Tag Archive: Wayne Bryant

Chris Christie 2010, Meet Chris Christie 2014: Campaign Funds Edition

As Bridgegate continues to snowball, Bloomberg has reported that the Christie election campaign team is trying to use leftover campaign funds to pay for their lawyers.

Would you like some context? How about this: In 2010, when Christie prosecutorial target Wayne Bryant was headed to jail, he attempted to use leftover campaign finance  funds to pay for his lawyers. What did the NJ State Supreme Court think of this.. er, efficiency? It went a little something like this:

“…contributors do not expect that their candidate’s election will be a stepping stone to a criminal indictment.”

And that’s one to grow on.

Keeping Mayor Gabbianelli Out of Jail

The Democratic mayor of Monroe Township is in trouble. He’s accused of nepotism, sexual harassment, tax evasion, pay-for-access, racial discrimination, and violation of town ordinances.

Among other things, Mayor Michael Gabbianelli allegedly provided a job as a police officer to his son, Michael Gabbianelli  Jr, despite an anti-nepotism ordinance. He also is alleged to have discriminated against an African-American roadside vendor pursuing a sales license in favor of other vendors who are white. To some people, the most egregious of all these charges is that hizzoner blatantly lights up and smokes on government property in violation of town ordinances.

Given these alleged transgressions, it is inevitable that Gabbianelli will face increased scrutiny, maybe even removal from office or prosecution. But there’s an almost foolproof way the mayor can alleviate or even avoid the consequences of his actions.

Bryant Conviction Upheld

New Jersey has enough corruption cases to fill headlines everyday.

But in case you’re interested: This week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Wayne Bryant’s appeal of his conviction on mail fraud and bribery.

So, the system does work.

For those of you who need a refresher, or cannot wait for the publication of “The Soprano State: The Sequel”: Waaay back in 2008 , Bryant was paid by University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in Camden for a “low show” job as a ‘thank you’ for Bryant maneuvering millions in state funds to the school.

Bryant served as Chairman of the Senate’s Budget and Appropriations Committee back then.

And if a “low-show” job was not enough, the trial court determined that Bryant also had a “no-show” job to help pump up his pension benefits, this one for the Gloucester County Board of Social Services.

New Jersey math: One “low-show job” + One “no-show job” prison time.

But, Bryant appealed that NJ math result, arguing “that prosecutors violated their due process rights by interfering with their pretrial access to potential witnesses…and that the jury instructions were defective.”

The Third Circuit judges rejected Bryant’s appeal, and he stays put in federal prison.

So, it goes.  

Quote of the Day: “Despite blaring headlines…”

If you violate your public office and are charged with a crime, the NJ Supreme Court issued a ruling yesterday affirming ELEC’s decision that you can’t use campaign funds to pay for a defense. That led to this quote from Justice Barry Albin:

“Despite blaring headlines that announce the most recent prosecution and conviction of a public official, we have yet to reach the point when it can be said that defending against a federal or state criminal indictment alleging corrupt practices is an ‘ordinary’ expense of holding public office,”

Good. You shouldn’t be able to use money you raise from people to represent them for defending yourself after doing wrong by them.  

Bryant will report to prison today

Today is the day for Wayne Bryant:

Former state Sen. Wayne Bryant will serve a four-year sentence at the minimum-security camp in Beckley, W.Va. Bryant was convicted in November of fraud and bribery charges.

Jurors found the lawmaker took a “low-show” job at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in exchange for bringing state money to the institution.

I don’t know that I’ve seen the term “low-show” job before. Bryant is due at the prison sometime today to begin serving his sentence.

Quote of the Day: Engaged in a quid pro quo arrangement

U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson has rejected requests by Wayne Bryant to have the jury verdict overturned, denying their motions for a new trial.The judge rejected claims that prosecutors presented evidence insufficient for a jury to reach a conviction saying:

“Contrary to defendants’ claims, the record contains evidence which demonstrates that defendants sought to engage in a quid pro quo arrangement where Bryant would be hired by SOM and compensated for prospective official actions taken in his capacity as a New Jersey senator,” Wolfson wrote in a 36-page opinion issued recently.

The judge rejected Bryants appeal saying the timing of his official actions as a senator and his receipt of a pensionable $35,000-a year salary from UMDNJ plus a $5,000 bonus “were not mere coincidence.” Bryant faces more than 15 years in federal prison, but the judge has wide discretion in handing down a sentence. They haven’t set a new scheduling date after the initial delay in March.

