Tag Archive: Accountability

The politics of a county prosecutor

promoted by Rosi

In New Jersey there is a lack of accountability for officials occupying high level positions in every layer of our government.  There is no popular vote for our Attorney General or State Auditor.  Our county prosecutors, State Treasurer, and Supreme Court justices are all appointed positions.  Their decisions and policies aren’t influenced by the will of the popular electorate; they are shaped by the wills of one person: the Governor.  We are promoting a system where high level officials aren’t shaping policy in the best interest of their constituents.  Instead, they are tailoring their actions to best assure re-appointment within the ideological spectrum of the administration.  

Instead of the public weighing in on the credentials, experience, and education of an official through a popular vote, deals are cut in the back room to pay back loyal members of your party or a generous donor.  Now this is not to say we are faced with prosecutors in New Jersey who don’t deserve their office; I’m saying they need to be accountable first and foremost to the people of their counties, not the Governor’s office.  

On the county level we elect a clerk, a surrogate, freeholders, executives (in some places), and sheriffs.  Like the Attorney General on the statewide level, we do not elect county prosecutors.  This never made any sense to me. How can we elect people to issue passports and deeds, but not a person to implement criminal policy?  In my opinion a clerk or surrogate are largely non-partisan positions, whereas a prosecutor from the two parties can espouse very different views on how to attack poverty, crime, and social justice.  The people should be given a voice to pick who that person is in their county.  New Jersey needs more accountability, not centralized power in the executive branch.    

Questions that need to be answered about Christie’s $400 million screw up

Back in May when Governor Christie hijacked and derailed the Race to the Top application process, he said the following:

“This is my administration, I’m responsible for it, and I make the decisions,”

Other than that being a laughable statement, given the fact that Christie has shown a remarkable ability to pass the buck over and over and over, it shows that there are more questions that, for some reason, I haven’t seen asked and would really start to get to the bottom of just what happened with the application.

When the NJEA and Bret Schundler reached an agreement on May 27, the question in, um, question was answered correctly.  Then, between May 27th and June 1, when the application was revised and submitted, that answer was changed – and not in a cosmetic way that would be a “clerical error”.  Somebody had to have come up with the narrative.  Someone had to have reviewed it.  And someone had to have known about it.  Quite frankly, while I don’t like Schundler’s politics or views, I find it hard to believe that someone like him with his attention to detail would (1) have the correct answer, (2) change the answer without Christie knowing but not remember doing so after being publically humiliated by Christie (3) act shocked when that answer is called into question on video and (4) lie about his role.

While New Jerseyans have been “treated” to a whole slew of “he said/he said” stories that are great for the gossip pages, the real questions haven’t been asked – at least anywhere that I have seen (and my apologies if they have been).  What I want to know is the following:

  • Why was a simple question that was answered correctly changed after Christie took over to revise the application?
  • Who came up with the revised information and narrative for that question?
  • Why was information clearly irrelevant to the question asked inserted instead of the factual data requested?
  • Who actually made the change to that question?
  • Who directed that response to be changed over Memorial Day weekend?
  • Did Bret Schundler review the changed application?
  • If not Schundler, who did review the changed application?
  • Did Schundler (or whoever reviewed the changed application) have a summary of those items which were changed?
  • If Schundler really knew about this, why did he look stunned when he was advised that the correct information was not in the application?

This really stinks in many ways.  The children – students – the future – all lose as a result of this.  And Christie’s ever changing shifting of the blame indicates that he isn’t acting on the up and up.  His declaration that “it is time to move on” is nothing short of preposterous in light of his background as a US Attorney that would never let something like this go if he thought there was funny business going on.

His blame shifting, rush to “move along” and lack of accountability for $400,000,000 in funds that New Jersey won’t get as a direct result of his administration makes it pretty clear that this is something he is uncomfortable with.  Far from the façade that he puts up when pointing the finger at others or giving himself credit.

The “$400 million man” passes the buck(s). As usual.

One of the things lost in all of this rapidly developing story about Chris Christie’s hijacking of the Race to the Top application process that led to his own error costing NJ $400 million in education funding – and that is this is another in a long line of Christie not taking responsibility for his own actions.  Repeatedly, his inability to own up to his actions, comments and mistakes reek not only of arrogance but also of a larger underlying character flaw that has already hurt a number of people – and will now be hurting NJ’s children.

