Category Archives: the Star-Ledger

Star Ledger’s Truth-o-Meter Says GOP Attack Ad Against Gopal In Assembly District 11 Race = Pants On Fire !

The Star Ledger broke out the Politifacts Truth-o-Meter and has chimed in on the controversial GOP attack ad against 11th District Assembly candidate Vin Gopal.

Politifacts has determined that the attack ad sent to thousands of residents in the the 11th district is a clear case of Pants-on-Fire deceit and called this dirty tactic to discredit their opponent “utter filth”

Here is what they had to say:

Dirty politics is nothing new in the art of campaigning, especially in the final days running up to an election.

But sometimes, those dirty tactics reach the point of utter filth.

Take the case of an attack ad by the New Jersey Republican State Committee against 11th District Assembly candidate Vin Gopal. Democrats Gopal and Kathleen Horgan are challenging Republican incumbents Caroline Casagrande and Mary Pat Angelini for the seats to represent parts of Monmouth County.

“Corrupt Political Bosses. Money Laundering. Fraud. It’s Just Another Day At The Office For Vin Gopal,” reads a campaign mailer circulating in the district.

The ad shows a $100 bill hanging from a clothesline and features Star-Ledger headlines from articles about former Assemblyman Joseph Vas, who was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison for stealing affordable housing funds when he was Perth Amboy’s mayor and for committing federal election fraud. From February to June 2006 — when he was a 20-year-old political science student — Gopal was a campaign manager for Vas during his primary campaign for congress. The ad also shows a washing machine with money inside and a statement below it that reads “To you, this might look like someone illegally laundering money … To Vin Gopal, it looks like Pay Day!”

The ad seems to imply that Gopal had a connection to Vas and his criminal activities, but does not accuse Gopal of any criminal act.

PolitiFact New Jersey found that readers of the ad could infer improprieties by Gopal, but there’s no proof that he did anything wrong.

One of the article headlines shown in the ad reads “Aide to former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas pleads guilty to money laundering.”

Gopal, a Long Branch resident and business owner, said what bothers him most about the ad “is the implying and lying that I was that aide.”

We pulled the Star-Ledger article and found that the aide in question was Raymond Geneske, who was a campaign adviser to Vas. Geneske was sentenced in January to two years of probation and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine for participating in a scheme to funnel contributions to Vas’s congressional campaign. Gopal, who told us that he was never contacted by any law enforcement agency or official about Vas, is not mentioned in the article.

We checked further by running Gopal’s name through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records database covering federal courts and bankruptcies and found that he was never charged with a crime. The Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office said it had never heard of Gopal and the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office confirmed that Gopal had no connection to the Vas case.

“The (Republican) State Committee is not suggesting Mr. Gopal committed a crime,” Communications Director Rick Gorka said in an email. “Rather, it is suggesting that he had a front row seat for the corruption that plagues New Jersey’s political process. The fact is, Mr. Gopal, a career political operative, was the campaign manager of Vas for Congress, a campaign of a sitting State Legislator who was at the center of federal and state corruption investigations and charges. He was paid from Joe Vas’s campaign account.

“Indeed, as the campaign manager he was presumably responsible for expenditures from that account,” Gorka continued. “If he didn’t know where the money was coming from, he should have. In the past he has been proud of his association with that campaign, touting it in his bio when he was deputy campaign manager for the short-live Kucinich for President Campaign. Now he’s seeking to run away from it. The State Committee thinks the voters have a right to know about Vin Gopal’s connections to those sordid events.”

A “career political operative?”

Gopal, 26, became involved with the Vas campaign when he was a 20-year-old student at Pennsylvania State University majoring in political science and wanted to work on a campaign for class credit and to gain experience in politics. Gopal told us he applied to 20 campaigns and eventually went to work as a campaign manager for the Vas campaign. He had also worked on other campaigns. Vlad Gutman, campaign manager for the District 11 Democrats, said that although Gopal had the title of campaign manager with Vas, he managed no personnel and “was the most junior position” on staff.

