Tag Archive: lobbying

Records Show Top Chris Christie Advisor Lobbied To Bring More Inmates To Troubled Halfway Houses

Promoted by Rosi. Originally posted on Firedoglake.

Viviana Tulli was murdered by an escaped halfway house inmate

One of the most confusing aspects of the halfway house scandal – where numerous inmates escaped  halfway houses and committed horrendous crimes – is why such violent individuals would ever be released to such a low security facility in the first place. Based on records obtained by Firedoglake under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act (OPRA) we may be closer to an answer.

Bill Palatucci, a major fundraiser and former business partner of Governor Chris Christie, has spent copious amounts of time lobbying New Jersey officials to bolster the halfway house system for his longtime client and subsequent employer Community Education Centers (CEC) that has financially benefited from increased use of the halfway house system. Records show Palatucci was CEC’s registered lobbyist while also becoming a vice president for business development.

Lobbying For CEC

In his role as a lobbyist for CEC, for which he was generally paid $45,000 a year, Palatucci approached officials in both the New Jersey State Legislature, State Agencies, and the Governor’s office to promote CEC’s interests:

* In 2007 Palatucci lobbied then Governor Jon Corzine as well as the New Jersey Department of Corrections for a public contract for CEC in relation to a recent court ruling that found that local ordinances prohibiting the treatment sex offenders in various communities were “arbitrary and capricious.” Presumably Palatucci lobbied to help expand the use of halfway houses and other CEC services now that a court had struck down laws that prevented sex offenders from being housed within certain limits of children.

* In 2008 Palatucci lobbied the new State Parole Board chair and staff with a “discussion of services.” He also lobbied Assemblyman Louis Greenwald regarding Assembly Bill 2800 which increased funding for halfway houses. Additionally, Palatucci paid a visit to New Jersey Department of Community Affairs to “advocate review” of halfway housing licensing laws on behalf of CEC.

* In 2009 Palatucci lobbied again for halfway house licensing from Department of Community Affairs as well as for favorably amending a contract between CEC and Department of Corrections. Palatucci also disclosed that he was promoting a bill to expand halfway houses in the state of New Jersey.

After Chris Christie became governor in 2010, with considerable help from Palatucci, CEC began using other lobbyists. Palatucci had already gone beyond lobbying with CEC becoming senior vice president and general counsel for public affairs, he would ultimately resign from those positions in the wake of the halfway house scandal in 2012.

More after the jump

One Week From Today: ACLU-NJ & Rep. Rush Holt Host Training for Marriage Equality Lobbying

Start off driving Maine to Washington D.C. or reverse that route, and every state you pass through on the East Coast route recognizes the right of gay people to marry. Except New Jersey.

Both gay and straight New Jerseyans have reason to change that. And one week from tonight, I know where you can get some very high-level lobbying training to do that:

Rep. Rush Holt – a longtime proponent of equal rights – will be on hand to talk about the most effective ways to talk to legislators; what works, and what works better. Also hosting this training: ACLU-NJ, Garden State Equality, and the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry.

ACLU-NJ’s Issue Forum and Lobby Training

Special Guest, Congressman Rush Holt

Tuesday, May 28: 7 – 9 p.m.

Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton

50 Cherry Hill Road, Princeton, NJ

RSVP online (Recommended but not required)

New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the only states left in the northeast without marriage equality. Pretty embarrassing. We’re on the wrong side of history. If you want to discuss that with NJ legislators, this is a great place to sharpen your skills to do it.  

Verizon: never stops working you over

Promoted by Rosi

This morning I got an email from New Jersey Citizen Action warning me about a change in the law that could dramatically increase my phone and cable services bill and my taxes. The email screamed, WE MUST STOP THE SENATE from passing the so called, “Market Competition and Consumer Choice Act” known as S2664/A3766!

Can you hear me now?Apparently the governor and our legislators, kowtowing to big corporate giants like Verizon, want to “deregulate.” That got my attention because we all know what happened when we deregulated the banks and Wall Street.

