Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Christie - Westfield Leader - Union County pols need to worry

Published in the Westfield Leader, June 26, 2008

[Christie wants to hear about Union County misconduct]
He's Going to Jail July 29, Christie Says of Sharpe James

Specially written for the Westfield Leader

WESTFIELD -- ­ U.S. Attorney Chris Christie said, "He's going to jail, July 29" referring to the sentencing of former Newark Mayor, and State Senator, Sharpe James, in an interview last Thursday with publisher, Horace Corbin, of The Westfield Leader and The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times.

"We're asking for ten to 15-year sentencing from Judge [William] Martini who presides over the case," Mr. Christie said. "That sends a message to all other politicians in New Jersey who think they are untouchable." Unlike in state prison, federal prison inmates are not eligible for parole. 72-year-old James would likely be spending most, if not all, of the remainder of his life in jail. When asked about James' two Silver Cloud Rolls Royce's, yacht andshore estate, and if the taxpayers will ever see any of their money back, Mr. Christie said, "Unlikely. What we've convicted him of is relatively small in the context of what you're talking about."

The 40-minute interview with Mr. Christie can be viewed at

For seven years, Mr. Christie has served as U.S. Attorney with his office located in Newark and branches in Trenton and Camden. He said even his mother confuses his job with that of state Attorney General (AG). The U.S. Attorney is appointed by the President of the United States, confirmed by the Senate and is responsible for enforcing federal laws.

The AG is appointed by the Governor of New Jersey and is responsible for enforcing state laws. Mr. Christie said he has a close relationship with recently appointed AG Anne Milgram. They confer once a week. He said she is a true professional and clearly understands the basis of prosecution. They often work together, as exemplified by the James conviction. He publicly admitted to not always having a good relationship with the AG's office, so referring to those formerly in the position, Peter Harvey and Zulima Farber. Mr. Christie said his opinion changed when Stuart Rabner was appointed as AG for one year, and now is Supreme Court chief justice. Mr. Rabner had worked for Mr. Christie in the U.S. Attorney's office.

With a 128-0 record of convicting corrupt public officials, Mr. Christie said he is proud of the accomplishments of his office. When asked why he did not press for more convictions, Mr. Christie said his office prepares a case and when they are absolutely sure they can get a conviction, they present the case to a jury. "An indictment damages a person's reputation, so we want to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.

Mr. Christie said his office pursues cases regardless of political affiliation, a tactic that helps him to avoid the reputation former governor Eliot Spitzer developed as attorney general in New York, with his aggressive style. Mr. Christie said he does not believe the state has turned the corner yet on the culture of corruption; however, the issue is foremost on many minds.

"Invariable," he said. "We're not going to prosecute our way out of corruption. Given 566 municipalities, 611 school districts, 21 counties and a $35-billion state budget, 128 convictions is a small number. "Still, we've shined a very, very bright light on the problem, and now there is enormous discussion of this at every corner. Six to seven years ago, that was not the case."

About the message getting down to all other levels and special interests, he said, "I really do [think so], but that doesn't mean, I'm not claiming we've changed behavior across the board." He added the U.S. Attorney's office has a "zero tolerance" policy. It takes two to three years to investigate a case and obtain a conviction. With his term coming to an end in a few months, he said we have a `very active' pipeline.

"Anyone who's breaking the law in Union County has to be nervous ­and beyond that, I will not be making any comment about any particular individuals," Mr. Christie said. Aside from political corruption, his office handles several other matters, such as drugs and organized crime.

One area of particular concern to him is human trafficking ­ what he said is a "terrific tragedy." His office has prosecuted more such crimes than any other office in the country. He said due to New Jersey's diverse culture; criminals from Mexico, Central America, Eastern Europe, Russia and Asia could find a community in the state where they would not be conspicuous ­ in contrast, say to Oklahoma. His office put two women in Federal prison for the next 17 years for the sex enslavement in Plainfield, of four teenage girls from Mexico.

However, his stance on immigration is somewhat different. "Being without proper documentation is not a crime," Mr. Christie said, pointing out the legal difference between illegal immigration and improper documentation. "I don't make the law, I just enforce it." He said someone could have an expired visa and that is not something a person can be arrested for in this country ­ although they could be deported. However, entering the United States illegally and/or having false documents are a crime and one would be subject to arrest.

On criticism he received was from The New York Times over the hiring of John Ashcroft to oversee compliance of five companies that had been paying kickbacks to doctors; Mr. Christie responded that although Mr. Ashcroft may be a controversial, national figure, no one claimed he was unqualified for the job.

He said these five companies, which manufacture artificial hips and knees, have 95 percent of the market. Mr. Christie said the companies were illegally paying doctors to use only their products. He said this practice has been halted, and $511 million have been recovered to Medicare. Medicare pays for two-thirds of hip replacements in the country. He said several doctors involved in this situation are in his "pipeline," and are soon to come out, which he would not comment on at this time. Mr. Christie said he can't comment on his plans after the November Presidential election, and must focus on the duties of his office.

Asked if Presidential candidates Barack Obama or John McCain requested him to stay on, he quipped that it is unlikely that Mr. Obama would give him a call. Regarding Mr. McCain, he said it would be very difficult to turn down a request from a President, but he could only imagine the conversation that this would generate with his wife.

He advised the press to be diligent, and urged citizens to attend meetings, protest against faulty government and campaign against elected officials that break their promises. "Throw them out," he said.

Further, he said he knows it is possible for citizens in any town in to have a direct impact. When he lived in Westfield early in his marriage, he said he witnessed door-to-door citizen campaigns.

