Author Archive: DSWright

Bridgegate: Jamie Fox’s Problematic Lobbying Records

Sixty pages of lobbying documents – below the fold. Promoted by Rosi.

Last month the seemingly unending and ever-expanding political vortex known as Bridgegate sucked in yet another major figure in New Jersey politics and government, James P. “Jamie” Fox.

A story in the Bergen Record revealed that a subpoena from federal investigators to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey demanded information related to former Port Authority Chairman David Samson’s travel records and any communication he had with current Transportation Commissioner Jamie Fox, previously the registered lobbyist for United Airlines.

United Airlines accounts for 70% of the flights at Newark Liberty International Airport which relies on transportation systems managed in part by the Port Authority. During Fox’s tenure as a lobbyist for United the airline setup special flights for Samson nick-named “the chairman’s flight” which provided Samson privileged flights to South Carolina where he has a home.

While Samson was receiving special favors from United Airlines the Port Authority was reviewing a multi-billion dollar proposal to extend PATH service from Newark Penn Station to the airport. The proposal was ultimately adopted and will provide considerable benefit to the airport and its largest carrier, United Airlines.

Documents received under the Open Public Records Act (OPRA) show that Jamie Fox filed as a registered lobbyist for United Continental Holdings Inc. and served as the firm’s lobbyist for a period of years. Fox is a long time political insider in New Jersey – this is his second time as Transportation Commissioner and he previously served as the Chief of Staff to Governor Jim McGreevey. In between his government posts he has been extremely active in lobbying with records going back over a decade.

Chris Christie’s Double Standard On Bush Cronyism

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As the Christie for President 2016 bus hits heavy traffic some of us longtime Christie observers are finding glory in the evening. All the old critiques – shady travel arrangements, irresponsible public statements, possible pay to play violations – once sequestered in dirty Jersey newsrooms and blogs – have escaped their local confinement into the national consciousness. Chris Christie has grown and matured to become the nation's fake reformer.

So while we can commiserate with our fellow Americans getting a first long look past the image to the real Chris Christie and being reasonably horrified, we also, due to knowing what we know, have the benefit of appreciating the finer points of the insanity of a Christie presidential run.

One tidbit that only a close observer of the 2009 New Jersey gubernatorial race is likely to appreciate is Team Christie's current push back against Jeb Bush detailed in yesterday's Washington Post. The Post story comes amid a slew of bad news for Governor Downgrade as Republican donors and supporters slowly back away and recognize they need to find a better candidate to have any hope in 2016.


Daily Beast Misses The Mark On History Of Cory Booker Opposition

Paging Olivia Nuzzi. You missed some stuff … (promoted by Rosi).

Cory BookerWith rumors swirling around Trenton and beyond that the hammer of a federal indictment is set to fall on those involved in the Newark Watershed scandal it is not surprising that someone wanted to get ahead of the curve and write a quasi-political obituary on Senator Cory Booker. Firedoglake has already had an Open Public Record Request (OPRA) related to the Newark Watershed scandal denied under the provision of the open records law that exempts records of an investigation that is still in progress ( N.J.S.A 47:1A-3.a). Something is clearly going on.

Though it should be said up front that just because there is an investigation does not mean anything will ultimately come of it. There’s a lot of investigations going on in New Jersey at the moment. In fact, the US Senate seat Booker now holds was previously held by Senator Lautenberg who came out of retirement to take it after Senator Robert Torricielli was forced to resign due to a federal investigation. Here we go again?

More to the point, just because Booker is involved in an investigation does not mean he will ultimately be the one held responsible. Booker has already had a run in with a corruption investigation when one of his deputy mayors was indicted and convicted on corruption charges. Booker was never charged.

