Morning News Digest: October 21, 2009

Gov. Corzine holds rallies with pols as Christie hosts kitchen table discussions

In the battle for momentum in a bitterly fought campaign, Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine today showcased a popular ex-president, Republican Chris Christie sat at a kitchen table talking taxes and independent Chris Daggett said the nasty tone of the race is driving voters to his side. Corzine today was boosted in two rallies by former President Bill Clinton, the latest in a lineup of Democratic Party rock stars sweeping across New Jersey in support of the incumbent. (Heininger/Margolin Star Ledger)

Lautenberg says DOJ must ‘initiate an investigation’ into Michele Brown matter

New Jersey’s senior U.S. Senator has called for a Justice Department investigation into whether former First Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown aided former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie’s gubernatorial candidacy when she was still at the office. "It is shocking to learn that a former deputy to Chris Christie was conducting a political campaign within the U.S. Attorney's Office,” said U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) in a statement. "It was particularly distressing that this raw political agenda came into an office with a historic reputation for fair and unbiased dispensation of justice, and Ms. Brown went so far as to try to bring political campaign objectives into the planning of law enforcement actions. The Department of Justice must initiate an investigation into this matter.” (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Mercer County Dems welcome Clinton but still have no LTG candidate or speaker

A wounded county came out here tonight to get a glimpse of former President Bill Clinton before the Secret Service propelled him away – again – to some more voter-concentrated region of the state for what Democrats hope will be a pay dirt rally at Rutgers University. "I knew you weren't here to see me," Mayor Doug Palmer told a crowd at his $150 fundraiser for his nonprofit Trenton First, over one of his shoulders stood Gov. Jon Corzine with two weeks to go in a dead-heat gubernatorial contest. Over Palmer's other shoulder stood Clinton. (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

GOP says ‘porn and guns’ mailer is a cheap shot

Bergen County Republicans are enraged by a Democratic mailer that attacks the 38th District Republican Assembly candidates over "porn and guns." The mailer hits recipients with an image of the word "porn" spelled out in computer keys above "guns" spelled out in bullets. "If you make your money on porn or guns, then you have something in common with the Bergen Republican candidates," the front of the mailer reads. Turn it around, and the flyer says that Republican Assembly candidate Judith Fisher is a "consultant to one of the largest pornographic companies in the world" and that her running mate, Ridgefield Councilman Nick Lonzisero, rents property to a gun shop located next to an elementary school that is promoted by the National Rifle Association – "the same organization that's been lobbying to allow assault weapons in New Jersey." (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Edison council president announces resignation

Council President AnnMarie Griffin-Ussak, an ally of Mayor Jun Choi, will resign from the Township Council, effective Monday. Griffin-Ussak cited personal reasons in her resignation letter. "We thank Griffin-Ussak for her service and we wish her and her family well,'' Choi said. Council Vice President Wayne Mascola will step in as council president till year-end. A new president is elected by the council at the beginning of every year. Griffin-Ussak's term would have ended in December 2011. Choi said there is a 30-day process to appoint a new council person. The Edison Democratic committee will select three candidates within two weeks. The Township Council will then select one among the three to serve as council member. (Amuthan, Gannett)

It’s gut-check time for jurors in Ferriero trial

Jurors in former Bergen County Democratic leader Joe Ferriero's federal corruption trial today begin digesting 10 days of testimony, tedious e-mails and contracts, and even the crude jottings in Ferriero's private planner. They also have also been asked to take one extra, personal step before rendering a verdict — the gut check. Running Ferriero's defense and the government's accusations through an internal screening of suspicion and common sense is the final and most important step in deciding Ferriero's fate, prosecutors and Ferriero's lawyer asserted in varying degrees on Monday. (Stile, The Record)

NJ gubernatorial campaign in home stretch

As the volatile campaign heads into its final two weeks, Gov. Corzine is relying on President Obama and other top Democrats to close the deal for his reelection, while Republican Christopher J. Christie is visiting with taxpayers and planning to reboard his big, black campaign bus. Independent Chris Daggett, who has polled at better than 10 percent and seen a recent uptick in fund-raising, is cutting a new TV ad this week and plans to begin radio ads as well. (Burton, Inquirer)

Editorial: Pass the Atlantic City smoking ban

Shamefully, Atlantic City council members and state legislators continue to expose dealers and other casino employees to serious health risks by refusing to ban smoking on casino floors. The legislature, after allowing casinos to escape the statewide indoor smoking ban in 2006, has refused to close this loophole. Lawmakers continually have chosen casino balance sheets over the health of the average Joe. But this is a moral, not economic issue: What amount of money makes it acceptable to put people’s lives at risk? We know the answer: None. And that’s why there’s a tobacco stain on New Jersey’s soul. (Star Ledger)

Chamber is forum for gubernatorial contest

Attendees at yesterday's Mercer Regional Chamber of Commerce (MRCC) luncheon were privy to their own gubernatorial debate of sorts, as independent candidate Chris Daggett took on former Republican state Sen. Peter Inverso and Democratic Senate President Richard Codey. Codey and Inverso, current president and CEO of Roma Bank, appeared at the Trenton Marriott luncheon on behalf of Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine and Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie, who polls show are neck-and-neck in the increasingly heated race for governor. The two stand-ins sparred with Daggett over his property tax relief plan and stated the case for why their party's respective candidate should be elected governor, amid Daggett's claims that both parties were responsible for 15 years of governmental irresponsibility. (Duffy, Newhouse)

