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Feds raid Coniglio’s home and legislative office; Moran on Christie’s Ashcroft connection, two retiring congressmen had large war chests; Bramnick, Franks decide not to run for Ferguson’s seat, but deoderent heir Mennen and Clifford Case’s Grandson consider it.


“Federal investigators are sorting through new boxes of evidence collected Tuesday morning from state Sen. Joseph Coniglio's Paramus home and his legislative office.

The federal raids are the latest development in an ongoing corruption probe. The focus of probe is the Democratic senator's ties to more than $1 million in state grant money received by Hackensack University Medical Center over a two-year period during which Coniglio also worked for the hospital as a paid consultant.

Coniglio was served with subpoenas in March, and in July he received a letter from the office of U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie stating there is enough evidence to charge him with a crime. Coniglio dropped a bid for reelection in September.

Federal agent Douglas Veivia said Tuesday that he and other agents were at Coniglio's home and legislative office, both in Paramus, in the morning as part of an ongoing investigation.

"We executed search warrants at two locations," Veivia said. "We'll take the evidence back. … We'll review it."

"All this is done in coordination with the U.S. Attorney's Office," he said………….

Gerald Krovatin, Coniglio's attorney, said he was aware of the search warrants, but maintained Coniglio did not compromise his public office while working for the hospital.

"No matter how hard the government searches, the result will be the same," Krovatin said. "Sen. Joe Coniglio has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide."

"To execute search warrants at this late stage of this investigation and immediately leak them to the media is a despicable attempt to make it appear there is more to this case than there really is," he said.” (Reitmeyer and Gartland, Bergen Record)

“Investigators sought materials related to Coniglio's dealings with Hackensack University Medical Center, which have been under scrutiny for months, according to the source, who requested anonymity.

The medical center received at least $1.6 million in state grant money after it hired Coniglio, a retired union plumber, as a $5,000-a-month plumbing consultant, records show. The senator lobbied for funding for the hospital……..

The investigation had dropped from public view this fall as the entire state Legislature was up for re-election. The U.S. Attorney's Office usually refrains from overt actions in public corruption cases within 60 days of an election to avoid influencing the outcome.

Coniglio dropped his re-election bid in September, two months after authorities notified him that he was the target of a criminal investigation. Such "target letters" usually come shortly before prosecutors seek an indictment………

Officials at Hackensack University Medical Center did not respond to a request for comment. The hospital's records have been subpoenaed, officials there have said previously. Some administrators already have testified before the grand jury, sources who have been briefed on the investigation have said.

The Coniglio case stems from a probe into millions of dollars in special state grants that went to many politically connected groups and local organizations without public oversight. The so-called "Christmas tree" grants have been a staple of the Statehouse's backroom budget process.” (Whelan, Star-Ledger)

When Coniglio decided not to seek reelection, he said his decision would give him time to "fight the false accusations that my consulting work at Hackensack University Medical Center had any connection" to grants the hospital received.

"When all the drama subsides," Krovatin said, "it will be clear to everyone that Sen. Joe Coniglio did nothing improper when he worked for one of the best hospitals in the country, and he never compromised his public office in the process."…………

Coniglio has been in the Senate since 2002, serving on the influential Budget and Appropriations Committee. He served on the Paramus council from 1981 to 1990 and is a project manager for a plumbing and electrical contracting firm.



“U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, the state's crusader against corruption, has always been a big fan of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his old boss.

So it came as no surprise when Christie asked Ashcroft to help clean up a sleazy company that had fallen into his net.

The company was running a scheme to pay off doctors with fat consulting contracts if they agreed to use its medical products. While prosecutors continue sniffing around for people to send to jail, Ashcroft is supposed to look over the firm's shoulder. So far, so good.

But Ashcroft's price tag is one for the record books. His consulting firm, based in Washington, expects to charge between $29 million and $52 million for 18 months of work — the kind of sum usually reserved for baseball MVPs. A

And suppose the sleazy firm thinks that Ashcroft is padding his bills with extra hours. The appeal goes straight back to Christie, who makes the call.

This one has an odor to it.

