Tag Archive: pay to play

Leveling the Electoral Playing Field

If you’ve ever campaigned for a political candidate, you’ve probably run across people whose tell you they’re not voting because “they are all crooks – taking money from special interests instead of representing me.” Certainly, the Citizens United Supreme Court…
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QoTD: American Hustle and the Master Builder

There are so many reasons New Jerseyans should see ‘American Hustle’. No matter what Mayor Dana Redd says. And with however jaundiced eyes you choose. Here’s one little fact we dug up you might not know, about a young whippersnapper named George Norcross. Promoted by Rosi.

PhotobucketThough Camden City’s current mayor, Dana Redd, said she would not be seeing the hit film American Hustle she really should reconsider. One of the characters in the film is based off of Camden City’s own Angelo Errichetti who served as the Mayor of Camden from 1973 to 1981 when he was convicted of bribery charges due to the famous Abscam sting portrayed in the film.  

Another fun fact about Mayor Errichetti’s lasting legacy in Camden is who he hired for the Camden Parking Authority in 1978 – a 22 year old George Norcross III. It was Norcross’ only job in public service and a launching point for his career as a political boss.

After completing his term at the Parking Authority Norcross leveraged his union and political connections to start an insurance firm in the city. He raised money for and loaned money to the future political establishment of the city including Randy Primas whom Norcross loaned $15,000 in 1984 to protect Mayor Primas from a primary challenge. Of the $93,000 Primas raised over $78,000 came from Norcross organizations.

In 1989 Norcross took over the Camden County Democratic Committee and took his Camden city game state wide.

Given the challenge Norcross became the master builder of the bridge between politics and contractors, so often referred to as “pay to play.”

When Primas became Chief Operating Officer of Camden City under the state takeover he never forgot his good friend.

The hustle never ends.

“Boss Joe” Ferriero Indicted Again!!!

What follows is an excerpt from a well reported article by Jerry DeMarco in “Cliffview Pilot”… (you can access the rest of the story and a PDF of the actual 75 page indictment there)  


>>>”A federal grand jury today indicted Joseph A. Ferriero, the former chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, on charges of soliciting bribes and extorting payments as part of a racketeering scheme that included various grants, building projects and software contracts, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced this afternoon.

The indictment also charges Ferriero, 56, with conspiring to promote bribery and distribute payoffs, as well as committing mail and wire fraud, among other offenses.

It had been expected for months, sources had told CLIFFVIEW PILOT, and  comes three years after the former power broker left federal court in Newark a free man, thanks to a change in the “theft of honest services” fraud law by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The new indictment includes charges related to the activity that Ferriero was first accused of, while adding a pair of alleged schemes involving a real estate company in Virginia that allegedly paid $1.7 million in an effort to develop land owned by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) in Bergen County. It also accuses Ferriero of accepting bribes through a Nutley-based attorney in exchange a favorable opinion of a software developer and his companies to various public officials in Bergen County.

Fishman accused Ferriero of running the Bergen Democratic organization as a racketeering enterprise, “abusing power for profit.”

Aaron T. Ford, who heads the Newark FBI Field Office called the indictment “another unfortunate example of someone misusing their position in our political system for personal gain. Such conduct tarnishes our political system.”

According to the indictment, Ferriero – who served as BCDO chairman from 1998 until January 2009 – “conducted the BCDO’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity involving three schemes: the Governmental Grants Consulting (GGC) kickback scheme, the retail and entertainment project bribery and extortion scheme and the SJC Consulting (SJC) bribery scheme.”<<<

Here is a link to the Bergen Record’s coverage…


My take on this is that it is good news for anyone who cares about justice being done…

The Ferriero Story Continues

Now I know why some FOJ (Friends of Joe Ferriero) keep stalking me on Blue Jersey. Because right around the time the Freeholders are trying to bring back the bad old days of Pay to Play in Bergen County under Joe – including his minion Freeholder Ganz, THIS story comes out.


It appears that Mariner’s Bank which was run by the developer Diabes – who has been a big player in construction and who got the boondoggle bid for Overpeck Park – loaned – unsecured mind you – and at 6% – $350,000 to Joe Ferriero, as well as other questionable loans to Dennis Oury and former Dumont Mayor Matthew McHale.  

This story is the gift that keeps giving.  I would not want to be Joe Ferriero when his bill of $387,000 comes due for that loan in July.  This story just keeps reminding everyone just how messed up things were in Bergen County during the Reign of Boss Joe.   And there are a lot of his best buds that really want folks to forget what happened – like Freeholder Ganz. Ganz reminds me of the minions in Harry Potter, who wish for nothing more than the return of he who shall not be named.  Hence this diary to remind everyone.  I highly recommend you read the full article.  It is pretty fascinating.  Even the Bergen County Prosecutors office was involved – parking their money at Diabes’ bank.  What a tangled web.  