He asked anyone with a complaint of government or suspecting wrong-doing to call him in Newark at (973) 645-2700; or if they prefer, call the FBI in Newark at (973) 792-3000. He said he has e-mail but prefers to talk to people directly. He said they need not be concerned and he doesn't record his phone calls. "I'm here to serve you, the public."

He said he's "incredibly flattered" to be mentioned as a candidate for Governor next year, but said it is presumptuous for him to even consider it at this time.

Mr. Christie was born in Newark and raised in Livingston where he became friends with Senator Tom Kean, Jr., now of Westfield. Mr. Christie lives with his family today in Mendham.

Next year, for the first time in history, New Jersey will also choose a Lieutenant Governor. Mr. Corbin posed, "Could it be 'Christie and Kean, Perfect Together'?"

"LINK" to online story.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Obama - PolitickerNJ - Obamaland in NJ (3 parts)

PolitickerNJ's Guide to Obamaland


June 30, 2008 - 5:00pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to the history of Obamaland, Part I

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Cory Booker, Jun Choi, Barack Obama, Steve Rothman, Mildred Crump, John Adler, Neil Cohen, Damian Bednarz, Jerramiah Healy, Julie Diaz, Hilllary Clinton, Ronald C. Rice, Ketih Hovey
NJ for Obama organizers Julie Diaz and Keith Hovey.NJ for Obama organizers Julie Diaz and Keith Hovey.

The Obama campaign started small here, with handfuls of coffee house organizers lining up behind a grassroots operation called NJ for Obama in the face of a big party machine backing Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), and an unpopular war in Iraq.

Founded in an Edison coffee shop in December of 2006, the group’s leader was Damian Bednarz, 25, a Master’s student in international relations with Seton Hall University’s Whitehead School of Diplomacy.

"Obama has something that Hillary Clinton can’t buy or reproduce, and that’s a sense of inspiration," Bednarz said at the time. "If anything, I’m encouraged by Clinton’s frontrunner status because I know our work is so special."

In the months following, some elected officials in the months endorsed the Illinois senator, among them Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Union), who came out in favor of Obama in April of 2007, followed by state Sen. John Adler (D-Camden) a couple of weeks later.

"At this time we need someone special... someone who is going to build a bridge brick by brick to peace through negotiation," said Cohen, a graduate of Howard University who arrived at politics through the Civil Rights era.

One common theme early was the appreciation that Obama’s supporters showed for their candidate’s opposition to the Iraq War - which differentiated him from Clinton, who in 2002 authorized President George W. Bush to send in troops.

"As Obama said, he’s not afraid of going into wars," said Cohen, "he’s afraid of going into dumb wars."

The sense at this point was that Obama was at best a longshot nationally and in New Jersey, almost a no-hoper, but as Bednarz organized at the grassroots level, Newark’s new mayor, Cory Booker, began sprinkling speeches with inspirational Obama references and quotes.

In his North Ward introduction of the Democratic Party’s 29th Legislative District candidates in March, 2007, for example, Booker likened Teresa Ruiz, L. Grace Spencer and Albert Coutinho to Obama’s "Joshua Generation."

As most of the rest of the party’s power players stood with Clinton, Booker and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy officially endorsed Obama on the Illinois senator’s first campaign stop in New Jersey in mid May of 2007.

They met him at Teterboro Airport and stood with him as the cameras flashed, just before the presidential candidate drove to Trenton for a town hall meeting with organized labor at the War Memorial.

That wasn’t the first time Booker met Obama.

At the urging of mutual friends, Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, the future mayor and future presidential candidate had first sat down together in Newark in 2004.

"This is a nation right now where we don’t need more political leadership," Booker said. "That’s important, but we really need a leader who speaks to our highest aspirations for ourselves; a leader who reflects our beauty and strength as a people, who reflects who we are but also who we can be."

An old Howard Dean supporter from the 2004 presidential primary, Booker’s ally, West Ward Councilman Ronald C. Rice, served as the connecting point between Booker/Healy and NJ for Obama.

Rice and Council President Mildred Crump drove to Hoboken in May of 2007 at an invitation from Bednarz to speak at a $150-a head NJ for Obama fund-raiser.

Rice gave a rousing speech.

In a diner in Newark’s West Ward a few weeks later, the councilman confessed that he didn’t know whether Obama had a legitimate shot in 2008.

"We’re going to keep building, we’ll keep organizing to put ourselves in a position to take advantage of anything that happens," said Rice, who continued to prominently display his "Obama for President" buttons as friends of his told him to get a life.

At his low-key appearance at the War Memorial, Obama repudiated the Clinton-engineered North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and called for more rigorous labor and environmental standards in all future trade agreements.

When UFCW member Kathy Wilder of Wall asked the senator, "What are you going to do about Wal-Mart?" there was an up-swell of boos and groans at the mention of the corporate giant, and Obama dead-panned, "I won’t shop there."

Obama still trailed Clinton in New Jersey by 22 points.

Back in West Paterson in early June, Bednarz had finished his Master’s degree and accepted a full-time position with the Obama campaign in their New Hampshire office.

On the night before he left, the political organizer kicked back a last beer in Hoboken, watching the late night commuters return from Manhattan.

He was committed to Obama. He had been ever since he heard him deliver the keynote address at the 2004 Democratic Convention. Concurrent with his university studies, Bednarz had to this point devoted five solid months of building a statewide network of Obama supporters - a list that grew from four to 25 to nearly 500 members.

But now that he was leaving New Jersey, he couldn’t help but wonder if the entire endeavor was not finally quixotic. He allowed himself only several moments of speculation before concluding that one way or the other, he didn’t care. Obama was the candidate in whom he believed. If Bednarz went down he was going to go down fighting.

He jumped aboard the PATH to Newark, changed trains and headed back to Fairlawn. He would get up and drive to Manchester in the morning and continue organizing.

