Tag Archive: PolitickerNJ

PolitickerNJ has No Bias At All

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Folks over at PolitickerNJ have regularly denied having a political bias, and they may not be aware of it.  However, often it is quite clear.  Here’s a wonderful example.

A Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind poll asked both Democrats and Republicans what they thought of potential Democratic and Republican wannabes for Governor:  

Eagleton’s Morning After – Watch the video

Hours after each primary and general election, Rutgers’ Eagleton Institute of Politics hosts a great “Morning After” discussion in the beautiful white mansion on the New Brunswick campus that serves as Eagleton’s HQ. If you’ve never been to one, those seats get filled fast by reservation, and the discussion is always meaty for political nerds. This morning’s talk, hosted by Eagleton’s John Weingart, is, I believe, only the second one Eagleton’s ever streamed. Great that they do that, and great that they make embeddable video available just seconds after. Thank you, Eagleton.

Quote of the Day – Fulop on Christie: “Dick move”

There’s a lot in New Yorker reckoning of Gov. Christie by Ryan Lizza; dagger looks from Christie to comedians lampooning him 3 feet away, the chill between the Gov and his old mentor Gov. Kean, Christie’s Israel bumble with Sheldon Adelson like Adelson’s sycophants aren’t expected to bumble, and a recitation for New Yorker’s audience of the stuff in our Christie memory bank. His temerity as a young overconfident Republican (well-told by Richard Merkt). Cozying up to Bush. And Joe D. Leaking like a sieve to “Wally Edge” at PolitickerNJ (then called PoliticsNJ). Making a deal with Solomon Dwek, working him for his own political games. Playing gotcha with Menendez. Failing. Cozying up with Norcross and working his stable. The news – news to me, anyway – that Norcross used a young Rahm Emanuel for oppo research. The deal sold as bipartisanship (but was really just 3 of the worst people in NJ politics joining up) which only happened because Christie failed to indict Norcross in 2005.  How Sandy saved his bacon.

But one of the most telling quotes comes from one of the guys who wants Christie’s job when he’s done with it: Steve Fulop, on how Christie officials dropped meetings with him – right after Fulop decided not to endorse Christie:

“Yes, it’s political retribution. And it’s amateur and immature. But if I saw any indication that they were penalizing the city on something, that would’ve been a different animal. It’s a dick move, but it is what it is.”

Get ready for a new way Gov. Christie tries to control “town halls” – police intimidation

Screen shot 2014-03-18 at 1.28.35 PM

This is new. With Gov. Christie’s protesters no longer reliably staying outside his “town halls” he’s got the police snapping pictures of people who speak out against the governor – at a public event. This is a new level of intimidation.

PolitickerNJ reporter Matthew Arco is reporting that a main dressed in plainclothes who later identified himself as a member of the NJ State Police, was seen taking photos of protesters at this morning’s Christie “town hall” in South River:

“The man snapped pictures of the protesters as they stood up and shouted at the governor and also took pictures of the hecklers as they walked past him on their way out of the event.”

Christie’s next “town hall” is:

DATE: Thursday, March 20th

WHEN: 10:30am Doors open at 9am

WHERE: St. Magdalen de Pazzi, 105 Mine Street, Flemington

RSVP: TownHall.Hunterdon@gov.state.nj.us

More, plus video – below the fold. Photo is not via police, but tweeted by Tony Aiello, CBS New York.

New info & new questions raised by the release of unredacted GWB emails

The Record has unredacted emails between Christie Port Authority operative David Wildstein and Christie Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly will leave some people questioning whether there is a culture of anti-Semitism in the Christie inner circle. Or at the very least, whether Wildstein and Kelly are anti-Semitic in addition to conniving and destructive. The emails include jokes about deliberately making life inconvenient for a New Jersey rabbi from Middlesex County associated with the Port Authority. There are also discussions between Wildstein and his boss Bill Baroni strategizing about how to keep Sen. Loretta Weinberg and Asm John Wisniewski from asking questions at a Port Authority Commissioners meeting. The two are now the co-chairs of the NJ Legislature’s joint investigation of the Bridgegate events.

