Tag Archive: Frank Lautenberg

Poor Acting

For the past two years, New Jersey has not had an Attorney General. John Hoffman was elevated to the post of Acting Attorney General when Governor Christie appointed Jeff Chiesa to the United States Senate to fill the seat of Frank Lautenberg.

The Attorney General is supposed to be the people’s top government attorney, not the governor’s. The Governor has his own chief counsel whose office is in the same State House suite as Christie’s.

Government is based on checks and balances, and in New Jersey the Senate vets the governor’s nominee for AG. But Christie has circumvented the state constitution by leaving Hoffman in the acting position for far too long.

Hoffman’s lack of concern for the people he is supposed to be working for is exemplified by his stubborn defense of the Exxon Mobil giveaway settlement. Instead of defending the governor’s blunder, he should be advocating for the people and the environment in New Jersey.

In many states, the people elect the Attorney General. But that’s not the solution to our problem. With money rather than principle being the prime factor in our electoral process, an elected AG would turn into an auction, with the job going to the highest bidder.

Governor Christie should obey the letter and the spirit of the state constitution and submit a nominee to the state senate for vetting. Whether it’s Hoffman or someone else, the nominee would receive a hearing and be questioned by both parties. Public input would also be part of the process. That’s the way the system is supposed to work.  At least that’s how it should work for a chief executive who respects the constitution and the rule of law.

Thoughts on a successor to Sen. Menendez were he to leave office soon

Following news of a possible indictment, questions arise regarding the ramifications of Sen. Bob Menendez relinquishing his job soon. So far it’s only a possibility, and Menendez says he is not about to leave. Many people would regret losing his voice on immigration reform, but not so much on Iran, Cuba or some other matters. Nonetheless, he has been a reliable voter on the moderate to progressive wing of the Democratic party, and in most cases he and his NJ counterparts (Sen. Lautenberg and Sen Booker) have voted in tandem. Now we face the possibility of a new senator who might be neither a Democrat nor even moderate. Our last elected Republican senator was Clifford Case who left office 35 years ago and was succeeded by Bill Bradley.      

The first step would belong to Gov. Christie who would appoint a temporary senator. The last temporary senator he appointed was the respected but close confidante Jeff Chiesa following the death of Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Christie might like to appoint another close confidante, but many of them could be tainted as part of the governor’s poor performance or even under investigation – all of which reduces their likelihood of winning in a later special election. A well respected Republican with no close working ties to Christie might have the best chance of holding on to the seat.

Christie however has not shown much concern for the role of N. J. senators. He appointed Chiesa not caring that Chiesa would not run in a special election, thus strengthening the possibility that a Democrat would recapture the seat, which is what happened with Senator Cory Booker’s victory.

Lessons not learned: Sen. Menendez and NJ Politicians Breaking Badly

It is too early to determine the fate of U. S. Senator Bob Menendez who CNN reported will be indicted on charges related to favors he provided to his largest campaign contributor, Dr. Salomon Melgen. Sen. Menendez has responded, “Let me be very clear – very clear. I have always conducted myself appropriately and in accordance with the law… I am not going anywhere.” Whether these known favors involve only bending the rules or actually breaking the rules is not yet established. Nonetheless, his actions appear far less ethical than what we should expect.

Unfortunately, this news about a New Jersey U. S. Senator is all too familiar as he would be the fourth in a generation to run afoul of the law. Similarly New Jersey congressmen have created their own problems. Hudson County, the political base of Sen. Menendez, has had its share of politicians breaking badly. Now our governor is under federal investigation with an uncertain future. Recent NJ history has provided plenty of warnings about the dangers of bending and breaking rules – warnings which all too frequently have not been heeded.  

2013-2014 Congressional Casualty List – NJ

Roll Call published a Casualty List today for the 113th Congress, those members who for various reasons won’t be returning to Congress in January. They did some math and figure that’s 1,254 years of experience total that won’t be back. That’s a lot of incumbency, and the circumstances of the New Jersey four speak to how hard it is to overcome the campaign advantages of that incumbency, which include the powerful trappings of a federal seat, general goodwill towards local representatives (even where Congress itself is disparaged), and the freebie franking privilege which so many members of Congress use to send self-congratulatory mail that walks and talks like campaign lit but the taxpayers get the bill.

