Category Archives: pay-to-play

APP Editorial: Shameful start out of the box

Here is an editorial that the Asbury Park Press has gotten right and if you read the comment posted by readers afterwards, they all seem to agree:

The new 5-0 Republican majority on the Monmouth County freeholder board got off to a disgraceful start this week: Its first order of business was rescinding its tough 2008 pay-to-play campaign finance restrictions. Welcome back to the world of one-party rule.

The old ground rules, passed in response to Operation Bid Rig, a sting targeting money laundering and political corruption that led to the arrests of 13 politicians in the county in 2005, was a huge step in putting an end to the sort of legal bribery that allowed graft to flow freely.

The freeholders now seem to believe that graft and corruption are a thing of the past. Either that or they want to cement their one-party grip on the board, briefly lost the past few years, by ensuring campaign contributors are aptly rewarded when it comes time to handing out contracts.

Under the previous rules, individual contributions were capped at $300, while a firm’s contribution was limited to $2,600. Candidates could not accept a contribution from another county’s political party in excess of $2,600 per election.

Now that those rules have been rescinded, the board will be guided by the state’s lenient “fair and open” bidding process for counties and municipalities, which state Comptroller Matthew Boxer has said is anything but.

In a commentary in the Press last year, Boxer wrote, “The pay-to-play law presents few, if any, real obstacles to local government entities seeking to reward politically favored vendors with public contracts … a series of fatal flaws have essentially rendered the pay-to-play law meaningless at the local government level.”

What reason did the freeholders offer for changing their minds? Freeholder Lillian Burry, who voted for the tougher pay-to-play regulations in 2008, said they made sense then: “It appeared at the time to be a very necessary thing for us to do,” Burry said.

But now? Burry says the 2008 rules may be “too harsh” and proved “very confusing to the professionals.”

The freeholders apparently would have us believe that the people who want to do business with Monmouth County were absolutely flummoxed by the 2008 county standard, and could not fathom the differences between the county’s rules and the “fair and open” process.

If the freeholders adequately educated potential contract bidders to those differences and they still couldn’t get it, those aren’t the sort of people the county should be hiring in the first place.

What is clear is the freeholders’ action was shameless. They should reinstate the tougher pay-to-play rules. If they don’t, citizens should express their disgust at the polls.

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Filed under Asbury Park Press, editorial, Lillian Burry, Monmouth County, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, Operation Bid Rig, pay-to-play

Monmouth Freeholders adopt weak State pay-to-play rules, abandon stronger County rules in place since 2008

Fortunately, former Monmouth County Freeholder Amy Mallet is still on the job as a outspoken member of the public. The Middletown Patch reported on 1/31/12 that this year’s all-GOP Freeholder Board voted unanimously last week to loosen the County’s pay-to-play rules, and Amy was there to call them on it!

In a vote on Jan. 26th, the Board chose to abandon the tougher County pay-to-play rules for the lax State ones. The reason given by the Board is that contractors were confused by the County rules. However, many other municipalities and counties have the stronger pay-to-play rules in place, so contractors doing business in other towns would already be familiar with them.

The Board’s decision opens the door to rewarding politically connected persons and businesses with County contracts. The move weakens competition and may have the direct effect of increasing property taxes in line with higher contract costs. It’s hard to imagine why any ethical publicly-minded governmental body would do such a thing, unless for personal benefit. It appears the Board members have chosen to grant themselves the latitude to direct contracts at will to ensure their pockets will be lined at election time.

State Comptroller Matthew Boxer said himself that the State pay-to-play law does nothing to prevent the practice by local governments. In September 2011, he released a 20-page report “blasting the law for being toothless” as NJ.com put it.

The effectiveness of Christie’s Tool Kit at holding down property taxes would be vastly improved if it closed the loopholes in the State’s pay-to-play law. But until that happens, it is incumbent upon local governments to do what’s right by having strong pay-to-play rules of their own.

Public advocacy group The Citizens Campaign is calling for the public to attend the Monmouth County Freeholder meeting on Feb. 9th, when the Board will be asked to reinstate the stronger pay-to-play policy. For details, check out their facebook page and if you can, make plans to attend.

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Filed under Amy Mallet, Facebook, Middletown Patch, Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders, NJ.com, pay-to-play, property taxes, the Citizens Campaign

Hypocrite Handlin Took $3000 From NJEA

13th Legislative District Assemblywoman Amy Handlin(R-Monmouth) has to be one of the largest hypocrites in Trenton.

In a press release issued yesterday, before today’s stunning US Supreme Court ruling that overturned decades worth of campaign finance reforms put in place by Congress, Handlin praised Governor Christie’s executive order that “created a more fair political system for taxpayers by applying pay-to-play restrictions to contributions made by labor unions or to legislative leadership committees…

So why is Assemblywoman Handlin a hypocrite you ask? Handlin had no problems with the pay-to-play laws while taking a $3,000 campaign contribution from the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) while seeking re-election last year!

That’s right, Handlin took money from the largest labor union in the State and now says that it is wrong for unions to be politically active by making campaign donation to candidates who seek political office.

It seems that as long as Handlin got her money from the NJEA everyone else can now be damned.

Do you think she has the decency to return the money to the NJEA? I doubt it.

What a hypocrite!

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Filed under Amy Handlin, campaign finance, Gov. Chris Christie, NJEA, pay-to-play

Was Christie A Pay-to-Play "Pioneer"

The latest Corzine ’09 campaign ad that was released today clarifies the connections between Chris Christie and his “Pioneer” status for his massive political contributions to George Bush, and his subsequently being named as U.S. Attorney—a classic example of pay to play. Once he purchased his office, Christie brazenly awarded his political allies and fellow Bush cronies millions in no bid contracts.

