Tag Archive: disclosure

Reminder to Gov. Christie: You Work for Us

Yesterday, a condescending Chris Christie told media “I’m allowed to meet people I want to meet who want to talk to me about whatever issues they want to talk about – You’re not entitled to know everything I do.”

Actually, Governor, when you do it in our name, as Governor of the State of New Jersey, we are.

Last week’s revelation of a hidden gubernatorial trip to a Koch Brothers corporate lovefest in Colorado once again shows a Governor with a problem defining the line between public and private, in a way that hurts New Jersey taxpayers, every day.

Loretta Weinberg formally calls for disclosure at One New Jersey

Loretta Weinberg has formally called on the Democratic operative-led One New Jersey to disclose its donors and comply with the spirit of openness and transparency. One New Jersey’s 501(c)(3) structure does not by law require disclosure. However, Democrats raised up a mighty yell when two organizations dedicated to forwarding Christie’s agenda – Reform Jersey Now and Center for a Better New Jersey – began operating with exactly the same failure to disclose the figures financing it, and exactly the same kind of efforts to use a loophole the law provides to skirt transparency.

Text of Weinberg’s letter is after the jump.

Joshua Henne of White Horse Strategies, and a founder of One New Jersey with Brad Lawrence and Steve DeMicco of Message & Media, had this to say when I reached him:

We respect Senator Weinberg for her views on this issue.  As we’ve said before, disclosure only works when everybody discloses.

In her letter, Weinberg acknowledges their efforts to counter the Governor’s message of far-right, vindictive and divisive politics. But though the law allows a (c)(4) advocacy organization to hold back its contributors, she holds them to a higher ethical standard than the law itself. Weinberg has sponsored legislation to require contributor disclosure from such tax-exempt organizations in the past. And her objections to the non-disclosure of Christie’s two groups, she says,  apply to One New Jersey too.

More, and Weinberg’s letter, after the jump.

In The Interest of Transparency And Trust

I can be called one of those “double dippers”. Since “hiding” things about my public life is not comfortable for me, here goes:

After spending approximately 35 years in full time public service as an Assistant Bergen County Administrator, Legislative Director and then an Assemblywoman and now a Senator, (paying my portion into the pension during that entire period) I decided to finally apply for my public pension.  Of course, I could have done that some 5 to 10 years earlier, but since I had enjoyed the fruits of a family business built with my husband, and had some good investments (or so I thought), I never looked into that “pension thing”.

After a major financial setback resulting from my so-called “Financial Advisor” investing all my money (including my IRA) with a man I never heard of (read: Bernie Madoff) a colleague suggested that I would most likely qualify for my pension. Based on age, number of years in the “system”, and the  years I spent as a full time Bergen County employee etc. I was informed I could formally retire, finally collect my pension and still continue as a State Legislator.  So at age 75,  I decided it was time and financially necessary.

I am now paid $49,000 for being a State Senator and about $36,000 annually in my state pension. Though I never went in to public service to make money, I am grateful for this income at this time of my life, because of the situation Bernie Madoff created for me.  I never thought about hiding any of this, but the news about the Essex County Executive and the Cape May Surrogate has made me feel awkward. The circumstances might be very different, but the result is essentially the same.

So there you have it. I am not apologizing for any decisions I made. And it is legal! My public life, along with my personal disclosure forms, have been appropriately transparent. But I’ll probably be more than usually interested in the comments section of today’s column.

Now on to another subject!  The Democratic map was accepted. Some districts will be a bit more competitive, but I feel confident that we will maintain majorities in both houses of the legislature. “Assemblyman” Jeff Gardner also does have a nice ring to it!

As the Senator from District 37, I know I’m sorry to lose Bergenfield from our district. This town was finally coming together with Mayor Timothy Driscoll and the incumbent council and turning its back on the old leadership who were so responsible for the issues around my selection as a State Senator. We’re also losing Ridgefield Park which is home to a great group of citizens and the wonderful Mayor Fosdick, along with a terrific 4th of July parade. Maywood is another town we will miss.

But it’s going to be fun and interesting to welcome back Ft. Lee which was part of the district 10 years ago along with the new communities of Northvale, Cresskill, Alpine and Rockleigh.

So here we go into another election season, facing tough budget problems, new towns, protecting collective bargaining, and speaking up for those who need government the most. I am glad Drumthwacket is being bathed in blue lights to call attention to autism awareness month, but restoring money for early intervention services for autistic children is infinitely more important.

Keep your voices heard!

Loretta Weinberg calls for disclosure by pro-union Working Families United for New Jersey

This is why I respect Senator Loretta Weinberg as much as I do.

