to review and evaluate its Internet site from the perspective of presentation, comprehensiveness, and user-friendliness."” (Smith, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS/710050389

 

MUNOZ PAYS BRAMNICK NOT TO TELL JOKES

Eric Munoz is a busy man.

Republican state assemblyman from Union County two days a week for most of the year. Trauma surgeon and professor a couple of evenings a week. Medical expert in legal cases weekly, on average.

Once a year for the last three years those jobs have intertwined, leading to Munoz working for his district mate, fellow Republican Assemblyman Jon Bramnick, a lawyer.

According to Munoz's financial disclosure reports, Bramnick's Scotch Plains law firm paid Munoz a fee of less than $10,000 — that's as specific as the form gets — in each of the last three years. Both men said the fees were for medical consulting work Munoz did for Bramnick's cases.

n the most recent case, last year, Bramnick said he was representing a widow and children in a lawsuit against a drunken driver and sought information about the victim's care and how much he suffered. The victim was treated at University Hospital in Newark.

"Who else would I call but a trauma surgeon at UMDNJ?" Bramnick asked. "This scenario was a no-brainer."

Nothing in the state ethics code, or the Legislature's code, prohibits one lawmaker from paying another for services. And Bramnick said it shouldn't………

A trauma surgeon who works and teaches mostly evening rotations at University Hospital in Newark, where his salary is $236,000, Munoz has made a name for himself as an expert witness, often in malpractice cases………

One of those cases made headlines when a judge last year called Munoz "disreputable and unqualified" to be an expert witness in a Delaware case involving a woman with sickle cell disease who died in a hospital.

According to the judge, Munoz needed, and did not possess, board certification in emergency room treatment to be called an expert in this case.

"I am still shocked and embarrassed," Munoz said. "I have never misrepresented myself. It was very bizarre." (O’dea, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS/710050391

 

LOOPHOLES

“It's hard to make a house airtight with the windows open.

Three years ago, New Jersey banned state contractors from giving to gubernatorial candidates and to state and county political committees. The prohibition on so-called pay-to-play was supposed to insulate taxpayers from politicians willing to trade campaign cash for government contracts.

That was, at least, the theory.

Ideological Political Action Committees — political groups that promote ideas rather than parties and municipal political committees have been acting as de facto clearinghouses to connect money from state vendors to political party groups they have been banned from giving to, a Gannett New Jersey investigation has found…………

Since the 2004 ban, 18 ideological committees identified by Gannett have collected $775,000 from those associated with state contractors. Those same committees have sent $675,000 to state and county committees, which usually select candidates and provide campaign funding.

Municipal party committees, once the backwater of politics because they were concerned only with raising money for local races, are quickly becoming heavyweights on the state political landscape.

Some of the ideological PACs predate the pay-to-play bans, but several came after the ban.

The most active of these PACs has been The Leaders Fund, a committee striving to elect Democrats that is led by David A. Luthman, a former Camden County Democratic Party chairman. He works for Parker McCay, a Burlington County law firm headed by Philip A. Norcross, brother of Camden County powerbroker George E. Norcross III.

Since the pay-to-play ban has been in place, The Leaders Fund has raised nearly $825,000 to spread among Democratic candidates and committees. Of that, about one-third has come from firms, or their employees, that have held state contracts, according to contribution records.” (Volpe and Prado Roberts, Gannett)

http://www.courierpostonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS01/710050398/1006

Another way around the state's pay-to-play ban unfolded in Hudson County this year, where the Democratic Party endured blistering primary battles for two open state Senate seats in the spring.

Before the prohibition, Hudson Democrats took contributions from engineering companies, law firms and their partners, who pursue work at all levels of New Jersey government. But since New Jersey banned such contributions to county party organizations, Hudson Democrats found a way around the ban: municipal party organizations

In just four months this year, four municipal political committees reported pumping in more than $925,000 to the Hudson County Democratic Party, some 62 percent of the money raised by the county party in the first half of this year.

