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The New York Times call Carl Mayer: "A populist crusader and ... a maverick lawyer." New York Times, October 15, 2004.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Untouchables Group Says AG Pick Doesn't Show Corruption Fighting Commitment

Posted on Thu, Jan. 12, 2006
Mixed reviews greet pick for A.G.Zulima Farber, a former state public advocate, won praise for her acumen. Critics questioned her experience.By Jennifer Moroz and Kaitlin GurneyInquirer Trenton Bureau
TRENTON - Gov.-elect Jon S. Corzine made what is widely considered the defining appointment of his fledgling administration yesterday, naming former state Public Advocate Zulima Farber his attorney general.
If her nomination is confirmed by the Senate, Farber, 61, a partner in a prominent New Jersey law firm, will get one of the state's most powerful posts, leading the sprawling agency in charge of statewide law enforcement. As chief of the Department of Law and Public Safety, she would oversee 10 divisions, including state police, four independent agencies, 9,600 employees, and an annual budget of nearly $1 billion.
Latino leaders praised the selection of the Cuban-born Farber, who would become New Jersey's first Hispanic attorney general. Friends and colleagues, too, voiced their support for a lawyer they say is smart, honest, aggressive and likable.
But critics quietly questioned whether Farber has the record or skills to effectively lead the attack on public corruption that Corzine has said will be a cornerstone of his administration - and that many say is needed to restore public confidence in the Attorney General's Office.
Attorney General Peter C. Harvey has come under fire - he says unfairly - for his department's weak reputation on corruption prosecutions.
Farber said she was "honored and humbled" by the nomination and pledged that policing government would be a "top priority."
"I'm very grateful to the governor for placing his confidence in me," she said.
Farber already has a long history with the state, including a failed bid for a seat on the Supreme Court.
A graduate of Rutgers Law School, Farber served as assistant prosecutor in Bergen County and as assistant counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne and as assistant prosecutor in Bergen County before joining the Lowenstein Sandler law firm in Roseland, where she rose to partner in 1986.
Between 1992 and 1994, she served under Gov. Jim Florio as public advocate, a role designed to provide a voice for consumers and minorities.
In 2003, Farber appeared poised to become the state's first Hispanic Supreme Court justice, but Gov. Jim McGreevey withdrew his support when he learned that a bench warrant had been issued after Farber, who has a history of driving violations, failed to respond to a traffic citation. He instead nominated John E. Wallace Jr., an appellate judge from Gloucester County. The move infuriated Latino leaders, who yesterday rejoiced.
"Today is a celebration," said Martin Perez, president of the Latino Leadership Association of New Jersey. "Zulima is a legal professional who has the respect not just of Latinos but of the whole legal community of New Jersey... . This is a vindication because the past administration failed to treat her with the respect and dignity she deserved."
Republican lobbyist Alan Marcus called Farber "the ultimate diversity appointment," but questioned whether she was in the right job.
He wondered why Corzine had not chosen Stuart Rabner, a federal prosecutor with a long corruption-busting record. The governor-elect instead named Rabner his chief counsel.
"I would say that given New Jersey's well-established national reputation for being the most corrupt state in the country, Gov. Corzine should have appointed someone who has significant corruption-fighting experience," said Carl Mayer, a Princeton lawyer and good-government activist who has tussled with Corzine before. "It would have been more logical to appoint his own counsel."
Christopher Christie, U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said he had recommended Rabner, his top criminal prosecutor, to Corzine, and was surprised that his deputy ended up in the "political" chief counsel role.
Of Corzine's choice for attorney general, Christie said: "I judge people when I meet them - and I've only met Zulima a couple of times."
John Degnan, who was attorney general under Byrne and helped Corzine in the selection process, said Corzine originally had looked at 20 candidates and interviewed six or seven for a job he considered "if not his most important appointment, then one of the two or three most important."
Corzine "told me the person has to be an excellent lawyer with good administrative skills and unquestionable integrity," Degnan said. "Some of the candidates were stronger on law enforcement... but the A.G.'s office is more than just criminal justice."
Bob Del Tufo, a former attorney general who served with Farber on Corzine's ethics advisory panel, called her a "very astute and honorable person" and "a seasoned veteran of the law."
With the help of a deputy with a strong law enforcement background to head the Division of Criminal Justice, "she should be fine," he said.
Several lawmakers reserved judgment, saying they awaited the answers Farber would provide during her confirmation hearings.
"The most important thing the next A.G. can do is resuscitate the long-standing tradition that the New Jersey attorney general pays attention to ethics and corruption," said Assemblyman Bill Baroni (R., Mercer).
Sen. John Adler (D., Camden), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he was confident the panel "will engage in a full examination of Zulima Farber's credentials."
"The committee members look forward to Ms. Farber providing her priorities and goals for fighting public corruption, protecting us from terrorists and ensuring the safety of our children," Adler said in a statement.
Farber said that her plans were "very general at this point," but that she wanted to review whether the department could be more cost-efficient.
And, she said, "I know that public corruption has been an issue in New Jersey and that the people rightly care very much about it. I plan to review the work specifically of the Division of Criminal Justice and take action. It is an important issue, and as chief law enforcement officer, it must be a top priority."
Zulima Farber
Age: 61.
Party: Democratic.
Home:North Bergen, N.J.
Occupation: Law partner at Lowenstein Sandler of Roseland, N.J., since 1986.
Education: Bachelor's and master's degrees from what is now Montclair State University. Law degree from Rutgers University Law School in Newark.
Career highlights: Assistant counsel to Gov. Brendan Byrne, 1978-81. Public advocate and public defender in the cabinet of Gov. James J. Florio, 1992-94.
Family: Divorced. No children.
SOURCE: Associated Press
Contact staff writer Jennifer Moroz at 609-989-8990 or
© 2006 Philadelphia Inquirer and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, January 08, 2006