ELEC officially bans use of campaign funds for legal defense

When Senator Bryant requested to use his campaign fund to pay for his criminal defense, ELEC said no. That decision was backed up by a state appeals court and ELEC made the rule change official yesterday:

The rule enacted yesterday clarifies the original commission opinion, saying that legal fees and other expenses for a candidate or officeholder’s criminal defense are not “ordinary and necessary” duties. The commission will notify the state Supreme Court — which is considering Bryant’s appeal — of the changes, said executive director Frederick Herrmann.

But the new rule does not apply retroactively, Herrmann said.

Well it shouldn’t be a part of the ordinary and necessary duties, but with all the recent stories I’m sure plenty of people are wondering how rare an occurrence this situation really is. I’m glad ELEC made the clarification and rules change so that this won’t be an issue going forward. If people choose to profit from the public trust, they shouldn’t be able to benefit from the financial support given to put them in the position when questions about their actions are raised.  They can use the profits they made to defend themselves.

Campaign funds are not for Criminal Defense

Elected Officials who run afoul of the law are going to have to find a different way to pay for their defense because they won’t be able to use the campaign warchest.  Wayne Bryant wanted to use some of his $640,000 campaign fund to pay his legal bills.  First he was denied by ELEC and today that decision was upheld by a state appeals court:

“Even in an era when public officials are being called with increasing frequency to answer criminal charges of corruption in office, their legal defense costs could hardly be described as an ‘ordinary’ expense of office-holding,” the judges wrote.

Bryant’s team has a few weeks to appeal to the Supreme Court and haven’t decided whether they will. I understand the money was donated to the official, but it was for the purpose of electing them to office not helping to avoid incarceration in prison.  If you violate the public trust, you shouldn’t be able to benefit from the faith they put in you before you let them down.

Bryant guilty!

Former state senator Wayne Bryant and former UMDJ dean R. Michael Gallagher were found guilty today:

The federal jury convicted Bryant on a bribery charge for soliciting a job at the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Camden County and using his influence as budget chairman to help the school acquire $10.5 million in state grants between 2003 and 2006.

The jury also found Bryant, 60, of Lawnside, guilty of mail and wire fraud stemming from the $35,000-a-year “low-work” job he got at the school, run by the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey.

PolitickerNJ observes that this keeps perfect Chris Christie’s record on convictions for public officials he has charged.

Have at it in the comments.

Updated by Jason Springer-  Here is a statement from Speaker Roberts:

“Today’s verdict underscores the need to build upon the reforms we’ve already implemented in the budget process and go even further on strengthening our ethics laws.  I look forward to working with the governor and the Senate to accomplish that goal.”

And from Alex DeCroce, who not surprisingly shows some love to Chris Christie:

“This verdict should send a strong message to elected and appointed officials across New Jersey that if you abuse the power of your office and violate the public trust, you will be held accountable. There are consequences to actions and today Senator Bryant learned that lesson.

“Chris Christie and his staff have set a new high standard for attacking corruption and hopefully our state’s next U.S. Attorney will continue to aggressively prosecute public corruption and hold officials accountable for their actions.”

This doesn’t sound good

The trial of Wayne Bryant gave some news today that is sure to have people involved in NJ Politics buzzing:

Masked by an obscure state budget account dedicated to property tax relief, key state lawmakers were given millions of taxpayer dollars to hand out to their constituents as they pleased, testimony in the corruption trial of former Senate Budget Committee Chairman Wayne Bryant revealed today.

The $40 million Property Tax Assistance and Community Development grants program lawmakers added to the state budgets in 2004 and 2005, was parceled out directly to individual lawmakers for them to spend on pet projects, George LeBlanc, Democratic budget officer, testified.

Bryant, a Camden County Democrat, was allotted $4 million from the fund. Senate Majority Leader Bernard F. Kenny, Jr., (D-Hudson), was also given $4 million from the fund, which he shared with other lawmakers, LeBlanc testified. Both Kenny and Bryant left the Senate last year.

The story goes on:

The testimony contrasts with claims by lawmakers that individual grant recipients had to apply to the state Treasurer for funding from the $40 million pool, and that grants were awarded competitively.

“To my knowledge, individual legislators were the deciders,” LeBlanc told jurors. “They were the ones who designated which entities would receive amounts of money from the accounts.”

When asked about the revelation, Senate President Dick Codey offered no comment on advice from his lawyers, while Speaker Roberts put out this statement through Derek Roseman in the Assembly Majority Office:

“We’re not aware of the specifics of today’s testimony, but in recent years we’ve implemented new rules and regulations that open up the budget process more than ever before and let the public see every requested budget change and exactly who is proposing it.”

You wonder where this will go next.