But while there may (or may not) be a need in the near future to write a political obituary for Cory Booker it should be more inclusive and accurate than the recap published by the Daily Beast titled The Ugly Truth About Cory Booker, New Jersey’s Golden Boy by Olivia Nuzzi. Nuzzi correctly notes that much of Booker’s popularity is built on hype and that his actual record as a mayor leaves a lot to be desired, but she also claims “few outside Newark noticed” and credits a right wing opposition researcher and writer and those of his views as the “only people” taking Booker to task for his record of mediocrity verging on venality:

(quote and response after the jump)

Senator Cory Booker Caught Up In Newark Watershed Scandal

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Though other scandals may be more prominent in New Jersey at present, the investigation into the corrupt practices of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC) is slowly but surely making progress with Senator Cory Booker coming under scrutiny. The NWCDC was charged with managing Newark’s water and was paid by the City of Newark $10 million a year to ensure the city had access to potable water.

According to a report by the New Jersey Comptroller, during the time of the unethical and possibly illegal practices by the NWCDC then-Mayor of Newark Cory Booker served as chairman of the board overseeing the now disbanded agency. The corrupt and questionable practices of the NWCDC were carried out by Booker loyalists who contributed to Booker’s campaigns with one serving as a high ranking campaign officer.

Furthermore, it now appears that part of the funds gained from NWCDC no-bid contracts by one of Booker’s allies may have gone to Booker himself as part of a confidential compensation agreement with his former law firm.

Wall Street Super Pac Paid Jeffries Supporters $150 On E-Day

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It was all a conspiracy theory, right?

While much of the corporate media – particularly the now ex-Newark Star Ledger – ignored the forces behind “education reform” in Newark, journalist Max Blumenthal decided to actually investigate.

On election day the Wall Street backed Super PAC “Newark First” reportedly dumped $300,000 to pay workers – many of whom were truant students – $150 apiece to help get the vote out for Shavar Jeffries. Blumenthal spoke to e-day workers who confirmed the payments.

Suckerberg: Facebook’s $100 Million Education Donation Chiseled By Consultants

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 On Tuesday night Ras Baraka won Newark's mayoral electionall but formally ending the Cory Booker era. With the power of grass roots and union support Baraka overcame Booker's chosen establishment backed successor Shavar Jeffries. Though Booker has already gone on to continue hyping himself in the US Senate, his legacy in Newark has yet to be cleansed.

One of the signature achievements of Mayor Booker was a press coup where he announced on Oprah that Facebook Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg was giving Booker and his cronies $100 million to help Newark's struggling school children. The donation came around the release of The Social Network, a film critical of Zuckerberg and was widely seen as a transparent attempt to bolster Zuckerberg's public image.

Ultimately the ACLU of New Jersey would win a lawsuit against Booker to force emails between Facebook and Booker hacks to become public. In the emails Facebook COO Sherly Sandberg warned Team Booker that the people of Newark were not being looped in to the process and that a lack of “building community support” was one of her concerns. She was right to worry.

Bridgegate Testimony Of Governor Christie’s Press Chief Raises More Questions

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Yesterday Governor Chris Christie’s Press Secretary, Michael Drewniak, testified before the New Jersey Legislature’s Special Investigative Committee on his role in handling the fallout from illegal lane closures on the George Washington Bridge aka Bridgegate.

Unlike other witnesses called before the committee Drewniak did not take the Fifth Amendment though did often confer with an attorney who accompanied him to the hearing and regularly declined to answer questions per his attorney’s advice. The typically stated rationale for declining to answer questions was a refusal to speculate or veer outside personal experience, though Drewniak also recurrently claimed to be unable to recall seemingly noteworthy personal events.

Republican Civil War Gives Belgard A Chance

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After the Third Congressional District was redesigned to favor Republicans it seemed like the seat was out of reach for Democrats. The removal of Cherry Hill, a major Democratic power base in the region, from the district appeared like a lethal blow to any hope of retaking the seat. Throw in this year being a midterm election and a bad situation only gets worse.

But that was before we all got to see the candidates the Republican Party is putting up. With Congressman Jon Runyan retiring Republican opportunists from across the state have thrown their hat into the ring with the two remaining contenders – Tom MacArthur and Steve Lonegan – both being carpetbaggers with no roots in the district. Both are also wildly unqualified for the office.

