Update 9/9 9:30apm Eastern. Your Sunday dirty money cartoon of the morning (click for full-size)…
I mentioned the big political bust in NJ that snagged 11 Democrats two days ago. A sham company set up by the FBI paid bribes to the officials. It’s worth taking a closer look at the case and the criminal complaints, which the USAO’s office in NJ has made available online. In a nutshell, the corruption arrests of nearly a dozen public officials “continues to scratch the surface of the problem we have here in New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said at a press conference announcing the sting. “I thought I could no longer be surprised by a combination of brazenness, arrogance and stupidity,” Christie said, “but the people elected in this state continue to defy description.”
Yep. They don’t call my home state the “armpit of the nation” for nothing.
According to FBI special agent James Breen, Rivera allegedly promised to deliver a majority of votes on the Passaic City Council to drive city insurance brokerage business to a front company set up by the FBI. Federal agents posing as company executives offered a $50,000 payment to Mr. Rivera in return for the business. Rivera accepted an initial installment of $5,000, according to the complaint. Here’s a glimpse of how Rivera operated:
On or about August 29, 2007, defendant RIVERA, Key Employee 1 and another key employee of the City of Passaic (“Key Employee 2”) met with CW-1 and CW-2 in Passaic, New Jersey. During the meeting, defendant RIVERA advocated for having the Insurance Brokerage Business provide insurance brokerage services to the City of Passaic.
When Key Employee 2 questioned the presentation of the Insurance Brokerage Business, defendant RIVERA concluded the meeting by stating, “I make the fucking decision. And the Council. And believe me, I’ve got the four fucking votes on the Council. So let’s stop bullshitting, and let’s get this thing rolling.”
NJ papers report today that Rivera is refusing to give up his mayoral office.
Next up: Alfred Steele, Democrat NJ Assemblyman.
From his criminal complaint:
On or about March 14, 2007, a public official (“Official 1”) arranged a lunch meeting between defendant STEELE, Official 1 and CW-1, at a restaurant in Newark, New Jersey. During the meeting, CW-1 discussed the various insurance products and plans that the Insurance Brokerage Business offered to local governments. Defendant STEELE offered to use his official influence to assist the Insurance Brokerage Business by “hav[ing] [his] chief of staff arrange” appointments, making introductions to other officials at local government agencies in Paterson, and using his self-described “personal touch.”
Through discussion with CW-1 at that time, defendant STEELE understood that he would receive money in exchange for his official intercession on behalf of the Insurance Brokerage Business.
During that meeting, defendant STEELE was further informed that (a) he would receive $5,000 from the Insurance Brokerage Business for arranging a meeting with Paterson officials and 15 percent of the gross revenue if the Insurance Brokerage Business was successful in obtaining insurance brokerage business and (b) with respect to the City of Paterson
insurance brokerage business, both defendant STEELE and Official 1 would receive 15 percent of the gross revenue from any success in obtaining Paterson government insurance business. Defendant STEELE indicated to CW-1, that he would participate in making “it happen,” meaning assisting the Insurance Brokerage Business in obtaining Paterson government insurance brokerage business.
Defendant STEELE further indicated that he would use his official influence locally, stating that he would “work with the [Paterson] Board of Ed[ucation], get that piece in [and] see if
we can do that.” Prior to concluding the meeting, defendant STEELE further indicated to CW-1 that their business was “to be continued” and thanked CW-1 for “bringing [him] on board.”
Thereafter, defendant STEELE endeavored to peddle his influence both (a) with local government officials inside the district that he represented and (b) with influential lawmakers and officials outside of his district, in favor of the Insurance Brokerage Business.
Similar deal. He agreed to a $5,000 up-front payment and $25,000 after the city of Orange signed onto the same type of insurance scheme. From his complaint:
…defendant HACKETT met Official 1, CW-1, CW-2 and UCA at a nearby restaurant in Orange. During this luncheon meeting, defendant HACKETT and the others continued to discuss certain insurance business that the Insurance Brokerage Business sought to obtain in the City of Orange. In particular, defendant HACKETT continued to indicate that he would attempt to facilitate the CWs’ proposal, and also indicated that the Orange official who had expressed reservation at the earlier meeting would not be a problem. At the conclusion of this luncheon meeting, defendant HACKETT spoke privately with CW-2 in the area around City Hall in Orange. Defendant HACKETT accepted a cash payment of $5,000 in
exchange for his official action and support in attempting to obtain insurance business in the City of Orange in favor of the Insurance Brokerage Business. Defendant HACKETT accepted the $5,000 in cash contained inside a brochure describing the Insurance Brokerage Business’ benefits. Defendant HACKETT was reminded by CW-2 that this $5,000 cash payment pertained to their agreement that defendant HACKETT would receive $5,000 up front (as set forth in paragraph 5) to which defendant HACKETT replied “[o]h, okay.” Defendant HACKETT thereafter took the brochure containing the $5,000 cash payment, left CW-2 and walked back towards City Hall.
