Assembly Minority Leader Alex DeCroce (R-Parsippany) recently stated that Senate President and former Acting Governor Richard Codey (D-West Orange) attempted to strong arm him into discontinuing his efforts to investigate a legislative slush fund that was responsible for the now-infamous “Christmas Tree” grants currently under federal investigation. He claimed that Senator Codey offered him state grant money and threatened him so that DeCroce’s pursuit of information about the slush fund would be stalled. DeCroce agreed to a lie detector test to ‘prove’ his assertions; as of this writing, Codey has not. If DeCroce’s allegations are true, they are not only damaging to Senator Codey and the Democratic Legislature politically, but they have serious legal implications, as well. DeCroce had a responsibility to alert the proper authorities to these allegations when they occurred, not two years after the fact; the public should have been informed in due time, as well.
Author Archive: mikeshapiro
Much of the talk in New Jersey regarding contested Congressional seats this Fall has centered around District 7, where Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender is running against Republican State Senator Leonard Lance to fill the House seat vacated by retiring Republican Congressman Michael Ferguson (R-7). The most likely Democratic pick-up, however, is actually in District 3, where Democratic State Senator John Adler is battling Republican Christopher Myers to fill the seat of retiring Congressman James Saxton (R-3). Adler has raised approximately two million dollars for his run and as a popular State Senator from Cherry Hill who is well-respected for his policy-making abilities and breadth of knowledge regarding State and Federal issues, he is a formidable opponent of Mr. Myers, the Mayor of Medford, New Jersey and Lockheed-Martin Vice-President.
The conventional wisdom is that the recently announced federal probe into the dealings of former Corzine friend, Carla Katz, with the local CWA which she had led, will score United States Attorney Chris Christie political points with Republicans, Independents, and some anti-Corzine Democrats. Governor Corzine has been battling to keep emails between Katz and himself from becoming public and Katz is already under investigation by the national CWA for alleged improper conduct. Christie’s federal investigation promises more negative Katz headlines, more unfavorable publicity for the Governor, and positive publicity for Mr. Christie. However, Mr. Christie’s possible gubernatorial ambitions may actually be undermined by this probe.
This past week, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey issued a decision in In the Matter of the Appeal by Earle Asphalt Company, a case involving the owner of a road construction business and his political contribution to the Monmouth County Republican Committee in June 2007. Walter Earle III, owner of Earle Asphalt Company, made the contribution at the behest of former State Senate President John Bennett, failing to realize that the contribution could bar him from obtaining business from the State. After obtaining counsel and being advised that his contribution might violate “pay-to-play” laws, Mr. Earle requested that the contribution be returned. Meanwhile, Earle Asphalt Company submitted a bid to the New Jersey Department of Transportation for a roadwork contract involving Interstate 195. It was the low bid and therefore Earle Asphalt would have been awarded the State contract. However, the Department of Treasury informed the company that it was disqualified from award of the contract because of Mr. Earle’s June 2007 political contribution. Mr. Earle appealed this decision and took the matter to court.
Governor Corzine’s refusal to release e-mails exchanged with Carla Katz, head of the CWA, despite a Court Order to do so, is troubling. The Governor is claiming executive privilege and, although he continues to fight the Court Order, he recently acknowledged that because of his upcoming battle for re-election, he may accede to the Court’s wishes and release the e-mails. State Republican Chairman Tom Wilson had requested the communications soon after the CWA and the Governor’s Office came to agreement regarding a new contract last year. In May, Superior Court Judge Paul Innes decided that the e-mails constituted public information and ordered them released. While the Governor is concerned that his refusal to turn over the e-mails will be an issue when he runs for re-election, he is missing the bigger picture: his lack of judgment regarding the exchange of the e-mails in the first place.
With approval ratings hovering in the 30’s, Jon Corzine is preparing to seek a second term as Governor of New Jersey. The lopsided defeat of Rob Andrews might give the Chief of State supreme confidence that a primary challenge will not materialize or will fail miserably. Should a challenge not materialize, Mr. Corzine may feel secure knowing that New Jersey is a blue state that is getting more blue by the day. However, he might possibly be misreading the tea leaves.
Watching the campaign of Rob Andrews for the United States Senate has been difficult. Congressman Andrews is an intelligent and thoughtful official who has a keen interest in public policy. By most accounts, he was next in line to run for the Senate when Senator Lautenberg retires in 2014 or for Governor if Governor Corzine decides not to run for re-election in 2009. However, it appears that his impatience and the threat that possibly one of his colleagues might run in 2009 or 2014 encouraged him to get involved this time around. He could have orchestrated a positive issue-based campaign, thereby creating an aura of inevitability for a future run. Or he could have chosen the path he did follow: a harshly negative campaign in which a major loss means political oblivion. Or does it?
Earlier this month, a three-judge panel upheld a decision awarding $18 million to the Halper family, former owners of a farm in Piscataway, New Jersey, which was taken by the Township through eminent domain. The Halpers had argued that they were entitled to the market value of the property when they had exhausted their legal options in 2004 while the Township sought to pay the family $4.3 million, the value of the property when the condemnation complaint was filed in 1999. The Court found that the Halpers were entitled to the market value of the property in 2004, holding that the legal actions undertaken by the family should not be used against them when determining the appropriate market value of the property.
Congressman Rob Andrews, who is challenging Senator Frank Lautenberg in the Democratic Primary for the United States Senate in New Jersey, has demanded that Senator Lautenberg debate him seven times before the June Primary. Senator Lautenberg has accepted two debate invitations and declined all others, but has indicated he may agree to additional debates with Congressman Andrews before the Primary. Julie Roginsky, Mr. Lautenberg’s campaign spokesperson, has said that the Senator is maintaining a full Senate schedule, which precludes him from participating in many debates. Are both Congressman Andrews and Senator Lautenberg playing politics?
During the recent trial of David Delle Donna, the Mayor of Guttenberg, New Jersey, one of Governor Corzine’s deputy chiefs of staff, Javier Inclan, testified that he passed envelopes from a bar owner to the Mayor, which he believed to be filled with illegal cash campaign contributions. The Mayor and his wife were convicted on extortion and tax-related charges after being charged with accepting $40,000 worth of illegal gifts from that bar owner.