PRINCETON MAYOR MARCHAND DOES BUSINESS WITH CROOKED COMMERCE BANK
The only issue, alas, in the race for Governor is which candidate is more corrupt and beholden to corrupt special interests.
The campaigns, the press and the public acknowledge as much.
This is not surprising given that New Jersey has established a national reputation as probably the most politically crooked state in the Union.
Our last two state-wide elected officials – Jim McGreevey and Robert Torricelli—have resigned in disgrace after the indictments and convictions of their associates.
Every major paper in the state has published investigative series documenting in great detail how massive corruption and graft by both parties has ripped apart our democracy and led to some of the highest taxes in the nation.
Even by New Jersey standards it gets more bizarre. In one of the strangest letters in American political history, the chairman of the New Jersey Republican party wrote in August to the chairman of the New Jersey Democratic party. His request: if you promise not to drop your irreparably damaged gubernatorial candidate, we will not drop ours.
It is against this backdrop that I was surprised to learn that the elected Democratic leaders in Princeton Township do business with the very same elements at the center of state-wide criminality and corruption scandals.
In particular, I was shocked to learn that Princeton Township has used as its bond underwriter the notorious Commerce Bank. This bank, led by South Jersey political Boss George Norcross, had two of its senior executives convicted by a federal jury this year on charges of bribing politicians in return for receiving business. Commerce Bank was also implicated in another alleged scheme to bribe and extort the Mayor of Palmyra, a South Jersey town. (The matter is under investigation by the United States Attorney.)
It is doubly surprising then that Commerce Bank has done massive bond business with the Township of Princeton. Commerce bank has done over $20 million of bond business with Princeton Township in the period 1997-2002, the last year for which public figures were available.
The citizens of Princeton deserve to know exactly how much money was paid to Commerce bank for its “services” in borrowing money for the town. In other instances, investment banks have taken up to 25% of the amount of bonds issued for a town. (In a hypothetical example, say Princeton borrowed $1 million dollars, only $750,000 would go for projects in town while $250,000 would go into the pockets of politically connected investment bankers.)
The Democratic Party has run the town like its own fiefdom for decades and will never bring fiscal responsibility to Princeton. The predictable result: taxes up over 50% in five years. But the Republicans have not promised to end business with Commerce Bank or end no-bid contracts. If Republicans or Independents pledge to end this corrupt arrangement, they merit consideration. As for the incumbents, the citizens deserve answers within the week.
Carl Mayer, an attorney, is the author of the book: Shakedown: The Fleecing of the Garden State. His blog is www.newjerseyuntouchables.blogspot.com.