The new director of NJ for Obama was Keith Hovey, a Montgomery lawyer in his late 30s who immediately began organizing statewide registration drives for the presidential candidate.

"We want to be part of a campaign for a government that is inclusive and intelligent," said Hovey, who as part of his first effort coordinated 200 on-the-ground volunteer canvassers mobilizing in Princeton, Edison, Newark, New Brunswick, Hoboken, Camden, Madison, Hamilton, Plainfield and Sparta.

These volunteers carried two sets of petitions: one to end the war, and one to make Obama president.

With the grassroots effort growing under Hovey’s leadership, the Obama campaign’s national office on July 25, 2007, announced that U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9) was endorsing Obama for president.

"It’s time to turn the page and bring an end to the Bush-Cheney foreign policy that has left Americans vulnerable here at home and reduced matters of war and national defense to signs and slogans," said Rothman.

As Northeast Regional Co-Chair, Rothman, a six-term congressman, would lead Obama campaign efforts in the region, which includes Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.

Rothman was New Jersey’s first congressman to come aboard - and he would be the only one during the primary season.

Every other Democratic member of the state’s congressional delegation had endorsed Clinton, with the exception of U.S. Rep. Rush Holt (D-12), who stayed neutral until after the June 2008 primary election.

Rothman claimed he had decided to support Obama for president after watching CNN’s YouTube debate, in which Clinton and Obama had fought over how to conduct U.S. foreign policy.

"Barack's appearance... confirmed for me what I've believed all along," said the congressman. "It's new thinking versus old thinking. This notion of Hillary Clinton’s that we should continue down this path of not talking to our enemies is a policy that has proven to be disastrous to our country. These are not the views of someone who professes to be an agent of change."

Picking up on anti-war sentiment, Rothman said the Illinois senator’s public opposition to sending 160,000 U.S. troops to Iraq gives him foreign policy know-how that Clinton frankly lacks.

"I made the similar vote," the Congressman admitted of his 2002 "yes" vote authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. But Rothman added that he later "declared it to be a mistake."

By the end of July, 2007, reform Mayor Jun Choi of Edison had also endorsed Obama.

"I’ve been leaning Obama for quite some time now," said Choi, who had publicly blasted Bush at an anti-war rally when the president visited Edison for a GOP fund-raiser weeks earlier.

"I wanted to see if there was real momentum in the (Obama) campaign, and there is," said Choi.

The team was coming together.

Booker anchored a $150-a-head Obama fund-raiser at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark. In a speech to a crowd that included Healy, Hovey, Rice, Cohen, Choi and organizers from around the state packed into a small room, the mayor called for a "sacred effort," not unlike what Frederick Douglass had once ascribed to Lincoln’s second inaugural address.

"We have a mere matter of months before Feb. 5th," said Booker. "This is our state. This is New Jersey. We, the leaders - not those of us with fancy titles, not those of us with fancy salaries... we hold in our hands the destiny of our nation.

"It is time for us," Booker said, "the inheritors of glory and greatness, those of us who scan the current landscape and understand that America is not finished yet... We must put forth a sacred effort, and win for Barack Obama."


June 30, 2008 - 10:39pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to the history of Obamaland, Part II

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Cory Booker, Jun Choi, Linda Greenstein, Loretta Weinberg, Mark Alexander, Barack Obama, Steve Rothman, Hillary Clinton, Joseph Cryan, Cleopatra Tucker, Neil Cohen, Shirley Turner, Grace Spencer, Damian Bednarz, Jerramiah Healy, Keith Hovey, Kibili Tayari
Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander.Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander.

The campaign was about to change.

On Oct, 9, 2007, an announcement came down from Chicago regarding New Jersey operations.

Mark Alexander, a Seton Hall University law professor and Obama’s senior policy advisor, would be the campaign’s official state director.

"I am grateful that he is going to carry the fight forward to and through the Feb. 5 contests," Obama said of Alexander. "He is a valued and trusted advisor, and at the same time has deep ties in his home of New Jersey that will be invaluable to our efforts.

"I am proud of the policy work we have done on this campaign and through Mark’s leadership we have built a team of key advisors from the ground up that will continue to offer new and innovative approaches to the challenges this country faces," added the presidential candidate.

A personal friend of Barack and Michelle Obama’s going back a dozen years, Alexander as a child worked on the 1974 Washington, D.C. mayoral campaign of his father, Clifford Alexander, former chairman of the Equal Opportunity Commission. Later, he ran Sen. Bill Bradley’s 2000 presidential campaign and served as counsel to Cory Booker.

The state director began rolling out more elected official endorsements.

State Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer) and Assemblywomen Linda Greenstein, Cleopatra Tucker, and L. Grace Spencer followed up on a September endorsement of Obama made by veteran anti-establishment Democrat, state Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Bergen.

"Sen. Barack Obama is the person to work for the kinds of issues that we women are interested in," Weinberg said at a Trenton press conference with her colleagues. "Mostly these issues are about our families. They are about bringing our kids home from Iraq. They are about the healthcare of people that we love and take care of. They are about our kids’ education, and they are about our environment."

Meanwhile, Alexander interfaced with those grassroots guerillas who had been in the field for months.

In the autumn lead-up to the Nov. 4th, 2007 general election, NJ for Obama leader Keith Hovey held a rally for the Illinois senator in Princeton’s Palmer Square.

"This is a candidate who had the internal fortitude to stand up when most would not, and say that this war is wrong," Hovey told the cheering crowd.

Princeton anti-war activist William Strong still liked New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, mostly based on experience. But most people in the crowd backed Obama.

"Before this event, I walked around Princeton for two hours," said Phil Blackwood, an engineer from Lincroft, who continued to pass out Obama ’08 stickers at the rally.