The municipal parties contributed more to the Hudson County organization than all municipal political committees in the county did in the previous eight years combined……..

The move was a major shift for the county organization, traditionally a Democratic powerhouse unaccustomed to major primary battles. While much of the money raised by the four municipal committees came from local businesses and government employees, nearly $130,000 came either from state vendors that are barred by law from giving to the county committee — or their representatives…………..

The Hudson County Democrats used the municipal party money, in part, to defeat state Assemblyman Louis M. Manzo in his attempt to win the Democratic primary for the 31st District state Senate seat this year. A Democrat who wins that Hudson County primary is virtually assured to win in the general election, but Manzo was out of favor with the county organization and lost to party-backed Sandra Cunningham.

"Under the guise of reforming pay-to-play … what they really were doing was strengthening the ability of the parties to control candidates for office, especially those that have to run through primaries," said Manzo, a two-term assemblyman who is leaving elected office when his term expires in January. "Everybody was saying, 'Hallelujah, they got reform.' All it did was made it worse."” (Prado Roberts, Gannett)

http://www.thedailyjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS01/710050333/1002/NEWS01

 

FOXES IN THE HEN HOUSE

“The two lawmakers who for years ran the state Assembly committee that typically handles ethics reform now stand charged with taking bribes.

The legislator who has led the Senate's version of that committee for the past four years is Sen. Joseph Coniglio. He has announced he will not seek reelection because of an ongoing ethics probe, although he has said that he has done nothing wrong.

Together, the three Democrats – Coniglio, Alfred E. Steele and Mims Hackett Jr., have played a prominent role in setting – or blocking, depending on one's perspective – the state's agenda on reform over the past several years.

Democrats say they have passed more than 30 anti-corruption and ethics reform bills since taking the majority six years ago. A bill signed into law this spring, for example, mandates prison sentences, fines and a loss of pensions for public officials convicted of corruption charges. The pay-to-play ban, implemented by former Gov. James E. McGreevey, was considered another major achievement. Other bills passed ban certain types of nepotism, bar lawmakers and others from lobbying for one year after they leave office and created the office of the comptroller………….

But critics say that given the ethical clouds hanging over Steele, Hackett, Coniglio and two Democratic state senators who have been indicted on corruption charges, Wayne Bryant and Sharpe James, Democrats haven't gone far enough. They point to reform bills that have been gathering dust in the Assembly and Senate state government committees which were headed by Steele, Hackett and Coniglio.” (Lu, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMDM3MTAmeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

36% OF LEGISLATORS DOUBLE DIP

“Eleven state constitutions prohibit people from holding multiple elected offices of any kind, but not New Jersey, where dual-office holding is a time-honored tradition.

Seven state senators and nine Assembly members hold other elected offices……….

Critics say the ban signed by the governor, which allows existing lawmakers to continue serving in other elected positions, does not go far enough. It also does not affect county or municipal officials holding two or more elective posts, and does not address the common practice of lawmakers holding other, non-elective government jobs.

Forty-three New Jersey state legislators — or 36 percent — reported receiving income from another government agency in 2006.

A 2004 report by the Center for Public Integrity found a third of New Jersey legislators received income from another government agency, by far the highest percentage of any of the 50 states. The second-highest number was in Delaware, where 23 percent of lawmakers reported receiving income from another state agency besides the Legislature………..

Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty, D-Gloucester, who also is mayor of Washington Township, said banning all dual-office holding immediately would be a mistake.

"To disenfranchise voters, and say that people who have overwhelmingly elected people to two positions, I don't think anyone wants to take away someone's vote," Moriarty said.

