Well, in the New York Times yesterday, the editorial compares our very own Boss Joe to the Boss Tweed of yesteryear. The only difference is the scenery.
Bet Boss Joe is gonna hate this. He hates to be called a Boss, you know. But that is exactly what he is. And his minions – like Lynne Hurwitz certainly owe him everything.
And so I pulled out a little ode to our Boss Joe that I wrote a while ago:
The recent article in the newspapers where Joe Ferriero had a sit down like Dick Cheney has sometimes with Tim Russert really cracked me up. The Chairman has a lot of problems with the Boss title.
Oh, but he has earned it. Why deprive the man of the honor of elevating Pay to Play to an art not even dreamed of in Tammany Hall?
I was watching the History channel when the story of Boss Tweed was on. I was struck by just how similar these stories are. Tweed had begun as a humble civil servant – a volunteer firefighter but soon realized his inner politician and capitalized on it in a big way.
I thought as a fun little thought experiment I would compare the two men and their legacy:
Tweed: initially a volunteer firefighter
Joe: the son of a firefighter.
Tweed: Progressed from alderman in New York city in 1851 and to NY State Senator.
Joe: Dumont Councilman at age 20 – failed in run for Assembly – but liked the behind-the-scenes action much better and became Chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization at the age of 45.
Tweed: In 1868 he handpicked a slate including Governor of NY and Mayor of NYC
Joe: Handpicks ALL candidates down AND UP the ticket. He is a Kingmaker in NJ politics.
Tweed: took kickbacks from contractors after awarding them contracts. Allowed them to overcharge for services and the City footed the bill.
Joe: Is publicly in favor of Pay to Play where contributors to the Bergen County Democratic Organization are often granted no bid contracts for bond work, insurance, engineering, construction, and borough Attorney. He calls Pay-to-Play Free Speech.
Schoor DePalma, a Monmouth County engineering firm, gave $10,000 to the BCDO and $1,000 to Democrats Council candidates in Rutherford in 1999. Barely a year later, Schoor DePalma became borough engineer in Rutherford AND Ridgefield after Dems won election there too. That $11,000 investment netted them $771,857 from Rutherford and Ridgefield. It worked so well – Schoor DePalma has donated $100,000 to local and county Democrats since 1999.
Tweed: Commissioner of Public Works
Joe: Influences who gets appointed to Utilities Authorities and quasi-governmental bodies who spend lots of taxpayer dollars for bonds, and insurance, and large capital projects in NJ (NJ’s modern form of shadow government.) Think Bergen County Improvement Authority, Passiac Valley Sewer Commission, etc.
Tweed: the subject of Thomas Nast’s cartoons that finally swayed public opinion. Folks who couldn’t read could get the gist.
Joe: Jimmy Marguiles 2007 cartoons of Boss Joe are legendary already
Tweed: bribed opposition Republicans not to vote
Joe: has folks elected to Council flip allegiance to him – as in Hasbrouck Heights immediately after taking office on Republican platforms. He uses Republicans when he needs to.
Tweed: Controlled Democratic nominations of both the State and NY City by various means: Intimidating and bribing Republicans, paying crooks and drifters to vote. Controlled all Democratic New York state and city nominations from 1860-1870.
Joe: Folks ineligible to vote, wound up casting votes at County Committee elections for his handpicked candidates. He has challenged legally seated County Committee members to prevent their votes from being cast. His henchmen have actually forged the signatures of county committee members to get them off the Committee. He routinely throws incumbents who dissent (like me) from the BCDO line on the ballot even though they received tremendous public support in general elections.. He has done this to sitting Council members like Real Bergen Dems County Clerk candidate Gail Frasco. He has failed to allow Committee Members to speak from the floor. He has denied calling a convention although the proper signatures were obtained by the required number of Committee members.
Tweed: Contractors overcharged for work done, false bills presented, no show jobs were granted
Joe: Will not release records of financial transactions as is required by the Bylaws and requested by Committee members. A majority of the County Committee Municipal Chairs now have County jobs. Engineering firms who get no-bid contracts with the county charge a lot for their services – then donate $$$ to the BCDO.
Tweed: Cost of doing business was passed on to the city – 1869 – 1870 the debt was $97 million and he responded by making his flunkies auditors. Municipal services went down.
