Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

Cammarano will plead innocent and has no plans to resign

The Mayor of Hoboken, sworn in just days ago and arrested yesterday amid one of the largest and strangest corruption sweeps in New Jersey history, says he’s not going anywhere.

Cammarano announced today he is planning to plead innocent, is back at work in the Mayor’s office today. He says he has done nothing wrong, is innocent until proven guilty and can serve his duties in office while his case is pending.

Cammarano’s bail was set at $100,000 and it was posted shortly after a federal hearing yesterday in Newark. The charges against Cammarano, 32, read as follows: charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. He is accused of taking $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 just last week, from an undercover witness.

Maybe this is just what looks like business as usual in Hoboken, to him.  

The big fish, the rabbis, the players & getting “treated like a friend”

Note: I was at the Federal Building in Newark today, but not at the press conference. I was not permitted in the room, and I’ll deal with that one later, because I’m steamed about it. But this is culled from the documents distributed there – – – Rosi Efthim

The ironies and contradictions of today’s news whip the head around. Contradiction: This is bad news, as Jason points out. But it’s also good news; when rocks are pried up and sunlight hits what squirms underneath, it’s a victory. You know it is.

Contradiction: Today was a shock, but no surprise to a lot of weary voters. This is why people don’t vote, why they throw their hands up in disgust. Ironically, the disgusted ones are precisely the ones we need engaged.

You’ve seen the big-name arrest list and the extraordinary perp walk, pols shuffling off one FBI bus, and rabbis another. Envelopes stuffed with cash. Meetings in diners. Promises made for introductions only to “players” who would “do the right thing” if greased sufficiently. A complex system of rabbis, and “cash houses” to launder dirty money. This is a bad movie.

Shoes still to drop Information may still sift in. Court-ordered search warramts were executed today for about 20 locations in NJ and New York to recover, among other things, large sums of cash. And 28 seizure warrants were executed against bank accounts of the money laundering defendants, and the entities in their control. There were 300 agents involved, in 54 locations in NJ-NY. And there is one charge of trafficking in human kidneys.

How did it work? What’s still not clear to me is the extent to which all these politicians’ alleged bad acts are tied together. To what degree were they in league with each other?

One clue to how federal investigators think it worked is included in a description of where their investigation started – with the money laundering – and how it wound its way to the pols.

The “CW,” the Triangle, and the rabbis… Law enforcement, along with the cooperating witness (in documents, “CW”) widely rumored as Solomon Dwek, infiltrated a pre-existing money laundering network between Deal, NJ, Brooklyn and Israel. The related investigation – hauling inthe politicians – has roots in 2007 Hudson County, when the CW started showing up looking to nab public contracts in the county schools.

He got himself introduced to a Jersey City building inspector. And from there a web of introductions and referrals grew that eventually included elected officials, council and mayoral candidates, zoning officials and others in official capacity, mostly in Hudson. Here’s how (from the US Attorney’s office statement):

In part, the bribe-taking was connected to fund raising efforts in heavily contested mayoral and city council campaigns in Jersey City and Hoboken, and the bribes were often parceled out to straw donors, who then wrote checks in their names or businesses to the campaigns in amounts that complied with legal limits on individual donations – so-called conduit or conversion donations. Other bribe recipients took cash for direct personal use and benefit; others kept some of the cash and used the rest for political campaigns, according to the criminal Complaints.

The biggest fish may be Peter Cammarano, just sworn in as Hoboken mayor days ago, and also a lawyer. He’s charged with taking $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 just one week ago, from an undercover witness.  Cammarano’s alledged to have taken cash bribes to grease the skids for a high rise development by the witness. At the diner meeting, Cammarano promised the CW “…you’re going to be treated like a friend.”

Like a friend …

ACTION: Whipping the Public Option – Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-6)

Today, we’re going to ask you to take some action behind Congress passing the strongest health care reform possible. Blue Jersey is asking you to reach out – today, and no matter where in NJ you live – to Rep. Frank Pallone (NJ-6) and ask him to join congressmen Rush Holt & Don Payne to agree to vote down any health care bill that doesn’t have the following keys:

  *   available nationwide

  *   on Day One

  *   accountable to Congress & the voters

In this diary, we’ll set you up with everything you need to take action – 2 easy steps taking about 5 min. – plus contact info, and a few things about Rep. Pallone’s background on this issue.

Take Action:

Step #1:

Call Congressman Pallone’s office: DC Phone: 202-225-4671. Make your call brief and polite; you’ll probably be connected to a staffer, which is fine. Say this:

Thank you for your support of the Public Option! I know you’ll have more of a hand crafting whatever bill passed in reconciliation than most, and you understand what’s at stake.

So I’m asking you …. if you will agree to vote against any watered down bill that does not hit these 3 keys:

   *  available nationwide;

   *  on Day One

   *  accountable to Congress & the voters

Step #2:

Let us know how your call went, here in Comments.  Also, FireDogLake has a “whip tool” where you can let the country know where Pallone stands (good, bad, or neutral). Please get the name and title of whomever you speak to.

