Morning News Digest: November 24, 2009

Please note that PolitickerNJ will be closed for the remainder of the week – your morning Wake Up Call will

Please note that PolitickerNJ will be closed for the remainder of the week – your morning Wake Up Call will resume on Monday, 11/30. Happy Thanksgiving from the team!

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Milgram charges GOP consultant over robocall impersonating Rumana staffer

A veteran New Jersey political consultant who has run into controversy before was charged today with impersonation and violation of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. Kevin Collins, 39, allegedly was responsible for the calls on behalf of District 40 Republican primary challengers Joe Caruso and Anthony Rottino. In the call, a woman who identifies herself as “Ann” lobs several charges at incumbents Scott Rumana (R-Wayne) and Dave Russo (R-Ridgewood). Collins, who lives in Brooklyn but used to live in Wood-Ridge, allegedly gave the robocall services company the cell phone number of Ann O’Rourke, Rumana’s chief of staff, so that the call looked like it originated from her. “This is a case of identity theft and misrepresentation,” said Attorney General Anne Milgram. “The defendant used the victim's cell phone number and first name to make people believe she was responsible for the robocalls.” Over 12,000 residents of the 40th district got the call on primary day, June 2. According to the Attoney General's Office, it did not identify who paid for it and made several inaccurate claim about the incumbents. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

Wisniewski to make formal play for state party chair when Cryan makes departure official

Assemblyman John Wisniewksi (D-Sayreville) intends to make a formal play for the chairmanship of the State Democratic Committee only if and when sitting Chairman Joe Cryan officially says he's done. "Chairman Cryan will reach out to members of the state committee and at that point I would anticipate he will move on as state chair, and when he does that I am obviously interested," Wisniewski told, shortly after members of the Democratic caucus unanimously elected Assembly Cryan (D-Union Twp.) to serve as majority leader behind Assembly Speaker-elect Sheila Oliver (D-East Orange). The state committee, composed of 121 members, would have to schedule a meeting on Cryan's orders to elect his successor to a two-year term. Sources close to the state chairman say his election today to majority leader indicate his imminent departure from the statewide political leadership role of his party. "I am not going to do anything official until he makes it official," said Wisniewski. "I am not going to preempt the majority leader." (Pizarro, PolitickerNJ)

Dem leadership teams come together after emerging from caucus meetings

After a day in which everything ended up as planned, Democrats formalized their new leadership lineup and showed it off at a press conference this afternoon. “It will be a tough act to follow Dick Codey in this role,” said Senate Majority Leader Stephen Sweeney (D-West Deptford), who will formally take the role of senate president in January. Codey (D-Roseland) who tried to fend off Sweeney until the end, told The Ledger that there was “blood on the floor” in the caucus meeting where Democrats elected Sweeney. Sweeney did not return fire. “He was more than a gentleman. He’s a very class individual and he’s shown that all the way through,” said Sweeney. Sweeney said it was “unfair” to describe him as “punishing” allies of Codey by bumping the soon-to-be former senate president’s supporters out of committee chairmanships in favor of his own backers. “It is now my turn to be senate president after eight years. It’s about other people having opportunities,” he said. (Friedman, PolitickerNJ)

N.J. Senate, Assembly choose leaders for next Statehouse session

The makeover of the New Jersey Statehouse officially began today as senators and Assembly members chose the leaders who will guide the Legislature into the 2010-11 session. There were no surprises as the guard changed, but that didn’t make the day any less emotional or suspenseful. Sen. Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) was tapped to become Senate president, and Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver (D-Essex) will take over the speakership in the Assembly. They won control of their houses during separate closed-door sessions of the reigning Democrats. "Our state is truly sitting at a crossroads. We’re all aware of the challenges New Jersey faces, and I’m prepared to take them head-on," Sweeney, 50, said during a news conference he held with Oliver after the votes. "I share the people’s desire for fresh perspectives and new ideas." Both Sweeney and Oliver appeared emotional at their press conference. At one point, Sweeney accidentally referred to Sen. Nia Gill (D-Essex) as an assemblywoman. “Sorry, I’m a little nervous right now," he said. Oliver said she was honored to be the first African-American female Assembly speaker. (Heininger/Margolin, Star-Ledger)

N.J. Gov.-elect Christie, Pa. Gov. Rendell discuss economy, business

Standing outside a business that moved from New Jersey to Pennsylvania three years ago, Gov.-elect Chris Christie said today companies should expect a “hard but fair” competition between the two states for their business. Christie and Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Guadagno met with Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell for about 45 minutes this morning to discuss a range of topics, including some common points such as tourism promotion and regional economic development, and others that have driven divisions between the neighboring states, such as dredging of the Delaware River. During his campaign and after his win, Christie had said New Jersey should mimic Pennsylvania’s tax incentives to attract companies to grow, manufacture and employ workers. The Keystone State had been “eating our lunch,” as he described it two weeks ago. “Kim and I came here to learn this morning,” Christie said today. “It’s going to be good for the economy and this region to have the governor of Pennsylvania and the governor of New Jersey competing with each other, working hard on the things that we can cooperate on and creating, hopefully, more business and more jobs from other parts of the country to bring here.” (Fleisher, Star Ledger)

