Tag Archive: Ellen Karcher

Karcher files ethics complaints against Beck

Earlier today, State Senator Ellen Karcher filed ethics complaints against Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck with the New Jersey Election Law Enforecment Commission and the Joint Committee on Ethical Standards, accusing Beck of using official state resources for campaign purposes.  Karcher included the full text of both complaints in a campaign press release.

Her complaint centers around a July letter from Jennifer Beck’s legislative office.  The letter, penned on official legislative stationery and sent to residents of Tinton Falls, expresses her opposition to a US Navy plan to open to civilians 300 housing units at US Naval Weapons Station Earle.  The letter directs residents to sign an online petition at a website, or to sign an enclosed petition and return it to her legislative office.  The letter claims that the petitions “will be collected and sent to the Navy”.

The website, NoCiviliansAtEarle.org, was registered on July 13, and is, according to the site, “sponsored by Beck for Senate and O’Scanlon & Casagrande for Assembly”.  The homepage includes a narrative, in the left hand column, which is lifted almost word-for-word from the letter.  In the center of the page is a form which asks visitors to sign their name, street address, and email address to the petition.  On the right, we read again that the website is “a reform movement” sponsored by the Republican legislative ticket for the 12th district.  The website also offers visitors the opportunity to “contact us” and “tell a friend”.

In her complaints, Karcher alleges that Beck used official legislative resources in disseminating a “political communication”, as defined under N.J.A.C. 19:25-10.10.  Even though the letter was dated July, Karcher’s complaint asserts that constituents recieved it in August, within 90 days of the election, which would make it a political communication.  The Joint Rules of the Senate and Assembly prohibit the use of “State property or resources in connection with campaign work.”

When asked for a repsonse, Beck called Karcher’s complaint “frivolous”, arguing that since she merely handed the letter out to constituents instead of mailing it, she did not violate the “spirit or letter of the law”

Jennifer Beck, hypocrite.

Last week, the Republican-controlled Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders shelved real pay-to-play reforms until at least after the 2007 election.  While State Senator Ellen Karcher was trying hard to get these reforms passed, Jennifer Beck was making speeches on the Assembly floor and sending out partisan press releases attacking the incumbent Senator–on ethics and government reform. Karcher campaign manager Mike Premo responded with a press release attacking Beck for her silence on pay-to-play in Monmouth County.

Hypocrisy on ethics is nothing new for Jennifer Beck.  Avid readers of this blog may recall that the Monmouth County Republicans charged prospective candidates $1,000 for a sham screening process in order to be considered for the party’s nomination.  Unlike her primary opponent Joe Locricchio, Jennifer Beck was unwilling to stand up to the corrupt county organization and forked over $1,000 for this “background check”.  Adam Puharic, the man who orchestrated this “Soviet”-style tactic to keep independent, good-government Republicans like Anna Little from winning the party line, continues to serve as Monmouth County Republican Chairman even as he collects a federal government salary. 

Assemblywoman Beck’s inability to stand up to ethical shortcomings in her own party stands in stark contrast to Senator Karcher’s consistent, nonpartisan reform record.  In the past, Senator Karcher and Assemblyman Mike Panter have criticized Democratic ethics reform proposals that didn’t go far enough.  In 2004, she was the only Democrat to vote to bring a Republican-sponsored government reform package to the Senate floor.

I’m not Jennifer Beck’s campaign manager, but if I were, I’d tell her to lay off the ethics and government reform issues.  Her constituents know about Karcher’s spotless reform record and they are smart enough to see through the Assemblywoman’s shallow election-year press-release pandering.

If ethics were cycling, Jennifer Beck would be on training wheels and Ellen Karcher would be in the Tour de France.

Codey Signs Prevailing Wage law

(from Trenton)–

I signed many bills into law for Labor as Governor and I got a chance again so I’ll do it again.

–Acting Governor Dick Codey, while pulling out his pen.