Next: Jonathan Soto, former GOP Passaic NJ City Councilman. He was on the council during the undercover operations. According to the complain, he bragged that the “sky’s the limit:”
On or about November 3, 2006, CW-1 and CW-2 met with defendant SOTO and other City of Passaic officials to discuss opportunities for the Insurance Brokerage Business to obtain authorization to provide insurance services for the City of Passaic. Several hours after the conclusion of this meeting, CW- 1 and defendant SOTO spoke over the telephone. During this conversation, CW-1 assured defendant SOTO that CW-2 was “scrambling to try to put the money together because [CW-1 and CW-2] see the opportunity in Passaic.” Referring to the meeting earlier that day, defendant SOTO responded that “this is the top” and “this is what’s going to make everything happen, including the Board [referring to the Passaic Board of Education].”
Defendant SOTO continued that he “would drive down tomorrow just to pick something up” (meaning that he would drive to meet CW-1 to pick up a corrupt payment). In describing the opportunities for CW-1, defendant SOTO stated: “The sky is the limit with Passaic, if we do the right thing with one man” (referring to another City of Passaic official (hereinafter “Official 1″)). Defendant SOTO continued by offering to help CW-1 corruptly obtain business opportunities in other municipalities: “Moving forward, I have other friends in other municipalities, and I’m all for getting my feet wet as well, man, you know what I’m saying, and I’m very appreciative that, you know, you guys have counted me as part of the team.”
Soto is accused of taking $12,500. He’s been ordered to seek treatment for drug abuse and mental health counseling as a condition of his release.
Next up: Marcellus Jackson, Democrat Passaic City councilman:
On or about April 4, 2007, in a telephone call with CW-2, defendant JACKSON stated: “I just want to you assure you my friend, trust me on this, I have the lead on this thing…The only thing that I’m assuring you is that our Passaic thing is intact.” When CW-2 asked defendant JACKSON if he could “do something” and “what was the number,” defendant JACKSON responded, “I think it was six” (referring to the amount of the corrupt payment sought by defendant JACKSON).
On or about April 5, 2007, defendant JACKSON and CW-2 met in a car in Newark, New Jersey. Defendant JACKSON accepted $6,000 in cash from CW-2. After receiving the money, defendant JACKSON stated: “I appreciate it, baby. Good things is gonna happen.”
On or about May 4, 2007, defendant JACKSON and CW-1 met in CW-1’s car in Newark, New Jersey. Defendant JACKSON accepted $3,000 in cash from CW-1 and explained that the payment was an “advance on the deal,” not a political contribution, to which defendant JACKSON responded, “no problem.”
No. Big problem.
Next up: Maurice “Pete” Callaway, Pleasantville city council member/former Pleasantville school board member, and the brother of former Atlantic City Council President Craig Callaway, who is serving time in federal prison from stemming from an unrelated corruption scheme. All in the family!
On or about May 16, 2006, defendant CALLAWAY met Official 1 and CW-1 in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey to discuss CW-1. After discussing opportunities for CW-1 to obtain insurance brokerage work from the PBOE, the conversation turned to defendant CALLAWAY’s campaign for Pleasantville City Council. CW-1 asked defendant CALLAWAY and Official 1: “What do you guys need from us? Tell us what we need to do.” Defendant CALLAWAY replied, “it’s always the money issue . . . At least ten grand would get us over the hump.” Defendant CALLAWAY later stated that he expected to receive donations first, and then he would give those seeking business with the PBOE a “shot at the
opportunities for contracts.”
6. During the same conversation, the parties discussed that insurance brokerage commissions received as a result of a PBOE insurance contract could be kicked bak to defendant
CALLAWAY, Official 1 and others through an intermediary. In response, defendant CALLAWAY stated that such an arrangement would be “beneficial” to them. Defendant CALLAWAY further explained that he needed money quickly because the primary election for Pleasantville City Council was approaching.
He did it For The Children, I’m sure.
