View Full Version : The culture of corruption in New Jersey

Impeach Corzine
02-14-2007, 10:21 PM
"Most serious political corruption tends to be an urban problem. And a Democrat problem. Not because Republicans are inherently more virtuous, but because they tend to approach government from a different perspective than do Democrats. Dems see government as an engine for legally stealing from A to benefit B. Republicans, contrariwise, see government as a bulwark to prevent B from stealing from A."

"The Dem mentality inevitably gives rise to corruption, both of the illegal and legal sort."

"First, victims of theft tend to object, but if the thief is playing Robin Hood, he creates a substantial constituency for theft. If the beneficiaries of the theft are the residents of a particular district, while the victims live somewhere else, Robin will repeatedly win office in a landslide, even if he’s not exactly pure of heart, and takes a cut for himself and his band of merry marauders."

Assemblyman Michael Carroll (R)

Being a Republican, I would love for the statement above to be true. Corruption = a Democrat problem. Great. The issue is well-defined; let's get rid of corruption by voting out Democrats. The problem is that it is factually inacurrate. In Monmouth County, the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey undertook an investigation into corruption by Republican politicians. This investigation, known as Operation Bid Rig, led to the indictment of at least 11 individuals, including Middletown Republican Raymond O'Grady.

Operation Bid Rig took down corrupt Republican politicians in New Jersey. Many of those Republicans were convicted or pled guilty. Thus, we can address the assumption that corruption in this State exists as a Democrat problem and say, clearly, this assumption is false.

Corruption in New Jersey is a real, substantial problem. The problem, so far, hasn't been solved, as evidenced by continuing convictions undertaken by the Federal Government. And, as evidenced by the bilateral nature of these convictions, it's neither a Republican nor a Democrat problem. The problem is one of individual responsibility.

Every individual investigated and convicted is responsible for the actions that led to his or her conviction, just as every individual in the future that is convicted will be as well. It will not be solved by pointing fingers at one party or the other. It will be solved when individuals involved in the governance of this State decide that they are better than the politics of unlawful personal enrichment.

Not surprisingly, the fact that this State has failed to put forward an ethics reform bill to address public corruption is a problematic one. Still, the actions of the U.S. Attorney evidence that, even without such reform, corruption can be policed, to some extent. Policing corruption and reforming the laws concerning corruption are not the answer, though. The final answer concerning corruption must be individuals taking their conduct to a level where there is no question of corruption. Politicians must not merely be successful at getting elected; they must be virtuous. The notion seems naive, but it's not an unheard of concept.

Impeach Corzine
02-15-2007, 09:36 AM
How can the elites of a major state, one with the nation's second-highest per capita income and one of its most educated and skilled work forces, have allowed it to be so poorly governed by both parties over a span of decades.

New Jersey's political corruption has been legendary since the days of the late Mayor Frank Hague, who ran Jersey City for 30 years with such an iron fist that he told federal officials "I am the law." Just two years ago, Sen. Bob Torricelli had to drop his re-election bid after the Senate Ethics Committee detailed his improper relationship with a donor. A spineless state Supreme Court allowed Democrats to replace him on the ballot even though a firm deadline for doing so had passed. The state's politics are awash in allegations of conflicts of interest, raids on public treasuries and corrupt alliances between favored business interests and local officials.

How did the nation's ninth-largest state compile such a record of mismanagement and corruption? Traditional explanations include the fact that the state is dominated by the huge broadcast markets of New York and Philadelphia, voters get shortchanged on local Jersey news. Others blame the state's Byzantine proliferation of hundreds of self-governing towns, which they say allows the perpetuation of local machines. The electorate also bears part of the blame. Something is terribly wrong with voters who have demonstrated a virtual death wish so far as any sensible governance of the state is concerned.

02-15-2007, 10:56 AM
Impeach Corzine - I merged these two threads because they both discuss political corruption in NJ.

