Morning Digest: March 4, 2014

Eagleton/Sienna/Roanoke Poll: Clinton leads Christie by 10 points in New Jersey

A majority of voters in New York (64 percent), New Jersey (59 percent) and Virginia (56 percent) have a favorable view of Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and name her most often in each state as the one eligible person that they would most like to see as the next President according to simultaneous identical polls conducted by Roanoke College in Virginia, Rutgers-Eagleton in New Jersey and Siena College in New York.  In early 2016 Presidential horseraces in each state, Clinton tops New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Paul Ryan by over 35 points in New York, 8 (Christie) to 14 (Paul) points in Virginia and even leads Christie by 10 in New Jersey while up there by 25 to 29 over Ryan and Paul.

“It’s early, very early, but in these three states worth 56 of 270 electoral votes needed to win, Hillary Clinton is well-liked, the top choice by margins of 4 or 5 to one in New York and Virginia and named more than twice as often in Governor Christie’s home state.  Head to head, she is untouchable in New York, has majorities in New Jersey and a lead in the potential battleground state of Virginia over not only two lesser known Republican hopefuls, Paul and Ryan, but over Christie who can no longer muster 50 percent favorable in any of the three states,” according to Don Levy, Director of the Siena College Research Institute. (PolitickerNJ)

Eagleton/Sienna/Roanoke Poll: Clinton leads Christie by 10 points in New Jersey | Politicker NJ



Burlington GOP Screening Committee backs MacArthur for CD3 seat

Burlington County Regular Republican Screening Committee Chairman Steve Solomon this evening chimed the Ocean County GOP Screening Committee’s weekend endorsement of former Randolph Mayor Tom MacArthur in the 3rd Congressional District.

“Our Screening Committee, as well as our Republican Municipal Chairs, are proud to enthusiastically endorse Tom MacArthur for Congress in the Third District and will forward our recommendation to the full County Committee for their consideration,” said Solomon, who is also the Moorestown GOP Municipal Chairman.  (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Burlington GOP Screening Committee backs MacArthur for CD3 seat | Politicker NJ





Governor Christie slow to fill legal vacancies

New Jersey hasn’t had an attorney general since June. Dozens of Superior Court judgeships are open. The term of the Bergen County prosecutor expired in January 2013.

Prosecutor John L. Molinelli says he can continue in his job in Bergen County without any problems. But the state’s court system has case backlogs, in part because of judicial vacancies that include 21 in Essex County, the most of any Superior Court in the state.

Chris Christie originally campaigned for governor on his record in law enforcement as a federal prosecutor, positioning himself as a tough leader who would battle corruption. But the large number of vacancies has left gaping holes in the justice system, with little perceptible movement in getting them filled, and the appointment of a new attorney general has been complicated by the George Washington Bridge scandal.

Molinelli may be one of the few beneficiaries of the logjam, qualifying for a higher state pension while he waits for a successor to be appointed by the governor and approved by the Legislature. The Bergen County prosecutor said his holdover status is not an impediment. (Phillis/The Record) 





GWB Scandal: Lawyer for former Christie adviser says client appears t be focus of federal investigation

Governor Christie’s former campaign manager Bill Stepien appears to be a target of a federal criminal investigation, his lawyer said in a court filing on Monday, describing recent unannounced visits and phone calls by federal agents who went so far as to ask Stepien’s landlord if he was a rowdy tenant and paid rent on time.

The revelations were another signal that federal prosecutors are looking closely into politically motivated lane closures at the George Washington Bridge and whether they were ordered by officials who were once in the governor’s inner circle. Stepien’s attorney wrote that his client is innocent of any wrongdoing.

The court filing came in a civil case that will determine if Stepien must provide documents subpoenaed by a legislative committee conducting its own investigation into the lane closures. The case has forced Stepien’s lawyer into an awkward position: arguing that Stepien should not have to provide the documents to lawmakers because he is the subject of the federal probe.

Stepien has invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in response to the legislative subpoena, and the dispute has gone before a state Superior Court judge in Mercer County who will hear arguments next Tuesday. The court case is the most significant test yet of the investigative power of state lawmakers who have subpoena power and are demanding documents against the backdrop of a high-stakes federal investigation. (Boburg/The Record) 





Samson Complaint Tests Independence of Embattled Ethics Commission

Labor-dominated coalition files four conflict of interest charges against Christie’s controversial Port Authority chairman.

In a case that will mark the first test of the state Ethics Commission’s ability to handle charges against top Christie administration appointees, the New Jersey Working Families Alliance yesterday filed conflict-of-interest allegations against Port Authority Chairman David Samson, charging that he improperly voted on contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars to his law firm’s clients.

“David Samson repeatedly violated the public trust by weighing in and sometimes voting on matters that enriched clients of his law firm,” said Analilia Mejia, executive director of the Working Families Alliance, a coalition of 16 labor and progressive groups. “The Port Authority has a $4 billion budget and manages the commutes of millions. It needs an effective leader untainted by scandal.”

The coalition filed charges alleging that Samson broke the New Jersey Conflicts of Interest Law by voting to approve the Port Authority’s $256 million renovation of the Harrison PATH station, a $7.5 million World Trade Center contract, and a $1-a-year, 49-year sweetheart lease for a parking lot — all of which benefited clients of his Wolff and Samson law firm. The complaint also charges that Samson improperly pushed for the Port Authority to take over operation of Atlantic City Airport from another of his clients… (Magyar/NJSpotlight) 





With Insurance Deadline Looming, Democratic Legislators Pitch In

Lawmakers say they will use offices, staff to promote signups through federal marketplace.