Because as everyone in the world knows by now, Christie may be the Republican candidate for governor in 2009. He is helping Ashcroft now. And Ashcroft could be a big help to him in raising money next year.

Make this obvious point to Christie, and he acts as if you're accusing him of murder.

"You either trust me to have integrity or you don't," he says. "It concerns me how this is being framed." ” (Moran, Star-Ledger)



“When two New Jersey congressmen announced their retirement in a recent 10-day span, the Republican Party lost a pair of incumbents with a combined $2 million head start on campaign fund-raising.

Those retirements, which would be a setback anywhere, could be especially painful for the GOP in New Jersey, where Democrats hold the political power and are able to raise the most money. And the winners of congressional races are usually those who spend the most money.

In 2006, the last time the U.S. House of Representatives was up for election, only 6 percent of the winners beat better-financed opponents, according to an analysis of federal campaign-spending reports by OpenSec
rets.Org, a nonpartisan think tank. In New Jersey, every congressional candidate with the bigger war chest won.

The first surprise retirement came from Burlington County's U.S. Rep. James Saxton, who on Nov. 9 said he would not seek reelection, citing health reasons. He had $1.3 million in ready cash for a forthcoming campaign.

The second came Monday, from U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson of central New Jersey, who at 37 said he wanted to spend more time with his family. He became the 21st congressman to announce his retirement this year, with most of them – 17 – Republicans. Ferguson had $760,000 in available campaign funds.

Republican political consultant Larry Weitzner acknowledged the loss of the funds "is certainly a factor."

"You have two incumbents with sizable war chests, and now you have new people starting all over," he said.

But, he said, money "will not be the decisive factor" if Republicans field the right candidates. Democrats took the retirements as good news.

"A Democratic candidate can be certain she's not walking into that race $1 million behind," said Pat Politano, a longtime Democratic consultant who worked for candidate Linda Stender against Ferguson in 2006. "It's an even playing field now. If anything, I would view it as a financial advantage for Democrats." ” (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)



“The two leading Republican candidates for Mike Ferguson's House seat have declined to run, with Assembly Minority Whip Jon Bramnick saying this morning that he will not be a candidate for Congress in 2008.

State Sen. Thomas Kean, Jr. announced yesterday that he would not run, citing his election less than two weeks ago as the new Senate Minority Leader.

"I spent a sleepless night last night thinking about this. The question is, 'Do you give up the leadership role you've developed in your own state?' I didn't want to make the call. It's logical to move up. But right now, the answer to that question is no," said Bramnick, who was elected Assembly Minority Whip earlier this year.

Even as he spoke this morning, Bramnick admitted to being very torn about making the call.

Bramnick had also been mulling a bid for the U.S. Senate, and said he would not seek that office either.

His decision not to run for an open seat in a district the Republicans have held since 1956 leaves the GOP without a strong contender for an open seat. So far, only former Hillsborough Deputy Mayor Christopher Venis, a lobbyist and ex-political operative, has entered the race. Venis was not on the list of potential candidates offered by Somerset County GOP Chairman Dale Florio yesterday.” (Pizarro,



William G. Mennen, a 41-year old attorney from Tewksbury and a Hunterdon County freeholder-elect, today said he would consider a run for U.S. Congress over a Thanksgiving meal.

"I like most everybody else was surprised," Mennen said of U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson’s decision yesterday not to seek a fifth term. "I was further surprised by a continual stream of subsequent phone calls from a number of Republican officials."

Mennen, who serves on the Tewksbury Township Committee and is a Mennen family heir, said, "Yes, I’ve been asked to run. I’m thinking about it, but this one truly caught me out of left field."

As an attorney, Mennen specializes in land use, and has represented the Somerset Airport against local complaints about state police helicopter traffic.

The Hunterdon politician’s great-great grandfather founded the Mennen brand in Newark on the corner of Central Avenue and Broad Street, where he formulated a talcum powder that became the basis for the famous speed stick deodorant.” (Pizarro,



“Former Rep. Bob Franks won't seek a return to the 7th district House seat being vacated by Mike Ferguson.