BTW - I do feel and have stated in the past that the lack of NJ media, particularly our own ABC, NBC and CBS stations, limits the amount of information one gets out of Trenton. We need our own broadcast news. Politicians don't want us to have broadcast news because then we would have a more educated electorate. Right now we are limited to the limited reporting the majority of New Jerseyans get from the NY and Philadelphia stations.

Impeach Corzine
02-15-2007, 11:25 AM
I was not sure what your forum policy was so I posted them as 2 different threads. I agree they are both remakes are surrounding the corruption in NJ and I agree with your remarks as to the lack of media coverage.

Thanks for you help and thanks for providing people like myself a place to rank and rave :D

02-19-2007, 05:45 PM
I was not sure what your forum policy was so I posted them as 2 different threads.

It's no problem. Just want to make it easier so people can follow a conversation. Sometimes I even question where I should put something. :)

I agree they are both remakes are surrounding the corruption in NJ and I agree with your remarks as to the lack of media coverage.

I have several threads that discusses New Jersey's lack of broadcast stations and how they affect negatively on the type of information New Jerseyans are able to receive on our state, as well as it limited our sense of identity.

Thanks for you help and thanks for providing people like myself a place to rank and rave :D
You're very welcome. I'm glad that you joined and I hope as more and more discussions take place, that AboutNewJersey.com's messageboard will grow. If you have any questions or concerns, don't hesitate to ask.

Impeach Corzine
04-19-2007, 09:10 AM
This falls into the unreal and absurd but true. Former NJ Governor James E. McGreevey is teaching ethics, law and leadership at Kean University. The nation's first openly gay governor earns $17,500 and has been an executive in residence since Nov. 1. When he was in office, McGreevey was often criticized for the appearance of ethical lapses. It seems to me, Jim McGreevey teaching law and ethics is a little bit like Doctor Kevorkian teaching health maintenance.

With the new post, McGreevey can once again accrue credits for years of service in the state pension system because Kean is a public college. McGreevey, 49, already has more than 19 years of service in the pension system. His final retirement benefit will be calculated based mostly on his nearly three years as governor, when he earned $157,000 a year. He will be eligible for his full pension once he has 25 years in the system and reaches his 60th birthday. The ex-governor acknowledged the post will help his pension, but stressed that retirement pay was not the reason he went to Kean as opposed to other colleges he was considering. He noted that Kean and its off-campus locations are close to his home in Plainfield.

Before his gubernatorial term, McGreevey had served as a mayor, assemblyman, state senator, corporate lobbyist and director of the state Parole Board. He has a bachelor's degree from Columbia University, a law degree from Georgetown University and a master's in education from Harvard. The ex-governor also is a best-selling author after his memoir, "The Confession," briefly hit the national book charts last fall.

The new job is McGreevey's second since leaving office Nov. 15, 2004. He was first hired as a lawyer at Lesniak's firm, but he was fired by the senator after the job became public and critics said it posed serious conflicts of interest because many of the law firm's clients had dealings with state government while McGreevey was in office.

09-07-2007, 10:26 PM
Here is another example of the corruption in New Jersey. Do you think it's made a dent or will change the "business as usual" attitude in Trenton?

Statewide sting catches 11 officials
Orange, Passaic mayors among those arrested by FBI on bribery charges

In a sweeping corruption scandal stretching from a small South Jersey school district to the corridors of power in the state's northern cities, federal agents charged 11 public officials yesterday with taking bribes in exchange for help securing public contracts.

The arrests, carried out yesterday morning, followed an 18-month FBI probe that penetrated almost every layer of government.

Among those charged were state assemblymen, mayors, city council members, school board members and the chief of staff for Newark's city council president. A 12 th defendant, a private individual, allegedly collected payments for one of the politicians.

Today we witnessed another example of the disease that affects the state of New Jersey: the disease of public corruption, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said.