After weeks of obseqious lobbying to retain his position as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Brad Campbell was dumped by Governor-Elect Jon Corzine.

For weeks, the Untouchables Group had called on Corzine to "Can Campbell" and yesterday that call became a reality.

Thanks to all our supporters who helped lobby to defeat the most anti-environment Commissioner in the history of New Jersey.

Be sure to read the recently published opinion piece by the Untouchables Group in the Asbury Park Press about why Campbell had to go. The opinion piece is re-printed in our archive section -- simply click on it now.

Stay tuned: On Tuesday, January 10, 2006 The Untouchables are back in Superior Court in New Jersey attempting to block Corzine's appointment of Robert Menendez, the Boss of Hudson County, to be our next Senator.



January 7, 2006
New Jersey's Medical School Mess
If Jon Corzine, the governor-elect of New Jersey, wants to cleanse the whiff of impropriety still lingering from his coziness with machine politicians, he has a very good place to start. He can do what some associates say he plans to do and throw his weight behind cleaning up corruption and mismanagement at the state's health care university.
The scope of the wrongdoing at that institution, the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, is staggering. More than $700 million in no-bid contracts was awarded over five years, often to politically connected recipients, some of whom did little or no work for the money. Jobs were filled by patronage. School funds were siphoned off for campaign contributions to elected officials. Lavish perquisites and bonuses were given to administrators. The board was riddled with conflicts of interest.
The most egregious wrong, to our mind, was the double-billing of Medicaid for the care provided to poor people. Doctors were billing for the services they provided at university clinics, and the university was separately billing for the same services, generating almost $5 million in extra payments at latest count. What makes this double-billing especially reprehensible is that university officials were warned by internal whistle-blowers and outside counsel years ago that the practice was probably illegal. Those responsible for continuing the overcharging scheme deserve to be indicted.
These sorry events speak to a culture of corruption and cronyism in the state and a paucity of strong oversight and monitoring. It should be a mark of shame for New Jersey that the driving force in calling the university to account was a federal prosecutor - United States Attorney Christopher Christie - not the governor, the state attorney general, the Legislature or the university's board of trustees.
Using the threat of criminal prosecution of the university for health care fraud, Mr. Christie forced the trustees to adopt a number of management reforms, accept a federal monitor and agree to repay the overcharges. The continuing federal investigation and monitoring may well turn up further evidence of abuses. But reform should not be left to a federal prosecutor and a monitor or to a university board and administration that have been woefully slow to move against corruption in the past.
The governorship in New Jersey is the most powerful in the nation. Mr. Corzine needs to use every tool at his disposal to restore the reputation of a medical institution whose most dedicated practitioners are committed to excellence and appalled at the administrative corruption around them.


