Morning Digest: April 17, 2014

Bergen Dems demand Donovan cancel fundraiser with Christie after unlimited contributions comments

HACKENSACK – Bergen County Democratic Chairman Lou Stellato called on Bergen County Executive Kathleen Donovan to cancel a fundraiser scheduled for May 5 with Gov. Chris Christie after he made remarks on allowing unlimited campaign contributions to political candidates.

Christie, a potential Republican presidential contender, told the audience at a Somerset town hall event on Tuesday that donor limits should be eliminated, but that the contributions should swiftly be made public.

The Bergen County Republican Organization (BCRO) issued the Donovan fundraising invitation via email on Tuesday, the same day Christie made these comments, according to a written statement issued by the Bergen Democrats.

“Bergen County finally has a pay-to-play ordinance in place that protects taxpayers from the influence of money in government and politics. Christie’s position is wrong but one that is unfortunately shared by Bergen County Republican Chairman Bob Yudin,” said Stellato in a written statement on Wednesday. “For the County Executive to host a fundraising event for her campaign with the governor in the aftermath of his statements sends a horrible message to our residents. Two weeks ago the Bergen County Freeholder Board passed a resolution calling for a statewide pay-to-play law. Christie’s proposal would just open up the floodgates. We cannot and will not allow that to happen. Under my leadership, the Democratic Party will always fight to keep pay-to-play politics out of Bergen County.” (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Bergen Dems demand Donovan cancel fundraiser with Christie after unlimited contributions comments | Politicker NJ

Warring pols try to submerge battle lines at historic city baseball stadium

PATERSON – Donning caps and sporting fierce grins, politicians this morning did their best to pretend all of this is really ultimately just about baseball in an event outside the dilapidated Hinchcliffe Stadium above the Great Falls.

But there was another pastime that inevitably leaked into the ceremony officially designating Hinchcliffe a national landmark, and an especially bruising one with 27 days left to go in the Paterson Mayor’s race.


At the center of the drama, ties flapping in the breeze, stood incumbent Mayor Jeff Jones and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-9).

PolitickerNJ has exhaustively recorded the animosity between the two men, which stems in part from Jones’ resistance to the congressman’s plans for the development of the Great Falls and his subsequent decision to back Steve Rothman over Pascrell in a 2012 Democratic Primary that Rothman lost. (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Warring pols try to submerge battle lines at historic city baseball stadium | Politicker NJ

Booker on U.S. Senate race, Republican candidates: let’s talk after the GOP primary

HACKENSACK – The campaign of Roy Cho, the Democratic candidate for New Jersey’s Fifth Congressional District, announced on Wednesday that it had raised more than $250,000 during the first 2014 fundraising quarter in their effort to defeat Republican incumbent U.S. Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5).

According to a newly-released Federal Election Commission (FEC) report and an additional amendment, the campaign of Cho, 32, of Hackensack, took in total receipts of close to $252,000 in the first quarter of 2014 for a grand total of more than $471,000 raised to date.

Cho faces the challenging task of unseating Garrett, 54, a six-term incumbent first elected in 2002 in a district that generally trends Republican. The Fifth Congressional District includes most of Warren and Sussex counties, a few Passaic municipalities, and parts of Bergen County.

According to the April 2014 FEC reports, Garrett has raised more than $1.2 million to date, with more than $2.9 million on hand in comparison to Cho’s more than $331,000 cash-on-hand total.

But the latest FEC fundraising report also indicates that the incumbent Garrett had total receipts of more than $215,000 in the first quarter of 2014, considerably less than than the challenger Cho. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)  

Christie walks a fine line with donors

Governor Christie appeared at a groundbreaking ceremony in Summit on Wednesday, praising a company that kept jobs in the state — with help from taxpayers. It’s the kind of economic development that Christie has promoted throughout his tenure.

The appearance also highlighted another issue Christie has faced while governor: The potential for conflict of interest that comes from his prolific fundraising.

Celgene, the drug maker that broke ground on the Summit building, donated $26,000 last year to the Republican Governors Association, which is led by Christie.

Celgene also hired Rich Bagger, a former Christie chief of staff, as senior vice president in 2012. The same year, Christie appointed him to the Port Authority’s Board of Commissioners. In 2013, Bagger gave $10,000 to the RGA.

Wednesday’s event came a day after public disclosures from the RGA showed that the law firm Christie hired to investigate his office’s involvement in the George Washington Bridge lane-closure controversy gave the association $10,000. That donation came days before it released a report clearing Christie in the scandal.

