Cultivating Justice in the Garden State

David Wildstein had Chapter 3 – Settling Scores – on his blog which led a my first blog. Now the book is out and reveals Union County political power broker Raymond Lesniak to be in line with almost all other politicians here who believe they know it all because they elicit the largest bribes. Lesniak’s career highlight was some forensic competition he won in France opposing the death penalty. We find out about France, his method of preparation, and the skill level of his opponents that day but nothing about his argument. It’s all about him.

In 1982 when I was in the Assembly, I voted in favor of a bill that reinstated the death penalty. (page xi)

By the time of the new millennium, I had a spiritual conversion brought on by the loss of a girlfriend who broke my heart, but which led me to change my approach to life and my political attitudes. (page xi)

Neither Whitman nor Corzine nor Murphy knocked people over with their personality and charm, but Whitman overcame it with a tax-cutting message and Corzine and Murphy buried their opposition with huge campaign expenditures. (page 49)

Because of my prolific fundraising, I was hoping to be President Gore’s ambassador to France. C’est la vie. (page 49)

But having a safe seat can lead to complacency, and I think that’s what happened with Florio. He didn’t try to explain to voters why tax hikes were necessary. he reformed parts of the teachers’ pension system without consulting the very powerful teachers’ union, the New Jersey Education Association. he didn’t get buy-in from teachers on the tax hikes, most of which went to fund education. The result was a disaster. (page 55)

I overheard Clinton on his cell phone speaking with a Democratic congressman during the debate of the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA). Clinton was incensed as the congressman was trying to explain his commitment to Richard Gephardt, House majority leader, who opposed NAFTA. “Next time you want something, as f****n Gephardt,” Clinton yelled and hung up. (page 69)

So with the first words to me, Christie couldn’t help but remind me of his power and his unearned sense of self-righteousness. (page 77)

I was one of the last to realize that McGreevey was gay, not that it would have mattered to me in the last. (page 84)

Any politician who seeks public office in New Jersey knows all about the state’s property tax burden. Most years we’re number one in that department nationwide. But in the mid-1990s, we also were number one in car insurance rates. And people were pretty fed up about the combination of property taxes and car insurance. McGreevey was completely focused on those two issues. If you asked him about the weather, he’d find a way to bring the conversation back to the high cost of car insurance. No other issues mattered, and within two weeks of Election Day, we were closing in on Whitman. (page 87)

In New Jersey, campaign twists are expected, but none of us could have imagined the twist that unfolded in late October 1997. Two weeks before Election Day, a hooker in Perth Amboy name Myra Rosa was arrested and told the arresting officer that Jim McGreevey was one of her johns….I had Rosa bailed out and sent to Disneyland for two weeks, all expenses paid….The press was pissed off at me for years. Five years later, when McGreevey was governor, Myra Rosa was killed by gunfire on the streets of Philadelphia. (page 88)

Giblin was concerned about chatter that McGreevey was gay and was caught in a compromising position in a graveyard with another young man. It was, as often is the case, a permutation of an actual encounter McGreevey had at a rest stop on the Garden State Parkway, where he was questioned by a police officer for flashing his headlights, a signal that he was looking for sex. (page 90)

At around the same time, another character was emerging in New Jersey’s political landscape. His name was Chris Christie, and President George W. Bush had recently appointed him as a U.S. attorney for the state despite his utter lack of qualifications for the post. But Christie’s brother, Todd, was a big fundraiser for Bush, so the job as the state’s top federal prosecutor went to the fundraiser’s brother. (page 91)

Gary Taffet, McGreevey’s chief of staff, and Paul Levinsohn, the governor’s chief counsel, had owned a billboard company, and it was alleged that they used their political influence in the months before McGreevey’s inauguration to win approval for thirteen billboards in localities where they had been prohibited by zoning ordinances. They sold the company before taking their new jobs. U.S. attorney Chris Christie took the rare step of announcing that his office was investigating the two of them. That made for a big headline. In the end, both resigned. Christie’s investigation came to nothing – although he didn’t announce that. Strange, but typical, for a U.S. attorney with his eyes on public office like governor and president, a la Rudy Giuliani, although Christie hasn’t self-imploded as Giuliani has representing President Trump’s folly. (page 93)

I immediately called off the discussion. Without a proffer of proof, Cipel’s demand would be an extortion, pure and simple, and not a legitimate claim. I would have nothing to do with that. I often wonder why Lowy wouldn’t produce the proffer. It’s standard practice in tort claims such as this. (page 99)

McGreevey’s chief counsel, Michael DeCotiis, walked into the room and saw and felt the doom that engulfed it. He looked around at Curtis Bashaw, gay, Jamie Fox, gay, Jim McGreevey, gay, and me and asked what was going on. McGreevey responded, “Tomorrow I’m going to announce I’m a gay American and resign.” DeCotiis was stunned. And I said, flailing my arms, “Michael…and I’m gay, too!” The entire room broke out in laughter, lightening the atmosphere for a moments. (pages 100-1)

I often wonder if Fox knew more about the McGreevey-Cipel-Kushner relationship than he let on. Fox died in 2017, and we’ll likely never know. McGreevey refused to speak to me about this book, and Cipel is a ghost in Israel. (page 102)

Which leads me to the question – did Kushner set up Golan Cipel to take down McGreevey? (page 104)

Here’s what the Jersey Guys didn’t know, or didn’t care to know: that the red-haried guy was a Polish rock performer who was a guest of honor at a house party I threw after a performance at the Ritz Theatre in Elizabeth*. (page 110)

I realized that my judgment had been adversely impacted by politics – I was making decisions based mainly on political expediency. Even when I bucked the trend, as I did with my early environmental protection initiatives, I was as much driven by ego as by the cause. I’m not saying I’ve totally suppressed my ego. The content of this book attests that I haven’t, but my life became more balanced and empathetic and I became a fierce advocate for my beliefs, their political impact be damned. (page 111)

Can you imagine the havoc that would have occurred if a Republican-aligned group took over our county party? You might think it odd that members of a Board of Education were so involved in partisan electoral politics. You wouldn’t be wrong – it was odd. And it was absolutely corrupt. Board members intimidated teachers, custodial and cafeteria workers, security guards, bus drivers, you name it. If you worked for the board, you had to work for and contribute to their candidates. (page 150)

As chairman of the Senate Economic Growth Committee, I am the proud father of New Jersey’s tax incentive programs (page 163)

I was certain that I made the right decision to give up the Senate for a chance to lead the state I loved. Upon reflection, I should not have been so certain. (page 171)

Getting back in the race was as easy as issuing another press release. Without much in the way of campaign funds, I had only one campaign consultant on my payroll, Sean Caddle of Arkady Consultants. Sean was the architect of my resounding Senate campaign rebound in 2013. No doubt I saw him as a miracle worker, but there really are no miracles in politics. I should have known better. (page 174)

I loaned my campaign the half million necessary to qualify for the debates – that’s half a million I’ll never see again. (page 175)

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* Coincidentally, I happened to be at that Ich Troje concert (good show):

One response to this post.

  1. Posted by qpat00 on June 10, 2022 at 10:01 am

    In an adhoc ranking of the most corrupted politicans in NJ, useless Lesniak is right up there near Frank Hague of old jerrsey City. Lesniak and McGreevy put NJ on the road to self destruction and huge enrichment to only those politically connected to their party. It carrries to this day, especially in Union County which has surpassed Frank Hagues Hudson county.

    Reply

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