Tag Archive: Swift Boat

The Best Swiftboating Since Kerry

I was a Clark supporter in 2004, and one of the reasons I most admired him was his sense of commitment and duty to our country. He was a champion athlete, first in his class at West Point, a Rhodes Scholar, and a war hero — he could have retired and had any high-paying, cushy job he wanted. Yet he chose to spend more than three decades of his life in the humble service of our country, even training himself to walk without a limp to continue to serve.

That’s the kind of leader I want in Washington D.C.

It’s the same reason I’m supporting Bob Menendez. He came from a working class background in Union City and went on to college and law school. Because he’s smart, industrious, and a hard worker, he could have gone into another, more lucrative field. But instead, he has devoted his entire life to public service. In my opinion, this is his greatest asset.

Which is why New Jersey and Beltway Republicans are taking Menendez’s background, twisting it, and wielding it against him. What’s even more disappointing is how many Democrats, locally and nationally, are accepting it rather than fighting back.

Congressional Influences

I work as a proposal writer for a not-for-profit very similar in scope (though we’re much bigger in size) to the one Bob Menendez is accused of assisting to obtain federal funding so that he could then charge them above-market rents.

Leaving aside for the month the FACT that the rents Menendez collected through a property management agency were in line with or perhaps even lower than comparable ones in the area, let’s look at the “influence” he wielded over the process.

First, let us note the heinious fact that Congressman Robert Menendez is accused of voting to fund Head Start programs — not for his leasee, not for Hudson county, not for New Jersey — but for the ENTIRE UNITED STATED. Chirst, what a crook this guy is …
Second example of his horrid malfeasance: Every good not-for-profit knows that when it is time to line up for federal funding, it’s very helpful to have your congressperson send a “letter of inquiry” to the funding agency.

In effect, all this letter says is, “My constituents are applying for this funding, and I would like to be kept apprised of the progress of their application. Thank you.”

When the funding is awarded, the agency notifies the congressperson first, so that they can notify the not-for-profit in person.

In effect, this creates an opportunity for the congressperson to appear to be “on your side,” when in fact all he or she has done is signed a one-page pro forma letter, taken a phone call, and made a phone call. Generally, this is the entire extent of the congressperson’s involvement. Most of the work is done by a staffer. Lotsa bang for no effort at all.

Certainly, should they wish to violate ethical standards and actual laws, all sorts of inapropriate and illegal pressure can be brought to bear on the funding agency (see Bob Cunningham (R-San Diego), f’instance), but I have heard no one claim that Menendez did anything more or less than what every other congressperson does on a daily basis — send the “letter of inquiry” as a courtesy to a constituent.

Do these “letters of inquiry” help get funding? Yeah, they do. All other things being equal, if you don’t ask for one from your congressperson, your applilcation will rank lower than an identical one that does have the letter. But practically everyone is smart enough to know they need to get one, so as a practical matter they don’t help at all.

And, as a practical matter, the congressperson does not ever withhold the letter. Why would they? Yes, a congressperson might give the letter only to one not-for-profit because that NFP is going to kick money back somehow, but in reality, that is such a crap-shoot it would be stupid to pursue. NO one has any guarantee that their proposal to spend the money will be funded. MAYBE in a rural area with a dearth of providers this strategy would work, but applicants for federal funds are thick on the ground in Hudson county.

If we could see Menendez’ correspondence during the period the letter was written on behalf of the agency that rented from him, I am certain there would be dozens of identical letters indicating the congressman’s interest in all of the other applicant agencies in his district.

Fighting a Swift Boat with Truth

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. 

Jersey Journal article, first pageKirsten 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”. 

Jersey Journal article, second pageWell, 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

The Kean Name is “Swiftly” Losing its Luster

Well, that didn’t take long. Just days after the New York Times revealed Junior Kean’s plan to swiftboat Menendez with lies about 20-year-old grand jury testimony, the New Jersey media is not just unimpressed with Junior, but seriously disappointed, and unashamed to call him on it:

I’m not sure why a pleasant, moderate Republican wants to become Dick Cheney. I don’t think Dick Cheney would want to be Cheney if he could be a Kean.

The Kean name for generations has stood for responsible, honorable public service.

Not any more it doesn’t.

The braintrust behind Junior’s attempt to pull a Swift-Boat style smear forgot the critical element in its success against Kerry: the complicit national media who took the story to the top of the charts in their “fair and balanced” coverage of lies.

That’s not working in New Jersey, where smart commentators like Tom Moran and now Alfred Dolin are shaking their heads, bewildered and unamused as they catch on to the real Tom Kean Junior.