"Representing the people of Central New Jersey in the House of Representatives from 1993 to 2001 was one of the important and rewarding experiences of my life, however I find my work at the HealthCare Institute of New Jersey very fulfilling and I'm enjoying nights and weekends with my family," Franks said. "I have no desire to run for Congress next year."

Franks held the seat for four terms before mounting a nearly successful bid for U.S. Senate in 2000. Outspent by nearly $57 million, Franks lost to Jon Corzine by a 50%-47% margin. Ferguson won a hotly contested primary to replace him.” (Editor,



“Born in Rahway in his grandfather's house when the 7th Congressional district included that tough prison town, Matt Holt remembers U.S. Sen. Clifford Case as a public servant who put the common good ahead of partisan politics.

Case's career included five terms in the House representing the 7th district and six terms in the Senate, and now 25 years after his death, grandson Holt is considering a run for Congress.

"The single biggest challenge is to return to the art of negotiation," says Holt, 49, a Hunterdon County freeholder from Clinton, who served as the town's mayor for two years.

"It's difficult to get out of a primary with that message," he concedes, in a nod to Case's primary season loss in 1978 to hardliner Jeffery Bell. "But one of the things my grandfather did terribly well was he knew that you have to put partisanship aside and get to work. People are not hard to the right or hard to the left. It is that area down the middle where a great deal can be accomplished."

Following U.S. Rep. Mike Ferguson's announcement yesterday that he would not pursue a fifth term, Case says he sat down with his wife and they talked over the possibility of his running for the seat. ” (Pizarro,



“As lawmakers prepare to vote next month to repeal New Jersey's never-used death penalty, two supporters of capital punishment argued yesterday that it is the only just penalty for some particularly vicious murderers.

At a Statehouse news conference, Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R-Bergen) and New York Law School professor Robert Blecker said it would be a mistake for lawmakers to rush to repeal capital punishment during the lame-duck session that ends at noon on Jan. 8.

"Some people deserve to die and we have an obligation to execute them," said Blecker, one of the leading academic supporters of the death penalty. He argued the demands of justice were ignored by a state study commission
that recommended replacing capital punishment with life imprisonment without parole.

That commission, Blecker said, also gave no serious consideration to fixing the flaws in the current death penalty law, which was enacted 25 years ago.

Cardinale said he is preparing bills to do just that. One would require jurors to spare a defendant's life if there is any "lingering doubt" about his guilt; the other would limit state appeals by death row inmates.

The bills would address two of the principal arguments for abolishing the death penalty: that it is never used because of endless appeals yet fails to protect an innocent person from being sentenced to die.

Shortly before the news conference, New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty released a letter signed by 19 law enforcement officials urging lawmakers to replace capital punishment with life in prison with no hope of parole.

"First and foremost, our goal is to prevent crime and protect New Jersey's citizens," the law enforcement officials wrote. "Given the choice, we would rather see resources used to put more police on the streets, increase our capacity to catch and prosecute lower level crimes so that murderers are stopped before an innocent life is lost, and help survivors of homicide victims as they struggle to heal."” (Schwaneberg, Star-Ledger)

The battle comes as the Legislature prepares to take up the death penalty in the lame duck session, with legislative leaders working to abolish the practice last used in 1963 and replace it with life without parole.

"I don't believe my colleagues all want to be bulldozed by the leaders or by the governor," Cardinale said at a Statehouse press conference alongside New York Law professor Robert Blecker, a death penalty supporter. "I believe information can change their minds."

Eight New Jersey men are on death row including a Gloucester County man, Richard Feaster, who was convicted of the 1993 shotgun slaying of Keith Donaghy, a gas station attendant in Deptford Township.

The New Jersey Death Penalty Review Commission found in January that the practice was more expensive than life in prison, did not result in deterrence or aid in recovery for victims' families.

Blecker, who testified before the commission, called its report "unbalanced and biased."

And Cardinale said the practice should not be thrown out as a result of its flawed implementation, but refined.

To do that, he would introduce legislation requiring that a standard of "lingering doubt" apply in judicial decisions for the death penalty and limit the number of allowed state appeals.

Cardinale said the move by Democratic leaders to repeal the death penalty was motivated by a plan to shore themselves up with voters who believe the death penalty disproportionately affects those in inner cities.