During the first week of December ’07, the Obama campaign opened its main headquarters in West Orange. A week later, the new state director joined his old friends, Newark Mayor Cory Booker and West Ward Councilman Ronald Rice, at a rally in Newark’s Masonic Temple.

A lot of people in the crowd were NJ for Obama volunteers.

"We’re going to start making some change," Alexander told the crowd of organizers, including Julie Diaz of Perth Amboy, who with her boyfriend Peter Brown was among NJ for Obama’s founding members.

"Change has been a long time coming," Alexander said. "We’re trying to organize ourselves in New Jersey. It’s not going to come easy. No one’s going to give this up. There are a lot of people who want this prize. You’re going to have to walk the streets, you’re going to have to call your friends."

Most of the fatalism about Obama’s campaign was absent now, with new polling numbers not only bolstering morale but filling volunteers with a sense of coming victory.

Michelle Obama said her husband had to win Iowa or it was over, and when she said it some of her New Jersey supporters cringed with the thought that their man could lose in the first contest.

But now the sense of inevitability about Clinton was gone.

"I looked around this last week and sure enough, Barack Obama was up by five points in Iowa," said Rice. "I look around again, and he’s cut Clinton’s lead in New Hampshire to 5% when it was 20% two weeks before then. I looked up again, and black folk are voting for Barack Obama, all over this nation. I looked up one more time, and the race is dead even in South Carolina.

"Newarkers," the councilman told the cheering crowd, "we not only got the best candidate with the best message. We’ve got the best candidate with the best chance of winning not only the Democratic nomination, but winning the presidency next November."

Booker started refining a speech incorporating New Jersey Revolutionary War history that he would use later in the campaign season, in Jersey City. But he also spoke specifically to his candidate’s knowledge of urban issues.

"Our cities should not be places that are charity cases, our cities should be engines of economic prosperity for our nation and I think that’s something Barack Obama understands," said Booker, as organizers registered voters in the Masonic Temple.

On January 3, the day of the Iowa caucuses, Alexander was calmly confident in West Orange headquarters.

"People will have concrete evidence that Barack Obama has real support in a state where there is a large white rural population," the state director said of the African American presidential candidate. "We’ve got to do well in these early states and carry the momentum to the Feb. 5th states, like New Jersey."

Obama won Iowa with 38%, followed by former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) with 30% and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) with 29%.

That shook the foundations of power.

"It’s not good news for Iowa," admitted State Party Chair Joseph Cryan, an ardent Clinton supporter. "But it’s good news for New Jersey. The message from this is, ‘Let’s wake up and get to work.’ The real start of the campaign is tonight."

Partying with other Obama revelers and CNN’s broadcast on in the background at the bar in Newark’s Robert Treat Hotel, U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), northeast regional co-chair of the Obama campaign, said of his candidate, "He is an authentic agent of change. If he were elected, the message he would present to the world is that America gets it.

"We understand that the last seven years under Bush have been a disaster," Rothman added. "People around the world would see that America, the land of such idealism and hope, is back, and that the callous and cynical George Bush era is over."

Coming out of Iowa and in the days leading up to the New Hampshire primaries, it looked as though Obama could romp to a blowout victory over Clinton.

Edison Mayor Jun Choi, Assemblyman Neil Cohen (D-Union), and Alexander rallied the troops at a diner in Choi’s hometown.

"Bring it home, New Hampshire," volunteers cried happily.

Hyped for months as a likely battleground, maybe New Jersey wasn’t going to matter in the end. Maybe Clinton would melt down in New Hampshire and the Democratic Primary would be over.

"We saw something happen on Thursday night that was truly remarkable," Alexander told the crowd of Obama supporters. "There are different ways to think about it: a snowball rolling downhill, gathering that momentum; that drop, that little drop in the pond that starts to ripple out; you can think about it as an earthquake perhaps in Iowa."

But on Jan. 8, to the chagrin of NJ for Obama founder Damian Bednarz, who helped collect the numbers in the campaign’s Manchester, N.H. war room, Clinton staged a comeback, beating Obama, 39-36%, with Edwards trailing at 17% and starting what appeared to be an irreversible capsize.

A day later, Obama appeared before an overflow crowd at St. Peter’s College in Jersey City. The local troops had hoped to welcome him as the winner of the Granite State and maybe of the primary entire, but there was little disappointment in the room.

His improbable victory in Iowa still inspired awe and anyway he had not lost to Clinton by a sizable margin in New Hampshire.

"Obama isn’t a person anymore, he’s a movie," said Hoboken councilman Michael Russo.

Bunched along the rope line in the gym and waiting for Obama were Brown, Diaz and Hovey, Cohen and Rice, Newark Council President Mildred Crump, Ocean County organizer Stacy Lubrecht, Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy and Booker and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Kibili Tayari. Among them stood other grassroots and local elected officials who supported Obama.

A veteran of the Civil Rights movement, Tayari said his work registering Jersey City voters and manning GOTV ops. before the Feb. 5th primary would be the most important work of his life.

"A new president in the White House who doesn't simply come out of the Washington establishment will restore a sense of integrity to our Democratic republic," Tayari said.

Another Civil Rights-era Obama backer, Cohen, who had been with the campaign almost from the beginning, watched Obama pass at close range on the runway to the podium.

"He may have belonged to us in the beginning," said the assemblyman. "There was the sense that now he belongs to the country."

But New Jersey still had New Jersey, and the dogfight Alexander came in to wage was unfolding now and in even more dramatic fashion than anticipated with the score tightened between Obama and Clinton.

With less than a month to go before the primary, Booker invoked the Battle of Trenton.

