*** Update 4:29pm: Good guesses in Comments. You’ll find the mystery man’s real identity after the jump.***
This was snapped at yesterday’s public hearing on legislative redistricting – historic because of the presence of the tie-breaking 11th member (no, he’s not in the picture). Look at the guy on the right, head down in deep chat with Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. Know who that is?
I’ll pull this diary back up to the frontpage at around 4pm, check in to see if anybody can name this guy, and know his significance. And I’ll give you the answer then if somebody hasn’t already nailed him.
Some hints, and a larger picture, on the flip…
Update 4:29pm: Okay, here’s the answer to the mystery man’s identity, as promised. First, your guesses:
Best Answer (Jay Lassiter): Jean-Luc Piccard
Best Lookalike (carolh, Jeff Gardner, Bill Orr): Ed Rollins (but wrong)
Correct Answer: Benjamin Ginsberg
The Republican strategy for legislative redistricting, in NJ and elsewhere, is commonly referred to as packing, concentrating minority populations into a limited number of districts able then to send only a limited number of legislators more likely to be Democrats to the State House. Republicans want to create white districts, most likely to send GOP candidates to the legislature. The strategy is well-explained in this AP overview, and the GOP employed it in the 1990’s with African American leaders (calling Ed Rollins!) that was a key to the Newt Gingrich-led ‘Republican Revolution’ of 1994, when the GOP took control of Congress for the first time since the 1950’s. Ginsberg was chief counsel for the RNC. The point man. That strategy both consolidated black voters into only a small number of districts, but also created opportunity for some African-American leaders to emerge.
Republicans coyly deny this strategy. Nevertheless, sitting next to the Better Choices for New Jersey chief Tom Kean, Junior, is the GOP’s top national packing strategist, Ben Ginsberg. In the mid-90’s Ginsberg referred jokingly to the GOP strategy as Project Ratfuck, a reference to the Watergate-era strategy of the GOP’s little legion of young Republicans willing to engage in fraud, dirty tricks and outright thievery all in the name of Richard Milhous Nixon. (The italics introduction to this wiki post is freakin’ hilarious).
So welcome to New Jersey, ground zero right now for Project Ratfuck 2011. Be vigilant.
Hint #1) Kean, Jr. runs the 2nd of the GOP/Christie slush funds, Center for a Better New Jersey, which was created to pour unlimited, non-disclosed funds into the GOP’s effort to draw the legislative map to benefit their party, so you don’t see who’s really running things. (The Democrats will advocate a map more beneficial to Democrats, but do it considerably more transparently and the 11th member serves to break the tie).
Hint #2) Watergate. Bush v. Gore. Swiftboat Veterans for Truth.
Hint #3) Party players in other states are watching New Jersey right now; our schedule’s a little earlier, and our stakes are high.