Senate Dems put Kean Jr. in “Trenton Shake” video

promoted by Rosi

The Senate Democrats have been attempting to draw attention to the silence from Senator Tom Kean Jr. regarding questions about contributions from firms that have received contracts for Sandy cleanup and today they took their latest step.

From an email sent out by the Senate President:

You may have received a few messages from me in recent weeks challenging NJ Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean, Jr. not to accept campaign money from any of the questionable Hurricane Sandy debris removal contractors or their politically-connected subcontractors – firms who have become the subject of intense media and legislative scrutiny (Be sure to Google “AshBritt”).

Well… Since Kean has been ducking, bobbing, and weaving on this issue for the past few weeks, I thought this video might “shake” him into coming clean. Check it out and forward it to your friends and family. Share it on your Facebook walls and retweet it.

And here is the video…

Production quality aside, their message regarding Kean’s silence continues to be clear and this is how the Senate President closed the email:

Kean should immediately accept my challenge and avoid further appearances of impropriety.

Anyone think Kean will accept?

Cleaning Up From the Cleanup

“AshBritt [in Louisiana and Mississippi] had no-bid contracts. Here they have no-bid contracts. There, they moved debris piles around, here they move debris piles around. There they opened landfills that were closed, here landfills that were closed were opened. There, there was no governmental oversight or transparency in the process, here there’s been no governmental oversight or transparency.”

       – Jeff Tittel, New Jersey Director of the Sierra Club

Today, along with the Sierra Club, three members of the New Jersey General Assembly raised some serious questions about the selection and performance of the company that received a no-bid contract to remove debris from Hurricane Sandy.

Tomorrow, a joint Senate and Assembly committee will hear testimony about the Superstorm Sandy cleanup. Today’s press conference by the Sierra Club focused not on the dubious way that the contract was awarded, but rather on AshBritt’s dismal environmental performance in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The Sierra Club’s goal is to not leave New Jersey with a similar legacy of polluted sites. In fact, in New Orleans, the result of some of the “cleanup” was the creation of one, and possibly two, Superfund sites. The last thing we need in New Jersey is for AshBritt to give us more Superfund sites.

In addition to Tittel, Assemblymen Peter Barnes, Ruben Ramos, and Reed Gusciora each talked about the challenges of a robust and cost-effective Sandy cleanup. Barnes also announced the creation of a Coastal Commission Regional Planning Board to provide oversight on zoning, planning, and environmental protection.

The press conference is presented in its entirety, below. You can jump to Ruben Ramos at the 8:00 mark, Peter Barnes at 10:00, Reed Gusciora at 13:45, and the Q&A from the press at 17:37.

They Almost Got Away With It

Bergen Freeholders voted 4 to 2 to GUT the Pay to Play reform enacted just months ago.  Dems David Ganz and Joan Voss and Republicans John Mitchell and John Felice apparently don’t like running campaigns on IDEAS rather than ill gotten gains.

Fortunately, Current County Executive Kathleen Donovan, who was County Clerk during the infamous reign of Boss Joe, knows all too well why and exactly how Pay to Play money is bad for democracy.  She is STILL sweeping out the corruption from that era.

Using her pen – she vetoed the desperately conceived plan to resuscitate the Bosses of North Jersey within just one month of the election. This time, the would-be Boss is Republican Yudin who got an assist from Ferriero-crat and shameless coin huckster Freeholder David Ganz who penned the atrocious revised law like some modern political version of Renfield praying for the return of Boss Joe.

CEC Investigation: There’s A Lot Of Dirt In Them Thar Hills

Eleven months after an inmate was killed at CEC’s Delaney Hall, Governor Christie served as keynote speaker for its 2010 10th-anniversary celebration. He said, “This is where I need to be, because even as governor, you treasure the times when you can come and be someplace where the work is purely good.”

Following the New York Times three-part series, countless other newspaper articles over the years, NJ Comptroller Boxer’s report, an SCI report Gangs in Prisons, information from prisoner advocacy groups, and many Blue Jersey diaries, the need for a full independent investigation of Community Education Centers (CEC) is apparent. Its facilities are not places where “the work is purely good.”

The problem as Charles Stile points out is that founder William Clancy, his family, and CEC since the early 1990’s have donated over $600,000 to elected officials at the state and local level. That’s a lot of dirt and many enriched hills. Essex County has proven particularly fertile ground for CEC, but Clancy’s largesse has included governors of both parties and officials in counties where CEC operates or would like to operate. Particularly troubling has been Governor Christie’s past participation as registered lobbyist for CEC, his frequent visits to the centers where he spews praises, his acceptance of donations, failure to address publicized problems, and his close relationship with CEC Senior Vice President William Palatucci.