In a last push to get as many New Jerseyans as possible signed up for health insurance through the federal marketplace before the March 31 deadline, a group of state legislators are offering their offices and staff to help with the enrollment effort.

The 12 lawmakers will distribute information to their constituents by email and through their district offices. The end of the month marks the end of the open enrollment period to sign up for insurance.

If people don’t have insurance by March 31, they will be required to pay a penalty on next year’s tax return. The penalty will be the greater amount of either $95 or 1 percent of the resident’s income. The next open enrollment period will begin on November 15. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight) 




Unilever Scraps Ad Telling New Jersey to Embrace ‘Armpit’ Status

A proposed Unilever (UNA) billboard urging New Jersey to embrace its reputation as the “armpit of America” drew outcry from the state’s residents, prompting the company to abandon the idea.

As part of an ad campaign for Dove underarm products, the company had planned to put up a billboard in July saying, “Dear New Jersey, when people call you ‘the Armpit of America,’ take it as a compliment. Sincerely, Dove.”

After a preview of the billboard appeared in the New York Times last week, irate Garden State residents went on Facebook and Twitter criticizing the ad. Unilever, the world’s largest consumer-products maker after Procter & Gamble Co., responded by saying the company would not move forward with it.

“Our intent with the ‘Dear New Jersey’ ad was to call attention to the fact that armpits can and should be considered beautiful and ask women everywhere to accept this as something that is okay,” Matthew McCarthy, the senior marketing director of antiperspirants and deodorants at London- and Rotterdam-based Unilever, said in an e-mailed statement. “We did not wish to cause any misunderstanding or offense.”

New Jersey has received national attention this year, in both a positive and negative light. It played host to last month’s Super Bowl and was mired in a scandal over whether Governor Chris Christie’s staff intentionally shut down lanes to the George Washington Bridge to hurt a political foe. The state has long lived in the shadow of New York City, and its urban areas and industrial zones have contributed to its gritty reputation. (Turner/Bloomberg) 





Jersey City will overtake Newark population by 216, Mayor Fulop claims

NEWARK — He took on the Jersey City political machine. Then he thumbed his nose at Gov. Chris Christie. Last week, he chastised New York City’s mayor.

Now Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is going after the city of Newark.

“Jersey City will be the largest city in New Jersey by the end of 2016,” Fulop said emphatically in his State of the City address last Thursday.

In less than two years, Fulop predicts, the state’s second-largest city will become the largest, eclipsing Newark’s population for the first time. (Friedman and Kaimann/Star-Ledger) 






Proposed hospital sale means NJ will pay $30 million debt

TRENTON — The proposed sale of St. Mary’s Hospital in Passaic will leave taxpayers on the hook to pay $30.5 million, under terms of a state loan the hospital received in 2007 when it became the last health care facility in the city.

Prime Healthcare Services of California has offered to buy the nearly bankrupt hospital for $30 million. But only half of the sale price would pay down the bonds issued by a state loan program created to cushion the blow to a community after a hospital is bought or closed.

The deal with Prime still leaves $22 million in unpaid debt, plus $8.7 million in interest due by 2027, said Mark Hopkins, executive director of the New Jersey Health Care Facilities Financing Authority.

The burden falls to the state Treasury to make up the difference under the terms of the loan, Hopkins said. The loan program allows failing hospitals to close or be sold by covering the cost of unpaid bills.

The State Health Planning Board and the senior staffers at the state Health Department agree St. Mary’s should be saved, and recommended Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd approve the sale. But a state lawmaker expressed concern that taxpayers would be left to pick up such a large tab in a sale to a for-profit company. (Livio/Start-Ledger) 





From the Back Room


Inglesino takes on case of teenager suing her parents

Attorney John Inglesino, a former Morris County Freeholder and close friend and ally of Gov. Chris Christie, is bankrolling the lawsuit of a teenager claiming that her mother and father threw her out of their home and cut her off financially.

Rachel Canning is suing her parents for immediate support, current private-school fees and future college tuition, according to this report. (PolitickerNJ)

Inglesino takes on case of teenager suing her parents | Politicker NJ  




More labor support for Newark’s Baraka

1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, which represents 16,000 healthcare families in New Jersey, will tomorrow announce its endorsement of Ras Baraka for Mayor of Newark.

Baraka, Newark’s South Ward Councilman, was endorsed by the Health Professionals and Allied Employees (HPAE), the state’s largest health care workers union, on Wednesday. SEIU Local 617 and The New Jersey Working Families Alliance (NJWFA) endorsed Baraka on Thursday. Baraka was endorsed by the New Jersey Laborers Union, the 20,000-member affiliate of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA), last week. 

32BJ SEIU was the 2nd union to endorse Baraka and has 10,000 members in the Garden State.

The candidate is running against former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries. (PolitickerNJ)

More Labor support for Newark’s Baraka | Politicker NJ







Chris Christie and the latest Port Authority scam

Gov. Chris Christie has another Port Authority scam to explain, this time over the killer toll hikes at the Hudson River crossings that he approved in the summer of 2011.

At the time, the governor expressed shock that the Port Authority would dare to propose roughly doubling the tolls over a few years.

Now we learn it was all an act. According to six people who worked at the Port Authority that summer, Christie knew about the toll hikes in advance. In a tawdry bit of political theater, he and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo got the Port Authority to inflate its initial request so they could trim it down to size and appear to be champions of hard-pressed commuters. (Star-Ledger Editorial Board)  

Morning Digest: March 4, 2014