"We are the great state of New Jersey," he said. "Our democracy started right here, in a pivotal fight. But the cause of justice goes on. We now have a chance to make real on the boldest dreams for America."


July 2, 2008 - 2:56pm

A thumbnail New Jersey guide to Obamaland, Part III

By Max Pizarro

Category: PresidentTags: Steve Rothman, Shirley Turner, Richard Codey, Ray Durkin, Mark Alexander, Loretta Weinberg, Jerramiah Healy, Hillary Clinton, Edward Kennedy, Cory Booker, Chris Durkin, George Norcross, Caroline Kennedy, Bill Bradley, Barack Obama

Newark Mayor Cory Booker, backing up Senate President Richard Codey's endorsement of Obama.Newark Mayor Cory Booker, backing up Senate President Richard Codey's endorsement of Obama.

Obama Campaign State Director Mark Alexander knew it would be hard to pry Sen. Hillary Clinton’s supporters loose in New Jersey after her victory in New Hampshire.

This was a fight now, and Clinton’s people were solid.

"We have an opportunity here in Hudson - Hudson, Hispanics, Hillary and history," Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) cried to a North Bergen audience of mostly Latinos with Clinton on stage.

The response was near to deafening with Clinton standing on stage with Menendez, U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-13) and state Sen. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex).

But that didn’t mean there weren’t other opportunities for Obama; in fact, one big opportunity, in the form of Senate President Richard Codey (D-Essex), who was at the moment glumly serving as state director for the foundering campaign of John Edwards.

Alexander knew Codey. He also knew Codey was close to former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley (D-NJ), who had come onto the Obama campaign as an advisor.

Alexander started working the phones.

A basketball coach used to pulling a player off the floor when he can’t score or rebound, Codey was watching Edwards closely.

"He’s going to have to do something here in Nevada," said the former governor after his candidate’s back-to-back losses in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Edwards finished in third place out west, and all signs were that the candidate’s "change-agent" message was lost in Obama fever.

Codey felt bad. He had forged a connection with Edwards when the latter ran for vice president on a ticket with John Kerry in 2004. While Codey saw in Kerry’s lordly forbearance a troubling lack of street smarts, he liked the blue collar appeal of Edwards and thought the former senator from North Carolina could win a general election.

Going into Nevada, Codey had hinted that he might withdraw his support for Edwards if the candidate failed to impress there or in his native state of South Carolina.

Codey hung in post Nevada, but Edwards tanked in South Carolina and four days later announced he would end his run for the presidency.

Like Alexander, State Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) was already working Codey hard about coming over to the Obama Campaign.

A foe of the Bergen County Democratic Organization, Weinberg tried to appeal to the Senate President’s longtime resistance to bossism, including his feuds with South Jersey Democratic leader George Norcross, and North Ward Democratic czar Steve Adubato.

Weinberg found a natural comfort level with Obama because of the independence she identified in his supporters.

"I would have gone with Hillary," Weinberg said. "But it’s like I told the governor when he asked me why I couldn’t back her. I told him, ‘She’s acting like one of the boys.’ By that I mean, I didn’t see any evidence of a grassroots campaign. She had the old guard, the old boys’ network, and that appeared to be about it in terms of a campaign in New Jersey."

There was no immediate word from Codey.

Then Ray Durkin, former state director of the Democratic Party, called Alexander and Bradley and told them if they wanted Codey to join them they should have Obama call the former governor directly and ask him for his support.

The day after Edwards dropped out, Codey convened a press conference at the Wilshire Grand Hotel in his home town of South Orange. This was six days before the Feb. 5th New Jersey primary.

Surrounded by Obama supporters, including U.S. Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9), Alexander, Newark Mayor Cory Booker, state Sen. Shirley Turner (D-Mercer), and Weinberg, Codey endorsed Obama.

"As governor and as senate president, I have built coalitions of Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives alike to do what is right for New Jersey," Codey said. "This is the only way to govern effectively, and I have long been appalled by the slash and burn, winner-take-all kind of partisan politics practiced too often by both parties in Washington.

"Barack Obama has the unique ability to rise above the politics of fear and division to bring the change we desperately need," he added. "Like myself, building coalitions to get results has been the cause of Barack Obama's life, not just the rhetoric of a campaign."

Codey saved for last the anecdote about his phone conversation with Obama.

"I asked him what’s the skinny about the fact that he’s part Irish. He said to me, ‘Governor, I swear to you, I am.’"

Knowing Obama’s late father was a full-blooded Kenyan, Codey said he then jokingly asked the presidential candidate, "‘Now the Irish part, is that on your father’s side?’"

Codey was so thrilled by the story that when Weinberg at the press conference couldn’t resist jumping into Codey’s narrative and saying, "That’s right, O’bama," the former governor said amid laughter, "Don’t take away my lines."

"I said you’re Irish, right? And he said, right. And I told him that means we’re brothers," Codey said. "It was a good conversation."

Codey had campaigned for Bradley in New Hampshire in 2000 when the ex-NBA star ran unsuccessfully for president. With Codey’s remarks concluded, Bradley now towered over the podium.

Alert to special interests dominating elections and deciding the fate of the country to the detriment of most Americans, Bradley noted that the United States’ ranks 114 worldwide in voter turnout in national elections. In Bradley’s view, Obama’s anti-establishment campaign had the long-term potential to re-engage Americans in politics.

"I think every couple of generations, somebody comes along who reminds us that we're Americans, and what it means to be an American, by appealing to the ideals that animated the founding of the country," Bradley said. "I think that is what he (Obama) has done in a remarkable way, and he personifies the very best of our country."

Clinton still had an edge in New Jersey. Polls showed her up by five to ten points here.