January 7, 2006
Power Brokers
No Title and No Elective Office, but Influence Across New Jersey
It was a piece of legislation that could reshape New Jersey's landscape and affect the lives of millions of people.
In the spring of 2004, Gov. James E. McGreevey was pushing the Highlands Preservation Act, a proposal to severely limit new construction near the streams and reservoirs in northern New Jersey, to protect the source of drinking water for half of the state's nine million residents and rein in the growing problem of sprawl in the country's most densely populated state.
As the bill was being crafted in the State Legislature, it had the support of environmentalists and much of the business community, but ran into one major obstacle: George E. Norcross III, the political leader from Camden County.
Mr. Norcross holds no elective office or party title, and he is based at the other end of the state, but he had enough loyalty within the Legislature to be able to kill the program if he and his political and business associates did not like what was in the bill.
Mr. Norcross's legislative allies held out for changes that would make it easier for developers to build in the overcrowded suburbs, according to people involved in the negotiations.
At the same time, the involved parties say, they used the opportunity to pressure the state to block an oil company's plan to establish a nature preserve on Petty's Island, in the Delaware River near Camden. Mr. Norcross and his political and business associates argued that the oil company was simply trying to avoid the cost of cleaning up pollution on the island, and maintain that their plan to build a golf resort and housing development there would help revitalize the blighted area.
Mr. McGreevey eventually got the votes he needed for the Highlands plan, and Mr. Norcross walked away with what he wanted, too: both the so-called fast-track provision and the revised plan for Petty's Island. The achievements cemented his status as the state's most influential power broker.
Through a network of union leaders, legislators, developers and lawyers, Mr. Norcross has grown from a regional figure in Camden to a pivotal player in state politics. He has a say in a wide range of major decisions made by the state government, as well as in smaller government actions shown to enrich his allies and to cost taxpayers.
He has also helped Commerce Bank, where he is C.E.O. of the insurance division, win contracts in 31 of the 37 municipalities in Camden County.
Pulling State Funds South
Mr. Norcross rarely speaks in public, and when he does, he describes himself as "an activist" for South Jersey, where residents have long complained that they are overlooked by a state government dominated by the wealthier, more densely populated counties to the north.
He is proud to take credit for helping South Jersey residents receive infusions of state money and job appointment in recent years, including $175 million designated to rehabilitate sections of Camden and millions for Cooper Hospital there.
"I'm part of a great team of South Jersey Democrats," Mr. Norcross said, in the only remarks he would allow to be quoted for this article. "We've worked hard in recent years to bring South Jersey its fair share."
But Mr. Norcross's activities and interests clearly extend far north of New Jersey's geographic midpoint, the Raritan River. His ability to raise millions in campaign money has allowed him to donate generously in Bergen, Essex and Mercer Counties, gaining influence there.
It has enabled him to demand a seat at the table when Democratic leaders choose their nominees for governor or other high office. It also gives him an important voice on virtually every major state issue, from property taxes to the plan to build a hockey arena in downtown Newark and one in Pennsauken, where at the time he owned the rights to a minor-league franchise.
Mr. Norcross earned unwelcome notoriety last year when two Democratic political rivals revealed secretly recorded audio tapes in which he made expletive-laden threats about his adversaries and boasted of his ability to make political appointments.
"In the end, the McGreeveys, the Corzines, they're all going to be with me," Mr. Norcross said in the most memorable sound bite, which was disseminated on television, radio and the Internet and in Republican campaign advertisements. "Not that they like me, but because they have no choice."
Federal prosecutors are investigating whether his statements constitute official corruption, but Mr. Norcross's lawyer, William Tambussi, said that was nothing more than tough talk.
Governor-elect Jon S. Corzine brushed off Mr. Norcross's statements as unfounded chest beating, and insists he will not be pressured by political leaders or contributors.
"I don't think I've talked to that person more than once in the past year," Mr. Corzine said of Mr. Norcross during a recent interview. "And he's certainly not going to have any more say in state policy than anyone else."
But when he takes office on Jan. 17, Mr. Corzine will have to contend with more than a dozen legislators who receive substantial financial support from Mr. Norcross, including his former partner in a chain of optometry stores, Joseph J. Roberts Jr., who recently became Assembly speaker.
Mr. Norcross's ascent is a testament to the resilience of New Jersey's political power brokers. Fifty years ago, they ran gritty urban organizations that derived much of their influence from union halls, housing projects and church basements. The growth of suburbia diluted the power of political machines in many other parts of the country.
But New Jersey's lax campaign-contribution laws and strong tradition of home rule, which gives municipal officials broad powers to make decisions regarding development issues, allowed the county bosses to adapt and flourish.
