Morning Digest: April 23, 2014

Colorado politicians invite Christie to experience ‘Rocky Mountain High’

Colorado politicians slapped back at Gov. Chris Christie after he questioned their Rocky Mountain quality of life under the rule of legalized marijuana.

“Whether it’s hiking season or snow season, we invite Gov. Christie to experience Colorado’s quality of life anytime,”  Sen. Michael Bennet told POLITICO in a statement. “From the beauty of the rolling hills of the Eastern Plains to the magnificent landscapes in the mountains and from our smallest rural towns to our largest cities, Colorado offers the greatest quality of life in the nation. In fact, our quality of life is one reason more innovative companies are moving into the state. If Gov. Christie does find the time to visit, I’m sure he’ll find our Western hospitality on display.”

Gov. John Hickenlooper’s spokesman also issued a statement.

“A lot of people think Colorado is great place to live, work and play. Plus, we have a pretty awesome quality of life.”

Read the story in POLITICO here (Pizarro/PolitickerNJ)

Colorado politicians invite Christie to experience ‘Rocky Mountain High’ | Politicker NJ

Holt implores lawmakers to invest in ‘infrastructure,’ support increased minimum wage

WASHINGTON D.C. – An outgoing U.S. congressman implored the state’s business community to support such measures as increased minimum wage in honor of the late U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12) declared “we will be a great country” with a bright future if lawmakers and officials support investing in the nation’s infrastructure despite the country’s economic woes since being hit by the Great Recession.

“The dream seems remote for a lot of American people when we say, ‘Sorry, we can’t afford that,’” Holt said during the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual chamber trip in Washington D.C.

“It would have been so easy to say then ‘we can’t afford to do that,’” he said, referring to the GI bill that benefit Lautenberg and other WWII veterans.

“There’s been so many times in American history where ‘the can do’ overcame the ‘can’t do,’” he added.

“If our state is going to continue to lead and if our government on the federal level is going to succeed, we must invest,” he said.

Holt spoke specifically about increasing the minimum wage as an example of how to invest in people. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Holt implores lawmakers to invest in ‘infrastructure,’ support increased minimum wage | Politicker NJ

Declaring ‘we are now at a crossroads,’ Christie implores officials to work together

WASHINGTON D.C. – Gov. Chris Christie touted his relationship with the state’s top lawmaker Tuesday evening, bringing his message of bipartisanship to the nation’s capital as an example of putting politics aside to benefit constituents.

The governor, joking he and Senate President Steve Sweeney are both “soft spoken” elected officials, boasted his accomplishments over the last five years despite being a “conservative Republican” in a state where a “liberal Democratic Legislature” dominates the Statehouse.

Christie, calling out Sweeney by name, touted their relationship as his “most consistent partnership” in Trenton over the course of his gubernatorial career as he delivered comments a short distance from the U.S. Capitol about what can be done when lawmakers work together.

He jokingly described how the voters of New Jersey most have figured “combining me, a shy, retiring, soft spoken, thoughtful guy, with a shy, retiring, soft spoken, thoughtful, iron worker Senate President Steve Sweeney” would lead to the Statehouse to finally being destroyed over the internal fighting. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)

Declaring ‘we are now at a crossroads,’ Christie implores officials to work together | Politicker NJ

Votes are in: Christie’s Father of the Year

He has told crowds gathered at his town-hall-style events that he has to leave on time to make it home for family dinner night. He goes to his kids’ baseball and basketball games. He follows his son’s travel hockey team out of state.

Chris Christie’s been doing all that while being governor, becoming a possible presidential pick and now dealing with the biggest crisis of his political career.

For that balance, and the public way he’s done it, Christie has been named a Father of the Year by the National Father’s Day Committee.

“It’s particularly nice because it’s the thing I care about most in my life, more than anything else, more than my job or anything else,” Christie said on his monthly radio show Monday night. “I know that what Mary Pat and I care about the most is continuing to check ourselves about what kind of parents are we being and how are we doing with our kids.”