Of the NJ four leaving office, none were beaten by upstart challengers, to the eternal frustrations especially of those who rallied behind NJ-5’s Roy Cho (against the should-be vulnerable pre-Tea Party winger Scott Garrett) and NJ-3’s Aimee Belgard (whose fortunes rose then fell in the open seat Tom MacArthur bought for himself). All four new members – Sen. Cory Booker, Rep. Don Norcross and incoming House members Bonnie Watson Coleman and Tom MacArthur – take seats that were vacated by retirement, resignation or death.  

Christie’s AG’s: Too Many, Too Political and Unelected

Update 10:45am: The Legislature’s Bridgegate Committee session has started, Kevin O’Dowd presented a brief opening statement, and is now being questioned.

The importance of the N. J. Attorney General’s position is signaled in the NJ constitution as it is mentioned four times. One particular clause prevents the AG (and LG) from being summarily fired by stating the AG begins a term of office that lasts as long as the governor’s term of office. Christie, however, views the AG through his own lens. The governor now wants to appoint his fourth AG, Kevin O’Dowd, in about as many years. They all have worked for him previously in the U. S. Attorney’s office and two of them in his Executive Office. He provides them “full treatment” service which includes plum jobs afterward. It is no surprise they are attentive to his wishes. Christie’s Chief of Staff Kevin O’Dowd testifies this morning at about 10:30am before the legislature’s Bridgegate Committee. Live coverage here.

There currently is a bill in the Assembly (ACR134) and the Senate (SCR71) which proposes a constitutional amendment to provide for an elected Attorney General – an idea worth considering as only five states grant the governor the power to select the AG. Because of the “full treatment” his AG’s receive it is no surprise that this office continued fighting in court to prevent same-sex marriage, defended Sandy practices, ignored Bridgegate, and used “gun-buybacks” as its main response to a call for new gun legislation. Our powerful governor also appoints prosecutors, judges, top public defenders and the head of the State police, which seems eerily similar to a “Police State” – all under the governor’s direction. All political and none elected.  

Remembering Frank Lautenberg

Frank Lautenberg grave

Frank Launtenberg’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery

Frank Lautenberg died one year ago today. He was the last seated member of Congress who served in WWII, and there won’t be another. I didn’t know him as well as some of my friends. But I thought he was a sweetheart.  

NJ’s Whodunit Procedural: Part III

As with any good whodunit there is often a twist. A judge rules that two defendants who have invoked the federal constitution’s 5th Amendment right against incriminating themselves can not be compelled by an investigative committee to provide documents that might incriminate them. No worries. The tale continues. With an email there is often a copy to another party who is not a target who might produce the damaging document. The investigative committee is and has been receiving documents from numerous sources and is now requesting files from the Mastro Report.

More important, when an individual, such as Bridget Kelly, has put in motion something illegal, she is already subject to being indicted. Her recourse is to blab to the prosecutors to receive immunity. The nasty Mastro Report should provide her added incentive. The legislators retain their role of finding out how and why this happened and then initiating remedial legislation.

Neither Bill Stepien nor Bridget Kelly (whom we wrote about in Part II of this series), who Judge Jacobson absolved from having to incriminate themselves, have escaped the arm of the law. There could be an appeal or revised more narrowly focused subpoenas. While we await their fate, there are other larger than life characters in this whodunit beyond the fold: the “failed general,” the “once fair-haired legislator,” the “Would be Supreme Court Justice member” and “yet another lawyer.” In Part III they are all lawyers who may be in trouble with the law and now have their own lawyers.

What’s Happening Today Wed. 10/02/2013

Booker vs. Lonegan and the election schedule that only Christie could concoct:: With exactly two weeks to go, October 16 is the Special Election date for the U. S. Senate race. Gov. Christie made it particularly “special” by holding it on a Wednesday and not on General Election day. How convenient! We continue to miss Sen. Frank Lautenberg. We wont miss current Sen. Jeff Chiesa (R), but don’t be surprised if Christie appoints him to another position.  

Now we have the 13th public poll on the race: The Monnmouth Universiity poll which has Booker at 53% and Lonegan at 40% – a +13 point advantage. Previous recent polls according to Real Clear Politics: Quinnippiac (9/22) Booker +12, Kean University (9/19) Booker +19, Richard Stockton College (9/21) Booker +26 and Rutgers-Eagleton (9/09) Booker +35. The race has tightened up, Booker maintains a healthy lead (no “margin of error” concerns), but in this weird election with low turnout predicted it is important that we all vote and help GOTV or else face something akin to the apocalypse.