Mr. Norcross's organization mirrors the changes that have reshaped the state in the last half-century. His political coalition includes investment bankers, laborers, suburbanites and city dwellers, and cuts across racial and ethnic lines. That diversity also extends to those who contribute to the various campaign funds that Mr. Norcross controls; they include unions, government contractors, lawyers, engineering firms and his associates in banking and insurance.
He has used that money to become the most technologically innovative of the state's Democratic political leaders, investing millions to provide his candidates with state-of-the-art polling, target marketing and opposition research.
Although Mr. Norcross, a self-professed "Reagan Democrat," often urges elected officials to practice fiscal restraint, he is not reluctant to spend with abandon to help them win elections. In 2003, Mr. Norcross and the Camden County Democratic Organization raised $4.4 million to help a former state police superintendent, Fred Madden, win a State Senate seat that has an annual salary of $49,000.
When Mr. Corzine ran for the United States Senate in 2000, Mr. Norcross threw his organization's weight behind his opponent in the primary, former Gov. Jim Florio. Mr. Corzine won, but only after spending $30 million. The two men later made peace, and records show that Mr. Corzine has given more than $700,000 to Mr. Norcross's various political committees.
Mr. Norcross, 49, said he learned to act decisively and cherish political loyalty from his father, George Jr., who served for years as the president of the Southern New Jersey A.F.L.-C.I.O. Central Labor Council.
County Chairman in His 30's
After Mr. Norcross dropped out of Rutgers University at Camden in the late 1970's, his father helped him start a small insurance company and introduced him to the mayor of Camden, who appointed him to the only government position he has ever held: chairman of the city's parking authority. By 1989, he had shown such skill at running campaigns and mobilizing unions that he rose to the chairmanship of Camden County's Democratic organization.
Mr. Norcross left the post in 1995. His brother Donald, a union leader, runs it now. A year later, Commerce Bancorp bought Mr. Norcross's insurance company and brought him in to start up its insurance division, and both he and the bank began to take a far more prominent role in state affairs.
Commerce, based in Cherry Hill, opened or acquired dozens of branches across New Jersey. Its political action committee doled out $1.5 million to New Jersey political candidates between 1998 and 2003, much of it in communities that gave Commerce banking, insurance and bond underwriting work.
The insurance division run by Mr. Norcross now brings the bank more than $50 million a year in premiums from various municipal governments and authorities.
David Flaherty, a spokesman for the company, has said that Commerce has attracted business from governments around the state because it is a New Jersey-based company and provides quality service at a reasonable price.
Mr. Norcross is paid $1.3 million a year by Commerce. According to financial records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, he now holds bank stock worth more than $100 million.
Mr. Norcross is up by 4 a.m. most days to coordinate his political work, is at the office by 6 a.m., and often works late into the evening. He and his wife, Sandy, have two children - Lexie, 18, and Alex, 9 - and despite his long hours, he prides himself on being an involved father.
When Mr. McGreevey sought support for the Highlands protection plan, Mr. Norcross told the administration and legislative leaders that he considered the plan hostile to the business community, according to people involved in the talks.
Senator Stephen M. Sweeney of Gloucester County, vice chairman of the environmental committee, balked at bringing the matter to a vote. Mr. Sweeney, whose record-setting $1.8 million campaign for the Senate in 2001 had received sizable contributions from Mr. Norcross and the Camden County Democratic organization, first wanted the administration to support his proposal to speed the pace of construction elsewhere in the state.
As the standoff dragged on, Mr. Norcross's brother Phil, the managing partner of a prominent law firm, negotiated with Mr. McGreevey's legal advisers at the Marriott hotel, a few blocks from the State House, people familiar with the effort at the time said. Phil Norcross did not respond to telephone and e-mail messages requesting comment.
In the General Assembly, meanwhile, the Budget Committee chairman Louis D. Greenwald, of Camden County, pressed the administration for assurances that it would not permit Citgo Petroleum to establish a nature preserve on Petty's Island, where Mr. Norcross's associates were hoping to build a hotel, golf resort and residential development.
The McGreevey administration ultimately relented on both fronts.
When Mr. Corzine becomes governor he will have the opportunity to reverse both of those decisions.
Petty's Island still needs many state approvals before development can begin. Mr. McGreevey signed the fast-track bill, but later, in the lame-duck period after he announced he was resigning because of a sex scandal, he issued an executive order postponing it. Mr. Corzine has said that he is undecided about Petty's Island, but that he opposes the fast-track law.
Mr. Norcross declined to speak specifically about either issue. But Senator Sweeney said that the fast-track bill would spur economic growth and sensible development by cutting bureaucracy.
"We're not going away on this one," Mr. Sweeney said. "We're going to keep fighting."
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"The Republican candidate is running an ad featuring the Democratic candidate's ex-wife, and the Democratic candidate is allegedly spreading rumors that the Republican candidate had an affair with an ex-Miss New Jersey. Boy, remember the good old days in Jersey when all they had to worry about was a crooked gay governor?" (Jay Leno, Tonight Show, November 7, 2005)

