Morning News Digest: October 8, 2009

Ferriero Empire is all but finished

Former Bergen Democratic Party chief Joe Ferriero and his confidante Dennis J. Oury allegedly huddled around a table at the posh Stony Hill Inn in the fall of 2001 and hatched a "start-up" company – a vehicle to turn their political power into personal gain. This week, the two men sat at separate tables in a drab federal court room, four floors above a Newark post office – Oury, the newly certified felon, on the witness stand, Ferriero across the room, rearing back in his chair at the defense table, his eyes fastened on his one-time ally now turned government stool pigeon No doting waiters or fawning cronies stopping by the table to pay respects in this room – just jurors sitting in silence. Legal pads and documents cluttered the desktops here, not wine glasses and linen napkins. Ferriero and Oury, once courted by governors and senators (and in Ferriero's case, presidential candidates), faced a relentless, document-by-document shredding of their careers and credibility. "That was a lie?" Ferriero's defense attorney Joe Hayden asked Wednesday, after Oury explained why he amended tax returns to include his 2004 earnings from Government Grants Consulting, the "start-up" grants writing firm at the center of the case. "I'm sorry?" a stunned Oury replied. (Stile, The Record)

Corzine far outspending others in NJ race

Governor Corzine has dug into his own pocket to pay the lion’s share of a nearly $17 million campaign push that has helped him rebound in the polls against Republican Chris Christie. The candidates for governor include: Democratic Gov. Jon S. Corzine, from left; Republican Chris Christie; and independent Chris Daggett. Campaign finance reports released Wednesday show Corzine, a wealthy former Wall Street executive, so far has raised $16.8 million — $15.6 million coming out of his own pocket, despite his well-publicized efforts to get donors to help pay for his tough reelection campaign. (Margolin/Sherman, Star-Ledger)

Corzine Points a Spotlight at His Rival’s Waistline

It is about as subtle as a playground taunt: a television ad for Gov. Jon S. Corzine shows his challenger, Christopher J. Christie, stepping out of an S.U.V. in extreme slow motion, his extra girth moving, just as slowly, in several different directions at once. Mr. Corzine, a fitness buff, said candidates often objected to depictions of themselves. Mr. Christie, who said he had struggled with his size since his teens, called an ad by Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign that makes a snide reference to his weight “silly” and “stupid.” In case viewers missed the point, a narrator snidely intones that Mr. Christie “threw his weight around” to avoid getting traffic tickets. In the ugly New Jersey contest for governor, Mr. Corzine and Mr. Christie have traded all sorts of shots, over mothers and mammograms, loans and lying. But now, Mr. Corzine’s campaign is calling attention to his rival’s corpulence in increasingly overt ways. (Halbfinger, New York Times)

Pundit says Corzine can't spend enough to make voters like him, but can spend enough to make them not like Christie

Gov. Jon Corzine is outspending his Republican opponent by a 3-1 margin in his bid for re-election to a second term, but he's still spending less than he did when he ran four years ago. Maurice Carroll, who runs the Quinnipiac University poll, doesn't read much into that. "Whatever they tell him he'll have to spend, he'll spend. Which I guess is good for the economy. It pays for a lot of consultants, television stations are getting rich," he said. (Friedman,

Despite some successes, Daggett struggles to raise money

Since his well-reviewed performance in last week's debate and issuance of a detailed property tax cut plan, independent gubernatorial candidate Christopher Daggett has gotten a lot of positive press coverage. But that has not translated into campaign donations. Daggett scraped together the $340,000 needed to qualify for matching funds from the state by July, giving his small campaign a large boost. But since raising that initial amount, his political donations have slowed to a trickle. (Friedman,

Biden drums labor for Corzine, projects confidence in Corzine victory, economic recovery

Gov. Jon Corzine never forgot how to pronounce the word "union," Vice President Joe Biden told leaders of the New Jersey AFL-CIO this morning in an impassioned speech with less than a month to go before Election Day as Corzine runs neck-and-neck with Republican challenger Chris Christie, according to the latest Fairleigh Dickinson University poll. "I'm here for two reasons," said Biden. "First and foremost is to support my friend, Barack's friend, Jon Corzine. We made a decision that the first guy we committed to do anything we could do is Jon Corzine." (Pizarro,