Yet Moriarty said he voted for the ban because he heard from constituents "who have been stoked by editorial writers."” (Mikle and Guenther, Gannett)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS/710050390

 

LEVY REMAINS AWOL WHILE CITY TRIES TO COPE

Resort Councilman Bruce Ward said he planned to file paperwork this morning asking a state judge to say whether Mayor Bob Levy's mystifying disappearance meant he had vacated the seat. Ward said he was seeking a declaratory judgment in the Levy situation as "a citizen first and as a city councilman second."

The move comes as City Council waits for state attorneys to interpret state vacancy law in what political science experts have said is an unprecedented situation in New Jersey.

A group seeking to recall Levy from office had been expected to file similar paperwork next week once the state officials had weighed in.

The group wants to recall Levy because of his ties to disgraced former Council President Craig Callaway, the belief that Levy does little work and outrage that he lied for years about being a member of the U.S. Army Special Forces, including on 2005 campaign material.

Also today, a separate group of resort residents said they planned a 1 p.m. protest in City Hall against city Business Administrator and acting Mayor Domenic Cappella.

City resident Steven Young said he and other residents planned "to exercise our constitutional right … to redress our government," adding "It's going to be something that's never happened before."” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/top_three/story/7507145p-7404943c.html

“LEAVE A SPACE?” “NO.”

“Democratic Atlantic County executive candidate James McGettigan said Thursday he would put the county nursing home up for sale "for the highest bidder" if elected in November. McGettigan said government shouldn't compete with the private sector, and that includes operating a nursing home.

 

He said he believes there are agencies or companies that would buy Meadowview Nursing Home and that the sale of the Northfield facility would lower costs and liability for the county.

McGettigan's statements came during an appearance with Republican Atlantic County Executive Dennis Levinson before an editorial board of The Press of Atlantic City……….

McGettigan, Atlantic County's sheriff, and Levinson have sparred for most of the campaign about their salaries, pensions, racial slurs, push polls and each others' competence in their duties. Thursday's appearance before the editorial board was no different, as they continued sniping about the same things they've sniped about for the past several months.

When McGettigan went to sit down before the board, he looked at Levinson, who was already sitting, and asked, "Keep a space?" referring to a chair that was between the two.

"No," Levinson replied.

One disagreement – regarding which of the two knows the actual size of the Sheriff's Office budget – continued after the editorial board ended: Levinson had Atlantic County Administrator Gerald DelRosso send The Press a document outlining budget details.

McGettigan said the main issues in the campaign are taxes and spending, saying the county is collecting more taxes – despite a shrinking county tax rate – and that is forcing some residents to move to other, more affordable states. He said the county has wasted taxpayers dollars on things such as as a $198,000 heavy rescue that isn't needed.

"We're not in the heavy rescue business," he said. "We're in the emergency management business."

Levinson said the county's shrinking county tax rate has saved residents from paying millions of extra tax dollars.

"Mr. McGettigan's expertise is in law enforcement," Levinson replied. "He sure has shown that with his comments on the budget."

McGettigan and Levinson were each asked if they had any disappointments in their time as sheriff and county executive, respectively.

McGettigan said there were "none that I could point to."

Levinson said his biggest disappointment is that someone is running against him this year.” (Barlas, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/campaign/story/7507156p-7404912c.html

 

BUSH: THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING (TO DEMOCRATS)

“Over the past several months, Democrats have tried to go pound for pound on the outrage meter with the GOP over Gov. Jon Corzine’s asset monetization study for the state’s toll roads.

Not to be outdone as an opposition target, President George W. Bush on Wednesday scratched his pen through a measure that would have re-authorized the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP)……….

"There are two different potential problems," Suzanne Esterman, spokeswoman for the state Department of Human services, said of the presidential action. "The first is the veto itself puts 124,000 kids and 83,000 adults at risk of losing their healthcare."

Second, if SCHIP is not re-authorized, 10,000 of those children whose families are in the upper income bracket who qualify for the program (up to $72,275 for a family of four in New Jersey) will lose their health insurance……….