Back during the Governor campaign, it was discovered that Christie drove the wrong way down a one way street and hit a biker.  Instead of owning up to his reckless behavior, Christie pulled rank and identified himself as a US Attorney to get out of a ticket.  What’s worse – he blamed the biker for hitting him and then lied about whether there was a lawsuit filed.

Regardless of his behavior or actions, this is a longstanding pattern. When it uncovered that he was billing fancy hotels to his office, having them approved by the same people he was traveling with, he blamed those for daring to question his overbilling of extravagant expenses.  When he was caught discussing his ambitions for Governor with Karl Rove while still US Attorney – a potential violation of the Hatch Act – he blamed those who uncovered this.  When one of his top aides tried to bribe Richard Merkt out of the race, that was denied and blamed on Merkt.

When Christie’s stories about how he got onto and off the US Attorney firing list contradicted each other, he didn’t take responsibility for that either.  When former Governor Corzine hit Christie with an ad during the campaign that (rightfully) pointed out Christie’s position on women’s healthcare, Christie blamed Corzine – and then went ahead and did exactly what Corzine warned that he would do.

This latest “mistake” – which an investigation will uncover whether or not was a willful attempt by a clearly spiteful man to throw the process – is one of the bigger ones in terms of the wide ranging impact.  But it will be far from the last time in the “$400 million man’s” term as Governor where he will do something hastily, stubborn and pigheaded only to have it come back and bite everyone else in the ass as he deflects blame from himself as quickly as he caused whatever issue it is that he’s blaming everyone else for.

Menendez talks financial regulatory reform and implementing accountability on Wall Street

The US Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committee has taken up legislation dealing with financial regulatory reform. Mondaq had more on the bill:

Senate Banking Committee Chairman Christopher Dodd has introduced a discussion draft of the Restoring American Financial Stability Act of 2009 (the “Dodd Bill”), which comprehensively addresses financial regulatory reform, encompassing the range of issues covered in the Obama Administration’s proposed legislation and several bills pending in the House of Representatives. For further discussion of the Administration’s proposed legislation, please see the July 28, 2009 Alert and the August 4, 2009 Alert and for the House legislation please see the October 20, 2009 Alert, the October 27, 2009 Alert and the November 3, 2009 Alert. Many provisions of the Dodd Bill are similar to other regulatory reform bills, such as the creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency (“CFPA”). However, the Dodd Bill also contains significant differences from other regulatory reform proposals, such as (a) combining all prudential bank supervision into a new agency, the Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority (the “FIRA”), (b) creating an entire new agency to regulate systemic risk, the Agency for Financial Stability (the “AFS”), and (c) reducing the powers of the FRB. Based on recent testimony, the Dodd Bill largely reflects the viewpoint of FDIC Chairman Sheila Bair, while the legislation introduced by House Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank largely reflects the viewpoint of FRB Chairman Ben Bernanke.

The Mondaq story has a pretty comprehensive breakdown of the components in the legislation. Here is the opening statement from Senator Menendez:

Menendez said it’s time to corral the Wall Street bulls who saw red and ran wild. He said he will introduce amendments to strengthen the bill:

It’s time for transparency, Mr. Chairman. It’s time to increase the enforcement budget at the SEC. It’s time to help innocent victims of fraud and Ponzi schemes recoup their losses through the Security Protection Investor Corporation (SIPC) or other means. It’s time for accountability and regulations that protect American families while allowing our market based economy to run smoothly – but not run amok. These are necessary reforms and I believe they are long overdue.

This will no doubt be a big fight in Congress as the Financial Industry has the resources to push back and lobby against tighter regulations on their business practices.

Media Criticism Gets You Banned at Star Ledger

My favorite blogger is Glenn Greenwald, at Salon.

I try to emulate his approach in holding NJ media accountable.

So here’s a story I’d like to share.

After publishing my Op-Ed piece “No Teeth In ‘Tough” Pollution Law” in October 2006, (see: http://www.peer.org/docs/nj/07… )  Star Ledger editors invited me to blog at their site, NJ Voices.

