August 19, 2004

The Jersey Political Swamp – How it Works.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jim @ 9:51 pm

Jim McGreevey’s resignation and decision to stay in Drumthwacket until November 15th, no matter what the consequences to the state, or to us sorry asses who live and pay taxes here, has caused much of the crap that is New Jersey politics to float to the top of muck for all of us see. The entire mess has made New Jersey a national joke.

Nevertheless, I would like to publicly thank Jim McGreevey, because, but for the latest disgraces, I would not have taken the time to see how truly rotten-to-the-core the political system in this state is. I have lived here all my life, and I am embarrassed to say that it was not until the last few days that I fully appreciated the extent to which we are being royally screwed by the unholy alliance that exists among our state legislature, the governor and a handful of well-moneyed political bosses.

You (especially if you live in Jersey) absolutely have to read “How Many NJ Legislators Exploit the System.” The information was originally published about a year ago, although I have absolutely no reason to believe that it remains anything other than an accurate description of the current state of affairs in Trenton. The reader can see how our “representatives” (of both parties) have constructed and/or have benefited from a legislative scheme in which financial disclosure is a joke, nepotism is the rule rather than the exception, and conflicts of interest are relegated to little bits of scrap paper. You will have to bookmark the site, because there is too much information for one sitting, and more than fifteen or twenty minutes of reading will be hazardous to your health.

Here are a few snippets:

Behind the scenes, powerful unelected political bosses from the Democratic and Republican parties — many of them beneficiaries of millions of dollars in government contracts — work to re-elect their legislative allies and maintain the status quo in Trenton. These bosses raise multimillion-dollar campaign war chests for state legislators.

Nepotism is not only legal in New Jersey, it is practiced by almost one in five lawmakers who have put family members on their payrolls. For example, Democratic Assemblyman Gary L. Guear of Mercer County hired his wife to a $55,000-a-year job to run his district office. Nepotism is banned in Congress and 19 states.

Lawmakers operate almost free of ethical scrutiny because there are virtually no laws to prevent conflicts of interest in the state Senate or Assembly. A member who could profit from a bill can absolve himself by simply sending a note to the secretary of the chamber saying he can still cast a fair vote. All the notes are tucked away in paper files in Trenton, which are beyond the reach of public inspection by all but the most determined voters. The lawmakers’ own ethics oversight committee has been called a “damage-control” board by its former chairman.

The public financial disclosure forms lawmakers are supposed to fill out each year are so vague they get an “F” from the Center for Public Integrity, a Washington, D.C.-based not-for-profit government watchdog group. The forms, approved by the Legislature, are riddled with loopholes that allow members to hide their business clients — and even the names of spouses on the public payroll.

With regard to the joke that is Jersey’s Financial Disclosure Law, be sure to check out the left side of the site under “Personal Disclosures.” In order to get a real flavor for just how “seriously” our elected representatives take the issue of financial disclosure, I recommend that you go here and take a look at the form submitted by state senator Raymond Lesniak (see District 20).

It is time to drain the Swamp.

But, how? Surely, the well-entrenched beneficiaries of the putrid system will not step to the front of the line to change things. I’m not even sure that genuine “reform candidates” could get it done (assuming that such candidates could ever be elected, given the current Swamp Rules).

Maybe we’ll have to turn to the feds.


  1. You could move to Arkansas and become an honorary Hillbilly. They have accepted an old Florida boy like me, so giving a New Jersey exile sanctuary shouldn’t be an issue.

    “Welcome to Northwest Arkansas, we do high tech!”

    Comment by Mike S — August 19, 2004 @ 10:44 pm

  2. Who is the U.S. attorney? That’s likely your only real hope.

    Comment by Jack Bog — August 19, 2004 @ 11:50 pm

  3. I suspect you are right. After all, it was AUSA Chris Christie who got Kushner to plead guilty to tax fraud, witness tampering and other nasty stuff and who had indicted D’Amiano, both huge financial supporters of the Gov.

    Comment by Jim - Parkway Rest Stop — August 20, 2004 @ 4:06 am

  4. Actually, McGreevy has done me a favor – in teaching the infamous “In re Baby M” case in Contracts class last night (where the N.J. Sup. Ct. invalidated a surrogacy contract on the grounds that it violated the public policy of the state), I was able to make the forceful point that the N.J. Sup. Ct. relied almost entirely upon (1) a law review article about surrogacy contracts, and (2) the N.J. adoption code as sources for public policy. In contrast to the general rule that public policy can be used to invalidate contracts only where it reflects “universal public sentiment”, relying on N.J. statutes means that the public policy reflects only the opinions of 51% of your legislators. As the McGreevy scandal – campaign financing and otherwise – has indicated, a majority of N.J. legislators apparently comprises 2 or 3 honest votes and a bunch of corrupt pols looking out for their own personal interests or fighting off a blackmailer.

    Thanks, N.J., for providing a true “teaching moment.”

    BTW, where’s the next Jack Steele installment?

    Comment by Dan — August 20, 2004 @ 11:31 am

  5. .. maybe Jersey should do what they did in my hometown in 1945… and, that is… shoot the bastards… if you are interested, google “Battle of Athens”… our returning Vets overthrew the local political machine by stealing weapons from the local armoury, and storming the Court House…. Athens is the county seat of my local gummint here in Tennessee.. it makes me proud every time I read those old history books… God Bless our Veterans…

    Comment by Eric — August 20, 2004 @ 8:05 pm

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