Saturday, January 07, 2006



After weeks of obseqious lobbying to retain his position as Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, Brad Campbell was dumped by Governor-Elect Jon Corzine.

For weeks, the Untouchables Group had called to Corzine to "Can Campbell" and yesterday that call became a reality.

Thanks to all our supporters who helped lobby to defeat the most anti-environment Commissioner in the history of New Jersey.

Be sure to read the recently published opinion piece by the Untouchables Group in the Asbury Park Press about why Campbell had to go. The opinion piece is re-printed in our archive section -- simply click on it now.

Stay tuned: Next week the Untouchables are back in court to further shake up New Jersey politics.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Compliments to Monica Yant Kinney, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist, who wrote the following suggestions for New Jersey's "name search.":

New Jersey: The only state you have to pay to leave."

What you make, Trenton takes

Paul Viggiano of Haddon Heights seemed to be speaking directly to Gov.-elect Jon Corzine with his slogan:
"Come to New Jersey, where the landscape will take your breath away - and so will your tax bill."

Come to think of it, so did John Miscenich, who wrote, "New Jersey: Things are as bad as they seem."

After an ugly election, it's no surprise many of you focused your pen on politicians behaving badly.
"New Jersey: Where the roads are paved and the pockets lined with good intentions" was how Mount Laurel's Joe Reale saw it.

"New Jersey: Pay to play, play to win" came from Chuck Fest, a retired gym teacher in Moorestown.

Now, a slogan like "New Jersey: You got a problem with that?" certainly speaks to our feisty point of view.

But "New Jersey: Corrupt and proud" is probably a bit edgier than anything Codey has in mind.
Everyone loves The Sopranos, but something tells me the tourism board won't go for your mobbed-up mottos.

So to Paul DeSantis, I apologize.
"New Jersey: We can have you killed" may be, technically, true. But is it inviting?
From The Sopranos to Springsteen, you do love your Jersey guys.

My favorite Bruce looter? Roger Weaver of Medford, who reminded us:
"New Jersey: It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap, get out while you're young."

