Doria: I Hope It Isn’t So, Joe

On the day we in New Jersey will always remember as Corruption Thursday, my thoughts were focussed in three areas:

As a long time participant and observer of New Jersey politics, I thought of the impact the arrests and continuing scandal would have on the gubernatorial campaign. I compiled these thoughts in my article, “Corzine is Not Corrupt – But The Corruption Scandal Dooms His Campaign.”

As an Orthodox Jew, I felt shame regarding the alleged crimes of the arrested rabbis and their accomplices. I wanted to publicly express the need for Orthodox Jews to repudiate this kind of evil behavior, yet also emphasize the fact that the great majority of Orthodox Jews do not behave in this fashion. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to do so that night as a guest on the News 12 New Jersey show “Capitol Hot Seat”, hosted by Laura Jones.

Finally, as one who worked a decade in New Jersey state government, I was profoundly shocked and troubled by the news that a raid by federal agents had been conducted at the home and offices of former New Jersey Assembly Speaker and Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria.

When Joe was about to leave the Assembly after nearly 24 years of outstanding service, Terry Golway interviewed me for a column about him, which appeared in the November 2, 2003 edition of the New York Times. My words in the column still reflect my thinking at this moment:

''In the New Jersey Assembly, Joe was a person of unquestioned decency and boundless compassion,'' Mr. Steinberg said. ''For Republicans, he was a political adversary without being a personal enemy.''

I hope that I may continue to feel this same way about Joe Doria.

I first met Joe Doria in 1992 when I was hired by then Assembly Speaker Chuck Haytaian to serve as Senior Policy Advisor. Doria was then serving as Assembly Minority Leader.

Chuck and I were committed conservative Republicans, while Joe was likewise a committed liberal Democrat. Yet there was never anything personally hostile in the relationship Chuck and I had with Joe. In fact, we all considered ourselves as friends. Indeed, we felt a special bond as descendants of European immigrants for whom America was a true land of opportunity.

My mentor and dear friend, former Assemblyman John Rocco (R-Camden) then served as chair of the Assembly Education Committee. I worked with John on all bills considered by the committee.

On numerous occasions, John Rocco and Joe Doria acted as co-prime sponsors of important legislation. While they did at times have some differences on education policy, more often then not they found common cause in supporting the passage of legislation that improved the quality of education for the children of all New Jerseyans. Their dedication to the children of our state transcended partisanship.

One of the first people I met in New Jersey politics was Arthur Armitage, Sr. the late former mayor of Audubon, Camden County. This grand old man of Camden County politics was fond of saying, “Politics is not war – it’s a competition. Personal destruction should not be a goal.”

This politics of civility has been a trademark of Joe Doria. While he could denounce Republican measures on the floor of the Assembly, once the day’s session ended, he would greet both Democrats and Republicans in the most jovial way.

I never felt that Joe Doria was in politics for personal gain. He loved his town of Bayonne, where he served as mayor, and he was not known for living ostentatiously. His wife and daughter have meant everything to him.

So I have been most troubled about Joe Doria since I heard the news on Thursday about the raids and his resignation.

Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, Jr. is one of the most outstanding career prosecutors in the U.S. Justice Department. He is a person of the highest ethics and competence, as are the FBI agents involved in the corruption cases. I have to believe that they conducted the raids on Doria’s office and home in good faith and in compliance with the constitutional standards for such law enforcement actions based upon the evidence they already had.

At the same time, they have not issued any criminal complaint against Joe Doria. He is entitled to the continuing presumption of innocence.

On a number of occasions, a federal investigation and search and seizure raid has actually resulted in the exoneration of the investigation target. I fervently hope that this is the case with Joe Doria.

I hope it isn’t so, Joe.

Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush. Region 2 EPA consists of the states of New York and New Jersey, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and seven federally recognized Indian nations.

Doria:  I Hope It Isn’t So, Joe