"The media has really given Obama a pass," complained Trenton Mayor Doug Palmer, a Clinton supporter. "They haven't scrutinized his performance or his record. Just as an example, his initial statement that he was opposed to the war: that was a prescient and wise exercise of judgement on his part. But then as Hillary's pointed out, once he got into office, he voted to continue to fund the war."

In the weeks leading up to Feb. 5th, Alexander oversaw multiple statewide days of action, in which Obama volunteers went door-to-door, made phone calls and waved Obama for America signs on train platforms.

"I want everybody to leave here with something to do today," the state director had told a crowd of 5,000 people in Jersey City on Jan. 9.

On the weekend before Election Day, 1,000 Obama volunteers worked the City of Newark.

"I’m all Obama all the time," said Booker, stopping by the campaign’s Broad Street headquarters to rally campaign soldiers. Chicago infused the New Jersey campaign with $100,000-worth of glossy fliers that highlighted the recent endorsements of U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy and his niece, Caroline.

It was a last minute happening on a work day in bad weather, but Obama allies still had hoped to pack the IZOD Center for a Feb. 4 rally, featuring the presidential candidate, the Kennedys and movie actor Robert DeNiro. A veteran guard scanned the mostly empty arena and guessed 6,000 people, a figure that most media sources later put closer to 3,000.

New Jersey activists said up close Obama looked exhausted.

"He got embarrassed today at the Meadowlands," a Clinton supporter said Monday night, right before Election Day. "He’s going to get buried in New Jersey tomorrow."

In the Essex County Clerk’s Office with night falling on Election Day, clerk Chris Durkin watched the numbers come in from the outlying towns and from Newark. Voter turnout was huge in the county seat, and that was likely very good news for Obama.

In the Wilshire Grand, Obama’s supporters started celebrating, but their glee proved decidedly premature, as the larger view showed Clinton taking 16 of New Jersey’s 21 counties.

In Essex, Obama bested Clinton in 13 of the 22 towns. He didn’t blow her out in Newark - earning 57% to 43% of the votes in New Jersey’s biggest city - but it was good enough for him to win Essex: 56% to 42%.

Obama also won the progressive-leaning Mercer, 54% to 44%. He squeaked out a 50% to 48% victory in Union, and beat Clinton by one and two points respectively in the very low Democratic Party turnout Republican strongholds of Hunterdon and Somerset.

But he lost badly in Bergen, 59% to 39%. In Hudson, where Menendez had manned an aggressive machine operation, Clinton crushed Obama, 61% to 36%, and in Middlesex, Clinton won, 57% to 40%.

It added up to a nine point, 54% to 45% Clinton victory in New Jersey.

On stage in the Wilshire, weariness and heartbreak could be heard in the voices of some of Obama’s supporters. They had worked on the street level at this, many of them, especially the local elected officials. They could not at that moment grasp the effects of a larger political war beyond New Jersey.

Defeat sank in painfully.

But Booker picked up the fight themes laid down by Codey and Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, and digested the still larger view - which showed Obama winning more of the 22 Super Tuesday states at stake, although Clinton claimed the more delegate-plenty states.

The up close and personal disappointment in New Jersey notwithstanding, Feb. 5th proved to be yet another Clinton-Obama stalemate on the nationwide primary map.

The fight would continue.

That meant advantage Obama, in Booker’s view, because the Illinois senator had always been the underdog. The fact that he had shaken New Jersey in losing was a tribute to the campaign’s momentum, according to the Newark mayor.

"The people saw within their hearts and within their nation their dreams, they began to hear echoes of old, from people of old," said Booker. "They told their children and their families 'I believe.' They believed in Georgia and Connecticut and Illinois... They believed that our nation could come together."

Over the cheers that filled the ballroom, which moments earlier had been silent with a sense of loss, Booker cried, "America will rise again and be the giant of love."

Two weeks later, powerful South Jersey Democratic Party boss Norcross threw his support to Obama.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Muhlenberg - Ledger - Full-page Jerry Green ad

The full page ad below ran in the Tuesday, July 8, 2008 Union County edition of the Star-Ledger.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Illegal immigrants - Courier - Bound Brook mulls refusing rental to illegals

Published in the Courier News July 7 thru July 9, 2008

(1) Monday, July 7, 2008

Councilman proposes ordinance
to halt renting to illegal immigrants in borough


A proposal intended to crack down on illegal immigrants in the borough will be on the table at tonight's Borough Council meeting.

Councilman Jim Lefkowitz said he will introduce a resolution requiring landlords to verify their tenants are legal residents. The Borough Council meets at 7 p.m. in Borough Hall, 230 Hamilton St.

Lefkowitz's proposal comes four years after the U.S. Department of Justice cited borough officials for waging a multifaceted campaign to drive out Hispanics. Bound Brook, while not admitting guilt, agreed to settle the suit, paying a $30,000 fine and creating a $425,000 compensation fund for victims of discrimination between 1996 and 2002.

Lefkowitz alleged that since the U.S. Department of Justice citation, the borough has not enforced its own ordinances to prevent overcrowding. He said, "We're in danger of being considered a sanctuary (for illegal immigrants)."

Immigrant advocates have called proposals such as Lefkowitz's divisive, "wrong-headed" and "not the way to solve immigrant problems."

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits challenging similar proposals adopted in a number of other municipalities across the country, including Hazleton, Pa., and the Burlington County community of Riverside. The Hazleton ordinance, which drew national attention, was overturned by a federal judge in 2007 while the Riverside law was repealed after a challenge was filed in court.

Lefkowitz said it's time for the borough to fight illegal immigration as there are several new housing projects on the horizon which might include several rental units, and he wanted to have new rules on the books before those units are occupied.