This is July. It is way too early for a last-ditch assault on the integrity of a political rival. In July, voters want to know what Tom Kean Jr. would do in the U.S. Senate. Attacking Democrats isn’t a good enough reason to be elected.

I guess with nothing else to run on, the ill-advised Swift Boat strategy is all Junior’s got – but it’s sad to watch him take his family’s name down with the ship.

City Belt Launches With a Look at Lyon

The idea was first floated a few years ago, between journalists Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg and Jon Whiten: let’s start an alternative paper in New Jersey.

After many brainstorming sessions and lots of planning and study, July 1 marked the realization of that idea with the launch of City Belt, an independent, progressive news organization that’s focused on the cities and towns of North and Central New Jersey. City Belt will at first be a monthly magazine, distributed mainly through small businesses and college campuses — the first print issue debuts Sept. 1. The Internet offers City Belt a space to pursue an even greater amount of journalism; the Web site will be updated at least once daily.

City Belt will muckrake and revist a golden age when the alternative press had investigative vigor and the political conviction to stand up for what is important. And just what do we think is important? Social justice issues and good government, for starters. City Belt will also be covering the local arts scene in ways that probe deeper than patronage. Overall, we hope to be a voice of the progresssive community in New Jersey, and to further foster political, cultural and civic engagement. We welcome feedback — after all, we need readers as much as we hope readers will come to need us.

Our first story is a quick look into the background of Chris Lyon, the independent contractor working on the film commisioned by the Kean campaign to paint Menendez as unethical. We found some pretty interesting stuff by just looking around a bit, and thought it was important to get this out there. We hope that other news organizations will use their resources to look more closely at the pasts of those involved in this very important election, especially when doing so may shine light on hypocrisy or dishonesty.

City Belt is currently also looking for all kinds of help: we are scraping by in true DIY fashion, and could always use writers, distributors, tips on friendly businesses (both for advertising and distribution), and story ideas. We certainly can’t promise riches, but we do promise to reward all efforts to help get City Belt off the ground. Thanks.

NYT Exposes Kean Swiftboat Plans

Today the New York Times reveals that the Kean Jr campaign is self-funding a swiftboat-style smear campaign against Senator Menendez. These repeatedly discredited lies are so sleazy that nobody else – not the RNC, RSCC, or any independent groups – are willing to fund them, so the campaign has to do it themselves. It’s too dirty even for Karl Rove, but as they say, Tom Kean Jr personally approved this message. The New York Times pulls back the curtains (emphasis mine):

The Republican candidate for Senate in New Jersey, Thomas Kean Jr., intends to make a campaign film that accuses his Democratic opponent, Robert Menendez, of “being wrapped up in the rackets for 30 years” despite public records and statements by former federal prosecutors that contradict Mr. Kean’s most serious charges.

Mr. Kean’s chief campaign consultant, Matt Leonardo, a strategist for Republican candidates, disclosed the plans in an interview and said the film would be “very similar” in purpose to the commercials used to attack the military record of John Kerry during the 2004 presidential race.

Both the New York Times and the Star Ledger recently exposed the Kean Jr campaign as a bunch of liars, but they’re going to keep digging themselves in the hole anyway.

Mr. Kean’s charges are not, however, supported by the public record and were repudiated by independent authorities including the four assistant United States attorneys who prosecuted Union City officials of that era for racketeering and corruption. There is no truth, those former officials say, to the Kean campaign’s charge that Mr. Menendez made a deal to keep himself out of prison.
Mr. Leonardo did not directly dispute that information, published Sunday in The New York Times and The Star Ledger of Newark, but described it as a “set of views” and said other people held different views.

The only “different” view you can have from the truth is a lie. To be fair, there is one big difference between this smear campaign and the attacks on John Kerry:

Both he and Ms. Hazelbaker said that the source — campaign money as opposed to a 527 committee — was the primary distinction between the Swift boat commercials and the planned film on Mr. Menendez.

You read that correctly – they seem to be proud of the fact that the campaign is directly funding this. I’ve always assumed that Kean Jr wasn’t really in this to win, but rather to set himself up for a future race. The way the campaign has been completely mismanaged, it’s hard to conclude otherwise – but this latest news seals the deal. Nobody serious about winning would hold on to such wildly incompetent campaign staff. A broken magic 8 ball could be more effective.

What Junior might not realize it that it’s his indifference to this idiocy that will doom his future prospects, too. What began as his only asset – the Kean family name – is being eviscerated by his immature, selfish ambitions. One of the largest newspapers in the country has exposed him as a liar, but he stubbornly pushes forward with his sleazy lies. If he hasn’t already, his actions will ruin the chances of any future political ambitions he may have. The formerly respected “Kean” name will become a burden on the rest of his career and nothing but a shameful legacy to future generations.