August 8, 2005
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of the Attorney General
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
Dear Mr. Attorney General:
We write as attorneys, elected officials, former elected officials, law professors and former prosecutors to ask that you take specific and critical measures to investigate and prosecute wide-spread criminal political corruption in the State of New Jersey.
We need not recount the massive violations of federal law that have already occurred in New Jersey. The efforts by lobbyists and contractors to bribe politicians at all levels of New Jersey government in return for government favors -- in violation of several federal statutes -- have been the subject of numerous investigative series in virtually every publication in the state as well as in national media outlets like the New York Times, Sixty Minutes and The Philadelphia Inquirer. Academic political scientists of national repute routinely opine that New Jersey is the most politically corrupt state in the nation.
The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey openly admits that when he attends meetings with U.S. Attorneys from around the country, that he is approached by his fellow prosecutors who express disbelief and outrage by what they read occurring in New Jersey. Dozens of low-level New Jersey officials and lobbyists have gone to jail.
Most incredibly, as detailed below, a United States District Court Judge, sua sponte, after the conviction of executives of the New Jersey-based Commerce bank in a federal trial in Philadelphia, exhorted federal prosecutors to pursue Commerce Bank and other lobbyists for federal racketeering violations.
Extraordinary corruption requires extraordinary measures. Despite low-level convictions, pay-to-play business-as-usual is still the order of the day in New Jersey. Many of the same actors involved in illegal schemes still participate in New Jersey governance. Only your office can provide the resources and tools needed to end criminal political corruption in New Jersey.
Therefore, we ask that you take the following measures:
1.Appoint an Outside Prosecutor to investigate possible criminal political corruption in the state of New Jersey in violation of federal law.
Since the lapse of the Independent Counsel statute, the Attorney General still retains the right to appoint an Outside Prosecutor or Special Counsel under Justice Department guidelines.
2. Impanel a Special Grand Jury that will sit and hear evidence regarding a broad pattern of possible criminal conduct in New Jersey politics in violation of the federal Hobbs Act 18 U.S.C. § 1951 and the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) (18 USCS §§ 1961 et seq.)
As provided in 18 U.S.C. § 3331(a) “the district court must also impanel a special grand jury when the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, or a designated Assistant Attorney General certifies in writing to the chief judge of the district that in his/her judgment, a special grand jury is necessary ‘because of criminal activity in the district.’"
The Special Grand Jury has a duty under 18 U.S.C. § 3332(a) "to inquire into offenses against the criminal laws of the United States alleged to have been committed within that district."
There is important precedent for a special grand jury in New Jersey. In the late 1960s a special grand jury was impaneled by Essex County prosecutor Joseph Lordi to investigate allegations of corruption in Newark; working with the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, the criminal activities of Newark Mayor Hugh Adonezio’s ring were ended.
We are not the first to suggest broad prosecutions for racketeering involving those businesses and politicians that make private deals at the public expense. In May of this year, two Commerce Bank executives were convicted of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 and honest services wire fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1343 and 1346 and honest services mail fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1341 and 1346 for their roles in bribing public officials in the City of Philadelphia in return for City contracts.
After the jury rendered its verdict, on May 9, 2005, U.S. District Judge Michael M. Baylson suggested, sua sponte, that the U.S. Attorneys office bring a RICO case against Commerce Bank and the many other bankers, lawyers and public officials that defraud the public by selling government contracts to the highest bidder. This so called “pay to play” system of criminal corruption is, in fact, more endemic throughout the State of New Jersey than it is in Philadelphia.
The U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, in response to Judge Baylson’s suggestion, claimed that a lack of resources would be an obstacle to a RICO case against Commerce Bank and other institutions engaged in plying politicians with bribes. These comments echo those of the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, who told the Newark Star Ledger on January 12, 2003: "I'm sure if I had another FBI squad, I'd have even more cases; so many of these people [New Jersey politicians taking bribes] are just so stupid."
The Justice Department ought to make a commitment to end racketeering in New Jersey by taking the steps requested in this letter. We recognize that we, like Judge Baylson, are making serious charges. But we and other whistleblowers have provided crucial information that has allowed the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey to prosecute dozens of local elected officials and lobbyists. It is time to take the advice of whistleblowers and broaden these prosecutions and devote the public resources necessary to stop, once and for all time, these manifest abuses of the public trust.