Beginning in the Atlantic County community of Pleasantville, just west of Atlantic City, FBI agents were taken on a corruption tour of New Jersey,íí Christie said, almost as if there is a corrupt-public-officials underground.íí

The defendants include the mayors of two cities: Mims Hackett Jr., 65, of Orange and Samuel Sammy Rivera, 60, of Passaic. Hackett is also one of two state assemblymen who were arrested. The Rev. Alfred E. Steele, 53, is the Assembly’s deputy speaker and, until resigning under pressure yesterday, was a Passaic County undersheriff.

Passaic Councilman Marcellus Jackson, 37, former Passaic councilman Jonathan Soto, 32, and Keith O. Reid, 48, the chief of staff to Newark Council President Mildred Crump, also were charged.

The criminal complaints unsealed yesterday name five current or former Pleasantville school board members, including board president James Pressley. At 22, Pressley is the youngest school board member in the state.

The private individual charged, Louis Mister, allegedly received $3,000 in payments on behalf of Maurice ‘‘Pete’’ Callaway, a former Pleasantville school board member who now serves on the city council. Callaway, 53, also was charged.

The 12 defendants — all wearing handcuffs, some in leg shackles — appeared briefly yesterday afternoon in federal court in Trenton before their release on $200,000 unsecured bond, which must be paid only if they miss a court appearance.

Nearly all declined comment, scurrying away from the courthouse as reporters swarmed them. Rivera, the Passaic mayor, paused long enough for one sentence.

‘‘I’ll have my day in court,’’ he said.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni ordered the men to turn over their passports and any firearms, but rejected a request by federal prosecutors to bar the defendants from leaving the state without approval.

‘‘These individuals all seem to have substantial ties to the community,’’ Bongiovanni said.

Each of the men is charged with conspiracy to extort corrupt payments or attempting to extort corrupt payments, counts that carry up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.

The elected officials gave no immediate indication they would resign their posts. Democratic Party officials in Essex and Passaic counties, however, said party leaders expected both assemblymen to leave office before their terms are up. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the behindthe-scenes maneuvering.

Newark’s Crump said Reid requested a leave of absence and that she would wait for a report by the city inspector general before deciding whether to fire her chief of staff.

The criminal complaints contend the 12 defendants accepted cash bribes, ranging from $3,500 to more than $32,000, from cooperating witnesses and undercover agents. In exchange, according to the complaints, the public officials used their influence to help the witnesses and agents win roofing and insurance contracts for towns and the Pleasantville school district.

Hundreds of the encounters were either audiotaped or videotaped, and the complaints contain snippets of what appears to be incriminating conversation.

‘‘We either gonna get this job together or go to jail together,’’ Jayson Adams, 27, a former Pleasantville school board president, is quoted as saying after allegedly accepting $15,000 in payments.

Jackson, the Passaic City Council member, told one informant, ‘‘I appreciate it, baby. Good things is gonna happen,’’ the complaint states.

Christie and Weysan Dun, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Newark office, said the investigation was initially limited to the board of education in Pleasantville, one of the state’s poorest and most troubled districts.

Thirteen superintendents have presided over the 3,600-student district since 1997, and some in town have long complained about school board members. Earlier this year, the state Department of Education appointed a monitor to oversee the district, contending widespread financial irregularities.

FBI agents set up shop nearby in mid-2006, creating a bogus insurance brokerage that purported to specialize in poor school districts. A roofing company also played a part in the probe.

Neither company was named in the complaint. But sources close to the investigation, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss details of the case, identified the companies as Aetna Roofing of Trenton and Coastal Solutions LLC of Egg Harbor Township.

Bruce Begg, chairman of Aetna Roofing, declined to comment.

According to its Web site, Aetna Roofing has been in business since 1968. Last summer, Coastal Solutions began operating out of the same address as Aetna and listed Begg as a registered agent, corporate records show. The sources said Coastal was actually the FBI front referred to in the complaint.

With a foothold in Pleasantville, the probe quickly expanded north as members of the school board directed undercover agents and cooperating witnesses to other public officials willing to trade cash for influence, the authorities said.