About Rep. Frank Pallone

Rep. Pallone was elected to Congress in 1988 and is on the House Committee on Energy & Commerce, where he Chairs the Subcommittee on Health. He also serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources, and sits on a number of subcommittees for each Committee.  His Health Committee is one of those responsible for the current House health care bill, and he, along with Rep. Andrews, is a cosponsor of the bill.

Rep. Pallone’s a solid friend of, and contributor to, the Blue Jersey community, and just last month posted at Blue Jersey & Daily Kos about the importance of a public option.  The entire NJ Congressional Delegation – except for Rodney Frelinghuysen & Scott Garrett –  supports Public Option, as you can see on Howard Dean’s Public Option site.

About Blue Jersey’s Whipping the Public Option Action

We’re lucky in NJ; most of our Delegation’s on record behind Public Option. But with talk in DC of “compromise,” it’s time to make sure they know how strongly Public Option is demanded here at home.

We’re coordinating this action with DFA-NJ, and with your participation, we can show how well the NJ progressive community can work together. Thank you for your help, and your ideas. Hundreds of thousands of un-insured and under-insured New Jerseyans thank you more.

Next up: Rep. Bill Pascrell, Jr. (NJ-8).  

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite on air

Walter Cronkite died tonight. They called him the most trusted man in America.

His was the voice that broke announcing the murder of a President. His editorial – following a trip to Vietnam – criticizing the war on the CBS Evening News was a devastating blow to the President that followed. “If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America,” President Johnson was said to grouse.

When human beings landed on the moon, bouncing around and picking up rocky souveniers for the trip home, it was his sense of wonder that mirrored the world’s.  Tonight’s Apollo 11’s anniversary.  Forty years ago tonight, we were on the way to the moon. Now we’ve lost the moon’s color commentator.

The best of the reporters in New Jersey strive for the kind of workaday, unembellished and investigatory approach to the news that Cronkite practiced. The 21st century, with its wall-to-wall tv coverage – full of fast-moving shiny objects, often short on context,  and investigation – has been a rough environment for so many good reporters, and too many have been driven to law school by shrinking news holes, and papers in crisis. Cronkite, essential to the 20th Century, is a standard worth shooting for, as we collectively struggle to figure out what journalism will look like now.

I used to work for the CBS News/NYTimes News Poll, at the tail end of Cronkite’s tenure at the anchor desk. So authoritative was his reputation that every poll started with the words, Hello, I’m calling for Walter Cronkite and the CBS/New York Times News Poll. I started on the phones. And just about every person asked to talk to Mr. Cronkite, whom none of us had ever met, because our offices were at the Times. One day, Cronkite had a meeting and walked past the call room. This time, when the lady – from Medford, NJ – asked for Cronkite, I told her he was right there, stood up, and handed him the phone.

Oh, it screwed up a whole night of polling. But he rewarded me with a big smile for my cheekiness, parked on the corner of my desk and yakked for 15 minutes. The whole call room stopped to listen. And I got a promotion I think Cronkite had something do with.

A good guy. And that’s the way it was.

Christie the lawyer flip-flops on Sotomayor the judge

This is how solid Chris Christie’s bedrock values and judgment are … when he sees his side is losing.

Just days ago, came the discussion of remarks Christie made about Barack Obama’s choice of Sonia Sotomayor as his choice for Supreme Court nominee:

During a Republican primary debate on WOR 710 AM radio May 27th, Christie was asked his outlook toward Sotomayor. “She wouldn’t have been my choice, no,” he replied.

When asked to elaborate, Christie said, “Well, no, I mean listen, that’s the question. She wouldn’t have been my choice. Absolutely not. Not my kind of judge.”

And now that it seems his side is losing, he’s running to catch up and lead, or at least look like he’s leading.

From Chris Christie’s statement (emphasis mine):

After watching and listening to Judge Sotomayor’s performance at the confirmation hearings this week, I am confident that she is qualified for the position of Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  Elections have consequences.  One of those consequences are judicial appointments.  While Judge Sotomayor would not have been my choice, President Obama has used his opportunity to fill a seat on the Supreme Court by choosing a nominee who has more than proven her capability, competence and ability.  I support her appointment to the Supreme Court and urge the Senate to keep politics out of the process and confirm her nomination.  Qualified appointees should be confirmed and deserve bi-partisan support.  Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito deserved that support based on their work as Circuit Court Judges. So does Judge Sotomayor. As a result, I support her confirmation.  This is a historic moment and her inspiring success story should not only make the Latino community proud, but all Americans.

Chris Christie’s running on his record as a lawyer, but had trouble recognizing a judge, for the highest court in the land, whose abilities, it turns out, he and his GOP colleagues have trouble challenging.

Just want that pointed out.