"There is an uninformed electorate in certain areas of this state; it forms the base of support for the majority party in both houses," Cardinale said. "That party wants to shore itself up with that base."



“By throwing his support behind Ron Paul, Assemblyman Mike Doherty became the highest profile New Jersey politician to back the long shot presidential candidate.

This move wasn't surprising to people who have followed the career of the very conservative and outspoken legislator from Warren County, who tends not to equivocate on his political stances. But for a politician with aspirations for higher office, it wasn't the most practical choice.

While other legislators are lining up to hitch part of their political fortunes to Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and John McCain, Doherty chose a fringe candidate who consistently polls in the very low single digits. To Doherty, it's not so much about bolstering his own shot at a statewide seat someday as it is the principle of supporting the candidate he sees as most in line with old-fashioned, straight up conservatism.

"If I ever do run, lord willing, I don't think the establishment is going to support me. Everybody knows that," said Doherty, who set up an exploratory committee to run for U.S. Senate in the spring but dropped the potential bid in August. "But I think Ron Paul is opening up a new paradigm, an opportunity from grassroots to the bottom up."

Doherty's support for Paul hinges on two unorthodox principles: Paul's anti-interventionist military stance and his ideas on monetary policy.” (Friedman,



“Former Hoboken City Councilman Christopher Campos was a no-show for a hearing on his driving-under-the-influence case in Manhattan Monday, said Jennifer Kushner, a spokeswoman for the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, and if he fails to show again, a bench warrant will be issued for him.

The hearing for Campos, who was defeated – twice – in his efforts to be re-elected to the 4th Ward council seat, was rescheduled for Jan. 17, which would mark the fifth scheduled hearing since his arraignment.

Reached yesterday, Campos said he had been in Aruba and had just gotten back. He said the postponement was prearranged, but the District Attorney's Office denies that claim.

Campos was charged with driving under the influence Jan. 20 when he was pulled over on the West Side Highway.

At a hearing in September, New York Criminal Court Judge Larry Stephen granted a request to delay the trial after Campos attorney Louis Zayas said that discovery was not complete.

He said he was waiting for a videotape of the traffic stop and field sobriety test, and the completion of an Internal Affairs investigation by the New York Police Department into how arresting officer, Joseph Liotta, handled the traffic stop.

Liotta called the Hoboken Police Department on the night of the stop and asked the officer who picked up the phone whether Campos, as a councilman, favored police officers.

Liotta was told to enforce the law, according to a tape. ” (Hack, Jersey Journal)




Get ready for the city's third mayor in eight weeks as City Council meets at 7 o'clock tonight to approve city Business Administrator Domenic F. Cappella, Fire Department Battalion Chief Scott K. Evans or former City Councilwoman Barbara L. Hudgins as the resort's next mayor. Unless it doesn't pick.

The city Democra
tic Committee also plans to meet at a Lower Chelsea bar at the same time. The group, which plans to meet on the second floor of O'Grady's restaurant and bar on Atlantic Avenue, would get to unilaterally pick any of the three if City Council does not make its midnight deadline.

None of the candidates is palatable to a majority of City Council members. Some have suggested that council should reject all three candidates in protest of a nominating process that some called unfair. City Council President and acting Mayor William Marsh said Sunday night that City Council would pick someone.

"It's probably one of my hardest choices to make while as councilman," Councilman George Tibbitt said Tuesday. "It's like having to choose between being hanged, shot or stabbed."” (Harper, Press of Atlantic City)


“Yesterday, the Hudson County Board of Chosen Freeholders' chamber was invaded by the northern horde of the 7th Freeholder District Democrats, mostly rival members of the Hudson County Democratic Organization.

These Democrats for Hudson County included the Genghis Khan of politics, Union City Mayor and Sen.-elect Brian P. Stack. Also attending were Stack allies U.S. Rep. Albio Sires and Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner.

Even more interesting was the presence of West New York Mayor Sal Vega, ostensibly a member of the HCDO, who may be creating a bit of agita for North Bergen Mayor and Sen. Nick Sacco.