‘‘Sadly for the citizens of New Jersey, the depth and breadth of this investigation was vast,’’ Dun said, describing the probe’s findings as ‘‘a network of corruption that literally stems from one end of the state to another.’’

Assemblyman Steele, a Baptist minister, first met with one of the secret FBI informants about insurance business in March and, according to the complaint, promised to use his self-described ‘‘personal touch’’ with other officials in Paterson to help the firm obtain contracts with city agencies.

‘‘I have all different votes on the city,’’ he allegedly boasted, adding he had ‘‘five votes on the city council.’’

It was Steele, according to the complaints, who unwittingly helped connect the undercover agents with Hackett, his fellow assemblyman and the mayor of Orange.

In one taped conversation with a cooperating witness, Steele allegedly said Hackett would be amenable to a bribe in exchange for arranging an insurance contract.

‘‘Mims is cool. . . . He’s gonna do it,’’ Steele said, according to the complaint.

In May, Hackett met with a cooperating witness at a restaurant in Orange, where he was told he would receive an ‘‘upfront’’ payment of $5,000, to be followed by a $25,000 bribe once the city approved the contract, the complaint says. Asked if that would work for him, Hackett responded, ‘‘Oh, yeah,’’ according to the complaint.

Hackett later accepted the $5,000 cash bribe — stuffed inside the bogus insurance firm’s brochure — just outside City Hall, authorities said.

In some cases, those who came to the investigators’ attention were more wary. Reid, the chief of staff to Newark’s city council president, explained to an informant it was important to use an intermediary like himself as a buffer between the insurance company and elected officials, according to the complaint that names him.

‘‘Why create an atmosphere where they (elected officials) feel like you’re trying to get them locked up?’’ he asked, the complaint states.

Crump was not identified by name in the complaint, which said that meetings with the council president, though scheduled, never took place.

The arrests, the latest in a steady drumbeat of corruption prosecutions over the past five years, brought new expressions of frustration and outrage.

Gov. Jon Corzine called the charges ‘‘beyond disturbing.’’ Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts said he felt ‘‘absolutely sickened.’’

Christie, too, expressed astonishment, saying corruption in New Jersey remained widespread despite more than 100 convictions secured by his office alone.

Two other powerful politicians — state Sen. Sharpe James (D Essex), the former Newark mayor, and state Sen. Wayne Bryant (D Camden) — await trial on federal corruption charges.

‘‘I thought I could no longer be surprised by a combination of brazenness, arrogance and stupidity,’’ Christie said. ‘‘But people elected in this state continue to defy description.’’

Staff writers Wayne Woolley, Mary Jo Patterson, Robert Schwaneberg, Katie Wang, John P. Martin, John Mooney, Rudy Larini, Josh Margolin, Jeffery C. Mays, Deborah Howlett, Claire Heininger and Beverly Reid contributed to this report.

Sadly - I don't think any of this is going to change anything - until New Jerseyans start demanding and expecting our politicians to work for us!

09-09-2007, 02:45 AM
I'm watching "Mr Smith Goes to Washington". What NJ needs is a "Mr Smith Goes to Trenton". I don't think it would work out the same way that it does in the movie, even though the corruption and graft and political bosses seem to mirror NJ quite well. I think Chicago is the only place that comes close to NJ in terms of political bosses and controlling the election process. Right now, I have very little faith in the New Jersey State government.

I love NJ - but it seems like our politicians are out for themselves and their friends. I also think that many of our politicians are paid by New York - it's the only explanation I can have on why our politician do nothing to make our cities great, while spending billions to help NY attract businesses.

I can't believe politicians from both parties support the billion dollar project to build another rail tunnel to Manhattan, while neglecting to attract those businesses over the river to NJ. NJ should be working on creating our cities into powerhouses of commerce - but then that would go against what NY wants. I wonder how many NJ politicians take money from New York - it would be interesting to find out.