Each year the Father’s Day/ Mother’s Day Council’s committee honors a celebrity or politician father, a dad in the apparel industry — which supports the organization — and one “All Star Dad,” nominated by his child and chosen through an online contest. That contest is still running through the end of April and the winner will be selected in May.

Also receiving the award is designer Vince Camuto, CEO of The Camuto Group, who is best known for co-founding the women’s fashion brand Nine West.

Christie’s mentor, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean, was honored with the award in 1986. (Hayes/The Record)  







Christie’s ties to U.S. attorney’s office delayed Hoboken mayor’s claims of political retribution, letter says

Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer told state Democratic leaders that she would have come forward with her claims of political retribution against Governor Christie’s administration sooner if the governor wasn’t a former U.S. attorney, according to a letter obtained by The Record.

Zimmer sent a letter Monday to Senate President Stephen Sweeney, Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto and the co-chairs of the legislative panel investigating the George Washington Bridge scandal – state Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Assemblyman John Wisniewski – raising concerns about a bill Christie has proposed that would require public officials to immediately report misconduct.

The mayor waited eight months before coming forward with her allegations against Christie’s office. In the letter she tells the lawmakers that she consulted the city’s redevelopment attorney, Joseph Maraziti, last May when the alleged incidents happened.

Zimmer includes with her letter photo copies of undated journal entries, which were not part of the pages she publicly disclosed earlier this year when she first made her allegations on MSNBC in January. She later met with the U.S. attorney’s office, at its request, and turned over her journal entries.

“We decided that Christie has friends throughout the U.S. attorney’s office,” she wrote in the newly disclosed journal pages. “Not much chance in getting help from them and it could create a nightmare for us.”

The letter was first reported by Tuesday. Through a spokesman Zimmer declined to comment on the letter Tuesday. (Hayes/The Record)  

Earthday Message: Scrap Power Plants, Block Pinelands Pipeline

Yesterday was Earth Day, and several of the state’s environmental groups spent a part of it lobbying against a proposal to build a 22-mile natural gas pipeline to the B.L. England power plant, which would enable the facility to be reopened rather than shut down.

The proposed refueling of the power plant in Upper Township in Cape May County has emerged as a major environmental issue, primarily because the proposed pipeline would traverse through the core of the protected Pinelands Forest Management Area.

The plant, which formerly used coal to run one of its two units, is scheduled to shut down on May 1, if no agreement is reached to repower the facility, according to a consent order reached between its operator, Rockland Capital, and the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The plan to repower the plant took a major hit when the Pinelands Commission in a highly contentious decision in January narrowly blocked the pipeline to deliver natural gas to the facility. That decision is opposed by many lawmakers in the region, among others, who argue the power station is necessary to maintain reliability of the power grid in South Jersey.

“The B.L. England power plant should be retired — not restarted as the worst global-warming polluter in South Jersey,’’ said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “The Pinelands Commission’s decision to stop the pipeline was clear –and state legislators shouldn’t try to circumvent the commission.’’

South Jersey Gas, which proposed the $90 million pipeline project, is still evaluating its options in the wake of the commission’s decision, according to Joanne Brigandi, a spokeswoman for the utility. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)  



Embattled Ethics Commission Confirms Samson Probe Underway  

In an unusually stormy meeting, the embattled state Ethics Commission placated union critics by taking the unusual step of confirming that it is investigating former Port Authority Chairman David Samson and by dropping a five-year-old ethics complaint against a state union leader. But the panel also sided with the governor’s office by issuing a ruling that would bar a prominent environmentalist voting on a controversial Pinelands pipeline represented by Samson’s law firm.

For Ethics Commission Chairman Andrew Berns, the media scrutiny and the testy exchanges with leaders of the Working Families United coalition and the red-shirted Communications Workers of America union that marked yesterday’s meeting were an unwelcome change from years of quiet commission sessions attended by a respectful lawyer or two.

“There has never been a suggestion prior to the last 45 days in my three-and-a-half years that any of my staff or commissioners do anything but treat every case individually,” Berns insisted, bristling with displeasure. “They don’t look at the political persuasion of the people making the complaints or the people being complained about.”