Those examples come on top of other questions about RGA donors with ties to Christie. Most notable was a company hired to perform Superstorm Sandy recovery work, only to draw criticism for apparently overcharging taxpayers. Others included one of the firms awarded a 15-year contract to run the state lottery and a pharmaceutical company that recently won millions of dollars in state tax breaks. (Linhorst and Hayes/The Record)  




State troopers to be deployed in Newark in measure to curb violence

NEWARK – State, county and local law enforcement officials are fighting back against a surge in gun violence last year in the state’s largest city by placing state troopers on the streets and putting illegal gun carriers behind bars for longer periods of time.

“The staccato of gunshots that you hear out on the streets is something that most Americans don’t really have to hear and never really have to fear,” said Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman at a press conference Wednesday announcing the initiative. “But for far too many people in Newark, that sound carries a different connotation… because it is an every day occurrence. It carries a connotation of fear and danger and nervousness and anxiety and a reminder every day that they are not safe and that they are not secure. In a modern society such as ours, that is just simply unacceptable.”

The $2.2 million effort, called the “TIDE-TAG” program, was first deployed last summer in Trenton. At the time of its mid-August launch, there had been 29 murders so far that year. For the remainder of the year, there were eight reported murders in Trenton.

In Newark, there were 111 murders last year, the highest total in nearly a quarter of a century, Hoffman said. Ten of those victims died in just 10 days between late August and early September.

With shootings and murders escalating in the spring and summer when the weather gets warmer, Hoffman emphasized the need to combat it now before another spike arises.

Deployment of dozens of officers through the Newark Targeted Integrated Deployment Effort (TIDE) began on Wednesday. Uniformed and undercover officers will not only be patrolling the most violent neighborhoods of the city but will perform crime analysis to zero in on gang members, drug dealers serial offenders. (Sudol/The Record)  

Over 60,000 New Jersey Students Take Part in Field Test of Online PARCC Exams

More than 62,000 New Jersey elementary and high school students were part of the nation’s first large-scale test of the online PARCC exams, an early trial that officials are calling a success — despite some glitches.

New Jersey’s participation over the past month was among the largest in the country, topped only by Illinois and Ohio.

And depending on who is talking, the trial went fairly well, with comments still coming in. NJ Spotlight is conducting its own survey, too, for our readers to share their experiences.

The chief spokesman for PARCC — the acronym for the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers — said yesterday that the field tests, which involved more than 200,000 students in more than a dozen states, went about as expected, with no major problems but plenty of smaller issues to be addressed.

Taking place in more than 1,000 New Jersey schools, the trial was in the performance-based piece of the PARCC exams for language arts and math, in which students are asked to complete writing assignments or more complex math computations.

PARCC released new versions of the practice exam last week, allowing the public to take the language arts and math tests themselves. (Mooney/NJSpotlight)  


In response to Christie, Republican senator plans to introduce bill to end NJ’s realty transfer fees

TRENTON — One day after Gov. Chris Christie said he would abolish reality transfer fees in New Jersey if given the chance, a fellow Republican responded with a bill seeking to do just that.

State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Burlington) said today she will soon introduce legislation that would repeal the fees that residents have to pay when selling a home here.

“When you sell your home in New Jersey, you’re getting whacked by this arbitrary tax, and that’s wrong,” Allen said. “This initiative will help struggling homeowners, including those who might be facing short sales or foreclosures. It will save property owners across this state a burden of thousands of dollars, which particularly hurts those who have lost equity in their homes due to the economic recession.”

Allen plans to introduce the bill April 28. (Johnson/Star-Ledger)  


Christie touts state role in NJ company expansions

SUMMIT — Joining his friend and former chief of staff, Gov. Chris Christie used the expansion of a biopharmaceutical company in Summit this morning to tout the state’s Economic Development Authority as an important funding source for growing companies.

Celgene, a Celanese spinoff that develops drugs for cancer and immunological disorders, started out with 35 employees and grew to more than 1,000 with the help of the Economic Development Authority, the governor said at a ceremonial groundbreaking for the company.

“Celgene is a great example of how a productive partnership can occur between state government and the private sector,” the governor told the crowd of employees and state and local elected officials gathered at the site of the future development. “This is the kind of partnership…where the state can be helpful to a company in its growing years and then that company continues to remain committed to that state and its people as it grows and succeeds as Celgene has done.”

Christie joked about not having any resentment against Celgene ‘s chief executive, Robert Hugin, for luring his former chief of staff, Richard Bagger, who left the Christie administration in 2012 to become the biopharmaceutical company’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and strategic market access. (Spoto/Star-Ledger)  


From the Back Room

Trenton mayor’s race: Worthy campaign funds surge according to filed ELEC report

Trenton mayoral candidate Walker M. Worthy, Jr. raised more than $75,000 during the most recent fundraising period, boosting his total campaign contributions to date to close to $110,000, according to a written statement issued by his campaign.