Politicians love to attack big government. But what about big business, which is corrupting our political system at the expense of the rest of us?

NJCA has been working hard to stop this bill from passing. It looks like you should too, especially if you, or your Mom, Dad, Grandfather or Grandmother are one of the 1.3 million residents who for decades use that phone on the kitchen wall and are on a fixed and low income. Their basic phone service is their only link to the outside world.

Without these lifelines, they can’t call a doctor in an emergency, the pharmacy or loved ones. S2664’s proponents want the public to believe that if a 75 year old grandmother loses this service or can no longer afford it because the rates have skyrocketed, the onus should be on her to shop the market-which likely doesn’t exist for this service-or pay a higher unaffordable rate that will require her to sacrifice other necessities like food, medicine, heat and/or electricity.

After the jump: How to get involved

Rush Holt on Wall Street Reform and the Consumer Protection Agency

Rush Holt spoke in favor of a strong consumer financial protection agency:

The issue is that the House version of the protection agency is stronger and better than the Senate version. On the other hand, in other areas, the Senate version is better. The committee that will reconcile the two versions can make the bill much stronger or much weaker.  Wall Street is gearing up to make sure it’s weaker:

“There’s no substitute for old-fashioned gumshoe lobbying,” Scott Talbott, a senior executive with the lobbying group, told The New York Times. “The staff here knows it. We offer to resole their shoes when they wear them out.” …

The senators named to the conference committee have received a more than $57 million in total during the course of their careers from the finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector, according to information from the Sunlight Foundation.

Holt is right, the conference committee members must strengthen reforms after Wall Street lead us into a disaster not seen in generations. Democrats need to be firm because Republicans are not going to play a helpful role.

Overall spending on lobbying up 1.3%, but benefits to state officials down 56%

ELEC released their summary of 2009 lobbying efforts today, which showed that total lobbyist spending was up about 1.3% last year to $56,390,613. In the same time period, the report showed a 56% drop in the in benefits lobbyists gave to state legislators  Here are some other numbers of interest:

  • The average number of lobbyists fell 4%

  • The number of clients fell 5.2% marking a second year of declines.

  • We saw a 56% decrease in total spending on benefits to state officials. This follows on a 29% decline last year and 30% decline the year before.
  • Communications for lobbying firms saw 53% increase, while all other categories saw a decrease.
  • You can view ELEC’s full annual report summaries here. Many of the benefits to state officials were meals. The increase in communications spending was driven by television advertisements during the gubernatorial campaign from NJ Progress and the Mid-Atlantic Leadership Fund.

    “The recent increase in communications expenses reflects the changing nature of the lobbying business. It has become more multi-dimensional since the State’s original lobbying law was enacted in 1964. This is partly as a result of the growth in government,” Brindle said.

    They also mentioned the increase in grassroots efforts to help mobilize the public for or against issues. It’s been said many times that sunlight is the best disinfectant and the decrease in spending on state officials would indicate they are beginning to get the message. But the report continues to sohw that private groups and organizations often have the ability to raise and spend more than individuals getting them more access and attention. This trend will be necessary to watch given the recent Citizens United decision to see whether it or subsequent rulings eventually have an impact on state lobbying efforts.

    $3.87 million spent on lobbying by public entities

    Public Entities have been very busy with their lobbying according to a report released by the State Comptroller:

    Public entities paid at least $3.87 million in total to outside lobbying firms to lobby state government during the last legislative session (2006-2007). Nearly half of that money – $1.8 million – was spent by public authorities and commissions. Those figures may not reflect the totality of public lobbying expenses. The dollar amounts come from the 74 public entities identified in client lists filed by lobbying firms with ELEC. It is possible that some lobbying firms concluded on the basis of a 2006 ELEC Advisory Opinion that they were permitted to omit mention of their government clients.

    The OSC report lists the seven government entities that reported spending more than $100,000 on lobbying firms during the time period under review. Three of the public entities in the top four hired multiple firms.