I published scores of stories there that focused on environmental issues. Several posts were critical of media coverage of environmental issues, particularly for failure to cover policy stories out of Trenton and hold DEP accountable. (see: http://blog.nj.com/njv_bill_wo… ).

So you could say I stepped on a lot of toes.

But my NJ Voices blog was terminated by Star Ledger editors without warning in June 2009 after posting about the debate on the Lieberman bill and Obama  efforts to suppress the torture photo’s. Editors agreed that I had not violated the user agreement, copyright laws, or posted inappropriate material. They explained the termination as related to trust and my failure to seek the pre-publication review of controversial material – even though pre-publication review was not even mentioned in the user agreement. This was obviously a pretext, so I think much more was going on, and that this controversial post was the last straw.

Well yesterday, after posting the below comment, I was banned from even posting comments there.

As you can see, all I was trying to do was emulate Greenwald’s approach in holding media accountable – ironically, my post was on a column about searching for voices of reason in the health care debate:

Posted by nohesitation on 08/25/09 at 8:06PM

Perhaps the media has a responsibility and a role to evaluate the various “claims” against facts in search of truth. Oh, but this might take some real work and anger powerful interests (insurance, big Pharma, et al).

Instead, seeking “balance”, the media portrays the debate” as a “he said she said”. The “intelligent design” advocates and global warming denial “science” claims fit this dynamic – they manufacture false debates – e.g. claiming there is a valid scientific debate on evolution.

The media has abdicated its responsiblity. This enables lies and propaganda to flourish.

The swiftboat operation of the anti-health care forces is a sophisticated campaign – Town Hells. There are plenty of facts already in the public record to support the fact that organized economic forces are inhtentionally poisoning and polarizing the debate to scare and manipulate well meaning but poorly informed people (e.g. the death panels, et al)

Yet, media can’t seem to call them out for it.

This column is a perfect illustration of this failure.

Very “balanced”.

Highly irresponsible.

http://blog.nj.com/njv_mark_di…

 

Open Questions for Garrett

Cross posted at Blog the Fifth

A while back I wrote about Representative Scott Garrett sending the vast majority of the earmarks he requested out of district. After watching Bill Moyer’s Expose covering investigative reporter David Heath’s efforts to compile the first full accounting of earmarks in a Defense Appropriations bill, I decided to check out Heath’s efforts.

Of course I looked at Garrett’s page. So here are the questions:

  1. Who were the $2.5 million in mystery earmarks of which you were the only sponsor sent to?
  2. What process was used to determine these mystery earmarks were in the best interest of taxpayers in our District?
  3. What projects within the District did you not attempt to fund as a result of going after these two mystery earmarks knowing you were approaching the average amount of earmarks for a Republican House member?

If either Garrett or his staff would like to provide answers for publication you can send me an e-mail or letter.

Automated Calls in New Jersey Politics: Mend Them, Don’t End Them

Cross-Posted from ShapTalk.com:

You?ve received them.  I?ve received them.  I?ve even recorded and used them:  those automated calls that emanate around election time.  As annoying as they may be, they are a quick, efficient, and cost-effective way for a candidate or a resident to bring an issue or a candidacy to the public?s attention.  A ban on automated calls amounts to greater incumbent protection as it is usually the incumbent officeholder who has the wherewithal and campaign donations to be able to send out glossy mailings, run radio and television commercials, and afford a sophisticated door-to-door operation.  Candidates who take on incumbents have few tools at their disposal to get their message out, especially in areas where the local press is either nonexistent or ?bought and paid for.?  As a result, the automated call is one of very few equalizing forces in New Jersey politics, allowing all candidates to reach voters without a significant monetary expenditure.  That said, restrictions on automated calls are necessary to curb abuse.

Accountability for the Bush Administration’s Subversion of Democracy

The National Working Group – a group of Bernards Township, NJ residents deeply concerned with the erosion of democracy in America under the Bush Administration – has launched an initiative to invite candidates (and others) around the country to state where they stand on holding the Administration and the Republican-led Congress accountable for the abuse of power and for evidence of electoral fraud and manipulation. Statements will be published on a special web site at http://SubversionofD…