“I would talk to the press briefly about events he (Vas) would do in a day, set up phones, work with volunteers, handle scheduling,” Gopal said of his responsibilities. “I never had anything to do with money, never saw money, never was at any fundraisers.”

Gopal said he learned about the case against Vas when he saw a newspaper article about it two years after leaving the campaign, and attributes the current spate of attack ads to what he called “desperation.”

“The things they’re doing are borderline slanderous,” Gopal said. “It’s unethical. They’re lying and misleading the public in every way possible to hide their failed actions in this district.”

Our ruling

The Republican state committee distributed an ad in the 11th Assembly District that links Gopal to Vas, a disgraced politician convicted of election fraud and other offenses. Gopal worked four months on Vas’ unsuccessful congressional campaign. Gopal dealt with scheduling, phone banks, volunteers and occasional media queries. Given that law enforcement and a public database all confirm that Gopal had no connection of any kind to the Vas criminal case, the implications made by the ad aren’t just ridiculous, they’re also outrageous. Some laundering is definitely needed because this claim is Pants on Fire!

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Filed under 11th Legislative District, Democratic Candidate, Joseph Vas, Monmouth County, pants on fire, Perth Amboy, politifacts, the Star-Ledger, Vin Gopal

On income taxes and job creation, history debunks GOP views

By Star-Ledger Editorial Board
Sunday, July 17, 2011

We’re used to politicians stretching the truth, but this is getting ridiculous. For months now, congressional Republicans have refused to support any debt ceiling and budget deal that would raise taxes on the wealthy because, these economic wizards tell us, the rich are “job creators.”

Tax increases would discourage these job genies from expanding their businesses. Unemployment, already at 9.2 percent (which says something about the job-creation myth, doesn’t it?), would get even worse, they insist. The problem with this economic philosophy? It’s garbage.

Even Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, knows that: “The rich are always going to say, ‘Just give us more money and we’ll go out and spend more and then it will all trickle down to the rest of you.’ But that has not worked the last 10 years, and I hope the American public is catching on.”

The American public, it seems, is catching on, even if Republicans want to twist the truth about that, too. Speaker of the House John Boehner keeps insisting, “The American people don’t want us to raise taxes.” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says, “This economy is ailing and we don’t believe, nor do the American people believe, raising taxes is the answer.”

Think again. Americans believe Congress should raise taxes on the wealthy.

A new Quinnipiac survey asked voters if they support a budget deal with only budget cuts or a blend of cuts and taxes on corporations and the rich. Only 25 percent said cuts only. Sixty-seven percent want cuts and a tax increase on the wealthy.

Republican leaders are not only misrepresenting what the American people want, they’re covering up Republican numbers, too. In a recent Gallup poll, only 26 percent of Republicans favored lowering the debt with cuts alone. In just about every poll — ABC News, Washington Post, Bloomberg, Reuters — Americans want spending cuts and they want the wealthy to pay a larger share.

But maybe the American people are wrong. Let’s check the history. Did giving the wealthy a break with the Bush tax cuts of 2001 and 2003 help create jobs? Uh, no. From the end of the 2000-01 recession, just when the first Bush tax cuts took effect, until the beginning of the Great Recession, the economy grew at a slower pace than in any postrecession recovery period since World War II. Pay, adjusted for inflation, fell. And it took 39 months to get the number of jobs back to where it was before the 2000-01 recession.

Despite the same promises of jobs, the economy limped along. And the additional tax cut in 2003 didn’t rev it up, either.

President Bill Clinton faced vociferous opposition to his 1993 budget plan, which raised the top tax rates from 31 percent to 39.6 percent. Republicans called it the “Kevorkian Plan.”

So, what happened? Unparalleled economic growth. The nation’s unemployment dropped from 6.9 percent to 4 percent. The deficit shrank, and in 1998, the federal government boasted a surplus for the first time since 1969.

It seems the economy can survive a tax hike on the wealthy after all. And the tax hike did wonders to reduce the deficit as well, as designed.

