Tag Archive: ethics

A Modest Proposal

The Slippery Slope

Most things in life are not black and white, but rather somewhere on a spectrum between these two extremes. This is exemplified by ethics in politics – a phrase that many would consider oxymoronic.

Our system of campaign financing and political influence inherently presents ethical challenges even to the most morally straight candidate or official. It’s a slippery slope for an official from accepting an award to ending up in jail.

Most politicians try to act ethically. They don’t accept gifts or favors at all. But for far too many, the lure of travel, meals, and football box seats is too tempting to refuse. While most stay precariously at the top of that slippery slope, our governor has slid down it into the bowels of self-enrichment. But how do other elected officials handle this?

So the King of Jordan is also a personal friend

When you’re Chris Christie, anyone with money is a close personal friend

Letting the king pay for his three-day weekend in Jordan back in 2012 would not have been allowed if Mr. Christie were, say, president or a United States senator; it is illegal for federal employees to accept gifts of more than nominal value from agents of foreign governments. An executive order Mr. Christie signed in 2010 allows New Jersey governors to have travel and related expenses paid by foreign governments; it does not specifically address gifts such as the parties the king held for him, but the governor’s staff said it was covered under a provision that allowed gifts from personal friends.

No word on hugs.  

Gov. Chris Christie’s questionable football-loving, owner’s box-sitting ethics

Today, a new era of accountability and transparency is here.

                            Gov. Chris Christie, Inaugural Address 1/19/10

So, that’s a lot of bull. And so we have the events of today:

10:37am: David Sirota posts a piece raising ethics questions in Chris Christie, who as governor has forked over huge subsidies to the NFL, getting luxury seating with his family in the Dallas Cowboys owner’s box  

12:15pm: American Bridge files an OPRA request looking for travel, lodging and security expenses for that trip.

2:51pm: Christie’s office comes across with some of that info – that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones flew Christie and fam on a private plane and picked up the ticket costs (taxpayers on the hook for the security). Reported by Matt Arco.

That doesn’t really settle everything, does it?  

Dudley Burdge Cleared of Wrong Doing, and The Ethics Commission Admits Samson Investigation

Earlier, a crowd of mostly-CWA members listened as the State Ethics Commission threw out the case against Dudley Burdge.

Here is a clip of CWA’s Hetty Rosenstein explaining why Burge was being investigated, and the hypocrisy of focusing on a union rep who was doing his job as opposed to one of the many scandals endemic to the Christie Administration.

Following the rally outside the commission, CWA members and other supporters of Dudley Burdge came inside the hearing to show our support. While inside, several people, including Hetty Rosenstein and Working Families Alliance’s Analilia Meija asked commissioners when we were goiing to know about their investigation of David Samson. They promptly went into close session.  The video of the crowd leaving the hearing can be found Here

Earlier this week,

The Star Ledger pointed out the hypocrisy behind the 5 year investigation into Dudley Burdge. To quote them at length,

It now appears that this Tuesday, instead of examining NJWF’s accusations against Samson other Christie cronies, the Ethics Commission plans to review a ridiculous five year old case against a union representative, Dudley Burdge, for the “unethical” behavior of making a phone call to investigate potential identity theft. Earlier this year, Burdge had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge – who found the complaint had no merit and dismissed it.

When the commission reconvened its public session, they announced they were siding with common sense (and an administrative judge’s previous ruling) and dropping all accusations. The crowd stayed to continue to pressure the ethics board. Finally, after back and forth with CWA and WFA members, the board announced that they are indeed investigating Samson, but that they would not reveal the docket number or investigator assigned to him.  

Calling on State Ethics Commission To Drop Charges Against CWA Rep For Making A Phone Call

(Trenton, NJ)  Tomorrow morning – Tuesday, April 22nd – The Communications Workers of America and other interested parties will be staging a rally outside the State Ethics Commission (SEC) meeting at 9:30 am.  The purpose is to protest the Christie Administration’s ridiculous charges against CWA Union Representative Dudley Burdge.