They all came for the swearing in of DFHC member Jose Munoz, who was elected this month to complete Vega's term as the 7th District freeholder. The post was left vacant when Vega became mayor of West New York and ran unsuccessfully in the June Democratic primary for 33rd District senator against Stack.

Yesterday, Vega was all smiles and took photos with everyone in what some HCDO members called "a unity moment."

Asked about the session, Turner dismissed the notion that it had any major political significance. "C'mon, you're just trying to look for something," he said.

Then again, last year, Turner did not believe there was a Democratic Party civil war until he had to duck for cover. ” (Torres, Jersey Journal)



Municipal Court Judge George R. Korpita, who was charged Nov. 6 with drunken driving, notified Dover, Victory Gardens and Rockaway courts Tuesday that he is taking an unpaid leave of absence.

Officials in the three municipalities confirmed that Korpita called and issued letters saying he is taking a leave of absence for an unspecified length of time. Korpita's father, George Korpita Jr., who is a municipal court judge in Wharton and Mine Hill, presided Tuesday over Dover Municipal Court and will be asked to fill in for the time being, said Mayor James Dodd.

B. Theodore Bozonelis, state Superior Court Assignment judge for Morris County, had previously ordered that Korpita not hear drunken driving cases at least until his own charge was resolved. Bozonelis also transferred the case to Superior Court in Union County, where a hearing has been set for Tuesday.

Korpita could not be reached at his law office in Dover and his lawyer, James E. Trabilsy of Woodbridge, also could not be reached. Korpita's father, with whom he practices, declined comment. As of Tuesday, the three courts had collectively transferred 19 DWI cases to be heard by other municipal court judges in Morris County, in keeping with Bozonelis' order.

The younger Korpita, 47, was charged just after 2 a.m. on Election Day with drunken and careless driving in Roxbury on Route 46. Officers found Korpita's Chrysler sedan stopped at a traffic light after a motorist reported that a person was passed out behind the wheel of the car and did not move through the traffic signal despite several light changes.

Korpita allegedly gave police a judiciary ID card and said, "I'm a judge, bro," according to the police report.” (Wright, Daily Record)



“Gov. Jon Corzine will decide soon whether the New Jersey State Police has ended the practice of racial profiling and should be freed from federal oversight after eight years of top-to-bottom reform that has cost the state $137.5 million.

The governor will rely heavily on a report he is due to receive Nov. 30 from a panel of 21 law enforcement and civil rights experts who studied the force for more than a year. He appointed the group last year after federal monitors declared the State Police had become a model for law enforcement agencies around the nation.

If Corzine decides the force is indeed ready to be free of federal oversight, he then would have to decide whether it should be monitored by some other agency to ensure it doesn't revert to its old ways.

Two relatively new sets of data continue to stir debate in New Jersey over whether the state troopers have stopped pulling over motorists solely because of their skin color, an illegal practice the state acknowledged in 1999 after years of accusations.

A new analysis by a former Rutgers University professor shows the percentage of black motorists stopped by troopers on New Jersey's roadways actually rose since the state signed a consent decree with the U.S. Justice Department and submitted its police force to federal monitoring. ” (Hepp, Star-Ledger)



“The federal corruption trial of former Asbury Park councilman John J. Hamilton Jr. was placed in the hands of the jury early Tuesday.

The panel of six men and six women began deliberating shortly before 10 a.m. but finished the day without a verdict.

Hamilton has been charged with offering public, no-bid contracts to a demolition contractor — a role played by FBI informant Robert "Duke" Steffer — in return for having a driveway installed at his home. Steffer was working for the FBI as an undercover informant, and
his conversations with Hamilton were recorded.

Steffer played a pivotal role in the investigation, culminating in the arrests in 2005 of more than a dozen public officials and vendors in the Monmouth County political corruption probe dubbed "Operation Bid Rig.” (Webster, Asbury Park Press)


“New Jersey Senate President Dick Codey wants a crackdown on the rowdy behavior of Jets fans at Giants Stadium.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that some fans gather on a pedestrian ramp at Gate D at halftime and engage in obscenity-laced chants for women to expose their breasts. When a woman obliges — as one did on Sunday during the game against the Pittsburgh Steelers — the crowd roars in approval.