Link to the emails, Wildstein and Kelly’s questionable conversation, and Baroni and Wildstein strategize how to keep Loretta Weinberg and John Wisniewski from asking questions – all on the jump page.

Wildstein says Chris Christie Knew

Via New York Times, Kate Zernike reporting:

The former Port Authority official who personally oversaw the lane closings on the George Washington Bridge in the scandal now swirling around Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said on Friday that the governor knew about the lane closings when they were happening, and that he had the evidence to prove it.

We knew PolitickerNJ’s founder – who witnessed and reported Christie’s rise as the site’s shielded-identity “Wally Edge” without ever disclosing he was a near lifelong friend of Christie’s – had a story to tell when his lawyer hinted he’d talk if he got immunity from prosecution. And now Wildstein, through his lawyer, calls the sudden GWB lane closure and traffic chaos “the Christie administration’s order”.  Read the letter from Wildstein lawyer Alan Zegas. Quoting:

“Mr. Wildstein contests the accuracy of various statements that the governor made about him and he can prove the inaccuracy of some.”

This would seem to directly contradict what Christie said – strenuously – in his 2-hour press conference January 9th, after emails came to light tying the order to shut the lanes right into his own office. From the transcript:

“So what I can tell you is if people find that hard to believe, I don’t know what else to say except to tell them that I had no knowledge of this — of the planning, the execution or anything about it — and that I first found out about it after it was over.”

If Wildstein’s story bears out, Gov. Christie’s situation becomes much more serious. Wildstein, who Christie tried to distance himself from by implying he hardly knew him, may indeed have been in a position to know the depth of Christie’s involvement.

Remember, it raised questions in many people’s minds, certainly in ours, when Christie repeatedly tried to ridicule press questions about how and why the lanes came to be closed, even sarcastically replying to the question of his involvement with a sarcastic ‘joke’ that yes, he was “working the cones” himself. For a governor who carefully built his brand around full control, he showed zero curiosity about what happened, insisting over and over his office was clean and so was he. When good journalism tracked the order above the disgraced Wildstein and right to his trusted Deputy Chief of Staff, Christie called her a “liar” and said he was shocked that Bridget Kelly “betrayed” him, talking about her like some rogue agent, one whose actions (after long service carrying out his orders) suddenly had nothing to do with him.

But if Wildstein can prove what he says – that Christie knew while it was happening, the next question may be whether Christie was a participant in ordering the lanes suddenly closed. Bridget Kelly may have a story to tell, too.

Today’s news only goes so far in the question of, What did he know and when did he know it? Let the investigations proceed until the public knows everything it deserves to know.

GOP perks up and shows interest in the GWB documents

Assembly Republican Whip Scott Rumana complained today that John Wisniewski is doing a ‘disservice to the process’ by not handing over documents he subpoenaed as chair of the Assembly Transportation committee. The Republicans are getting the docs, but tomorrow, a day before a hearing to which David Wildstein has been summoned to testify. Wisniewski has already said the documents – which came redacted and incomplete according to Wisniewski – indicate the order to close the lanes came from outside Port Authority.

It is the most interest the GOP has shown since investigations began. And it’s more interest in government transparency than you usually hear them call for. The Republican response has generally varied between indifference to ridicule. Gov. Christie set the tone with  lame jokes about traffic cones to questions about the 5-day traffic standstill in Fort Lee and sudden lane closures Port Authority chief Pat Foye says probably broke state and federal law.

I reached out to Tom Hester in the Assembly Majority office to see what the Democrats had to say. His reply is below Scott Rumana’s. Rumana:

“Allowing Republican committee members less than 24 hours to review more than 900 pages of information is a disservice to the bipartisan committee process.  Chairman Wisniewski’s attempts to politicize the sharing of this information are offensive to the citizens of New Jersey.  As chairman, he should be impartial and provide committee members, regardless of their political affiliation, a reasonable opportunity to view the documents he has had access to for weeks.  Giving us a few hours to examine the documents certainly calls into question the fairness of the process.”