The uptick in Worthy’s fundraising efforts have left him with more than $42,000 cash on hand with less than four weeks to go before the May 13 Trenton mayoral election. Worthy is competing against several other notable candidates in the Trenton mayoral race, including Eric Jackson, director of the Department of Public Works and Urban Development in Plainfield and the former Trenton Public Works director, and former Trenton Police Director Jim Golden.

The election will be the first municipal election to take place in Trenton since the conviction and subsequent removal of former Mayor Tony Mack after he was found guilty of federal bribery and extortion charges in March. (Bonamo/PolitickerNJ)

Trenton mayor’s race: Worthy campaign funds surge according to filed ELEC report | Politicker NJ

Former senior advisor to Menendez launches new consulting firm

Senator Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) former Senior Advisor, Carolyn Gehl Fefferman, announced today that she has launched a consulting firm effective immediately.  

Carolyn Fefferman Consulting will be a full service agency offering strategic solutions and services to companies, non-profits, trade associations, and government entities, she said.  

After spending close to a decade as one of the senator’s most trusted advisors responsible for a wide variety of his legislative priorities, outreach, speechwriting/key messaging and a full complement of communications assets, Fefferman decided to strike out on her own.

Former senior advisor to Menendez launches new consulting firm | Politicker NJ

Greenstein has $87,337 COH

hand toward her 12th Congressional District run to succeed U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12).

For the period beginning the first of the year and ending at the end of last month, Greenstein amassed $87,803, much it from party allies from the senator’s home county of Middlesex, according to the Federal Election Commission (FEC).

Greenstein is running in the Democratic Primary against Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15) and Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17).

Last week, the Watson Coleman for Congress campaign announced that the Assemblywoman had raised over $120,000 toward her congressional bid and has $103,979 cash on hand, according to the FEC.

Chivukula raised $178,000, spent $42,000, and has $184,000 now in the bank with the infusion of the $49,000 from his prior account.

Dr. Alieta Eck, Republican candidate for the Congressional seat currently held by retiring Rep. Rush Holt, announced this week that her campaign had raised more than $100,000 in the first quarter of the year, and would file with $97,000 of it still on-hand. (PolitickerNJ)

Greenstein has $87,337 COH | Politicker NJ

National Dems target Christie in web video

Gov. Chris Christie was given a starring role in a new web video produced by national Democrats.

New Jersey’s governor was featured in the ad titled “Law and Disorder,” which criticizes Christie and other national GOP officials.

“In states across the country, in the offices of Republican governors, investigations are underway into corruption, unethical behavior and other criminal activity,” the video text reads. “These are their stories.”

The video was released by the Democratic National Committee. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

National Dems target Christie in web video | Politicker NJ

Essex to honor the late Chairman Phil Thigpen

On Wednesday, April 16th, Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr. will dedicate a bronze plaque in honor of the late Philip A. Thigpen, who died last year.

Well respected and admired, Mr. Thigpen was Essex County Register and Chairman of the Essex County Democratic County Committee.

Prior to that he served as an East Orange Councilman and County Freeholder.

Date:               Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time:              12 Noon (promptly)

Place:          Essex County Hall of Records

Essex to honor the late Chairman Phil Thigpen | Politicker NJ


Chris Christie’s tax-cut fantasies: Moran

In the world of taxes, the realty transfer tax stands out as particularly obnoxious. You pay it when you sell your house, not when you buy one, so it amounts to a kick in the rear as you are stepping out the door.

So we understand why Gov. Chris Christie says he wants to eliminate the tax. That kind of talk wins votes. And as a bonus, it shifts the conversation away from Bridgegate, and his administration’s botched delivery of Hurricane Sandy aid.

Here’s the problem: We can’t afford it. And since the governor knows that, his plan amounts to pure demagoguery. It’s not going to happen. It is pure political blather.

Face the facts, Governor. Wall Street just downgraded the state’s credit rating for the second time on Christie’s watch. We now have the third-lowest rating in the nation, and if California’s recovery continues, we’ll soon trail only Illinois.

When our bond rating slips, think of cash flying out a window in Trenton. Because a low rating means the state must pay higher interest rates on its debt. Bond buyers get more money, and taxpayers get nothing in return.

It signals that Wall Street has less confidence in the state’s ability to pay its bill over the long term. The big reason is the dirty secret of Christie’s pension reform: It was structured to postpone the biggest payments until 2018. The other big reason is that New Jersey’s economy is sputtering way behind the nation’s. We have recovered fewer than half the jobs lost during the Great Recession, trailing the nation and neighboring states by a long shot. (Moran/Star-Ledger Editorial Board)

  Morning Digest: April 17, 2014