I just wanted to pull up a Washington Post article I came across a couple days ago. It’s about the formation of a new 501(c)4 advocacy group called Working Families United for New Jersey, formed by a coalition of unions organizing to oppose Chris Christie’s efforts to undermine collective bargaining, and specifically to balance New Jersey’s budget on the backs of public employee union members.

You can understand it. We’ve seen teachers vilified by this governor as turning kids into “drug mules,” heard him use the word “rich” only to describe the compensation of public workers and not of the wealthiest New Jerseyans whose lives he helps make cushy, watched him call police and firefighters, who daily are prepared to rush into danger to save our lives, “greedy”.

But what sticks about this story is that Working Families United doesn’t plan to release its donor list any time soon. And that should them on the same footing as Chris Christie’s much-maligned (broadly in the press, with good reason) Reform Jersey Now and Center for a Better New Jersey. We’ve called both those groups slush funds, for want of a better term to describe their murky non-disclosure of donors (RJN disclosed as it “dissolved” and the list revealed questionable pay-to-play problems). It should put them on the same footing as the GOP slush funds. But we haven’t heard a lot of outrage from Democrats.

Loretta Weinberg, who enjoys considerable union support herself, is speaking out for transparency in Working Families United’s dealings. Weinberg applies the same ethical yardstick to transparency issues on “her” side as she does to the pro-Christie/GOP groups. Washington Post notes she was the only Democrat who spoke out early:

I would still say transparency is what we should all be interested in and would apply the same standard to them,” Weinberg said. “I believe there is nothing wrong with telling people who is giving to your organization and what you’re spending money on.

Uh-huh.

Timely v. Immediate: What a difference a Governor Makes

Tom Kean Jr. was a frequent critic of the Corzine administration, particularly on the issue of transparency. But he seems to have taken a healthy dose of patience now that his man is in the Governor’s office. Let’s hop in the way back machine:

Consider 2008, when then-Gov. Jon Corzine created a nonprofit organization to promote his signature plan to pay down state debt through higher tolls. Kean (R-Union), the Senate minority leader, urged the Democratic governor to “immediately” disclose information about donors to “Save Our State NJ Inc.,” saying it should be made public before the Legislature voted on Corzine’s plan.

Corzine’s effort never got off the ground, but they still disclosed who supported the effort. Now back to today:

So The Auditor wondered how Republican Kean felt about “Reform Jersey Now,” the nonprofit launched last week by leading Republicans and allies of GOP Gov. Chris Christie to support Christie’s agenda. It is structured exactly the same as the group that pitched Corzine’s plan.

“The leaders of Reform Jersey Now should voluntarily follow Gov. Christie’s continued commitment to a more transparent Trenton in a timely manner,” Kean said. But he declined to say exactly how “timely” it should be.

Hopeful wrote about the Governor’s new pay to play organization last week. I’m guessing a timely manner means no time soon, I’m sure it’s longer than immediate. Clearly contributions to support Governor Christie aren’t as important as those to Corzine. Way to be consistent Junior.  

Politics over transparency in Governor Christie’s Press Releases

When Jon Corzine was Governor of New Jersey, a little press release went out for every appointment. Reporters were therefore able to check on these people and write stories for the general public. Even if no one found the appointment interesting enough to publish, the releases were also posted on the governor’s website, where anyone could check them out. Similarly, the Obama Administration also maintains a webpage of all nominations and appointments.

Governor Christie is flouting that tradition of disclosure. There are press releases on his priorities, and even quite a few highlighting favorable media coverage, but no one has been announced since Bill Baroni on February 19.

Reporter Michael Symons recently posted a list of Christie appointments. How did he get them?

No direct appointments have yet been announced by the Governor’s Office – but then again, they haven’t yet announced the nominations they made to the Senate yesterday, either, so perhaps they’re still coming. The list cited in this blog entry is gleaned from the Legislature’s website.

“Gleaned” from the someone else’s website. It’s not a good sign. Surely the Governor is not trying to keep his appointments secret since eventually they will come all out. The Governor has plenty of people who should be doing this work so why can’t he disclose his appointments in a timely manner? Four out of the last five releases criticize the teachers union (the other criticizes the administrators!) so it seems clear that politics takes precedence over transparency in the Christie Administration.

Abate raises $12,000 [or possibly $9137] in first quarter (with POLL!)

According to a filing with the FEC, Camille Abate’s campaign raised $12,004 for the first quarter of 2006. There were no prior expectations of a competitive quarter from Abate, a late entry to the Fifth District race who filed with the FEC in March.

Democrat Paul Aronsohn, finished the quarter with a $125,000 lead over Abate in cash-on-hand. The presumed Republican opponent, Scott Garrett, had a lackluster quarter but currently leads Aronsohn by $240,000 in available funds.

The next quarterly reports will be filed in early July, at which point Democrats and Republicans will already have chosen their nominees.