And the winner is...
Coming in third place is Jim Shulman, a well-traveled marketing consultant from Bryn Mawr with the ethically challenged "New Jersey: One state, under indictment."
Great work, Jim. How much would you have charged for that?

Second place goes to Michelle Hong for the "It's so obvious, I can't believe I didn't think of it" slogan:
"New Jersey: Way better than Old Jersey."
Michelle, I mean this when I say I can see that one on a trucker hat.

And the winner?
After several sleepless nights and expensive psychic consultations, I hereby award first place to Katie Yeager, a recent arrival from Colorado.
Yeager's entry blends her culture shock and outsider's bemusement.
Even better? It's a double entendre, if one is inclined to read it that way.
And here, without further ado, is your new state slogan:
"New Jersey: Everything you've heard is true."

Asbury Park Press Publishes Untouchables Editorial on Brad Campbell: Enemy of New Jersey's Environment.

State needs fresh leadership for environmental protection

Posted by the Asbury Park Press on 12/15/05 BY CARL J. MAYER

The first tests of Gov.-elect Jon S. Corzine's leadership will begin before he takes office. One of the keys will be who Corzine appoints to lead the state Department of Environmental Protection.

New Jersey has more environmental problems than any other state, thus this position is vitally important. The current commissioner, Bradley M. Campbell, has failed to safeguard New Jersey's environment and wildlife. He needs to be replaced by someone who will actually protect the environment of the state rather than do the bidding of developers and special-interest groups.

Here are five reasons Corzine ought not to reappoint Campbell:

Campbell recently approved New Jersey's first bear hunt in almost 35 years. You can't be an environmental leader and work to destroy wildlife. Yosemite Park has thousands of people and bears in close proximity; they routinely manage by using nonlethal methods.

Campbell not only approved the slaughter of deer in New Jersey in 2001, but he approved a vicious method called "net and bolt" that is condemned by the Humane Society and virtually every other animal welfare organization in the country. Under "net and bolt," animals are wrestled to the ground after being trapped under a net and then an 8-inch steel rod is exploded into their heads, causing a gruesome death.

Campbell is controlled by the bosses who have corrupted New Jersey politics for decades. The best example of this is the proposed development of Petty's Island off Pennsauken in Camden County. News outlets reported earlier this year that Campbell opposed preserving this island — home to nesting bald eagles — in favor of developing it after he was lobbied by South Jersey political boss George E. Norcross III. The development will be done by Cherokee Partners, a firm that has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to Norcross and Campbell's Democratic Party.

Campbell is an appointee of former Gov. James E. McGreevey. Outside his office, Campbell had a framed picture of McGreevey, addressed to Campbell, that said: "Thanks Brad." Corzine cannot call himself a reformer if he reappoints McGreevey holdovers.

Campbell approved the worst environmental law in New Jersey and maybe the country — the so-called "fast-track" bill. It allows developers to bypass the legal and environmental protections afforded land in New Jersey and continue to build uncontrollably. The Sierra Club and the entire environmental community opposed this measure because it endangers the remaining 20 percent of New Jersey that is open space. It was passed in a backroom deal, written behind closed doors, with the exclusive input of industry and without the environmental community.

I have witnessed Campbell's management style. In 2001 I represented, as a lawyer, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and various groups in New Jersey that wanted to stop the "net and bolt" torture of animals. We had a meeting in Campbell's office. Rather than listen to any of the facts or evidence regarding the costliness and ineffectiveness of killing deer, Campbell spent the entire meeting arguing how "net and bolt" was actually humane.

When McGreevey was on a statewide radio call-in show, I called to point out that McGreevey had called the "net and bolt" procedure "heinous." He agreed that it was. Minutes later, I received a call from Campbell critical of my call and threatening to cancel a previously arranged meeting.

You can't run a government agency by berating environmental advocates. You can't be an environmental leader and favor torturing wildlife and loosening controls on developers. Campbell tried this. It didn't work. He must go. Corzine should find a new leader to protect the environment of New Jersey.

Carl J. Mayer is lawyer in Princeton.

Copyright © 2005 Asbury Park Press.