Along with Callaway, Louis Mister, a Pleasantville resident, is named in Callaway’s complaint:
On or about June 5, 2006, defendant CALLAWAY and defendant MISTER met CW-2 in a car in the parking lot of a restaurant in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Defendant
CALLAWAY introduced defendant MISTER as a “good friend of mine” and explained that, “being a candidate, I always bring somebody with me.” CW-2 told defendant CALLAWAY that CW-2 only had “fifteen” (referring to $1,500), and that CW-2 had already been contacted by a certain school employee (hereinafter “Individual 2″) Defendant CALLAWAY explained that Individual 2 was responsible for maintenance work, and that he was calling CW-2 because “everything was in the works.” During the meeting, defendant MISTER accepted a $1,500 cash payment for defendant CALLAWAY, at the direction of defendant CALLAWAY, and in defendant CALLAWAY’s presence, in exchange for his securing future roofing contracts with the PBOE. After accepting the corrupt payment, defendant CALLAWAY encouraged CW-2 to “keep doing the right stuff” and CW-2 would “get the big stuff – the schools, the complete schools. That’s the way we’ll go.” Later that afternoon, again in a parked car, defendant MISTER met CW-2 and accepted another $1,500 payment on behalf of defendant
CALLAWAY, who, according to defendant MISTER, waited in the car in which they had arrived.
14. After defendants CALLAWAY and MISTER accepted the payments described in paragraph 13, CW-1 spoke to defendant CALLAWAY over the telephone. CW-1 stated that CW-2 was concerned about giving the payments to a third-party (referring to defendant MISTER). Defendant CALLAWAY explained that a candidate should not be “touching” payments and that “Louis Mister [is] part of our team.” Defendant CALLAWAY instructed CW-1 to let CW- 2 know “how much I appreciate it” and to remind CW-2 that “the other thing is in motion too with the school,” referring to roofing work that defendant CALLAWAY was attempting to secure for the Roofing Business.
Next: James A. Pressley, Pleasantville school board president.
According to his criminal complaint, he asked the bribers to cover a personal home mortage in exchange for his help securing roofing contracts with the Pleasantville Board of Education:
…defendant PRESSLEY discussed payments that the CWs had made to secure roofing contracts. Defendant PRESSLEY indicated to “CW-2″ that defendant PRESSLEY had spoken with Official 1 and another school board member (hereinafter “Official 2″), and that “[CW-2 was] in line for the roofing contract. . . . there’s no issue [because] it’s
already set for the appropriate time when the project gets started.” Defendant PRESSLEY further indicated that he wanted assistance in securing a personal home mortgage in exchange for his prior and continued official support of the CWs’ businesses.
Specifically, defendant PRESSLEY and CW-2 discussed that defendant PRESSLEY be hired as a fictitious salaried employee of CW-2 so that defendant PRESSLEY could represent to a lender that he was employed by CW-2 to obtain a mortgage loan. In exchange for this financial support, defendant PRESSLEY stated that he would continue to help CW-2 secure roofing contracts with the PBOE, as well as a more lucrative upcoming roofing contract on a School Construction Corporation (“SCC”) project.
Next: Rafael Velez, another Pleasantville school board member, who also got it on the roofing contract scheme and whined about not getting paid enough…
From in or about August 2006 to in or about September 2006, Official 1 and other PBOE members accepted corrupt cash payments in exchange for their supporting CW-1 and CW-2’s efforts to secure insurance brokerage business from the PBOE. On or about September 12, 2006, as a consequence of this corrupt arrangement, defendant VELEZ and Official 1, among others, voted to pass a resolution authorizing the Insurance Brokerage Business to provide insurance brokerage services to the PBOE.
On or about September 28, 2006, defendant VELEZ met CW- 2 in a car in a mall parking lot in Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey. Defendant VELEZ explained that he, Official 1 and other PBOE members engineered passage of the aforementioned resolution and boasted, “I say, I promise, we deliver.” Throughout his conversation with CW-2, in reference to corrupt payments, defendant VELEZ used the term “hours” as a code word for thousand-dollar increments, and explained his usage of this term to CW-2. Further, d efendant VELEZ complained that Official 1 was not providing defendant VELEZ with a fair share of the corrupt moneys provided by CW-2 to the “team.”
10. At the conclusion of the meeting, CW-2 informed defendant VELEZ that Official 1 had said that CW-2 was supposed to give defendant VELEZ “four hours” for defendant VELEZ’s
support in passing the aforementioned insurance resolution. Defendant VELEZ accepted a $4,000 cash payment from CW-2 in exchange for voting in favor of the resolution described in paragraph 8.
Next: Yet another corrupt educrat, Jayson G. Adams, Pleasantville school board member, who worked hard for his dirty money.