Hester:

The documents are still being reviewed in totality and the Republicans will certainly get them with enough time to review before Thursday’s hearing. It’s also a shame Asm. Rumana doesn’t have as much outrage about what happened about these lane closings as he does in his press releases.

 

Wildstein & Baroni lawyer up. And Wisniewski says No to subpoena extension for Baroni.

UPDATE: Wisniewski has extended a subpoena deadline for Wildstein and Baroni, not to the Jan. 9 date Baroni’s lawyer requested. They have until Monday to produce subpoenaed documents.

Via Wall Street Journal, David Wildstein and Bill Baroni have lawyered-up. And a three-week extension to produce subpoenaed documents, sought by Baroni’s new lawyer, was turned down today by John Wisniewski, who chairs the Assembly Transportation Committee which issued the subpoenas as part of its ongoing investigation.

The subpoena deadline is tomorrow. It covers emails and other correspondence between several officials at Port Authority, including Wildstein and Baroni, who have both “resigned” as the investigation deepens, PA ED Patrick Foye and others.

Wildstein hired Alan L. Zegas, a criminal lawyer who defended Sharpe James in federal corruption charges brought by Chris Christie when he was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Baroni hired Michael Himmel, an attorney who specializes in white collar crime.

Baroni and Wildstein are close associates of Gov. Chris Christie, and investigations include questions about any involvement the Christie administration may have had.

Wildstein is a friend of Gov. Christie dating back to school days. He is the person identified by WSJ to have ordered the lane closures that caused traffic chaos in Fort Lee for 5 days. Robert Durando, GWB’s general manager for 11 years, told the panel Wildstein ordered him not to tip off anyone in Fort Lee about what was happening. That only added to speculation that action may have been political payback from Christie’s high-level placements at Port Authority, to “punish” Fort Lee’s Democratic mayor for refusing to endorse Christie when he was asked to two weeks earlier.

Wildstein was hired by Bill Baroni, without any clear academic or previous work history qualifications, for an executive position with no job description created for him at a $150k salary. Wildstein A/K/A “Wally Edge” was the founder of PolitickerNJ. Bill Baroni, Christie’s top political appointee, was Deputy Executive Director at Port Authority at a salary of nearly $300k. Baroni’s testimony before Assembly Transportation, backing Wildstein and the scenario of a “traffic study” was directly contradicted several days later by Port Authority officials including Executive Director Patrick Foye, who said there was no traffic study and state and federal law was likely broken.

We learned yesterday that the investigation may broaden to include inquiries in the U.S. Senate and by the U.S. Secretary of Transportation.  

Bill Baroni the 2nd Christie ally to fall on his sword – as GWB investigation deepens

Bill Baroni, former NJ state senator, David Wildstein’s boss and Gov. Christie’s highest-level political appointee at the bi-state Port Authority, has resigned. The second of Christie’s men to fall on his sword, with David Wildstein – founder of PolitickerNJ as the anonymous “Wally Edge” who chronicled Christie’s glorious rise to power without any disclosure I’m aware of of their lifelong friendship – off the PA payroll as of today.

UPDATE:

Christie has just finished a press conference during which most questions revolved around today’s news that Baroni is the latest Christie-connected official out at the Authority. His resignation is effective immediately. Christie’s answers appeared mainly to deal with damage control in the deepening investigation – pursued now by state and national press, legislative subpoena and PA internal investigation – of the sudden, inexplicable September closure of most local lanes in Fort Lee off the GWB, just two weeks after the Fort Lee Democratic mayor was asked to endorse Christie’s re-election and refused to do so. Christie categorically denied any involvement in any political machinations in the lane closures to Fort Lee. It was reported yesterday that Christie phoned Gov. Cuomo and requested he order the internal investigation be pulled back, because Foye was too aggressive. Christie denies asking Cuomo to get Foye to pull back. Cuomo has not yet commented.