News Roundup & Open Thread for Friday. July 17, 2009

Jon Corzine

  • President Obama was here yesterday for the Governor.
  • And it was quite a health care reform rally.
  • New poll, more uncomfortable news.
  • Jon Corzine has some tough fundraising ahead.
  • Seems some Monmouth Dems were shut out of the Obama event yesterday, except Red Bank Councilman Ed Zipprich, who used his connections at Democracy for America (DFA). UPDATE: Yeah, Ed Zipprich said the source of this story was making it up, and he didn’t get to go.
  • Shout-out to the Blue Jerseyans who were tweeting with our hashtag for the event, #ObamaNJ, including: @njnewsgrrl, @FrankPallone, @PrimoNJ, @PeterCammarano, @Jason_Springer, @JeffPGardner, @joeynovick, @NJDemocrat, @ginaverge17, @40thDistrict, @jerrylore, @leafygreeninfo, @bluejersey, and me, @TikaRosi. Hey, have you joined us on Twitter?

    Yeah, I didn’t see them, either

  • Republican protesters at PNC Arts Center, opposing Corzine.

    Five years later

  • Josh Margolin looks back on the McGreevey scandal.

    For some seniors and disabled New Jerseyans

  • The check is in the mail.

    $4.5 million

  • Edison is cutting costs.

    Not for ties, for shoes, for cufflinks, or hair ribbons

  • Responding to a complaint filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the FEC has ruled that campaign funds can’t be used for wardrobe. But the two House Democrats named – including Rep. Rob Andrews – won’t be punished.

    Cumberland County prosecutor

  • Attorney General Anne Milgram is blocking Tina Kell for prosecutor.

    Texting, and the finger, in your car

  • Both are up, in New Jersey.
  • Obama-Corzine Open Thread

    Well, we’re here. Helicopters above and massive traffic and lines below. We must be at the PNC Arts Center, for the first visit by a new President, Barack Obama, to stand beside Governor Jon Corzine.

    Jason and I – and a horde of other press folks all carrying equipment – have been here for hours. And we’re a little late getting to our seats behind the television camera risers, because we had Jason go down from the heat after almost two hours standing in the press line, which was in full sun, close quarters, and no movement. EMS and the state police came running, with blood pressure cuffs, ice for the back of his neck and water for me to pour over his head. I’ll try to post pix later of the occasion. And I thought I was the gimpy one. He’s fine now, and we’re in the press section, behind rafters full of television cameras, setting up and listening to a wild crowd.

    Michael Jackson on the sound system. Blue-and-white Obama-Corzine signs everywhere. An astonishing number of women teetering in very high strappy shoes. Good cheer. And a vast American flag hanging from the rafters.

    Dana Redd, thanking everybody. Star-Spangled banner. The rest of it, in live-blog, below.  

    Obama-Corzine Today – who’s going? who’s twittering?

    Blue Jersey will be there this afternoon when President Barack Obama steps on the stage at PNC Arts Center with Gov. Jon Corzine. We’ll bring you all the color commentary we can. will be doing some live video. h/t JM

    If you’re there, you might see me or Jason there, so come by the lowly press section (looks like we’ll be behind the risers full of cameras, in a work area for press); we’d love to say hello.

    Will you be there and twittering? Here’s a hashtag to use: #ObamaNJ

    It will be interesting to see what the LG buzz is today, or if there are any surprise announcements (or if any of the short-listers are mysteriously absent).  

    Draft Pinkett

    Yes, Jon Corzine has just thrown the curve ball we’ve heard rumors about over the last couple days. Randal Pinkett has been announced as his pick for the Lieutenant Governor spot.

    Dr. Pinkett

    Marriage Equality comes up for a vote tonight in Red Bank

    UPDATE: The resolution passed unanimously (with two members on vacation). So, let’s see … Maplewood. Red Bank. Who’s up next? -JG

    A resolution supporting marriage equality, and other legislation supporting the rights of gay people, comes up tonight before the Red Bank Council, and councilman Ed Zipprich would love to see the room filled to capacity with supporters.

    Red Bank Council meets tonight at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 1st floor Borough Hall, 90 Monmouth Street, Red Bank. Public comment usually comes early in the meetings, we’re told.

    Tonight’s resolution was rescheduled from last month, after it became apparent that not all members of council were familiar with the disparity between the rights accorded married people and the rights accorded those in civil unions. Councilman Ed Zipprich, who also serves as Development Director for NJ Stonewall Democrats and Monmouth Democracy for America (DFA) leader, says the fact his borough’s council is 100% Democrat doesn’t guarantee passage of tonight’s resolution. He expects lively discussion, and hopes for active audience participation.

    The resolution is based on one that was passed last month by the National Conference of Mayors, and also signifies support for the following pieces of federal legislation; Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Matthew Shepard Act, Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which repeals Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, about which congressmen Holt, Andrews and Pallone feel very strongly, and Uniting American Families Act. If this passes, Red Bank becomes the first city in NJ to follow the national mayors’ lead on all these proposals, though Maplewood passed – unanimously – a marriage equality resolution last month, too.

    Sen. Jennifer Beck lives in Red Bank. If this passes, that means the Senate Judiciary Committee member and featured player on Chris Christie’s short-list for LG, will live in one of the gay-friendliest towns in America. And wouldn’t that be nice?