In addition to the largesse, which constitutes conflicts of interest for those who might investigate CEC, the problem for any investigatory group is the sheer number of issues to be examined: “pay-to-play,” public safety when inmates “walk away” from a facility, violence, rape, and drugs within the institutions, lack of quality counseling and education, lack of financial accountability and collusion with local authorities to obtain business.  

With so many pockets of enriched hills and so many varieties of dirt, what group is independent enough with sufficient staff and skills to attack the problem?

Charles Mainor (D-Hudson), Chair of the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee, is one of two individuals who has called for legislative hearings. How independent can he be, however, as his county houses and receives monies for CEC’s Talbot Hall in Kearny. In Part I of the NY Times series he was quoted as being asked for his estimate of how many people escaped from halfway houses in 2011. “I have heard of no more than three,” he responded. According to state records, the number was 452. Another member of the committee Sean Kean (R-30) in the NY Times article appeared dismissive, saying about the escapes, “It’s not really a problem. It’s a cheaper way of doing business, so that’s why it behooves us to use that option.” In summary, this committee is not a promising group to investigate the matter.

Senator Barbara Buono is the other individual who has expressed concern, stating, “They should be held accountable for their failures.” One of her key staffers said that with the current budget issues on the front burner, she has not yet developed a strategy on how to move forward. She is Vice Chair of the Senate Oversight Committee. Although she has received a combined $2,600 in donations in 2010 and 2011, she has shown the independence and fervor necessary to undertake such an investigation. She has not discussed the matter yet with Chair Robert Gordon (D-38), nor Paul Sarlo (D-36), neither of whom reside in a county where CEC operates. However, another committee member Teresa Ruiz (D-29) is a part of the Essex County Democratic machine which is probably the largest recipient of CEC largesse. With a small committee and an even smaller staff it would be difficult for this group to undertake such a far-ranging investigation.

Because of conflicts of interest and the broad scope necessary, a legislative investigation does not seem the best course. Individual committees, however,  can review matters within their purview and promote legislation. There is currently a Senate bill (S927) sponsored by Jeff Van Drew (D-3) and Steven Sweeney (D-3) which would require the State Auditor to review Department of Corrections privatization contracts to determine whether privatization yields a reduction in costs and whether there was any malfeasance on the part of DOC with the contract. It has been reviewed by two committees, however, the identical Assembly bill (A1880) has seen no committee action. If the bill were to gain passage it would represent a step forward, with some dirt removed, but large mounds still remaining.

There are other more promising venues for investigation which will be discussed in Part II of this diary.  There is a lot of dirt, a lot of hills and we need heavy duty equipment to level the land.  

Palm, meet forehead. Bergen edition.

Being a Democrat in Bergen County isn’t easy.  The spectacular demise of the “party machine” that had a stranglehold on the political offices still has its remnants and ghosts roaming the halls and thoughts of the Democratic Party.  Sure, there was a successful election last year and there very well could be another successful showing this coming November on the County level, but the way that the Congressional race was mishandled is one of a number of things showing that the “new new” Bergen Democratic leadership isn’t really ready for prime time, and that “the other Party is worse” can only get you so far.

Witness the whole “pay-to-play” hand wringing from a few years ago – a “crackdown” that was finally passed once the Bergen Republicans forced the issue to a vote – even a watered down “crackdown” that was ultimately enacted.  In the shadows of this mess that was the biggest symptom of the BCDO’s hubris and implosion comes some frustration at an issue that, if the BCDODCBC was out in front on, could show that they are serious about governing again.

Sadly, that doesn’t appear to be the case as noted in Charlie Stile’s column the other day.

While I am taking great joy in seeing Bergen County Republican Party Chairman Bob Yudin complaining about how the watered down rules have made it hard to get their message out without greasing the palms of those who would do quid-pro-quo favors and how money essentially equals First Amendment rights, I would have hoped for a strong response and distinction from this by Lou Stellato, Chairman of the BCDODCBC.  Even moreso when the County-favored Candidate for Congress, Adam Gussen, is known by many “who know” to at least have some ties to the old-Ferriero guard – it gives a bigger and better opportunity to move forward in a new direction; a direction that is “for the people of Bergen County”.

Stellato, while not landing in the same camp as his Republican Party counterpart, did say that the rules made it “difficult to raise money”, and also wondered if County Law can supersede State law.  Both may be valid points, but as the leader of a Party that he inherited in much disarray, and among questions as to the new direction, vision and goals, there could have been a better choice of words – especially at a time when words are more powerful in terms of becoming campaign issues that can really really help the Party.