More evidence: During the 1950s and early 1960s, when America experienced sustained growth, marginal tax rates on the rich were the highest they’ve ever been — 91 percent for the top bracket. (Even President Ronald Reagan, the Republican economic poster boy, raised taxes after he cut them.)

But Republicans keep chanting the same nonsense — without offering historical evidence to back it up. Instead, they want to bring the nation to the brink of default while protecting corporations (who are sitting on billions in profits) and fat cats — while everyday Americans are squeezed by high gas and food prices, plunging home prices and lower wages.

Let’s call the job-creator stuff what it is: a myth.

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Filed under Bill Clinton, Bush Tax Cuts, Congressional Republicans, Conservatives, debt limit, editorial, Eric Cantor, great recession, John Boehner, President Obama, tax cuts, the Star-Ledger, unemployment

>George Norcross tales dubbed "bogeyman" bunk are rooted in reality

>

Good video for your watching from the Star Ledger’s Brian Donohue, it leaves you scratching your head afterwards:

Ledger Live for June 25, 2011 –

Ledger Live with Brian Donohue. On todayapos;s show, Brian Donohue examines how the battle over the pension and benefits reform bill passed by the New Jersey legislature raised questions about the influence of South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross. Assertions by Norcross ally Sen. Steve Sweeney that Norcross plays little role in the legislative process contrast sharply with Norcrossapos; own words, as captured in 2001 recordings made as part of a state attorney generalapos;s office investigation.

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Filed under Brian Donohue, Democratic Leader, George Norcross, health benefits and pension reform, NJ State Legislature, political machine, South Jersey, Stephen Sweeney, the Star-Ledger

>Sticks and Stones….

>The Star-Ledger’s Drew Sheneman nailed today’s editorial cartoon. Very funny and i’m sure many other thought the same.

I’ll give the Governor some credit, when he calls people names he does it like an adult. I thought it took a great deal of restraint to refer to the NJEA as ‘political thugs’ instead of ‘stinky doody heads.’

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Filed under Drew Sheneman, Gov. Chris Christie, political cartoons, the Star-Ledger

>All hail Christie: Governor’s bigger-than-life persona has national media starry-eyed — and missing some facts

>It seems that the tarnish is finally starting to show on Chris Christie’s armour. As the national news media is swooning over Christie and very often refuse to fact check much of which he says, others are beginning to wake up and look at the facts as they are. Often times the facts tell a far different story than the one being told by Christie and his cronies.

This third editorial written by the Star-Ledger’s Kevin Manahan, talks about this very subject and alls out 60 Minutes, Face The Nation, MSNBC “Morning Joe” host Joe Scarborough and others for asking softball questions without tough follow-up question of the Governor and falling for his tough guy, honest answer, Youtube persona. Which many New Jerseyians know is an act that is wearing thin based on polling numbers that have him less popular at home than he is away from it:

As the segment on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” opens, co-host Joe Scarborough applauds his in-studio guest, Gov. Chris Christie, while stumbling over the words of a song playing in the background — “My Hero” by Foo Fighters:

There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero …

A day after introducing his $29.4 billion budget, Christie is performing on the Cheerios circuit, and it’s clear from the start this is going to be another 10-minute neck rub for the Republican superstar who, Scarborough believes, is carrying the weight of national reform on his broad (but reportedly slimming), blue-suited shoulders.

For more than a year, most of the national media have tripped over themselves to tell the governor how great he is, or have allowed him to tell the nation himself. It’s fitting that radio and TV host Glenn Beck lovingly calls Christie “the conservative porn star,” because dozens of media outlets — magazines (national and niche), newspapers (New Jersey and beyond), radio (AM and FM), TV (network and cable) — want to climb into bed with Christie and kiss him all over.