Christie presented a scenario that seemed to rely on Baroni’s insistence that a traffic study was the cause for the closures – and not the use of the busiest bridge in the world as some kind of instrument of political retribution and gamesmanship. And that some kind of “mistake” was made, and not a deliberate attempt by political appointees answerable to him to trade motorist and first responder safety for payback against the Fort Lee mayor:

“The fact is that Senator Baroni said when he testified that a mistake was made. They believe that the study needed to be done but they didn’t do it correctly within the protocols of the Port Authority.”

Baroni’s “traffic study” explanation also does not jibe with the way traffic studies have been conducted at GWB in the past, nor what other engineers have said is standard operating procedure. GWB officials at Port Authority testified Monday that Wildstein ordered that nobody – including Fort Lee, motorists, the NY officials, Foye or first responders – be notified about the closures.

Christie tried to put distance between Baroni’s resignation – which came after Democrats called for his ouster – and the investigations. Baroni’s testimony before an Assembly panel Nov. 25 did not go well for him, and the testimony of PA ED Patrick Foye on Monday appeared to contradict Baroni’s statement that the lanes were closed for a traffic study. On Monday Foye testified under oath that he did not believe the explanation Baroni had given the panel. Baroni was paid $289,667 by the Port Authority in 2012. Christie said today he does believe Baroni’s traffic study explanation, saying “I don’t think Sen. Baroni would not tell the truth.”

Document evidence of any “traffic study” has not yet materialized. This week, Assembly Transportation Chair John Wisnieski issued subpoenas for documents to be produced by seven people – including Foye, Baroni and Wildstein.

The governor announced Deborah Gramiccioni will be stepping into Baroni’s position as Deputy Executive Director. Wall Street Journal’s Heather Haddon reports that Gramiccioni is from Livingston, where both Christie and Wildstein are also from.

Christie appeared to relax a little when he got questions from reporters about baseball or football. He didn’t get many of those.  

Marsha & Louise: #1 on PolitickerNJ’s 2013 Power List

Marsha Shapiro & Louise Walpin

Marsha Shapiro and Louise Walpin got the #1 spot in PolitickerNJ’s annual Power List this morning. It’s the slot typically reserved by them for people who represent “something symbolic and iconic about politics in the state right now”. It’s a dead-on choice they made; they’re game-changers. For one thing, NJ marriage equality represents a huge victory over the self-serving politics of Chris Christie in a year he slam-dunked most of his shots. Marsha & Louise are the faces of change years in the making, on the work of names you know but also the labors of many more whose names you’ll never know.

One of the reasons I’m so happy about this is that Marsha & Louise are my friends. I was a guest at their midnight wedding, an extraordinary night at the home of Sen. Ray Lesniak and Salena Carroll. Sen. Loretta Weinberg gave the brides away. Steven Goldstein, former GSE Chair, said the blessing. My love, Joey Novick, held the chuppah and gave the toast. And in the photo above, my friends are both wearing wedding rings from my family, their “something borrowed”.

Marsha and Louise, in many ways, are unlikely movement heroes. They’re hardworking, everyday people who were simply trying to do the best for their family, but they took on their role as leaders with extraordinary grace. They speak their mind.

Behind these women, many others. Children Melissa, Jesse and Scott, daughter-in-law Jacklyn and their grand-daughter. And their late son, Aaron; getting him the medical care he deserved was a defining moment in the family they became, and made clear the importance of having their family recognized for what it is. The legal team behind NJ marriage equality’s victory; Hayley Gorenberg (Lambda Legal), Larry Lustberg (Gibbons PC), and all their co-plaintiffs whose victory this also is. Louise’s employer, Childrens Specialized Hospital – particularly CEO Amy Mansue – were a source of support. And as a board member of Garden State Equality, I know they’d both want Steven particularly recognized, and every person who ever called a legislator or flooded the State House with their sheer numbers. And I’d add in NJ United for Marriage, who came on strong, and well-funded at the end. Its leader Mike Premo now heads to Ohio to lead the marriage movement there.

Congratulations, Marsha & Louise. Married ladies now.