Codey says Gate D apparently stands for "drunk and disgusting."

Codey wants the heads of the State Police and the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority to investigate the reports and end the gatherings.

State Police Sgt. Stephen Jones said troopers and security guards are already doing their jobs.

"Where people have been caught exposing themselves, they have been evicted from the stadium and often arrested. Where other fans exhibit dangerous or illegal behaviors including harassment, they have been dealt with in similar fashion," Jones said.” (AP)



“With the holiday shopping season imminent, two South Jersey legislators are proposing to eliminate an unheralded star of retail — the plastic bag.

A staple of shopping since it was introduced in 1977, the plastic bag now faces pressure from environmental groups and politicians who say despite the low cost and convenience of plastic, the bags pollute soil and water, kill animals, waste oil in their production and clutter landfills.

They want to ban the use of plastic bags in stores larger than 10,000 square feet, such as supermarkets and big-box retail stores, by the end of 2010.

Assemblyman Herb Conaway Jr., D-Burlington, who introduced the measure with Assemblyman Jack Conners, D-Camden, said he and his wife have switched to canvas reusable bags and doubts the rest of the public will mind switching in the name of helping the environment.

"It really is not going to cause anybody to change anything they ordinarily do. You're going to have to take your groceries and your purchases home from the store, and you're going to need a sack of some sort to do that," Conaway said. "But by not using plastic bags, you're keeping toxins out of the streams, you're therefore keeping those toxins out of the food chain, and you're not only protecting yourself, in some small way, but also the world..” (Volpe, Gannett)



“Rep. Robert Andrews yesterday accused the Federal Aviation Administration of fast-tracking a controversial Northeast airspace redesign to circumvent a congressional review of the initiative.

The FAA denied the allegation, saying the agency planned to make some changes soon after adopting the plan in September.

Andrews (D-1st Dist.) and Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) urged officials in communities expected to face an increase in noise to seek court injunctions to block the redesign until at least after the Government Accountability Office issues a report on the plan next year.

"FAA decided to put a rush order to implement this plan … a stampede is perhaps a better word," said Andrews, accusing the agency of moving up the start date to Dec. 17 after originally telling officials it would not happen until well into 2008. "We know this plan is a risk to the public health and an environmental detriment to our constituents." ” (Marisco, Star-Ledger)



“A push from outgoing Mayor Mike Koestler to adopt a stricter ban on the political practice known as pay-to-play did not receive enough support from fellow township committee members to move forward.

The committee voted 4-1 this week to reject the first introduction of an ordinance that takes aim at the practice by which professional firms who donate campaign funds and also seek a municipal contract.” (Brown, Gloucester County Times)



Education Commissioner Lucille Davy is becoming a popular pen pal for the school district.

The Pleasantville Education Association president is the latest to write the state leader about the district's problems. David Sciarra, counsel for the Abbott districts, has written several letters to Davy about problems here. In September, Board President James Pressley also wrote of problems.

Now, President Mark Delcher has written on behalf of the union's 740 members to express concerns about the state-appointed fiscal monitor, John Deserable.” (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)



“VINELAND — Robert Romano fired the first volley in the city's mayoral race Tuesday. His target was the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility.

In a press release, Romano asked Mayor Perry Barse to hold off on making a decision about the utility's future until after the municipal election in May.


Romano is challenging Barse, who is seeking a third term, in the May municipal election. Former city school board member Nick Girone also is seeking the mayor's seat in what is likely to be Barse's toughest election yet.

Last week, City Council approved an $81,000 increase to an existing $125,00
0 contract with Seattle-based R.W. Beck Inc., which acts as a consultant to the electric utility
” (Zatzariny, Daily Journal)


“News that eight high-ranking township employees were in line to get pay increases of as much as 50 percent over the period from 2006 to 2009 "created an uproar" among taxpayers Tuesday, said Mayor Al Cirulli.

Cirulli said the matter will be reconsidered. Further, he said, he was as surprised at the size of the increases as some taxpayers were. "We didn't see those figures until they were released in the newspaper," Cirulli said.” (Guenther, Asbury Park Press)

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