No where was the political minefield more evident this week than in the 12th district, which traditionally has been Republican but where the demographics have shifted in recent years.

In a fight with GOP Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck, who has tried to brand her as a card-carrying member of the big-spender party complete with credentials as Trenton royalty, Sen. Ellen Karcher has repeatedly asked "Where is the outrage over SCHIP from the Republicans?"

That question culminated in a throw-down at Tuesday night’s District 12 state Senate debate when the senator and Beck considered Bush’s veto threat on the evening before Bush went ahead and exercised that power.

Both candidates said they disagreed with Bush.

It wasn’t the first time these opponents have been in the echo chamber on a key issue in this high stakes contest, forced to publicly break from the yoke of party leadership: Corzine, in Karcher’s case, and Bush in Beck’s.” (Pizarro, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/karcher-and-beck-and-specter-corzine-and-bush-12397

SCHOOL VOUCHERS

“In what is likely just one round in a long legal fight, a state Superior Court judge yesterday dismissed a lawsuit that demanded students in failing schools be provided vouchers to attend schools of their choice, public or private.

The case was brought last year against the state and two dozen districts by several parents and pro-voucher organizations, saying they were filing on behalf of at least 60,000 schoolchildren in low-performing schools.

But in a 54-page opinion, Superior Court Judge Neil Shuster yesterday poked several holes in the plaintiffs' arguments that the schools were not accountable under the current system or were even failing in the first place.

Shuster ultimately concluded it was not the court's place to order such a sweeping alternative system over the heads of the legislative and executive branches.

He pointed to the state Supreme Court's epic Abbott vs. Burke school equity rulings that found New Jersey's funding system unconstitutional for the state's most impoverished cities, but left the details of a remedy to the state.

"These practical problems are precisely why the court is ill- equipped to suggest a remedy to the administrative body or the Legislature, much less 'judicially mold' its own remedy," he wrote. ” (Mooney, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-0/1191559875217180.xml&coll=1

 

A SALUTE TO OUR COMMENTERS

“If it wasn’t for the gift of anonymity, it wouldn’t be wise for someone with an easily bruised ego to venture down to the comments section at the bottom of each of this Web site’s stories, where partisan punches tend to fly.

But in between blowing off steam, some frequent commenters have found that, on occasion, they actually have had some informative discussions, and that what they write here can sometimes impact campaigns and news cycle – whether it’s insider gossip or criticism of a reporter’s story.

Some have even developed personas and have gathered their own followings. Take DinoPCrochetti, the anonymous conservative commenter, whose alias is an homage to his idol, Dean Martin. He started his own blog, Dino’s Forum, after this site’s own pseudononymous administrator blocked his posts last summer. Under PoliticsNJ.com's new ownership he’s back………..

But regular commenters like Dino and Tomanelli are a self-selecting rarity and a small portion of the site’s readership. A year old study by web guru Jakob Neilsen found that about 95% of blog users are lurkers — that is, they never comment. About 5% comment occasionally and only about one 0.1% do so regularly.

But it’s unclear just how often the other 95% reads what that 5% have to say. Alex Wellen, a senior producer for CNN’s “The Situation Room” and political news division, is charged with tying his network’s political television coverage with the Political Ticker blog………….

Wellen said he’s not sure how many of the site’s readers pay attention to the comments, but political campaigns do use them as a campaign issue barometer. And on a non-partisan blog, politicians and staffers will see immediate and more honest reactions to a candidate’s speech than the campaign would find on its own Web site.” (Friedman, PoliticsNJ.com)

http://www.politicsnj.com/politicsnj-com-bloggers-have-following-7

 

DORIA THE EXPLORER

“Now it's official.

Bayonne Mayor Joseph V. Doria Jr. has tendered his resignation as the city's chief executive, effective midnight Monday, Columbus Day.

And, like the famous explorer, Doria will be setting off for new territory in the world of state bureaucracy. On Tuesday, he becomes acting commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, pending legislative confirmation of his appointment by Gov. Jon Corzine.

