Author Archive: Rosi Efthim

Jack Shaw, arrested in Thursday’s political corruption sweep, dead at 61

The fallout continues from last Thursday’s massive political corruption and money laundering arrests; Hudson County Democratic political operative Jack Shaw has been found dead, with a bottle of pills near his body.

Police say evidence does not currently support homicide, but that it is unclear whether Shaw’s death is suicide or heart attack. The cause of death is unclear.

Shaw was picked up in the early morning sweep that netted 44 people, on charges ranging from political corruption and taking bribes to money laundering and even trafficking in human organs. Prosecutors say Shaw took $10,000 in bribes from Solomon Dwek – the so-called Cooperating Witness who wore a wire and got the suspects on tape – and suggested additional political people Dwek should “donate” to.

Shaw was a key player in the rise of Governor Jim Florio, joining up with him when Florio was in Congress. He has been an operative in Hudson County since the early 1990’s.

Shaw’s body was found at his home by a relative.

First of the corruption sweep politicians to resign: Elwell out

UPDATE: A press account used to cite when Gov. Corzine called for resignations of arrested politicians was wrong. The Governor called for resignations on Thursday, the day of the arrests – Rosi Efthim

Charged in last week’s corruption sweep with taking a bribe, Secaucus mayor Dennis Elwell, 64, is now the first to resign. Elwell’s resignation letter was released through his lawyers:

Effective today, July 28, 2009, Dennis Elwell will resign his position as Mayor of the Town of Secaucus. After careful deliberation, Dennis determined this action is in the best interest

of both his family and the people of Secaucus.

Those who perceive this action to be an admission of culpability as to the pending criminal allegations are gravely mistaken. Dennis pleaded not guilty to the charges, is presumed innocent and will vigorously defend the unproven allegations made against him.

We hope that all the citizens of Secaucus who Mayor Elwell has served throughout his

many years in public service stand by him and are not swayed by an accusation. Dennis has faced adversity before in his life serving in Vietnam as a paratrooper and suffering the loss of his 18-year-old son.

Dennis will fight with the same intensity and courage that he displayed in these life experiences. Mayor Elwell thanks all of his friends and supporters for their kind words and

encouragement over the last several days.

Jeffrey G. Garrigan, Esq.

Thomas J. Cammarata, Esq.

Attorneys for Dennis Elwell

Elwell was arrested last Thursday, in a corruption bust run by the FBI and the US Attorney’s office, the result of an investigation begun under Chris Christie’s tenure as US Attorney, during which time an 8-year old investigation into money laundering crimes in NJ-NJ grew to include political officials hauled on the money laundering and corruption charges. Christie wasted no time tying his own political fortunes to the sting.

The next day, Friday See update, above Gov. Corzine called on all the elected officials – among them three mayors and two state assemblymen – to resign.

Elwell is the first out. Fellow mayor Peter Cammarano still insists, at least publicly, that he’ll fight the charges against him from the Hoboken Mayor’s office.

Town Administrator David Drumeler has announced that Secaucus Deputy Mayor John Reilly will become the acting mayor. Reilly’s the Third Ward councilman, and police liaison.  

Blue Jersey was shut out of the corruption press conference. Why?

Blue Jersey was shut out of the corruption press conference. Why?

by: Rosi Efthim

Fri Jul 24, 2009 at 06:25:12 PM EDT

Blue Jersey was shut out of yesterday’s press conference at the United States Attorney’s office at the Federal Building in Newark. I’d like to know why.

I was given some reasons, by the United States Attorney’s Office spokesman, Michael Drewniak, but the reasons given were multiple and inconsistent enough that it leaves reasonable people wondering whether the Drewniak’s position is credible. It leaves us wondering whether the decision on the US Attorney’s Office’s part wasn’t a political one.

Chris Christie is the former United States Attorney for New Jersey. He has based much of his campaign on his record as US Attorney. So it’s entirely fair for news organizations to examine that record, as he runs for the state’s highest office.

In examining his tenure as USA, Blue Jersey has thrown the spotlight on decisions that raise the question of corruption or abuse of his powers. These include the warrantless tracking of cell phones used by New Jerseyans, lucrative Deferred Prosecution Agreement contracts doled out to political cronies like John Ashcroft, or as reward for sparing Christie’s brother from prosecution himself. Millions of dollars are at issue, dollars that consumers pay as corporations pay for the monitors Christie appointed to handle the state’s Deferred Prosecution Agreements under his purview. And there’s enough smoke that two of New Jersey’s congressmen believe Christie abused his authority as US Attorney. Clearly, we’re not the only ones with suspicions.

Some background on the press conference:

It was announced as a joint effort of the FBI and the United States Attorney’s office. I called FBI HQ in Newark and was told the press office was too busy to take calls but arrangements to attend could be made by email.

My email (10:08am) carried my name, title, Blue Jersey and its url, with my phone number:

On today’s corruption raid, would you please let me know time, location and credentialing for today’s press conference?

Response (10:10am) from SA Bryan L. Travers, Public Affairs Office, FBI:

12 noon at U.S. Attorney’s office.