In February 2009, Dudley Burdge – a CWA Union Representative appointed to the State Health Benefits Commission – received questions from public workers who had received an unannounced and ambiguous mailing from a private, out-of-state company asking for personal information as part of an audit related to their health benefits coverage. Employees were rightfully concerned about a suspicious solicitation of social security numbers, dates of birth for dependents, as well as copies of marriage and birth certificates.  The decision to conduct such an audit had not been discussed with members of the State Health Benefits Commission, and Burdge was concerned about its authenticity.  Following-up on employees’ legitimate privacy concerns, Burdge called the company via a telephone number provided on the letter. He identified himself as a Commissioner and sought to obtain information about the audit.

A month after Christie won election as governor, the State made a formal referral to the SEC.   The State filed formal ethics charges against Burdge in July 2011 for making his simple phone call to ask a legitimate question over two years earlier. Another charge was later withdrawn after it was clear that it had no merit, but the State refused to drop the charge related to that phone call.  Earlier this year, Burdge had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge – who found the complaint had no merit and dismissed it. However, SEC lawyers have incredulously continued to pursue this case by filing exceptions to the Administrative Law Judge’s decision, which places the case before the same agency that brought the charges.

“The charges against Dudley Burdge are bogus and should be dropped. Dudley simply made a phone call…he didn’t shut down a bridge,” said Hetty Rosenstein, CWA NJ Director. “The State Ethics Commission is supposed to protect the public from people like David Samson, who abused his position at the Port Authority to fill his law firm’s coffers with millions of taxpayer dollars. The SEC shouldn’t be wasting its time, as well as the taxpayer’s money, persecuting innocent people like Dudley Burdge.”

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2013

State Ethics Commission

28 West State Street

Trenton, NJ

9:30 AM

Compare Burdge’s persecution with the ethics charges rightfully filed against David Samson. Samson is a well-connected Christie appointee who used his Port Authority Chairmanship to fill his law firm’s coffers. Samson recently resigned in disgrace.

·      In total, Samson’s firm – Wolf Samson – has received nearly $5 million in government contracts since Christie became governor.

·      Wolf Samson’s lobbying profits exploded from a mere $40,000 before Samson was appointed Chairman of the Port Authority to $1 million per year after.

·      Samson lobbied for $2.8 billion in bridge contracts to a company represented by his law firm. He failed to recuse himself from neither discussions nor the vote.

·      Samson championed the Port Authority takeover of the Atlantic City Airport – even thought Wolf Samson served as bond counsel for the South Jersey Transportation Authority, which ran the airport. Even though he recused himself from the vote, Samson still let his feelings on the matter be known, both publicly and to fellow commissioners.

·      NJ Transit paid Wolf Samson $1.5 million to advise on ways to generate more revenue from its parking facilities.  During this time, Samson’s Port Authority voted to lease a park-and-ride lot to NJ Transit for $1.

·      Samson voted to award a $7.5 million One World Trade Center rebuilding contract to a company partly-owned by a Wolf Samson client.

·      Samson voted to spend $256 in taxpayer dollars to re-construct a PATH station in Harrison – which could potentially increase the value of nearby development for a Wolf Samson client.

·      David Samson recently resigned in disgrace…but only after making millions of dollars for his law firm via his position at the Port Authority.

Common sense dictates that the SEC should drop their charges against Dudley Burge and focus on important investigations – such as digging into how David Samson abused his position to line his law partners’ pockets at taxpayer expense.

Budge doesn’t have the benefit of a 600 dollar an hour taxpayer funded lawyer. Still this incident should rile taxpayers up, for having to foot the bill for a four-year investigation into nothing.  And tomorrow, these bogus charges against Burdge should be dropped.

NJ Working Families calls for grassroots effort to keep the NJ State Ethics Commission “ethical”

NJ Working Families is inviting you to show up with them Tuesday at the NJ Ethics Commission to tell them to focus on ethics issues arising from the interrelated Christie administration scandals. The group filed a complaint last month against David Samson, whose law firm and clients benefitted enormously from the time the Christie confidante was given the job of Port Authority chair, which he’s since resigned. They complain the Ethics panel will instead address a 5 year old case against a union rep, Dudley Burdge; persecution of union workers, they say, instead of tackling the corruption at the top.