Biden in New Jersey to promote Corzine

Vice President Joe Biden came to New Jersey again to promote Corzine’s re-election. The man’s middle name should be exaggeration. He said in the midst of the greatest global economic recession since the Great Depression, Governor Corzine has used his economic know-how to work hand-in-hand with President Obama to get the economy back on track. That the economy is back on track may come as a surprise to many, especially the unemployed. (Ingle, Asbury Park Press)

Biden backs Corzine in Atlantic City

Vice President Biden whipped up a crowd of several hundred union members here today to support Democratic Gov. Corzine, who is seeking re-election this year. "This is not only one of the most important states in the union, this is one of the most consequential governors serving in any state in the union, and it is critically important that he get elected," Biden said. (Burton, Philadelphia Inquirer)

DeCroce goes after Perr's teaching job

Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce wants former Burlington County Democratic Chairman Rick Perr fired from his teaching job at Rutgers – Camden School of Law over his involvement in the New Frontier Political Action Committee. Perr was forced to resign last month as party chairman after a news report tied him to the operation of the PAC, which was founded to aid South Jersey campaigns but donated money to arrested Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, a Hoboken council running mate and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy. (Friedman,

U.S. Senate approves Fishman as new U.S. attorney for New Jersey

Paul J. Fishman, a prominent defense lawyer and former federal prosecutor, was confirmed tonight by the Senate as the next U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. (Ryan, Star-Ledger)

NJ Lt. Governor candidates to debate

The candidates for New Jersey's newly created post of lieutenant governor will hold their only debate Thursday. The three little-knowns will have to tell voters who they are before they start to disagree on policies. Sen. Loretta Weinberg is a Teaneck Democrat running with Gov. Jon Corzine. Republican Chris Christie chose Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno (GWAH'-dah-noh) as his running mate. (Associated Press/Burlington County Times)

Lawmaker rips Christie over mammograms

A Florida congresswoman who survived breast cancer said Wednesday that Chris Christie's support for legalizing insurance policies that do not cover mammograms or 48-hour hospital stays after childbirth would "take women back to the dark ages." The Republican nominee for New Jersey governor, Christie said during his primary campaign he would make insurance more affordable by allowing for "mandate-free" coverage. After coming under fire by Governor Corzine's reelection campaign for potentially abandoning the state's mandate for coverage of mammograms, which screen for breast cancer, Christie has refined his position. Christie said it would not apply to employer-provided coverage, and would be available only to uninsured individuals who cannot afford coverage now. (Jackson, The Record)

Two Leading Candidates for Governor Don't Seem to be Interested in Talking About the Issues

2009 Could be remembered as the year the two top candidates for Governor avoided talking about the issues that mattered most to the voters. Patrick Murray, Director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, says while independent candidate Chris Daggett has addressed the property tax issue, by putting forth a plan to lower them, "certainly Governor Corzine does not want to talk about this issue, because it's one of the reasons why his approval rating is so low…he really doesn't want to remind people that he actually raised their expectations that he would do something, and then hasn't come through with that." (Millennium Radio News)

N.J. comptroller to review audits of $8.7M

Hudson River tunnel project Gov. Jon Corzine issued an executive order today calling for "transparency and accountability" in funding NJ Transit’s $8.7 billion commuter rail tunnel to New York City. The order requires Comptroller Matthew Boxer to review financial audits of the Mass Transit Tunnel project to ensure its solvency, and to determine whether additional oversight is needed to keep the tunnel within budget. (Davis, Star-Ledger)

Atlantic City sex-tape blackmail trial to begin Thursday

The trial of three men accused of attempting to blackmail an Atlantic City councilman with a tape of him engaged in a sex act with a prostitute is expected to begin early Thursday afternoon. Brothers David and Ronald Callaway, along with their longtime friend Floyd Tally, are accused in an alleged scheme to hire a prostitute, get her to seduce political rival Eugene Robinson and then tape the woman performing oral sex on the councilman. A never-identified man brought the video to Robinson and told him if he didn't resign, the tape would be made public. Instead of stepping down, the councilman went to police and an investigation began. He will testify for the state. (Cohen, Press of Atlantic City)