Ingle: Christie leaves state to make point

Gov.-elect Chris Christie went across the Delaware River today to meet with another former prosecutor, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell. Christie went to Fairless Hills and stood outside a business that went from New Jersey to Pennsylvania . Christie said New Jersey should mimic Pennsylvania’s tax incentives to attract businesses. That’s what got the business Christie stood before, AE Polysilicon Corp., which makes material for solar cells, to leave us. He said working together, NJ and Pennsylvania can attract business from other parts of the country. A great idea, but it won’t work for New Jersey until the Legislature understands something about business. (Ingle, Gannett)

Some Democrats back off bid to legalize gay marriage in NJ

It was not on the ballot, nor was it a top-tier issue in the New Jersey governor’s race this fall, but the push to legalize same-sex marriage in the state could become a casualty of the election results. Just weeks ago, Democrats, who control both houses of the Legislature, spoke confidently about their intention to pass a marriage-equality bill after the election and send it to Gov. Jon S. Corzine, a fellow Democrat who had promised to sign it even if he was not re-elected. But when lawmakers returned to Trenton on Monday for the first time since Mr. Corzine was defeated by Christopher J. Christie, a Republican who opposes gay marriage, a few Democratic legislators appeared to be wavering in their support, setting off an emotional blitz of lobbying and backroom bargaining. Some Democratic legislative leaders — including the majority leader, Stephen M. Sweeney, who will become Senate president in January — have said that they view Governor Corzine’s loss as a gauge of the public’s unease with the troubled economy, and fear that voters might resent elected officials who appear distracted by social issues. He said he did not think this was the right time to enact the bill. (Kociniewski, New York Times)

Ruane’s use of Dem chief may be violation

Bayonne Councilman at large Terry Ruane may have violated state election law by having the chairman of the local Democratic Party organization also serve as the chairman of his campaign. Jason O'Donnell, chairman of the Bayonne City Regular Democratic Organization, is listed as the chairman of Ruane's political committee, "Ruane for Council," in reports filed with the state Election Law Enforcement Commission. Under state regulations, the chairman of a party committee cannot also serve as chairman for a candidate's committee. Ruane, 56, said yesterday he was not aware that O'Donnell was prohibited from serving as his campaign manager. O'Donnell, a fire captain in Bayonne, also pleaded ignorance. "I wasn't aware of that (state regulation)," O'Donnell said last night. "I really had no involvement in Ruane's campaign other than signing off on paper work that he wanted to file," O'Donnell added. "I went on to the work for the governor. If it is a violation, I will have to deal with the repercussions for ELEC." Ruane successfully campaigned to win Anthony Chiappone's old at-large seat on the Bayonne council in a six-way race on Nov. 3. (Hack, Jersey Journal)

Middlesex County officials reverse plans for shared-services director

Middlesex County freeholders are on the verge of appointing a director overseeing shared services, just days after county officials said they intended to leave the post vacant. Freeholder Deputy Director Christopher Rafano tonight said he will recommend a county employee be appointed as the full-time director, with the salary being covered by state grants. "By reallocating our current resources, utilizing state funds, we eliminate the need to hire an additional employee to the existing county workforce, and we thereby reduce the burden on our taxpayers," Rafano said. However, Freeholder H. James Polos, who had publicly criticized the freeholder board for not hiring a new director, accused Rafano of playing games with the post. "Just six days after they said they weren’t appointing anybody, we’ve all of a sudden spun our chairs around and found somebody," Polos said. (Haydon, Star Ledger)

NJ group funded by tax dollars also represents private interests

Taxpayers are subsidizing a private lobbying group — including a six-figure pension for the top employee — even as it sometimes fights proposed laws designed to help bring down the country’s highest property taxes. The New Jersey Association of Counties relies on deep-pocketed utilities and corporations for support and entices new sponsors with promises of access to officials and the chance to win public contracts. County governments are responsible for about 20 percent of its operating budget, sending $200,000 a year in annual dues to lobby lawmakers on such issues as shared services, money for roads and bridges, and reimbursement for election costs, according to records the association supplied to The Record. The rest comes from $395-a-year memberships paid by Public Service Electric and Gas Co., Verizon, Wal-Mart, Cigna Health Care and about 200 other companies, including Trenton lobbying firms and professional contractors that score no-bid public contracts. (Young, The Record)

Morning News Digest: November 24, 2009