"It has been an honor to serve you as mayor since 1998," Doria said, in a brief valedictory to city residents. "I am very grateful for the opportunity that you gave me to lead Bayonne. I wish all of you the best, and look forward to seeing you around town for the rest of my life."

In a letter filed with the City Clerk's Office, Doria thanked City Council members and city employees for their service, and added: "I believe that during my time in office, Bayonne has moved forward in a positive and progressive manner."………..

On Tuesday, City Council President Vincent Lo Re Jr. becomes acting mayor. At that point, the council has 30 days to decide, by simple majority vote, who should serve as mayor until the general election in November 2008, when voters will elect someone to fill out the remainder of Doria's unexpired term through July 1, 2010, City Law Director John Coffey II said.

If the council fails to choose someone, then Lo Re would continue as both acting mayor and City Council president through November 2008, Coffey said. ” (Leir, Journal Journal)

http://www.nj.com/news/jjournal/index.ssf?/base/news-3/119156478857370.xml&coll=3

 

VITALE’S MISSION

“Sen. Joe Vitale has terrible timing. He wants to make sure everyone in New Jersey has health insurance, and he wants to do it now, even though the state is basically broke. It sounds a bit crazy.

But maybe it's not. Because a Rutgers University poll released this week shows that most voters in New Jersey agree with him. And most are even willing to pay higher taxes if that's what it takes.

So Vitale, a Democrat, has at least a fighting chance to pull this off. For the last 13 months, he's been meeting with a brain trust he assembled, drawing up a plan that's as lean as possible. It would be phased in over two years, maybe three, so that we could chew each bite before swallowing the next.

"We can probably whittle the cost down to $300 million," Vitale says.

A good politician is a good salesman, and that number is probably a stretch. By low-balling the cost now, Vitale knows he can at least get the discussion going. (Moran, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/columns/ledger/moran/index.ssf?/base/columns-0/1191559575217180.xml&coll=1

 

BEFORE YOU DEMAND A DEBATE, YOU OUGHT TO ASK FOR ONE

On a balmy afternoon that felt more like July than a month before the Nov. 6 election, the two Republican candidates in the 1st District Assembly race stood in shirts and ties, perspiring in the asphalt parking lot of their opponents' campaign headquarters.

The Republicans' message: Dirty politics stink, and we want a debate.

GOP candidates R. Norris Clark and Michael Donohue drove from Cape May County to hold a press conference at the headquarters of Democratic state Assemblyman Nelson Albano and his running mate, local businessman Matthew Milam…………

Clark, director of sales and marketing for Morey's Piers in Wildwood, said campaign mailers wrongly assert he once called for a 50-cent hike in tax placed on gasoline sales.

Clark, who in 1992 worked on the presidential campaign of billionaire H. Ross Perot, said he never called for the tax, but Perot and his Democratic opponent, Bill Clinton, did……..

Donohue, an attorney, complained that a separate flier accused him of earning $500,000 from four government jobs. That's true, Donohue said, but he earned that amount over several years as municipal prosecutor in Avalon, Stone Harbor, Lower Township and West Wildwood.

Asked if the Republicans planned to send out their own negative literature, Donohue replied, "We will send out factual literature that may be considered negative by the Democrats, but it will not be a lie."…….

The Republicans acknowledged they didn't reach out to their opponents to request a debate before staging their visit Thursday…………

Albano and Milam, both of Vineland, said the New Jersey Democratic State Committee sent out the fliers in question.

"We can't control everything coming out of the state committee," Milam said, adding he believes the information the committee is sending out in the campaign is factual and properly sourced.” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)

http://www.thedailyjournal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS01/710050316/1002/NEWS01

 

CORBY CAN SAFELY SAY HIS CANDIDACY MADE A DIFFERENCE

The race for the state Senate in the 9th Legislative District has produced something more than verbal sparring.