In addition, interviewers often don’t have a good grip on what’s happening in New Jersey, outside of what they see in YouTube clips posted by the Christie P.R. machine. Many simply don’t do their homework (“What’s the tool kit?” Scarborough once asked a Star-Ledger reporter). They rarely have a challenging follow-up question and they leave fact-checking to someone else (one inflated Christie’s approval rating to 70 percent). Their shallow questions are tailor-made for Christie riffs on what a great job he’s doing.

You’d expect the batted eyelashes and cuddling from conservative personalities like Neil Cavuto (Christie’s Mendham neighbor) or Imus or Rush Limbaugh, and from conservative talking head Ann Coulter, who refuses to take Christie’s presidential “no” for an answer. But even the usually even-handed “60 Minutes” let Christie go unchallenged in an interview about state finances, and some faithful readers (and online commenters) believe the New York Times — staunch defender of liberalism — has inched perilously close to the Christie hero-worship line, too.

A headline on a Washington Post blog asked, “What is it about Chris Christie?”

The blog lauded Christie for making “even the toughest position sound like nothing more than common sense” — even though the toughest” positions enumerated were typical Republican stances.

Why do the media love him? Because Christie is a novelty — engaging and entertaining — a plain-tawkin’ slugger at a time when the Republican bench is weak. He is seen as Everyman: a guy who has a problem with his weight and his “L’s,” but he is also a savvy politician who, while protecting the tax returns of the rich, can make some middle-class taxpayers believe he is fighting for them.

A large part of Christie’s allure to the media is that he might be president or vice president someday soon.

Why does Christie love them? Well, because he has carefully chosen the interviewers — part of a media strategy to build a national profile. And they don’t ask tough questions.

“Christie understands that he can get a bounce in New Jersey from a gushing national media,” Rutgers political science professor Ross Baker says. “Voters figure if they’re making a fuss about him, he must be all right.”

Is it working? Yes, outside New Jersey, anyway. Recent polls show the governor is more popular outside the Garden State than in it.

And, of course, here, within the borders, the questions tend to be more challenging.

Before this February morning is done, Ann Curry of “Today” will schmooze over Christie’s weight loss: “You look good,” she says, and she spends more time (five questions and comments) prying into the number of pounds he has lost than finding out about the state’s proposed budget or how Christie feels about the union-busting attempt by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker….

Read More >>> Here

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Filed under 60 Minutes, Chris Christie, Face the Nation, Gov.Scott Walker, Morning Joe, the Star-Ledger, Today Show

>In many N.J. towns that undergo revaluations, homeowners end up paying more open space taxes

>The second NJ.com editorial that caught my eye today was about how NJ open space taxes are effected when municipalities undergo revaluations like Middletown has. Open space taxes are tied into property values and increase proportionally to the value of a property after a revaluation.

I remember during last year’s budget introduction meeting in Middletown, a gentleman brought up this issue and wanted the Township to adjust the rate downward to offset the 14% tax increase which was contained in the budget. I believe his request fell on death ears and nothing was done to make adjustments to the open space tax:

In the nation’s most densely populated state, Garden State residents value their space.

But they may not be so thrilled about what they are paying for it. The reason is a tiny municipal tax for open space — pennies per $100 of a home’s valuation — that, left unchecked, has added up to big bucks in some towns.

The result is homeowners in 50 New Jersey towns have paid out some $15 million more to preserve land, farms and historic and recreational sites than they had in previous years. In one town last year, the tax bills jumped by more than $150 for some homeowners.

The quirk comes into play when towns conduct revaluations. The problem is towns — which make adjustments to prevent other slices of the tax pie from skyrocketing — fail to do the same for the open space tax. Because that tax’s rate is tied to property values, the levy goes up when properties appreciate.

The longer a town goes between revaluations, the more homes are worth and the bigger the bite taken by the open space tax. Last year, for example:

• In Roseland, which underwent a revaluation for the first time since the Nixon administration, the average property assessment climbed 651 percent. That jacked up the open space tax from roughly $25 to nearly $200 for the owner of a home assessed at the borough’s average of about $481,000. The Essex County town’s open space tax levy surged from nearly $95,000 to almost $727,000.