On behalf of the Corzine Administration, Dick Codey signed two bills into law today that will strengthen and tighten NJ’s prevailing wage laws.

“This legislation builds on the tremendous progress we’ve made with our prevailing wage laws,” said Codey at today’s bill signing.  “It closes the loopholes that have allowed a few contractors to shortchange New Jersey ‘s working families, preserves a level playing field, and helps ensure that people who work hard and play by the rules have a fair chance to earn a living and support a family.”

Labor Commissioner David J. Socolow:

“This legislation strengthens our Prevailing Wage Act and provides the Department of Labor and Workforce Development with stronger tools to protect the wages of the men and women who build our vital infrastructure – roads, bridges, health care facilities, schools and other crucial structures,”

Prior to today, the State simply didn’t have much latitude to go after companies who skirted the  laws by farming out the work to subcontractors who were paid a lousy, substandard rate for their time and sweat. 

In otherwords, our taxes went to construction firms that would bill the state at a prevailing wage rate, and in turn not pay their (subcontracted) workers accordingly. 

Those days are aparently over. Said Sen. Ellen Karcher who was a co-sponsor, “if you wanna work for the people’s money, you’d better run a clean operation.” 

To further paraphrase Sen. Karcher, firms working on public construction contracts could not be held to account if they broke the wage laws.  Any company found in violation could simply change their name and resubmit their bid.  And that’s just one example.

And so to recap, the Prevailing wage laws were originally set up with noble enough intentions.  And in the meantime, some unscrupulous firms found loopholes to pad their coffers (with our tax dollars) at the expense of workers. 

Today’s signing not only closes those loopholes, but it also give the Department of Labor the tools to nail the offenders. 

Op-Ed: On The Move Towards Cleaner Government

As a long-time advocate for much-needed ethics reform at all levels of government, I know that it’s sometimes hard to keep the faith when allegations and reports uncover a deep-seated culture of corruption in New Jersey.

Elected officials at all levels of government keep succumbing to a blend of greed and arrogance which tarnishes their office and betrays the public trust.  And the constant parade of those who’ve made a mockery of elected office in the Garden State can be downright depressing to those seeking to change the status quo.

For too long in New Jersey, the standard perception of government has been of self-serving politicians violating their oaths of office for a quick buck.  To the people we represent, public corruption has become expected.  The average New Jerseyan is predisposed to believe that their elected leaders will fail them, and that greed and graft will overcome even the most honest of public servants.

Unfortunately, we have seen far too many examples of the worst of public life – the predators who seek to make the most for themselves, and not their fellow citizens.  But we’re ratcheting up the pressure on those who’ve abused their offices, and we’re seeking serious penalties for corrupt offenders.  And when we put one guilty politician behind bars, the voters tend to replace him or her with a fresh new face who embraces open, honest government.

When I entered the State Senate four years ago, efforts at government ethics reform were seen as futile.  It was widely believed that politicians were never going to police themselves or their friends.  The conventional wisdom was that too many people had a vested interest in the status quo for meaningful reform to take place, and the powerbrokers who controlled state government would crush any efforts at reform before they got off the ground.

Four years later, I am joined by allies on both sides of the political aisle who embrace the need for comprehensive, top-to-bottom ethics reform.  We’ve been able to accomplish some initiatives that the media, the electorate – pretty much everyone – viewed as impossible a short time ago. I am proud to say that since I was elected in 2003, I have sponsored 16 pieces of ethics legislation that have been signed into law.  Most recently, the Governor signed a bill establishing serious penalties for corrupt politicians and, on the same day, the Senate approved two measures designed to crack down on private interests wasting public grants and corrupt politicians who increase costs to taxpayers. 

We took the first steps towards limiting the effects of pay-to-play, with stronger bans just over the horizon.  In the fight to ban developer money from public elections, I am at the forefront, because I’ve seen first hand how developers buy favor in a municipality and wreak havoc on the quality of life there. 

We put strong penalties for corruption in place, including mandatory jail time, loss of pension, and possible civil action from the taxpayers who’ve been defrauded.