On Wednesday, Sen. Leonard T. Connors Jr, and Assemblymen Brian E. Rumpf and Christopher J. Connors, all R-Burlington, Ocean, Atlantic, announced that they had asked the Office of Legislative Services to draft legislation that would prohibit professionals with tax liens against them from acquiring no-bid public contracts.

Under the legislation, professionals would be required to disclose any tax lien against either their personal finances or their business and all tax liens would have to be satisfied in full before the professional can be eligible to qualify for any professional services contract from any local or state government agency………

According to a statement released by the 9th District office, the lawmakers' efforts to amend current law pertaining to tax liens and the eligibility of professionals to obtain no-bid public contracts was in response to a request made by Pine Beach Mayor Russell Corby, who is running against Assemblyman Connors for the district's Senate seat.

During the course of campaigns, it's not unusual for ideas on improving government policy to emerge and become matters of public discussion," Assemblyman Connors, a ranking member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, said in the press release. "It is the responsibility of every legislator to be attentive and responsive to proposals that may serve the best interests of their constituency."” (Spahr, Press of Atlantic City)

http://www.pressofatlanticcity.com/news/local/ocean/story/7506808p-7404588c.html

 

SHOCKING – ANOTHER ENDROSEMENT FOR BARONI

“Standing near the proposed site of one of the most controversial road projects in state history, Assemblyman and Republican state Senate candidate Bill Baroni received an endorsement from the environmental federation that has teamed with him to fight the highway plan.

The New Jersey Environmental Federation, a coalition of more than 100 environmental groups with more than 70,000 members statewide, announced its support of Baroni yesterday, citing a strong environmental record that includes sponsoring a bill that would quash the New Jersey Turnpike Authority's ability to construct the controversial Route 92.

"Every candidate says they support the environment," said Dave Pringle, NJEF campaign director. "It's our job to separate the wheat from the chaff. In this race, (one of the) most watched (in the state), the choice is clear."

Baroni is being opposed by Democrat Seema Singh for the 14th District Senate seat.

At a press conference yesterday, Baroni touted his environmental record, including support for emissions reduction planning under the Global Warming Response Act and drinking water preservation via the Highlands Protection Act. ” (Tracy, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/119155713676120.xml&coll=5

 

CORZINE LOOKS TO RESCUE ENCAP

Governor Corzine, the former Wall Street bond trader whose nose for deals propelled him to the chairmanship of Goldman Sachs, remains bullish on the Meadowlands.

That's why he's personally taken up the search for a deep-pocketed investor to save the floundering EnCap project. In a far-ranging 90-minute interview with The Record on Thursday, Corzine said he will "chat up" the EnCap site among his contacts in the nation's capital markets.

The governor said he was confident that a financial angel akin to Colony Capital LLC, the private investment firm that saved the flagging Xanadu venture in 2006, would ride in and rescue the latest Meadowlands disaster.

EnCap did not dismiss the possibility of a sale, but said the company was committed to finishing the project.

"EnCap is currently exploring all options, including the possible transition to a new owner or operator with a strong financial and operational reputation," said James Dausch, manager of EnCap Golf Holdings. "We continue to be fully committed to remediating the site and making sure that all public and private stakeholders realize their expectations of environmental cleanup, economic revitalization and increased tax ratables."” (Pilletts, Bergen Record)

http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXk2MDcmZmdiZWw3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTcyMDM3MDImeXJpcnk3ZjcxN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXky

 

IN OCEAN GROVE

“There is "no question" that the state Division on Civil Rights has the legal obligation to look into claims of civil rights violations, a federal judge said Thursday as he refused to block its investigation into the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.

That means that pending any appeal, the association will now have to file documents requested by the Civil Rights staff examining allegations that the association violated the state Law Against Discrimination.