After cutting Newark deficit by $105M, Michelle Thomas officially appointed to business administrator post

Michelle Thomas, the woman who steered the Newark budget through one of the worst economic crises in the city’s history, was officially appointed as the city’s business administrator today after filling the post in an acting capacity for nearly two years. (Giambusso, Star-Ledger)

Day after guilty plea, Philip Kenny resigns Jersey City council seat

In a terse one sentence statement faxed to the City Clerk's Office this morning, Philip J. Kenny, who yesterday pleaded guilty to accepting $5,000 in bribes, resigned from his Ward B council seat. (Jersey Journal)

DEP tells Brigantine councilman to stop removing dune in restaurant parking lot

A beachfront restaurant's owner enlisted earth-moving equipment last week to cut into a dune next to his parking lot, until the Department of Environmental Protection intervened. The growing dune had begun to encroach into the parking lot, said Tony Pullella, owner of the Laguna Grill and a Brigantine city councilman. So with the blessing of Celebrity Resorts, the hotel that shares the parking lot, Pullella hired a contractor to move the sand Thursday. (Campbell, Press of Atlantic City)

N.J. gubernatorial candidates address social issues, including medical marijuana, gay marriage

Some of the most contentious social issues in this gubernatorial race — including medical marijuana and gay marriage — are also the subject of bills that could become law before the next governor shows up for the job. Gubernatorial candidates Chris Christie, Jon Corzine and Chris Daggett have not always made their positions clear on those topics or how strenuously they would push for such legislation, even in their first debate (Star-Ledger)

Hamilton Dems claim nepotism

Allegations of nepotism have surfaced once again in the township, with Democratic council candidates questioning administrative hiring practices. At Tuesday night's council meeting, Democratic council candidate Fred Dumont spoke out against three new hires, two of whom he said were the brother-in-law and sister of an unnamed council member and the third an employee of the Hamilton Republican Club. (Duffy, Trenton Times)

Put N.J.'s farm preservation program out to pasture

Hing Lum was chased out of China at a young age by the Maoists who had seized his hard-working father’s farm. So he has little good to say about the communists. But he’ll give the commies credit for one thing: At least when they steal your land they’re man enough to admit it. "With the communists, they just took it," said Lum. "They were honest about it: ‘It’s not yours! It’s mine.’ " (Mulshine, Star-Ledger)

Lose the affordable housing stigma, says HUD director

Diane Sterner is trying to change people's minds about the stigmas of affordable housing. As executive director of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey – a group of approximately 250 housing authorities and development corporations – Sterner joined Affordable Homes of Millville Ecumenical Director Donna Turner and other housing officials in a tour of such residence tracts around the county. (Laday, Bridgeton Evening News)

Rahway appoints former member to fill vacant council seat

Robert Rachlin is returning to a familiar seat on the City Council. Rachlin, who served as the city's 1st Ward Councilman from 1997 to 2008, was reappointed to his old seat at the Tuesday, Oct. 6, special City Council meeting and sworn into office, according to the City Clerk's office. (Courier News)

U.S. block grant to take down Camden's most dilapidated

In August, an abandoned, crumbling home at 923 N. 27th St. was named the ugliest house in Camden's Cramer Hill neighborhood. Now thanks to a federal grant, its days are numbered. The building took the crown in a contest that Camden Churches Organized for People conducted to bring urgency and publicity to the problem of abandoned houses. It was chosen from among 13 candidates by parishioners at participating churches. (Spolar, Philadelphia Inquirer)

Daggett urges changes to make N.J. competitive

Almost a week after his appearance in the gubernatorial debate bolstered his poll numbers and recognition, Independent candidate Chris Daggett said the two-party system has failed New Jersey and the state needs to make drastic spending changes to become competitive. "Tooth fairy's not coming," Daggett said in a speech at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School last night. "Not to New Jersey, not to drop that kind of money on us." (Trenton Times) Morning News Digest: October 8, 2009