Records Show Top Chris Christie Advisor Lobbied To Bring More Inmates To Troubled Halfway Houses

Promoted by Rosi. Originally posted on Firedoglake.

Viviana Tulli was murdered by an escaped halfway house inmate

One of the most confusing aspects of the halfway house scandal – where numerous inmates escaped  halfway houses and committed horrendous crimes – is why such violent individuals would ever be released to such a low security facility in the first place. Based on records obtained by Firedoglake under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) we may be closer to an answer.

Bill Palatucci, a major fundraiser and former business partner of Governor Chris Christie, has spent copious amounts of time lobbying New Jersey officials to bolster the halfway house system for his longtime client and subsequent employer Community Education Centers (CEC) that has financially benefited from increased use of the halfway house system. Records show Palatucci was CEC’s registered lobbyist while also becoming a vice president for business development.

Lobbying For CEC

In his role as a lobbyist for CEC, for which he was generally paid $45,000 a year, Palatucci approached officials in both the New Jersey State Legislature, State Agencies, and the Governor’s office to promote CEC’s interests:

* In 2007 Palatucci lobbied then Governor Jon Corzine as well as the New Jersey Department of Corrections for a public contract for CEC in relation to a recent court ruling that found that local ordinances prohibiting the treatment sex offenders in various communities were “arbitrary and capricious.” Presumably Palatucci lobbied to help expand the use of halfway houses and other CEC services now that a court had struck down laws that prevented sex offenders from being housed within certain limits of children.

* In 2008 Palatucci lobbied the new State Parole Board chair and staff with a “discussion of services.” He also lobbied Assemblyman Louis Greenwald regarding Assembly Bill 2800 which increased funding for halfway houses. Additionally, Palatucci paid a visit to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to “advocate review” of halfway housing licensing laws on behalf of CEC.

* In 2009 Palatucci lobbied again for halfway house licensing from Department of Community Affairs as well as for favorably amending a contract between CEC and Department of Corrections. Palatucci also disclosed that he was promoting a bill to expand halfway houses in the state of New Jersey.

After Chris Christie became governor in 2010, with considerable help from Palatucci, CEC began using other lobbyists. Palatucci had already gone beyond lobbying with CEC becoming senior vice president and general counsel for public affairs, he would ultimately resign from those positions in the wake of the halfway house scandal in 2012.

More after the jump

QoTD: American Hustle and the Master Builder

There are so many reasons New Jerseyans should see ‘American Hustle’. No matter what Mayor Dana Redd says. And with however jaundiced eyes you choose. Here’s one little fact we dug up you might not know, about a young whippersnapper named George Norcross. Promoted by Rosi.

PhotobucketThough Camden City’s current mayor, Dana Redd, said she would not be seeing the hit film American Hustle she really should reconsider. One of the characters in the film is based off of Camden City’s own Angelo Errichetti who served as the Mayor of Camden from 1973 to 1981 when he was convicted of bribery charges due to the famous Abscam sting portrayed in the film.  

Another fun fact about Mayor Errichetti’s lasting legacy in Camden is who he hired for the Camden Parking Authority in 1978 – a 22 year old George Norcross III. It was Norcross’ only job in public service and a launching point for his career as a political boss.

After completing his term at the Parking Authority Norcross leveraged his union and political connections to start an insurance firm in the city. He raised money for and loaned money to the future political establishment of the city including Randy Primas whom Norcross loaned $15,000 in 1984 to protect Mayor Primas from a primary challenge. Of the $93,000 Primas raised over $78,000 came from Norcross organizations.

In 1989 Norcross took over the Camden County Democratic Committee and took his Camden city game state wide.

Given the challenge Norcross became the master builder of the bridge between politics and contractors, so often referred to as “pay to play.”

When Primas became Chief Operating Officer of Camden City under the state takeover he never forgot his good friend.

The hustle never ends.