We ensured greater transparency and accountability, making our campaign account information accessible to voters via the Internet, and requiring greater financial disclosure from lawmakers.

We’ve pushed for greater transparency in the budget-crafting process, requiring legislators to stand by any specific budget earmarks or reductions they may advocate. Additionally, we’ve completely banned the wining and dining of public policy makers and their staff by lobbyists.

We’ve made significant progress to crack down on runaway benefits and pension abuse by elected and appointed officials.  A ban on dual office-holding, a landmark piece of legislation I sponsored, should be signed into law before we pass a budget this June.

I entered the legislature as a minority voice for change.  It hasn’t always been easy, but through pressure, and perseverance we are changing the tide of an entrenched political culture that took the public for granted for far too long.

As the new generation of leaders begins to take its place in the Legislature, and veterans of good government stick around, we’re developing the perfect storm for the sort of sweeping reforms that are needed, in Trenton as much as in our hometowns.

I welcome your input, Blue Jersey. I’ll be around a little later to respond to your comments and answer your questions.

Senator Ellen Karcher represents the 12th Legislative District, which includes parts of Monmouth and Mercer Counties.

LTE + Home News continuing to highlight difficulties for women in politics

After a second article and second editorial on March 30th from the Home News:

More power to women seeking office in N.J.

The impending retirement of 12 state senators – all but one of them male – presents a long-overdue opportunity for New Jersey’s political establishment and the voters to put more women in the Statehouse come this fall. May the parties and the electorate answer that call. New Jersey’s rough treatment of female political candidates in recent decades has become something of a national embarrassment…

Home News Tribune editor

They accepted my 2nd letter and didn’t even title it so badly this time. In the print edition, it appeared below a picture of Seema Singh and one of Ellen Karcher, and next to another supportive letter for Karcher, which taken to together seemed to form a comment in and of itself – that they are continuing to keep the issue front and center on the opinion page.

My letter:

Women have long way to go in N.J. politics

Thanks to the Home News Tribune for a second editorial on the abysmal numbers of women in politics in New Jersey. I agree that it’s an embarrassment and we are a century behind. In my home state of California, an impressive 36 percent of 53 Congress members are women. If New Jersey had the same proportion, we would have five women in Congress, instead of none. And while New Jersey has never sent a woman to the Senate, both of California’s senators are women.

I’m happy to see Seema Singh endorsed to run for state Senate in the 14th District, although she is running in a tough district while open seats in safe districts in Middlesex County are still filled by men, e.g. Assemblyman Peter J. Barnes III in the 18th District. I agree with state Sen. Ellen Karcher, D-Mercer, Monmouth, that New Jersey is progressive and diverse enough to elect more women. She says, “We are woefully behind . . . I don’t know what accounts for that.” I would blame the structure of the parties and their unwillingness to open up the process.

I am less optimistic [than you] about the 12 state Senate openings. Besides running women this year, like Seema Singh, I advocate reforming the political process. If Gov. Jon S. Corzine can get a ban on dual office-holding through the Legislature, we could see more future opportunities for women and minorities.

Aside from personally wishing the governor a speedy recovery, I’m less optimistic about the prospects for a dual office holding ban if Corzine doesn’t resume his duties in the next couple of months. 

I hope Codey is going to work with Corzine’s agenda and not get bogged down on these types of reforms, which have been notoriously tough for the the legislature to pass without delays and watering down the bills.

Better know a district- The Fightin’ Twelfth

The 12th Legislative District is cut across Central New Jersey, including a little of Mercer County but much more of Monmouth. Towns in the 12th are: Colts Neck Township, East Windsor Township, Englishtown, Fair Haven, Freehold Borough & Freehold Township, Hightstown, Little Silver, Manalapan Township, Marlboro Township, Millstone Township, Oceanport, Red Bank, Shrewsbury Borough & Township, and Tinton Falls.