It was actually 50 days ago that the Working Families Alliance filed ethics complaints against Samson, Christie’s trusted political adviser, spurring renewed questions about the commission’s independence and ability to investigate Christie administration wrongdoing. The conflict-of-interest allegations against Samson, which are also under investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Manhattan, came in the wake of a series of Ethics Commission controversies: (Magyar/NJSpotlight)  

Annual NJ train ride to D.C. capped by Christie’s speech on public-worker benefits

WASHINGTON — It was impossible to miss state Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon on Tuesday as he walked the crammed aisles of an Amtrak train during the state Chamber of Commerce’s annual trek to the nation’s capital for New Jersey movers and shakers.

The Monmouth County Republican, who has made it a mission to abolish those cameras that capture drivers running red lights, had a big white button pinned to his neatly pressed shirt that said: “Red Light Photo Enforced” — and a giant, red line crossing it out.

“I’ve given out half a dozen on the train today,” he boasted, noting he had heard executives from the companies that help run the red-light cameras were on board. “It’s the issue that people talk to me the most about. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

A few seats over, Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Union) smiled.

“He’s the anti-red light camera king,” Bramnick said.

More than 600 mayors, lobbyists, CEOs, small-business owners, and lawmakers shared a train for four hours in the 77th version of the Chamber’s annual “Walk to Washington” — a Jersey tradition lauded by the business community and derided by critics who say it gives special interests unfair access to those in power.

They spent the trip — held Tuesday after being snowed out in February — squeezing through the packed aisles to network and talk about possible deals that could affect the state’s economy. That’s how the event got its nickname: Those riding the rails rarely sit in their seats; they walk the length of the train the entire ride.

Waiting for them at a D.C. hotel was Gov. Chris Christie, who delivered the keynote speech to the annual dinner the Chamber hosts to honor the state’s congressional delegation. (Johnson/Star-Ledger)  





No money so far in Menendez legal defense fund

TRENTON — A legal defense fund set up by U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez is dormant so far.

In January, the Democratic senator from New Jersey disclosed that his campaign had spent more than $400,000 on legal fees, amid investigations into his relationship with a Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen, by federal Department of Justice and the Senate ethics committee.

Menendez also announced at the time that he would set up a legal defense fund to raise to pay the lawyers.

Although the fund was formed on Jan. 31, it had raised and spent no money as of March 31, according to its disclosure report recently filed with the IRS.

Menendez’s campaign filings also show no recent legal expenses. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)  

From the Back Room

Scene and Herd

On the train to Washington:

Glimpsed political insiders included Assemblyman Tim Eustace (D-38), Booker Statewide Director Mo Butler, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37), Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-14), Assemblyman Dave Rible (R-30), Assembly Minority Leader Jon Bramnick (R-21) and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-19).

There was Speaker Vincent “Still Vinny” Prieto (D-32), but no Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37).

Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and his entourage were on the train.

None of the legislative candidates vying for Congress in the 12th District joined the ride.

There was no Assemblywoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-15), no state Sen. Linda Greenstein (D-14) and no Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula (D-17).

There no operatives of Gov. Chris Christie either, a source told PolitickerNJ.

Scene and Herd | Politicker NJ



Cory Booker’s big-bucks bundling shows why campaign reform failed

Cory Booker is a heavy favorite to be re-elected this fall to the U.S. Senate. But if by some fluke Booker loses, he’s got a great future ahead of him as a stand-up comedian.

If you doubt that, consider what he said recently in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the McCutcheon case loosening restrictions on campaign spending: “This ruling further concentrates power in the hands of the very wealthy and enhances their ability to dramatically influence elections,” the statement read.

Good thing it was a news release. I doubt even as skilled an orator as Booker could say that with a straight face.

Guess who’s among the biggest beneficiaries of wealthy donors with a penchant for influencing elections? That would be the freshman senator from New Jersey. Booker arrived on the national scene just last year, but he’s among the best when it comes to cadging cash from the big spenders. (Mulshine/Star-Ledger)


Morning Digest: April 23, 2014