Monday, January 02, 2006

New Jersey Corruption Goes National

George F. Will: High cost of N.J. politics
By George F. WillPublished 2:15 am PST Sunday, November 6, 2005NEWARK, N.J. — Sen. Jon Corzine, the New Jersey Democrat, brings his characteristic grandiosity even to his buyer's remorse. In 2000, the former chairman of Goldman Sachs pulled $60.2 million from his wallet to buy a U.S. Senate seat. But just four years after the most expensive Senate campaign in American history, he decided to escape from that seat — for which he paid $27,489.03 a day, prorated over six years — and try to become governor.
His Senate colleagues, their feelings injured, may wonder, "Was it something we said?" New Jersey should wonder whether some future Corzine whim might make him flee from Trenton, the pleasures of which might pall on someone of his restless ambitiousness.
But before he can regret purchasing the governorship, he must deal with Douglas Forrester, the Republican candidate who has come from double-digit deficits in polls two months ago to within 4 points in a recent poll. Forrester, too, is a rich businessman, and is largely financing his own campaign — this is the world that campaign finance reformers have made, with contribution limits that make fundraising more difficult. Since securing the Democratic nomination, Corzine has outspent Forrester by $15 million.
When Arch Moore was running against West Virginia's Democratic governor Jay Rockefeller in 1980, a popular bumper sticker said: "Make him spend it all, Arch." Forrester cannot make Corzine spend all his $260 million, even if, as in 2000, Corzine pays to bus people in from Philadelphia homeless shelters and halfway houses to do whatever such people are paid to do on Election Day. And even if, as in 2000, Corzine's version of faith-based campaigning contributes much more than 30 pieces of silver to some churches whose clergy then endorse him. In 2000, Corzine — who of course in 2002 supported the McCain-Feingold campaign finance restrictions for others — outspent his opponent 10-1, but won just 50-47.
Never mind Corzine's campaign spending and the $470,000 "loan" that he made and forgave to his former girlfriend who heads one of the state's largest public employee unions, with which the next governor will negotiate. He has done well even while doing good, as he understands that, in the Senate. The Bergen Record reports that while serving on the Foreign Relations Committee, Corzine voted for a treaty containing "a narrowly crafted clause" that conferred a lucrative tax exemption on Corzine and some other wealthy investors in a Japanese bank.
Forrester's two issues — the ideal number — are corruption and property taxes. New Jersey leads the nation in both. At $1,908 per capita, property taxes are almost double the national average. And assuming, perhaps rashly, that Hurricane Katrina disrupted business-as-usual in Louisiana, New Jersey may now have, temporarily, the nation's most persistently corrupt politics. When New Jersey's last elected governor resigned after revelations of his affair with a male assistant, the state seemed to merely shrug, perhaps because peculation was minimally involved, for a change.
Forrester's problem is that New Jersey has become a deep shade of blue. In 1988, George H. W. Bush's winning margin was 13.6 percent. Just eight years later, Bill Clinton's winning margin was 17.9 percent. Some Corzine ads end: "Doug Forrester: George Bush's choice for governor. Is he yours?" New Jersey's choice is to protest high taxes and culture of corruption, or forever hold its peace.
In politics, boredom can be, if not a virtue, a sign of one — impatience with impotence. Under Corzine's chairmanship in the 2004 election cycle, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee raised more money than its Republican counterpart, yet Democrats suffered a net loss of four seats and he recoiled from the prospect of a protracted Senate service in the minority.
A New Jersey governor is an American caesar. The most powerful of all governors, he or she is the only state official elected statewide and appoints the other state officials. Still, some people suspect that Corzine wants the governorship because he has his eye on another property 16 blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Senate with which he has become disenchanted. Many more presidents have come from governorships than from Senate seats, and New Jersey's governor gets attention in the largest media markets in two contiguous blue states — Philadelphia and New York City.
` Forrester says wryly — and accurately — that he would be in the Senate from which Corzine is fleeing if in October 2002, the Democrats had not dumped his opponent, the ethically challenged Sen. Robert Torricelli, and replaced him with a then-retired Sen. Frank Lautenberg. Oh, New Jersey.