Guadagno addresses rotary club

Republican lieutenant governor nominee Kim Guadagno returned to Westfield Tuesday afternoon addressing the Rotary Club two weeks before the general election. Guadagno, the Monmouth County sheriff, hammered away at the key platform items of her running mate, former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie. Reiterating opposition to new taxes and bringing more business to New Jersey, she discussed the contrast between her ticket and the Democratic ticket of Gov. Jon Corzine and State Sen. Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen County. (Celock, Westfield Patch)

NJ defendant thought video sex sting was FBI probe

Floyd Tally said he was doing his patriotic duty when he helped find a prostitute for an Atlantic City Councilman. Tally stands accused of helping to lure Councilman Eugene Robinson to a motel room where a tryst with a topless hooker was secretly recorded. He testified at his trial Tuesday that he thought he was helping his friend, former Council President Craig Callaway, investigate Robinson for the FBI. Callaway had admitted taking bribes while on council and was on his way to prison in 2006 when he decided to punish Robinson for switching political allegiances, authorities say. "He confided in me and told me he was working for the FBI," Tally testified Tuesday. "He said, `Before you hear it from anyone else, you need to hear it from me; I got into a little trouble and I'm working for the FBI.'" (Parry, AP)

Gov. Corzine’s use of vast wealth is ‘corrosive’ to NJ public

We have become so accustomed to Gov. Jon Corzine’s money leaving its heavy mark on our state’s politics that we barely notice it anymore. But we probably should. Because nine years after he arrived, using his money like a club to knock Jim Florio out of the U.S. Senate race, Corzine’s gaudy style of politics is still warping the game. And now he’s trying to hide his latest spending from voters until after the election. (Moran, Star Ledger)

Details revealed on Solomon Dwek, informant in NJ corruption probe, after guilty pleas

The informant who sparked the biggest criminal sting in New Jersey history briefly emerged from federal protection long enough today to plead guilty to a $50 million bank fraud. But even as Solomon Dwek stood fidgeting before a judge in a perfunctory 30-minute appearance, explosive new details about his private con schemes and his role as the cooperating witness in the ongoing federal corruption investigation were coming to light. A Star-Ledger examination of court documents shows that before Dwek became an informer for the FBI, he was running a wild Ponzi operation in which one investment was being used to pay off the debt mounting from the last one and on into the millions in the same kind of geometry that eventually exposed financier Bernard Madoff. (Sherman, Star Ledger)

The truth about mammograms

Voters are hearing a lot about mammograms in campaign commercials, but what they’re getting are exaggerations that ignore basic facts about health insurance in New Jersey. Since Labor Day, Governor Corzine has been hammering his claim that Republican challenger Chris Christie’s plan for mandate-free health insurance will end mammogram coverage for at least some women. The strategy has worked: While Corzine trailed in most polls before the attack ads, he now appears virtually tied. Christie’s original claim that eliminating mandates will drive down premiums and cut the number of uninsured, and Corzine’s counter claim that women will be deprived of coverage for the breast-cancer screening test if mandates are lifted, are both exaggerated. (Washburn/Reitmeyer, The Record)

Christie plans home-stretch TV ad blitz

Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie plans a massive advertising campaign in the two weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election. Though Gov. Jon Corzine has seemingly unlimited money to spend on advertising to support his re-election campaign, Republicans say they have been stashing their cash and will stack up well in the final days of the race. "You're going to see an unleashing of advertising," Sen. Joseph Kyrillos (R-Monmouth), chairman of Chris Christie's campaign, said today. (Margolin, The Record)

Daggett’s driver leaves loaded gun in car

Independent gubernatorial candidate Chris Daggett returned a loaner car to to a dealership but did not retrieve a loaded gun belonging to his driver, a retired state trooper. In yet another bizarre turn in an already crazy gubernatorial campaign, independent candidate Chris Daggett this week fielded a call from a car dealership saying the loaner car he returned had a loaded gun in it. Daggett, in a telephone interview today, explained it was just an honest error made when switching cars so he could get his Acura serviced. The gun, he said, belongs to his driver, retired state trooper Ken Argiro. "It was accidentally left in the loaner car," Daggett said. "They called and immediately we took care of it." (Margolin, The Record)

Magazzu signs are vandalized

At least four Cumberland County Democratic Party campaign signs here were recently vandalized, with party leader Lou Magazzu's name changed in an unflattering way on each sign. The "AZZ" in Magazzu's name was covered with an 8-by-11-inch piece of paper with "A$$" written on it. The paper was stuck to each side of the four 6-by-8-foot signs with an adhesive that made it impossible to remove it, according to Vineland Police Ptl. John Calio's report. Calio located the vandalized campaign signs at the Heritage Dairy Store on South Lincoln Avenue, at the South Main Road Riggins gas station, and at private residences on the 3000 block of South Lincoln Avenue and the 2800 block of Menantico Road. Calio was dispatched to the Heritage store Monday morning on a complaint by Brendan Kavanagh, the Democrats campaign manager, who had received numerous reports of vandalized signs in the city. (McCullen, Newhouse) Morning News Digest: October 21, 2009