The Ocean Grove association sought to avoid filing those documents by seeking an injunction. It is examining its options and has not yet determined if it will appeal, said Greg Scott, a spokesman for the Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Alliance Defense Fund, which is rep-resenting the association for free.

Two lesbian couples in Ocean Grove claim the anti-discrimination law was violated when the association refused to allow them to have civil union ceremonies in the boardwalk pavilion.

Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Burstein, who argued the case for the state, said he did not know when the new deadline would be.

"We'll give them some time," he said after the ruling. "We'll have to talk to the DCR to figure out what kind of time frame they want to impose."” (Bowman, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS/710050403

 

TSA ANGERS LAUTENBERG

“New Jersey's ports no longer will be among the first in the country to require dock workers to get new security ID cards.

The federal Transportation Security Administration has picked 12 other seaports where it will launch the security initiative, start ing with Wilmington, Del., on Oct. 16.

Officials previously had said the Port of New York and New Jersey would be in the first wave of seaports issuing the Transportation Worker Identification Credential.

But officials said they have had trouble finding enough places where workers could go to enroll in the program. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey estimates 150,000 people would have to get the security ID cards, including longshoremen, truck drivers, se curity guards, even port chaplains.

Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) was outraged by the delay.

"It is inexplicable that the TSA will enroll workers in a dozen loca tions but skip over the Port of New York and New Jersey, the largest on the East Coast," Lautenberg said. "The TSA is simply ignoring the fact that this port lies within the most dangerous two miles for terrorism in the country, according to the FBI. We need to fix this problem — and fast.” (Malinconico, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/jersey/index.ssf?/base/news-8/1191559710217180.xml&coll=1

 

IN HAMILTON

“The three GOP candidates for local office may have violated state election law by failing to report the free use of their Nottingham Way headquarters as a campaign donation, a complaint filed by the local Democratic Party alleges.

Republican mayoral candidate John Bencivengo and council candidates Kelly Yaede and Kevin Meara have been using the headquarters, located in the store front of 2235 Nottingham Way, since early this year and Yaede also used it during her 2006 run for office.
Now, in a complaint to the state Attorney General, Democratic Club President Marilyn Jose has accused the Republicans of hiding the use of the headquarters, for which they do not pay rent.

"The Bencivengo team is guilty of filing falsely sworn statements and being recipients of thousands of dollars in illegal and unreported campaign contributions," Jose said in a statement. "It stinks."

According to state Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) Deputy Director Jeff Brindel, use of a campaign headquarters must either be paid for out of campaign expenses or listed as an "in-kind" contribution.

Jose said the three candidates have never reported the use of the headquarters, resulting in thousands of dollars in in-kind donations going unreported.

Bencivengo campaign manager Mike Angarone responded to the complaint yesterday, saying the GOP's free use of the headquarters is old news.

"They have done this before," Angarone said, recalling a similar complaint alleged in 2004. "In our opinion, ELEC will make the determination. In the meantime, I would ask the mayor, 'where is the budget?'" ” (Isherwood, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/119155719476120.xml&coll=5

 

IN MERCER COUNTY

“Republican Mercer County executive candidate Janice Mitchell Mintz said yesterday she would consider building a new county jail as well as add a crime "czar" and call for more state aid if she's elected.

Mintz raised those ideas as part of a 12-point anti-crime platform unveiled yesterday at the Hamilton municipal court, a site she chose to highlight the mistaken release of double-murder suspect Dontay Brannon in June.

County Executive Brian M. Hughes questioned Mintz's approach, saying that the county already is fighting gang violence and looking to improve the county jail in Hopewell Township.

Mintz, a former first assistant state attorney general, focused on gangs and the jail through much of the platform, including a call for "gang-free school zones," programs to discourage youths from joining gangs, and state and federal support to coordinate anti-gang activity.