Lefkowitz's proposal also calls for police to determine the legal status of any person arrested and to make sure that if any illegal alien is taken into custody, that person is turned over to federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) officials. He has said that the proposal is consistent with current federal policy.

The proposal also calls for the borough to deny any contracts to a firm that hires illegal aliens.

"There's a ground swell of people willing to turn the other cheek on illegal immigration. I will not do it," Lefkowitz said.

Kara L. Richardson may be reached at (908) 707-3186 or

Online story here.

(2) Tuesday July 8, 2008

Proposal to crack down on illegal immigrants stalls
during Bound Brook council meeting


A heated discussion ensued Tuesday night as the Borough Council was about to consider a proposal that would crack down on illegal immigrants.

Councilman Jim Lefkowitz's proposal, which would require landlords to obtain proof that tenants are legal residents, was introduced at Tuesday's meeting but did not move forward.

Mayor Carey Pilato, who said he's against the proposal, said the measure may bring additional legal fees and issues to the borough, which is still in the shadow of the U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

Lefkowitz's proposal comes four years after the U.S. Department of Justice cited borough officials for waging a multifaceted campaign to drive out Hispanics. Bound Brook, while not admitting guilt, agreed to settle the suit, paying a $30,000 fine and creating a $425,000 compensation fund for victims of discrimination between 1996 and 2002.

Linda Brnicevic, a Bound Brook resident, said Lefkowitz's proposal "is just going to be racial profiling." "I don't know when Bound Brook is going to learn,'" Brnicevic said. "You got slapped with the DOJ investigation. You had to take sensitivity classes, right?"

Lefkowitz, who said he embraces the Hispanic community in the borough, said his proposal is specific to illegal immigrants. He had said it's time for the borough to fight illegal immigration as there are several new housing projects on the horizon which may include several rental units, and he wanted to have new rules on books before they are occupied.

John Rucki, co-chair of New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control, cited a 2007 The Federation for American Immigration Reform report saying illegal immigration costs New Jersey residents $2.1 billion in costs such as education, health care and incarceration.

"I admire Mr. Lefkowitz for his courage to bring it up,'" Rucki said.

Carmen Morales, a part-time realtor and full-time school bus driver, came to the meeting from Edison to commend Lefkowitz for his proposal.

Morales, who is a United States citizen of Puerto Rican descent, is against the living conditions for many illegal immigrants.

""People should not be living the way they are living. People are looking the other way and you are right on the money,'" Morales said to Lefkowitz.

Pilato said the borough already has a yearly inspection schedule for its 1,200-1,300 rental units, which make up approximately half of the borough's housing stock.

Grace C. Lemoke-Duebecke, a homeowner and landlord in Bound Brook, wanted to know how Lefkowitz expected landlords to check the legal status of a tenant.

"It's going to fall down on us,'" Lemoke-Duebecke said.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed lawsuits challenging similar proposals adopted in a number of other municipalities across the country.

Lefkowitz's proposal also calls for police to determine the legal status of any person arrested and to make sure that if any illegal immigrant is taken into custody, that person is turned over to federal Immigration and Custom Enforcement officials. He has said that proposal is consistent with current federal policy.

The proposal also calls for the borough to deny any contracts to a firm that hires illegal immigrants.

Kara L. Richardson can be reached at (908) 707-3186 or

Online story here.

(3) Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Councilman aims to get illegal-immigrant
crackdown measure onto ballot


Councilman Jim Lefkowitz wants to put on the November ballot his proposal to crack down on illegal immigrants in the borough.

Lefkowitz attempted to introduce a resolution with his proposal during Tuesday's borough council meeting, but none of his fellow council members made a motion that would have allowed its presentation discussion. The proposal would require landlords to obtain proof their tenants are legal residents, borough officials to deny contracts to firms that hire illegal immigrants and police to turn in to federal immigration authorities any illegal immigrants arrested in the borough.

"I can tell you this is not the end of this issue," Lefkowitz said at Tuesday's meeting. "I will do everything in my power to put this on the ballot in November as a nonbinding referendum."

Lefkowitz said he would hold a petition drive to do so.

To get a question on the ballot via petition, one would first need to obtain signatures from one-tenth of the voters registered for the last general election, Somerset County Clerk Brett Radi said. In Bound Brook's case, that would be 356 signatures.

If the issue is submitted via petition and presented to the municipality's governing body, it must be submitted to the county clerk's office by Sept. 5, Radi said.

Mayor Carey Pilato discouraged Lefkowitz from moving forward with the proposal. "Nobody seconded your resolution," Pilato said Tuesday night. You are on an island."

Pilato said the borough should not consider such an ordinance because the municipality is still in the shadow of the U.S. Department of Justice investigation that cited borough officials in 2004 for waging a multi-faceted campaign to drive out Hispanics.

Pilato said borough attorney James O'Donohue also advised against the proposal. O'Donohue could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Bound Brook admitted no guilt in the U.S. Department of Justice case, though officials agreed to pay a $30,000 fine and created a $425,000 compensation fund for victims of discrimination between 1996 and 2002. The borough also signed a consent decree that governs its policies on issues such as housing.

Lefkowitz stressed Tuesday night, in seeking support for his resolution, that the borough admitted no guilt in the U.S. Department of Justice case. He said the consent decree supports his proposal, because he believes his resolution would have prevented overcrowding in the borough's housing units.

Pilato said the borough also did not deny the U.S. Department of Justice's allegations. He said the borough strives to comply with the consent decree. At Tuesday's meeting, he held up an inch-thick quarterly report that must be filed with the U.S. Department of Justice. He also said the borough paid nearly $600,000 for one legal bill on that case.

Councilman Paul Hasting said some of the borough's existing ordinances could be tweaked to accomplish some of Lefkowitz's objectives.