Here are the Facts:
Chris Christie was a George W. Bush Pioneer and helped raise over $350,000 for Bush. Gannett News Service, in 2003, asked, “What motivates a ranger or pioneer?” One of their answers was, “there’s political patronage as well. Three of Bush’s 21 New Jersey pioneers in 2000 won presidential appointments. Former Republican congressman William Martini was named a federal judge, Internet communications executive Clifford Sobel was named ambassador to the Netherlands, and former Morris County Freeholder Christopher Christie was named New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor.” The Star Ledger, in 2004, also indentified Christie as a Bush Pioneer. According to the New York Times, “He became counsel to the Bush campaign in New Jersey in 2000, while joining Mr. Palatucci to raise more than $350,000.” The Washington Post and Bergen Record have also reported that Christie helped raise $350,000 for George W. Bush [Gannett News Service, 11/7/03; Star Ledger, 11/19/04;New York Times, 7/21/04; Washington Post, 11/27/02; Asbury Park Press, Bergen Record, 10/10/02]

Chris Christie was named U.S. Attorney in return for his Bush fundraising. A Star Ledger editorial, in 2001, decried Christie’s appointment to U.S. Attorney and stated, “What Christie brings to the table is excellent political connections. He has energetically raised money for various candidates, including George W. Bush in 2000, and his mentor and law partner is William Palatucci, a friend of the President and a powerful figure in the state GOP… It is common for U.S. attorneys to have political ties, but Christie’s party links are closer than most. This is a patronage appointment, plain and simple. This is a distinguished position, one of the most important jobs in the state. It should not become a political plum.” The New York times reported that “after the Bush victory, Mr. [Bill] Palatucci sent Mr. Christie’s resume to Karl Rove, the president’s chief strategist. Mr. Bush, who dubbed Mr. Christie ”Big Boy” (an apparent reference to his hulking frame), chose him for United States attorney.” [Star Ledger, 9/7/01; New York Times, 7/21/04]

Christie went soft on crime by refusing to indict companies that ripped off the American public. Chris Christie decided not to indict several companies; instead, he gave them deferred prosecutions agreements. As the Gloucester County Times noted, these “agreements basically let potential corporate criminals go free in exchange for paying millions to have ‘monitors’ oversee their affected operations.” In an editorial titled “Going Soft on Corporate Crime,” the New York Times described deferred prosecution agreements as “cozy deals” and wrote, “Federal prosecutors have been regularly offering settlements to companies for wrongdoing that, in previous administrations, would likely have led to criminal charges. It is another disturbing example of how [the Bush] administration has taken the justice out of the Justice Department…. The cost [of deferred prosecution agreements] to the public and the rule of law is too high. If corporations believe that they can negotiate their way out of a prosecution, the deterrent effect of the criminal law will inevitably be weakened.” [Gloucester County Times, 6/27/09; Associated Press, 6/24/09; New York Times, 4/10/08]

Chris Christie awarded Bush cronies millions in no-bid contracts. “When the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey needed to find an outside lawyer to monitor a large corporation willing to settle criminal charges out of court last fall, he turned to former Attorney General John Ashcroft, his onetime boss. With no public notice and no bidding, the company awarded Mr. Ashcroft an 18-month contract worth $28 million to $52 million…. The New Jersey prosecutor, United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie, directed similar monitoring contracts last year to two other former Justice Department colleagues from the Bush administration, as well as to a former Republican state attorney general in New Jersey.” [New York Times, 1/10/08]

Chris Christie is pushing for the same Bush economic policies that wrecked our economy. Chris Christie’s proposed economic policies include Bush re-treads such as tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations and opposition to government regulations that protect the public. Christie has pledged to cut income taxes for the “very top of the wage scale.” Christie has also said “it will be a priority for the Christie administration to reduce corporate business tax rates.” While Christie has been vague on specifics, he has consistently voiced broad opposition to government regulations and has said he will “rollback,” “rescind” and “freeze” New Jersey regulations. The New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance regulations include “consumer protections through the regulation of 16 types of businesses that provide a variety of consumer financial services.” The Department regulates “state-chartered credit unions through on-site examinations and report filings to ensure safety and soundness, as well as compliance with applicable state and federal laws.” [Fox News, Neil Cavuto, 5/4/09; 55 Way Chris Christie Will Fix New Jersey, http://www.votesmart.org/speech_detail.php?sc_id=459712&keyword=&phrase=&contain=; Gannet News, 5/16/09; 88 Ways Chris Christie Will Fix New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, http://www.state.nj.us/dobi/division_banking/index.htm

Christie is recklessly calling for tax cuts without a plan to pay for them – just like Bush. The Philadelphia Inquirer opined, “Christie, incredibly, says if elected he will cut income taxes and corporate taxes across the board. Sound good? You bet it does. But as this governor’s race progresses, Christie will need to fill in a few gaps of his own. He stands to inherit the same conditions that have been battering New Jersey’s economy for the past two years. For example, how would Christie balance the state budget while lowering revenue further through tax cuts? Corzine will have cut the budget in absolute dollars two years in a row. That’s unprecedented in any state, and especially in New Jersey. Tax cuts would require even deeper budget reductions by Christie. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but Christie was deliberately vague during the Republican primary campaign about how he intends to achieve even bigger savings in Trenton…. coasting time is over for Christie. Now, he must tell voters with specificity how he would tackle the same long-term problems more effectively.” [Philadelphia Inquirer 6/7/09]

The number of unemployed Americans has increased by more than 7 million since the recession began. According to the U.S Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Since the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons has increased by 7.2 million.” [Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit

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Filed under Chris Christie, Corzine'09, John Ashcroft, New Jersey, no-bid contracts, pay-to-play, President Bush, U.S Attorney General