Joe: His attack on the government of Englewood is nearly complete. He took over the government in Englewood and supported Mayor Michael Wildes at the same time Wildes dismantled an effective planning board. Buildings with extra floors got built, right across the street from the Borough Hall. Contracts got awarded, zoning applications got passed and government services failed in early 2008. Streets were not salted during snow storms resulting in dozens of accidents and calls for aid to surrounding towns. Bergenfield struggled under the weight of Pay to Play until last year when several of Joe’s cronies were ousted and the Borough got rid of Joe’s favorite Borough Attorney.
In 1999 any freeholder candidates were required to sign over all control over fundraising and campaign spending to the BCDO. He encouraged money to be dumped into the BCDO from outside the county in return for help in statewide elections. He put all funds into one big pot instead of having candidates raise and spend their own money. Individuals can contribute a limit of 2,200 to a candidate’s campaign, but can contribute up to $37,000 to the party coffers.
Tweed: Patronage was only given to loyal supporters. The effect was that anyone who gave money to an opponent – like the Republicans were denied gov’t contracts and jobs.
Joe: You get help from Joe for an election, you are asked to promise to let him or his cronies choose the Borough Attorney or Borough Engineer. This happened in Tenafly. We manage our own fundraising and spending without BCDO help so we were able to tell Joe “No thank you. You’ve done enough. Really”. Bergen County government is completely controlled by Joe now. He spent $3 million to keep McNerney’s seat. Why so much?
Tammany came from an Indian name and was a sort of social club.
Ferriero holds court in restaurants in the Hackensack area. A sort of boys club where things get decided. Pity the poor Bergen County Democrat who gets called to a meeting at a North Jersey diner with Boss Joe.
Joe gives jobs to people to get their loyalty. And he offers jobs to people to buy their silence. It’s sort of like getting a bribe BEFORE you are a government employee. Gordon Johnson was offered a job to drop out of the Assembly race recently. He refused and ran for office without Joe’s help and won handily. Joe runs an operation mostly on what was affectionately called “honest graft”. Basically legalized bribery. You know it as Pay to Play.
Tweed: The Tammany Hall honest graft method was to buy land up before the government needed it and sell it back at a high profit.
Joe: He and his consigliere Dennis Oury are both land use attorneys who have profited mightily in this era of real estate fever. Zoning variances wanted were mostly zoning variances granted in Bergen County for both Dennis and Joe – especially if the attorneys and engineers involved got their jobs thanks to the BCDO.
Tweed: Conned and plundered the city of New York out of between 30-200 million dollars
Joe: The cost of taxes in NJ is out of control and going higher. Patronage jobs DON’T help the property tax situation on either a County or LOCAL level. Ask the folks in Bergenfield who overpaid for land thanks to Governmental Grants Consulting, the firm that got Joe and Oury in hot water with the Feds.
Tweed: Elected a New York State Senator in 1867
Joe: Not a state Senator himself but controls several State Senators by withholding or granting financial support. Senatorial courtesy is a huge incentive for Ferriero to control the appointment of anyone from districts that are served by that Senator. Disgraced Joe Coniglio was one of those Senators. Paul Sarlo is another. Ken Zisa would have been another if our votes from Tenafly were not counted in 2005. Lautenberg even needed Joe’s support to win re-election. Everyone need to kiss Joe’s ring at one time or other – no matter how high up the political food chain.
Tweed: Built his power in Tammany Hall through the appointment and election of his friends (called the ‘Tweed Ring’)
Joe: has a loyal and loud group of supporters who think he is a Democratic god because he made sure they got high paying county jobs.
Tweed: Elected into the US House of Representatives in 1852
Joe: Enjoys being kingmaker for Congressmen and Senators alike. Rubbed shoulders with Hillary Clinton on stage last year while she extolled the virtues of getting rid of “crony capitalism”. What you’d call “IRONY”.
Tweed: Used illegal means to force election of his choice for New York governor, New York City mayor, and speaker of the assembly.
Joe: Joe and his Friend Dennis Oury stand indicted while His loyal supporters Elaine Rabbitt and Dennis Mulligan from Bergenfield stand indicted on forgery charges. Forgeries that surfaced in 2005 to aid the Chairman’s candidate for State Senate to replace Byron Baer in D37.
Tweed: Raised public indignation against graft and was convicted and sentenced to prison (Note: He was also sued by the city of New York in a civil suit. He escaped from jail and fled to Spain. He was identified there from a cartoon drawn by Thomas Nast. He was returned to New York and died in jail there.
Joe: Recently indicted on corruption charges for concealing interest in a firm he founded to make money off grants obtained by pressuring elected officials around the state to give his firm business and $$$. But he is still supported by his loyal flunkies afraid to lose patronage jobs, even while Joe stands indicted.