Lefkowitz's proposal drew ire and commendation from the standing-room-only crowd Tuesday night in the council chambers.

John Rucki, co-chair of New Jersey Citizens for Immigration Control, came to the meeting to commend Lefkowitz for his courage to bring up the issue of illegal immigration, while resident Linda Brnicevic likened Lefkowitz's proposal to racial profiling.

Kara L. Richardson may be reached at (908) 707-3186 or

Online story here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

Monday, July 07, 2008

Immigrants - KY - Landlord not guilty of harboring

Published in The Lexington Herald-Leader [KY]

Landlord found not guilty of harboring immigrants

Jun. 27--A jury rejected the federal government's unprecedented prosecution Friday of a Lexington landlord who rented to illegal immigrants, finding him not guilty of 62 criminal counts.

William Jerry Hadden, 69, wept after a judge read the verdict in U.S. District Court in Lexington. Hadden had rented to 60 undocumented immigrants at Cross Keys and Woodridge apartments, actions that prosecutors argued violated federal harboring laws.

The case is thought to be the first time that the government has prosecuted a landlord merely for renting to illegal immigrants.

"I'm just relieved," Hadden said after the trial. "I am relieved for all the landlords in the country. This jury saved a lot of landlords from a lot of worries."

Hadden's attorney, Russ Baldani, said the verdict sent a message.

"These are not illegals; they're human beings," Baldani said. "You can't solve immigration problems by choking off basic necessities for people that are here."

The controversial case was decried by the ACLU and advocates for immigrants, and was watched closely by landlords and immigration attorneys.

Immigration attorneys attending a conference in Vancouver eagerly awaited Friday's verdict, said Lexington lawyer Charles Baesler, who was at the conference.

"The prosecution was essentially seeking to impose on every American business the obligation to verify the immigration status of every customer," Baesler said. "It was far beyond anything the government has attempted elsewhere in America. It's a significant defeat of the prosecution, but it's also a great victory for hard-working business owners who are trying to do the right thing while making a decent living."

At issue was whether Hadden had violated federal harboring and inducing laws by renting to illegal immigrants. The laws, written in 1986, were intended to fight human traffickers and rogue businesses that exploit undocumented workers.

The evidence presented in the four-day trial showed that Hadden had strong reason to suspect that his tenants were illegal immigrants. Many of them presented nothing more than Mexican identification cards when they applied for apartments.

But defense attorney Tucker Richardson said the government presented no evidence that Hadden was trying to hide the immigrants from authorities, an element that the government had to prove to win its case. Like any apartment tenants, the immigrants could come and go as they pleased.

"If they're going to use a 1986 statute, and all of a sudden in 2008 say we're going to use this to say you can't rent to undocumented aliens, then they need to let the landlords and apartment owners of America know that," Richardson said. "This is a country built on fairness, and this wasn't a fair prosecution."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Frances E. Catrone-Malone declined to say why Hadden was prosecuted, even though it's no secret that other landlords around town rent to illegal immigrants.

Catrone-Malone said the federal government will continue to prosecute landlords whenever there is enough evidence.

Hadden had his own theory for why he was prosecuted.

"I am old, and I am broke," Hadden said. "I am an easy person to go after."

Advocates for immigrants hailed the verdict.

Freddie Peralta, president of the Kentucky Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, said he thinks the federal government was trying to make an example out of Jerry Hadden.

The case was also targeting undocumented workers, Peralta said.

"The intent of this case was to make life more difficult for these people," he said.

Hadden was charged with two counts of conspiracy, 24 counts of harboring illegal immigrants, 24 counts of encouraging illegal immigrants to remain in the country, five counts of money laundering and five counts of conducting illegal transactions to affect interstate commerce.

(page 2 of 2)

Hadden and his business, JH-2 Investments, were charged with the same counts. It was also found not guilty.

Charges against Hadden's son, Jamey, are still pending. Jamie Hadden lives and works in Vietnam and has not been served with the indictment.

Jerry Hadden and his son bought the apartments in 1998. Over time, Hadden ditched the management company he had hired and eased many of his screening requirements, dropping required credit reports altogether. Hadden said he was just trying to cut costs, but prosecutors said he deliberately marketed to illegal immigrants.

Hadden himself admitted that his screening was lax. He testified that all he cared about was whether prospective tenants had a job and could afford the rent.

Tenants testified that Hadden had nothing to do with them entering the country. And he didn't try to find them jobs or hide them, they said

In a pivotal ruling a week before the trial, U.S. District Judge Karl S. Forester said that Hadden could use his ignorance of the law as a defense.

Richardson said the defense had a two-pronged strategy: to show that Hadden did nothing to harbor or conceal illegal immigrants; and if he did, to show that Hadden didn't know his actions were against the law.

The government's interpretation of the law was expansive. If it could be applied to landlords, could it be applied to restaurants that translate menus into Spanish? Richardson asked.

"Once again, where does it end?" Richardson said. "Is Kroger and Dominos next?"

Copyright (c) 2008, The Lexington Herald-Leader, Ky.

Online story here.

(Note: Online stories may be taken down by their publisher after a period of time or made available for a fee. Links posted here is from the original online publication of this piece.)

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff and Clippings have no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of these articles nor are Plainfield Today, Plainfield Stuff or Clippings endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)

About Me

Plainfield resident since 1983. Retired as the city's Public Information Officer in 2006; prior to that Community Programs Coordinator for the Plainfield Public Library. Founding member and past president of: Faith, Bricks & Mortar; Residents Supporting Victorian Plainfield; and PCO (the outreach nonprofit of Grace Episcopal Church). Supporter of the Library, Symphony and Historic Society as well as other community groups, and active in Democratic politics.