Political Roundup

  • Opening up what could be a top target for Democrats, the 12th district’s Republican Assemblywoman Jennifer Beck will vacate her seat to run against incumbent Democratic Senator Ellen Karcher. Wally Edge says the matchup will be “one of the premier legislative contests” of 2007.
  • Rumor has it that ultra-conservative Assemblyman Guy Gregg will challenge senior Republican Senator Robert Littell in the 24th district’s GOP primary.
  • Long-time Menendez chief of staff Michael Hutton is starting his own lobbying shop.
  • The newly-minted RNC Communications Director, Lisa Camooso Miller, was once a special assistant to former Acting Governor Donald DiFrancesco.
  • And fresh off of nabbing a hit-and-run driver, Democrat Barbara Buono (LD-18) steered a successful resolution through the Senate that urges the federal government to protect Title IX in athletics.

The clock is ticking on the Senate Majority Leader et al

Rather than give the Democratic majority 6 months to establish marriage equality, the progressive community should give them 6 weeks.  As far as I am concerned, the clock is ticking on Trenton Democrats.

If marriage equality has not been established by Wednesday, December 6, and/or our State Senators or State Assemblypersons have not at the very least stood up and been counted as supporters of marriage equality by then, progressives need to begin shopping around for alternative representation.

I don’t know when the filing deadline is for the 2007 legislative primaries, but I do know that April 25 is definitely too late to begin launching primary challenges.

News Round-up and Open Thread for Tuesday, October 24

There’s a lot to report today, folks.

  • Environmental protection commissioner Lisa Jackson yesterday revealed plans to do a complete overhaul of Our Fair State’s $60 million cleanup program. Changes will include prioritizing the sites for cleanup, starting a licensing program for environmental consultants, and adopting programs with incentives for cleaning up sites quickly. The department is trying to fix the system after the high-profile closing of a daycare in Gloucester County which was located on contaminated soil.
  • Children and Families Commissioner Kevin Ryan reported to the Assembly Human Services Committee yesterday that new child welfare workers are getting their training but re-training existing workers is taking longer. Also, the number of kids in foster care who receive physical and psychological examinations has increased, but an overhaul of the health care system for foster children is needed and will be proposed.
  • As expected, the State Senate unanimously approved Associate Justice James Zazzali as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court yesterday, and Judge Helen Hoens was approved to fill the associate position.
  • State Senator Ellen Karcher’s bill to curb political contributions from redevelopment contractors and professionals has received bipartisan support. Even with such support the bill may not pass, because of other ethics reform legislation being proposed.
  • State Senator Stephen Sweeney has been under fire from labor groups about his proposal to cut the benefits and pay of unionized state workers. Sweeney met with the president of the AFL-CIO earlier this month and has been defending his proposals.
  • The Legislative ethics panel met yesterday, selecting Raymond Bramucci as chairman. The panel put off a decision to investigate Wayne Bryant and his “job” at UMDNJ, citing two ongoing criminal investigations by the US and State Attorneys’ General offices.
  • Rutgers announced yesterday the formation of the Rutgers Energy Institute, which will bring together all energy-focused projects under one banner. The Institute’s long-term goal is to help break American dependence on fossil fuels, particularly those from foreign sources.
  • Speaking of alternative power sources, more residents of Our Fair State favor the use of offshore wind power than oppose them, and even more are in favor if the turbines are further away. Woo-hoo!
  • Viola Thomas-Hughes is feeling little support in her run against Frank LoBiondo. Until last week, she had received no financial support, from Dem organizations in Gloucester and Cumberland counties. In the last week Cape May Democrats and Cumberland County Dem organization have donated, with the Gloucester County Dems promising some as well. Visit her site if you can help, too.
  • New Jersey is a tough place for military recruiters; only Connecticut and Rhode Island have lower recruiting percentages. Officials and researchers blame the lack of interaction between military folks and civilians in Our Fair State, while some recruiters directly blame the Iraq war.

Open Thread: What’s on your mind today, Blue Jersey?