    You can view the full report here. Senator Weinberg poses a good question:

    “According to the Comptroller’s report, most of the spending goes toward lobbying the Assembly and Senate on pending legislation,” Sen. Weinberg said. “This begs the question: Why are they spending the public’s money to lobby lawmakers when they should have access to them free of charge?”

    I think that’s part of what infuriates the taxpayer so much. In general, I don’t have a problem with people or organizations lobbying on behalf of issues. In fact, I think a good balance can provide legislators with a more complete picture of complicated issues. Whether the amount of lobbying done is truly necessary is another story. Either way, the public does have a right to know exactly what is being done, especially since it’s their money being spent. And when they do spend the money, the Comptroller wants to know why public entities aren’t held to at least the same standard:

    “It makes no sense to permit public entities not to disclose information that private companies are required to provide about the hiring of lobbying firms,” State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said. “Given that we’re talking about a use of taxpayer dollars that some would deem controversial, public entities should in fact be held to a higher standard of transparency than private companies.”

    It does seem kind of backwards to require more from the private companies than you do from public entities.  And the way our state is set up, there are far to many public entities that aren’t required to provide information. The report recommends that New Jersey tighten disclosure rules and consider a ban on such spending.  Senator Weinberg is drafting legislation to implement the latest recommendations, but already has some changes pendig:

    Weinberg is the sponsor of a bill (S-115) that would amend current state law to require that lobbyists disclose how much money they receive from a state or local government entity when they’re hired for the purpose of influencing governmental processes. The bill would also require that amount to be reported on the notice of representation form lobbyists are currently required to file with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC).

    I’m with the Comptroller and Senator Weinberg on this one. it makes no sense. It makes no sense and needs to change.

    Lobbyists finding life more difficult during Corzine Era

    An article in NJBiz (which is behind a firewall) talks about how life is harder for lobbyists in Trenton working with the Corzine Administration.

    “Under the Corzine administration, the ‘throw-me-a-friggin’-bone’ line of lobbying doesn’t work,” one lobbyist half-jokingly remarks.

    While I know that the lobbyist is joking, the article does make it seem like the hurdles for access weren’t very challenging to navigate in past administrations…

    “It’s no longer a schmooze,” adds Murphy, whose clients include the Borgata Hotel Casinos & Spa, LabCorp and Garden State Equality. “People who are advocating on behalf of clients and industries need to be better prepared to address the issues, because analysts [in the governor’s office] are perhaps more sophisticated than they have been in the past.”

    Imagine that, you have to be prepared to answer questions about the issues you are supporting.  What a novel concept.  In all seriousness, this represents an enormous change limiting the access that lobbyists have to the administration and raising the bar for what passes the smell test…

    “There are a lot of new people in the administration that are not from Trenton, and they don’t start out with preconceived notions or prior relationships,” says Dale Florio, partner at Princeton Partners, who clients include Merck & Co., Miller Brewing and NBC Universal. So [every lobbyist] that has been around is starting from scratch in terms of everyone else. That’s why information is power. You have to have a good story and you have to tell it well.”

    The article is definitely worth a read and as a taxpayer, it’s good to see that people are at least going to have to make their case before they can get my money. 

    Building Our Progressive Policy Infrastructure

    Someone recently wrote that rather than feed the campaign warchest of new Congressional Democratic incumbents, many rightwing K Street lobbies will roll up their carpets and head for the state capitals. Matt Singer points out a Forbes magazine op-ed suggesting that the real policy deals of the next two years will be made in the statehouses. While it may be good for Washington, it means that we have to be ever more vigilant in places like Trenton.

    The think tank Progressive States Network is a good resource for policy and to learn about what other states are doing. They recently launched their ‘Building a Progressive Majority in the States’ Agenda. They’re also building a list of state bloggers to reach out to them and gain feedback about their issues of interest.

    I’ve received their Stateside Dispatch since last winter, and New Jersey is sometimes mentioned. Maybe if more interested NJ people sign up, our state will get more attention? Having a national progressive think tank keeping our state’s issues in mind couldn’t hurt.