My inquiry about credentialing was met with nothing but the time and place for me to show up. And so I did, early.

xxx

I made repeated attempts to access the information, if Drewniak was making sure I could not access the room. Asked if the audio could be piped into another room (this is when I thought others would also be shut out, during the time he told me space was the issue, and before reporters who arrived way after I did were given access), or if I could stand or sit out in the hall and listen in as it happened. I was told neither was possible. Fine. Maybe it wasn’t.

But I was also told other organizations were denied access. I asked four times what the names of those organizations were. I was never told that. And I saw no one else there – except for the attorneys and the photographer arriving as it was ending – who was denied access.

Blue Jersey has asked Drewniak three times – during the beginning of our coverage of Christie – to be added to the US Attorney’s distribution list for press releases. We are on the press list for scores of elected officials of both parties,

Blue Jersey has always been out front in calling out corruption in NJ, in both parties.

Ferriero

Cryan’s decision to use Party resources only for HRC.

Sharpe James – Adam

WHen I said I had heard from the FBI press office he said, Well that’s not us, and essentially denied tha t the FBI had any say in the matter.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)  

Blue Jersey was shut out of the corruption press conference. Why?

Blue Jersey was shut out of yesterday’s press conference at the United States Attorney’s office at the Federal Building in Newark. I’d like to know why.

I was given some reasons, by the United States Attorney’s Office spokesman, Michael Drewniak, but the reasons given were multiple and inconsistent enough that it leaves reasonable people wondering whether the Drewniak’s position is credible. It leaves us wondering whether the decision on the US Attorney’s Office’s part wasn’t a political one.

Chris Christie is the former United States Attorney for New Jersey. He has based much of his campaign on his record as US Attorney. So it’s entirely fair for news organizations to examine that record, as he runs for the state’s highest office.

In examining his tenure as USA, Blue Jersey has thrown the spotlight on decisions that raise the question of corruption or abuse of his powers. These include the warrantless tracking of cell phones used by New Jerseyans, lucrative Deferred Prosecution Agreement contracts doled out to political cronies like John Ashcroft, or as reward for sparing Christie’s brother from prosecution himself. Millions of dollars are at issue, dollars that consumers pay as corporations pay for the monitors Christie appointed to handle the state’s Deferred Prosecution Agreements under his purview. And there’s enough smoke that two of New Jersey’s congressmen believe Christie abused his authority as US Attorney. Clearly, we’re not the only ones with suspicions.

Some background on the press conference:

It was announced as a joint effort of the FBI and the United States Attorney’s office. I called FBI HQ in Newark and was told the press office was too busy to take calls but arrangements to attend could be made by email.

My email (10:08am) carried my name, title, Blue Jersey and its url, with my phone number:

On today’s corruption raid, would you please let me know time, location and credentialing for today’s press conference?

Response (10:10am) from SA Bryan L. Travers, Public Affairs Office, FBI:

12 noon at U.S. Attorney’s office.

My inquiry about credentialing was met with nothing but the time and place for me to show up. And so I did, early.

xxx

I made repeated attempts to access the information, if Drewniak was making sure I could not access the room. Asked if the audio could be piped into another room (this is when I thought others would also be shut out, during the time he told me space was the issue, and before reporters who arrived way after I did were given access), or if I could stand or sit out in the hall and listen in as it happened. I was told neither was possible. Fine. Maybe it wasn’t.

But I was also told other organizations were denied access. I asked four times what the names of those organizations were. I was never told that. And I saw no one else there – except for the attorneys and the photographer arriving as it was ending – who was denied access.

Blue Jersey has asked Drewniak three times – during the beginning of our coverage of Christie – to be added to the US Attorney’s distribution list for press releases. We are on the press list for scores of elected officials of both parties,

Blue Jersey has always been out front in calling out corruption in NJ, in both parties.

Ferriero

Cryan’s decision to use Party resources only for HRC.

Sharpe James – Adam

WHen I said I had heard from the FBI press office he said, Well that’s not us, and essentially denied tha t the FBI had any say in the matter.

Loretta Weinberg is Corzine’s Choice & Open Thread

weinberg

It’s Loretta Weinberg.

This is the woman we’ve called the Godmother of Progressive New Jersey. The uphill-battler of corruption in politics, particularly where she finds it in her own party. the transparency advocate. The fighter – way out front – on marriage equality.

And the woman, who in the thick of the struggle for the soul of the Democratic Party in Bergen County, found herself written about so heavily here at Blue Jersey that her name was up-top in our list of the most requested tags to research posts. Her family called her the Hot-Tag Grandma. And we love that.

Congratulations, Senator.

Sen. Weinberg was our guest last week on Blue Jersey Radio, and I called in and told her I had formally requested to the campaign that whoever the LG pick is, she or he be our guest on the next Blue Jersey Radio. I’m happy to say she promised if Corzine picked her that she’d be there. Here for your listening pleasure is last week’s show. And I’m happy to announce that the future Lieutenant Governor of the State of New Jersey will be our guest on the next Blue Jerey Radio, next Tuesday at 8:00pm. Our first back-to-back guest, ever.

I know what I think. I’m thrilled down to my socks. I’m boogie-happy. Woo hooo! But what do you think, Blue Jersey?  

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.