She also called for an assessment of the needs for the jail population, including the possibility of a new jail. She said she would support updated emergency-response training for corrections officers, a short-term emergency capital program for the jail and the end of housing those charged with violent crimes at the Bo Robinson Education and Training Center. ” (Kitchenman, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/119155722076120.xml&coll=5

 

IN MORRIS COUNTY

“Republican Morris County Freeholder Douglas Cabana is under political attack by some Democratic opponents who question why he is a municipal prosecutor in eight of Morris County's 39 towns.

They contend Cabana, who is up for re-election this year, has used political influence to obtain prosecutors posts, saying it goes against a statewide movement to eliminate the number of public jobs elected officials can hold. It also raises pay-to-play questions about Cabana's support for elected officials in towns that hire him, they said

"This is not illegal but it creates a very poor perception of our county government," said Democratic freeholder candidate Moshe Cohen of Randolph. "Inclusive government seeks candidates from a variety of constituents and from both parties."

Cabana struck back this week, saying he is following legal guidelines set by the state Supreme Court and that he does a good job for towns that employ him. He said he did not actively solicit prosecutor posts but was contacted by towns to consider working for them.

"I'm a good municipal attorney and people know it, so they use me," said Cabana, a Boonton Township Republican and freeholder since 1998. "I resent the Democrats for trying to criminalize what I do, to demonize me and discredit my good family name that I've worked hard to maintain all these years." . (Ragonese, Star-Ledger)

http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/morris/index.ssf?/base/news-3/1191559690217180.xml&coll=1

 

IN EWING

“With only a month left until Election Day, candidates across the state are making speeches, answering questions, standing in front of American flags, and pressing the flesh to stump for votes. On Wednesday night, a candidate's forum organized by the Citizen's Committee for Ewing brought candidates for freeholder, county executive, Assembly, and state Senate to the township municipal building to face the voting public.

On Wednesday night, a candidate's forum organized by the Citizen's Committee for Ewing brought candidates for freeholder, county executive, Assembly, and state Senate to the township municipal building to face the voting public.

County Executive Brian M. Hughes, the Democratic incumbent, pointed to improvements made in his four years in office over the previous administration.

"If you recall four years ago, we had an administration that was, quite frankly, crippled," Hughes said. "We had an administration that had taken pay-to-play and turned it into an art form."

That, he said, was the first thing his administration changed.

Hughes also trumpeted his success in holding meetings on the gang issue and a jobs program that prepared teens for work.

"We gave them an opportunity to do all the things they needed to succeed at that job," he said.

Hughes' opponent, Republican Janice Mintz, was a member of former Gov. Tom Kean's administration before leaving politics to be a full-time mother to her three children. Following local news through the newspapers during the past five years and seeing news stories about the county made her want to run, Mintz said.

"I feel in my heart we can do better," she said. "I feel I can do better." ” (Zdan, Trenton Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/times/regional/index.ssf?/base/news-10/119155712376120.xml&coll=5

 

IN CARNEYS POINT

“Former Carneys Point Mayor John "Mack" Lake will wait until Nov. 30 to hear the verdict on charges he attempted to persuade a political challenger to drop out of the race in exchange for township jobs.

After two days of testimony this week, the non-jury trial ended Thursday with the judge and attorneys conferring in closed session over what charges will be considered and other legal housekeeping.” (Clark, Gloucester County Times)

http://www.nj.com/news/gloucester/local/index.ssf?/base/news-7/1191570104285320.xml&coll=8

 

IN HAZLET

“Quality of life, spending and open government are priorities for the four candidates running for office in Hazlet.

Republican candidates Scott Aagre and David L. Tinker are looking to ensure the Republicans are represented on the Democrat-majority Township Committee. The Democrats — Gerard Jaume and Joseph Marques — are hoping their victory in the Nov. 6 election will give the party the full control of the five-member Township Committee.” (Gauthier, Asbury Park Press)

http://www.app.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071005/NEWS01/710050436/1004/NEWS01

  Today’s news from PoliticsNJ.com