3.Take the position that federal Grand Juries may, on their own initiative, and independent of federal prosecutors, deliver indictments and hear testimony from whistleblowers possessing evidence of criminal political corruption.
This practice, know as “presentment” was prevalent throughout much of the nation’s history and is specifically protected under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The literal meaning and language of the Constitution must be respected and the Justice Department should encourage citizen “presentment” around the country as an important supplementary mechanism for fighting corruption.
We are submitting to you today evidence of RICO and Hobbs Act violations by Commerce Bank and South Jersey “Boss” George Norcross; the same information is being transmitted to U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Chesler and to the sitting federal Grand Jury in Trenton, New Jersey. In essence, this evidence suggests that Nocross and Commerce Bank sought to bribe and extort the Mayor of Palmyra, New Jersey in a scheme to remove the Town Attorney of Palmyra and appoint another attorney for the financial benefit of Norcross and Commerce Bank. See Exhibit A and Exhibit B.
4. Instruct the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the Southern District of New York to join the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey in his investigation of political corruption in New Jersey and take over the investigation of persons that might pose a conflict for the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.
While the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Chris Christie, has done an admirable job of prosecuting lower-level elected officials, we have direct and indirect evidence that some of the most influential politicians and corporations in New Jersey may have committed federal crimes and U.S. Attorney Christie may have conflicts regarding some of these actors.
Our immediate concern is that the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey admitted, after widespread reports in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Newark Star Ledger in 2003, that he had a private lunch with George Norcross in New Brunswick, New Jersey in 2003. The lunch occurred while Mr. Christie was said to be exploring a run for Governor of the State; Mr. Norcross himself has bragged in conversations recorded on tape by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office, that his support is critical for anyone seeking statewide office in New Jersey. Furthermore, in 2003, companies affiliated with George Norcross were under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FBI.
Mr. Christie has made no secret of his intense involvement in partisan politics. He was listed as a Pioneer in the Bush campaign of 2000: one of only 241 Pioneers in the country that raised over $100,000 for the President. As late as June of 2003, Mr. Christie, while serving as U.S. Attorney, contributed to the 2004 Bush re-election campaign .
Since Mr. Christie became U.S. Attorney, Mr. Christie’s brother has undergone scrutiny because he has contributed over $400,000 to various New Jersey state GOP coffers; in comparison, he gave less than $12,000 prior to the time that his brother applied to become U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. Many of these state and county organizations also receive contributions from Commerce Bank.
While we suggest nothing untoward involving U.S. Attorney Christie or his brother, even the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest would be avoided if the Attorney General were to appoint an Outside Prosecutor and if the U.S. Attorneys for the Southern District of New York and Eastern District of Pennsylvania would be charged with broadening the investigation of criminal political corruption in New Jersey.
5. Commit to a policy of no more deals for those who violate federal law in the process of committing criminal political corruption in New Jersey.
6. Bring in for questioning the dozen so-called “bosses” that all major media outlets, judges, prosecutors and the public now recognize control the daily machinery of New Jersey politics.
The contention that these men have no knowledge of the criminal activity that so many have been prosecuted for over the last ten years strains credulity. One of those “bosses” is George Norcross.
The notion that a quid pro quo is commonplace in political transactions in New Jersey is now received wisdom. Consider New Jersey lobbyist Alan Marcus’ recent description of political business in this state, as told to New York magazine: “In New Jersey, you contribute money not for access but results. Anybody who doesn’t admit that is lying.” Numerous convicted politicians and business contributors in this state have made similar admissions in entering pleas in New Jersey. A quid pro quo is the essence of bribery, Hobbs Act and RICO crimes and these admissions should play a prominent role in investigations and convictions.
Now is not the time to stop at individual low-level convictions. Only by taking the measures outlined in this letter, can those who are running by all accounts the most criminally corrupt political system in the country be brought to justice.
We hereby request a meeting with you to discuss these issues.
Hon. Carl J. Mayer, Esq., Former Committeeman, Princeton Township
Hon. John Gural, Mayor, Palmyra Borough
Ted Rosenberg, Esq., Solicitor, Palmyra Borough
Patrick L. Meehan
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
615 Chestnut Street, Suite 1250.
Philadelphia, PA 19106-4476.
Southern District of New York
1 St. Andrews Plaza
New York City, NY 10007
United States Attorney, District of New Jersey
970 Broad Street, 7th Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
Honorable Stanley R.Chesler
United States Courthouse
402 E. State St.
Trenton, NJ 08608