What: Demonstration at State Ethics Commission

Where: 28 West State Street, Trenton

When: Tuesday, April 22nd at 9:30am


Rob Andrews confirms: Resigning from Congress Feb. 18

Rep. Rob Andrews announces he's leaving CongressRep. Rob Andrews, 23-year member of the House of Representatives and South Jersey’s senior congressman, is resigning from Congress effective February 18th. Andrews is in the middle of his 12th term. He announced a few minutes ago that he will be heading up the D.C. office of Dilworth Paxson LLP (read: become a lobbyist). Interestingly, the firm’s website trumpets its role in the purchase of the Philly Inquirer and other media holdings to George Norcross’ company.

Andrews has been the subject of an ongoing House Ethics Committee investigation of improper use of campaign funds for Andrews’ personal use. The probe began after reports that Andrews was using campaign funds for trips to California, where his daughter was trying to start up a singing career.

Andrews’ departure will end that inquiry.

Word is that South Jersey and labor leaders will now rally around Donald Norcross to fill the seat in the reliably Dem CD. Norcross is expected to issue a statement later today.

Donald Norcross has had something of a charmed life in New Jersey politics. If he snags a United States Congress seat from here, it will be after only 4 years in elective office in the NJ legislature. And that career began, and and is defined by, getting appointed to seats and special circumstances that virtually guaranteed his success. Norcross, also a labor leader, is very much the beneficiary of his brother’s power.

Norcross and running mate Angel Fuentes were elected to the Assembly in 2009 after Democratic incumbents Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Joe Roberts both retired. Roberts was re-nominated in the primary, but announced that he would not seek re-election in September 2009, allowing his party to pick a ballot replacement: Norcross. He served only one week in the Assembly before being selected to replace Dana Redd in the NJ Senate. All very smooth, involving cogs in the Norcross machine clicking into place and essentially thwarting the Democratic process the voters of South Jersey should be able to exercise if it wasn’t already all done done for them.

Photo credit: @WireNewspapers

Rob Andrews & Bob Menendez on CREW’s List: Most Corrupt Members of Congress

Watchdog group CREW – Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington – today named two members of New Jersey’s congressional delegation to their annual list of the Most Corrupt Members of Congress 2013; Rep. Rob Andrews and Sen. Bob Menendez.

Only four Dems are on the list; Menendez and Andrews are half (the other two are from NY). New Jersey’s 15% of the list. Only other senator? Mitch McConnell. Both are under investigation; Andrews by the House Ethics Committee, and Menendez by Senate Ethics. CREW was instrumental at pointing the finger at both, so it should surprise nobody they’re trumpeting their own work.

robert_menendez_new_jersey_corruptionBob Menendez: It was CREW that sent documents to the FBI and DOJ. The suspicion about Menendez’ dealings in the Domincan Republic was sexed up by allegations that he cavorted with underage prostitutes, an anonymous charge that is  likely a right-wing fabrication and smear job. But Menendez has had a harder time offloading suspicion that he used his position to benefit longtime friend Dr. Solomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor who has donated to Menendez for years.

rob_andrews_new_jersey_corruptionRob Andrews: CREW says this:

Donors to Rep. Rob Andrews’ campaigns likely have no idea that the congressman is treating his campaign account like a personal piggy bank.

With Andrews, it’s about alleged misspending of campaign funds on personal luxury expenses; a family trip to Scotland, airline travel to L.A. for himself and his daughter, who wants a career in show business, and a graduation party for another daughter. One thing new to me was Andrews earmarking more than $1.5M for Rutgers Law School, his wife’s employer (you remember Camille Andrews).

CREW’s got a page on each lawmaker on their list. This is what they say about Menendez. Here’s the page on Andrews.


You are Paying for the Christie Re-Election Campaign

I’m not an election lawyer, but I suspect it’s illegal to use state resources for an election campaign. If it’s not illegal, it sure is unethical. But that’s the word to describe Chris Christie.

On yesterday’s NJTV newscast (start at 4:59), Christie used the State House venue for his re-election bid. Note the Christie campaign logo on the podium, not the official Seal of the Governor. He used the event to tout an endorsement (not a policy) by parading Reverend Jackson in the State House to promote ties to the education-industrial complex.

Christie is within his rights to use Reverend Jackson for his re-election. He has no right to do this in the State House or on any state property.

I guess the guy who uses a State Police helicopter to attend his kid’s baseball game has no problem using more of my money for his own self-promotion. But I’d love to see someone file an ethics complaint.