Republican candidate Steve Lonegan has been in a persistent and somewhat successful attack mode. There were high spirits at his classic 1938 Bendix Diner event yesterday in Hasbrouck Heights. With some 70 attendees, it opened with a prayer which included a blessing for “marriages between one man and one woman.” Texas Governor Rick Perry, accompanied by plainclothes Texas Rangers, spoke briefly about guns (good) and ACA (bad: “It’s felonious”) and lauded Texas and Lonegan. Steve Lonegan then launched into his stump speech talking concisely, spiritedly, and bluntly about his conservative principles. On the government shutdown he said, “It’s a little inconvenient but not so much so.”

Senior Lonegan Advisor Rick Shaftan spent a few minutes with me enumerating all the perceived bad points about Cory Booker. When I asked Shaftan twice why he thought Lonegan would win, the four-word response each time was “He is a conservative.” Apparently that’s sufficient. One good point about Shaftan: he likes Joey Novick, but then again so do a lot of people.

Two attendees saw a truck in the parking lot painted with “1-800-got-junk,” under which they affixed a sign reading, “YES! Obamacare.” Perhaps an indication of their high spirits, enthusiasm and confidence. Also in attendance were Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39), Bergen County Exec. Kathleen Donovan and Senator Michael Doherty (R-23).

NJ Court sets up schedule for the State’s application to stay the Summary Judgment order, set to be effective October 21, in the M. E. case: October 1: the State must file its case; October 4: the Plaintiff’s opposition to the stay must be filed; October 7: the State may file its opposition if it chooses. There will be no oral arguments.  

Pubic Schedules (Your opportunity to support or heckle)

Buono/Silva gubernatorial campaign: No public events.

Christie/Guadagno gubernatorial campaign: Chris Christie: 4:30pm, Groundbreaking ceremony at Rowan University College of Engineering, Glassboro; 6:15pm, addresses the New Jersey Alliance for Action’s Eagle Awards Dinner, Hyatt Regency, New Brunswick.

U.S. Senate nominee Cory Booker: 6:00pm, Reception at the home of Carol and Andy Golden with Rep. Rush Holt, Princeton, for more information go here; 9:00pm, “Run with Cory,” Palmer Square, Princeton.

U. S. senate candidate Steve Lonegan: 6:30pm, fundraiser, High Point Brewing Company, 22 Park Place, Butler.

Open thread: Add an event taking place today of interest to our readers, or email items for this column the evening before to BillOrr563@gmail.com

I’m a Progressive. And I Support Cory Booker.

I’m a Progressive. I worked on Rush Holt’s Senate campaign. And I have problems with Cory Booker’s position on several issues, including education and Wall Street finances. But I will work to get Cory Booker elected. I won’t fall for the stunt that some have suggested of voting for Lonegan in false hopes that Booker will be defeated and a more progressive candidate will rise from the ashes next year.

Suppose that Rush Holt had managed to pull off a minor miracle and had defeated Booker last week. Progressives would expect that all Democrats would rally around Holt and work to get him in the Senate. Any movement by more conservative Democrats to elect Lonegan in hopes of getting a machine Democrat elected in 2014 would be greeted by us with scorn. If a Progressive decides to challenge Booker in 2014, I’d probably support him or her, but if Booker prevails (and hasn’t jumped the shark with his coddling of Wall Street), I’d support him at that time.

Part of the success of the Tea Party movement is due to the fact that they have been working on their draconian agenda for decades. They understand that instant gratification is not something that comes easily in politics. If Progressives want to counter the Tea Party movement, we too need to make this a long-term initiative. Defeating or even wounding Booker is counterproductive.

Cory Booker is no Frank Lautenberg, but he’s our nominee nevertheless. We need to work with him to support him on issues with which we agree and lobby him where we think he is on the wrong side. It won’t change him overnight. It may never change his views on issues like education. But if we don’t work with him to show him the correct path, who will?

We can’t criticize the traitors in the Democratic Party who support Chris Christie while at the same time dismiss our Senate candidate. Whether Booker won on style or substance is not an issue. He’s going to be our senator, and we need to help him move in the right direction.