I have a question for you. What were you doing in February of 1996?
It was a month that saw yet another major snow storm hit New Jersey. Bill Clinton signed a telecom bill to widen competition and market access in cable television. Republicans were watching rightwing freakjob Pat Buchanan bury Bob Dole and Steve Forbes in the New Hampshire primary.
Kirsten Danis was writing an article [Page one, Page two] for the Jersey Journal revealing that then-Congressman Bob Menendez had approval from a House Ethics lawyer to rent his former business office to the North Hudson Community Action Corporation.
This is only significant because Tom Kean, Jr.’s desperation has led him to base his entire campaign on one single false issue – the supposed corruption he’s been trying to pin on Bob Menendez from the day he decided he’d actually try to get a new position by winning an election (that would be a first for Junior, because he was appointed to the State Assembly AND the State Senate). The problem is that he’s shooting with a gun filled with blanks.
Here’s a quote from the above mentioned article:
Since the lease is with the nonprofit agency and not directly with the government, it does not violate conflict-of-interest laws, Menendez said he was told by Democratic counsel Ellen Weintraub.
And, lest we forget what the Junior Kean Kretins have been smearing around:
Kean spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said the questions [about Tom Kean,Jr’s ethics] amount to minutiae next to Menendez’s role as a federally funded landlord. “There’s absolutely no comparison,” Hazelbaker said. “This is a clear example of Menendez using his office for personal gain. “
Ah – that would be wrong. False. Incorrect. But we have the word of Jill Hazelbaker versus the word of Ellen Weintraub. Who in the world is Ellen Weintraub?
Before joining Perkins Coie, Ms. Weintraub was Counsel to the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct for the U.S. House of Representatives (the House Ethics Committee). Like the Commission, the Committee on Standards is a bipartisan body, evenly divided between Democratic and Republican members. There, Ms. Weintraub focused on implementing the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 and subsequent changes to the House Code of Official Conduct. She also served as editor in chief of the House Ethics Manual and as a principal contributor to the Senate Ethics Manual. While at the Committee, Ms. Weintraub counseled Members on investigations and often had lead responsibility for the Committee’s public education and compliance initiatives.
And apparently she’s someone who has respect from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Back in July, the White House cut a deal with McCain: The president would appoint ethics lawyer and reform advocate Ellen Weintraub to one of the three Democratic positions on the six-member Federal Election Commission; in exchange, McCain would stop holding up a slew of Bush judicial and administrative nominations he had been blocking for leverage. Reformers saw the Weintraub appointment as crucial since the FEC was in the process of deciding the specifics of how McCain-Feingold – reluctantly signed into law by the president last spring – would be implemented.
Yes, that’s right. The lawyer that gave approval to Bob Menendez is the one and same lawyer that John McCain insisted be appointed to the FEC because she is tough on election campaign laws. She is the lawyer that George W. Bush drug his heels on appointing until campaign finance laws had already been marked up – because she was too tough on them. She’s a Democrat, by the way. That’s called “bipartisan respect and approval”.
And Jill Hazelbaker? Well, she works for a guy who is trying to secretly fund a Swift Boat style movie. Hazelbaker defended that decision by saying:
“The corruption is so deep and so extensive it requires a film to capture all of it.”
Interesting. Hazelbaker’s “clear example” of corruption turns out to not be an example of corruption at all, but rather an example of how a Congressman actually followed the rules of behavior he was supposed to follow. No wonder it is “so extensive” that it “requires a film to capture all of it”.
Well, what else does the Journal‘s article say?
The Congressman said his control over Head Start funding is limited to voting on the appropriation for the entire program, a connection far too remote to create a conflict of interest.
“If I had a tenant who was a student and used a student loan (which are guaranteed by the federal government) to pay rent in my house, would it be any different?” Menendez said.
Interesting question. I wonder if Tom Kean, Jr. has any rental property. Perhaps we could find out if any of his business connections have ever done any work for government money.
The fact is, it wouldn’t be any different – the ethically-challenged challenger Junior Kean, through his clueless mouthpiece Hazelbaker, would still cry wolf. Like a conspiracy theorist, Hazelbaker sees evidence of wrongdoing everywhere it isn’t and nowhere that it is. Meanwhile, her boss boy is effectively silent on any issue of substance.
The Journal reports:
Menendez said he had no hand in arranging the lease, which was handled by a real estate agent and lawyers for the North Hudson Community Action Corp., and did not realize his building would be housing a federally funded agency until after the deal was done.
But I’m sure Menendez must have phoned the NHCAC and told them he had the place up for rent, right?
A staffer noticed a rental sign on Menendez’s building and the agency contacted the realtor.
Oh. Yes, Bob Menendez must have insisted that his realtor hang an evil, tempting “FOR RENT” sign on his property. Hazelbaker? Junior? Any answer for this?
Well, maybe one of the GOP surrogates that have rushed to Junior’s offensive offense. Someone like Bush Pioneer and GOP US Attorney Chris Christie who has apparently been duped into launching a formal investigation of a matter laid to rest in the county-wide newspaper of record a full ten years ago. Or is it more sinister than that? Christie doesn’t seem to be stupid – after all he’s brought down a lot of very smart and crooked people and always looked very smart doing it. Either he’s been fed bad info – in which case the Junior campaign is guilty of actively hurting the State of New Jersey by politicizing what has been, up to now, a very nonpolitical and effective prosecutor – or Christie is having his chips cashed in by a GOP machine that only knows “win at any cost”, even if it destroys country, state, city, or the individual careers of CIA agents.
Oh, yes, and lest I forget how Star-Ledger Hudson-hater Paul Mulshine maligned the neighborhood as a “dump” and threw out imaginary numbers that intimated that Bob Menendez had over-charged on rent, there’s this:
The agency has a three year lease with the Congressman and is paying him $37,200 a year for the building, which translates into about $9.30 per square-foot to lease the 4000 square foot space. The price is slightly below market value, according to real estate agents.
Listed leasing rates in Union City range from $10 to $15 per square foot, although they can be negotiated from there, according to the New Jersey Society of Industrial and Office Realtors.
Bob DeRuggiero, a Union City office space broker, said $9.30 per square foot was “probably under market” for 535 41st St. Menendez could have gotten as much as $12 a square foot for the space…
This is the point of all of this – sometimes a Swift Boat is built by willing engineers and sometimes it’s built by planting the seed of a lie in the ear of someone who is all too willing to believe it, despite any and all evidence to the contrary. That is the problem with “win at all cost”. It invariably destroys – the only question is how wide we allow the circle of destruction to grow. Are we going to allow Junior and Hazelbaker to destroy New Jersey or are we going to fight back.
Sorry for this obscure reference as a way of ending, but I remember watching Bill Clinton on The Daily Show a while back. He said that when your enemies hit you, you have to grab the truth in your fist and hit back twice. Bob Menendez has a reputation as a back-alley brawler in Hudson County politics. It’s time he started grabbing up his fists and punching a young smart-mouthed punk in the mouth with it.
Read the article: page 1 | page 2