• In Brick, what had been an open space levy of more than $471,000 ballooned by 127 percent to more than $1 million after a revaluation in that Ocean County township.

• In Princeton Borough, leaders tried to avoid a tax hike by spending surplus funds and not replacing several departing workers. But the open space rate wasn’t adjusted before the Mercer County borough’s revaluation, and it raised that part of the average tax bill by $40 from the year before.

“Maybe some people are asleep at the switch,” said Ulrich H. Steinberg, a former director of the state Division of Local Government Services, which provides management and fiscal advice to municipalities. “(Officials) may see the numbers, but they may not understand what the numbers mean. They may not be looking out for what the overall impact is on the residents.”

Over the last five years, 71 New Jersey towns with open space taxes underwent property revaluations. Nearly three-quarters of them failed to adjust their open space tax rates, leading to a 128 percent increase in their combined levies — a windfall of more than $15.5 million. By contrast, municipal taxes in those towns rose an average of 12 percent….

Read more >>> Here and find out exactly “WHAT IS A MUNICIPAL OPEN-SPACE TAX?”

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Filed under Middletown, open-space tax, property tax revaluation, the Star-Ledger

>Halt gas drilling until water safety is assured

>There were a few very good editorials posted today on the Star-Ledger’s website NJ.com. This first one should be of interest to many environmental groups like the Sierra Club, Riverkeepers and Waterkeeper Alliance and anyone else that thinks clean drinking water is more important than drilling for natural gas along the Delaware river as new Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett wishes to do, should be concerned about this.

The process of drilling for natural gas along the Delware river would entail using a drilling process known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking”. This process injects chemical fluids and other materials into boreholes to fracture bedrock for the purpose off releasing oil or natural gas. Fracking could lead to ground water contamination and air quality issues :

The Delaware River Basin is downstream from planned drillings for natural gas. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has instructed his economic development officer to fast-track permits for drilling. About 10,000 wells are expected to be green-lighted, creating jobs, producing clean fuel and lessening our dependence on foreign oil for several decades.

But there’s a dark side: The process of drilling, known as hydraulic fracturing — or “fracking” — has the potential to contaminate the Delaware, which provides drinking water for 15 million people, including 3 million in New Jersey. The federal Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the threat, but won’t be done until next year. Pennsylvania should not be allowed to proceed until we know it’s safe.

New York already has a moratorium and New Jersey should follow suit. Two bills before the state Assembly tomorrow recognize the urgency of the situation: One would put the brakes on drilling until the feds complete their study, and the other asks Congress to no longer exempt fracking from safe water regulations, as it has since 2005, and to require drilling companies to reveal all chemicals used in fracking. “We’re asking for transparency,” said Assemblywoman Connie Wagner (D-Bergen), the bills’ sponsor. Both bills are key to protecting our water supply.

Fracking shatters rock formations to release the gas through high-powered drilling using sand, chemicals and billions of gallons of water. Along with the gas, the chemically contaminated water also is released. The earth’s naturally occurring radioactive radium also is disturbed by fracking. Wastewater treatment plants can’t scrub clean all the pollutants in Pennsylvania’s drilling waste water which, by one account, totaled more than a billion gallons in the past three years.

Preliminary reports by EPA consultants and regulators found it highly likely that toxic water unleashed in Pennsylvania would endanger the Delaware River, and evidence exists that the drilling wastewater also corrodes treatment plants, undermining their ability to break down regular sewage.

The Delaware River Basin Commission, which represents the watershed interests of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware, is proposing its own regulations for fracking. But the commission should take the advice of 39 New Jersey state legislators, who have asked it to wait until the federal study is complete. Jeff Tittel, of the Sierra Club’s New Jersey chapter, says the commission’s proposals are deficient because they don’t explore the vast clear-cutting of forests and construction of roads that accompany fracking….

Read more >>> Here

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Filed under clean water, Delaware river, Fracking, natural gas drilling, Pennsylania, Riverkeepers, Sierra club, the Star-Ledger, Waterkeeper Alliance