On or about August 7, 2006, defendant ADAMS met CW-1, CW-2 and a certain individual (“Individual 2”) at a casino in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When defendant ADAMS was questioned as to whether he could secure the necessary five votes to command a majority of the PBOE, defendant ADAMS identified four PBOE members who would support the Insurance Brokerage Business: “you got four people – myself, [Official 1, Official 2 and Official 3] – who gonna do what we gotta do.”
14. On or about August 25, 2006, defendant ADAMS spoke to CW-1 on the telephone. During the conversation, defendant ADAMS suggested that he and CW-1 “put the play in motion,” referring to their attempt to secure an insurance brokerage contract for CW-1 from the PBOE. CW-1 asked defendant ADAMS whether an insurance
brokerage contract would be voted on at the next PBOE meeting. Defendant ADAMS replied only if CW-1 had “enough shit for the next Board meeting,” referring to corrupt payments.
Next, James T. McCormick. Pleasantville school board member, who was in on the crooked deals with fellow PBOE corruptocrats and took pains to hide the money:
On or about September 28, 2006, in accordance with Official 1’s instructions, CW-2 wire transferred $3,500 to a bank account in Atlanta, Georgia, with the beneficiary listed as defendant McCORMICK.
14. On or about November 8, 2006, defendant McCORMICK was interviewed at the FBI office in Atlantic City, New Jersey. During the interview, defendant McCORMICK acknowledged that he had received the $3,500 wire transfer discussed in paragraph 13. In explaining why he had received these funds, defendant McCORMICK stated that he told Official 1 that he needed $2,000 to $3,000 to renovate his basement so that the Pleasantville Democratic Club had a place to hold its meetings. Defendant McCORMICK further stated that he then received a telephone call from Official 1, who asked defendant McCORMICK whether he wanted the funds by cash or check. Defendant McCORMICK said that he
instructed Official 1 that he wanted the money transferred into his account.
15. Defendant McCORMICK described this account as a “dummy” account and said that he put the money there so it could not be traced back to him. Defendant McCORMICK further stated that the money was ultimately transferred to a woman whom he had known for more than 25 years, but defendant McCORMICK was unable to provide any contact information for this woman.
Next: Keith O. Reid, who served as chief of staff to Newark City Council president and took corrupt cash in exchange for his help getting the City of Newark to approve insurance business brokerage contracts. Reid fashioned himself the “offensive coordinator:”
On or about August 20, 2007, defendant REID and CW-2 met privately in a car in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Defendant REID and CW-2 discussed that prior to their meeting in the car, CW-2 had offered a corrupt cash payment to Official 1, who, in turn, instructed CW-2 to use defendant REID as an intermediary. Shortly thereafter, defendant REID accepted a $5,000 cash payment from CW-2. Defendant REID then repeatedly explained the importance of using an intermediary to make corrupt payments to elected officials. In discussing a relationship that the Insurance Brokerage Business had developed with another public official, defendant REID warned CW-2 to “not let a lot of people in the kitchen. . . . You need a buffer or something.” Defendant
REID then explained to CW-2: “Under federal and state law, it is not only illegal to accept cash payments, it is illegal to offer them.” CW-2 responded, “which would put us both in trouble.” Defendant REID further explained: “They [referring to law enforcement] can go after the offeror and the recipient. . . . That’s the law’s attempt to keep everything above board.” With respect to Official 1, defendant REID stated that he would take “marching orders from” Official 1 and advised CW-2: “let that [referring to a corrupt payment] come through someone who doesn’t have an office to lose.”
12. Later in the conversation, defendant REID discussed how he envisioned playing a concealed role in helping the Insurance Brokerage Business secure insurance brokerage business from the City of Newark:
[Individual 1] can be the quarterback . . . . I need to be at least the offensive coordinator . . . [Individual 1] can quarterback it. Guess why. Because there’s a role I probably, I can and shouldn’t play inside City Hall in Newark. Other City Halls, there’s no issue. Newark. But as offensive coordinator, I’m responsible for all the offensive line activity, quarterbacks too. So, therefore, I get to say to [Individual 1], ‘that’s not the play we’re running. This is the play we’re running. And we’re going to run it this way because we have to run it this way because of these players on the defensive side, who we have to convince to become our guys.’ And that includes all the other activity [at which point, defendant REID repeatedly patted the area of his jacket pocket where he had previously placed the $5,000 payment from CW-2] – – You follow me? — that may have to transpire for others.
You’ll notice that many of these Democrats are minorities. I think it’s inevitable that one or more of their lawyers will argue that they were selectively targeted because of their race/ethnicity. You may recall that the race card was played by corrupt Democrats in another federal political corruption probe in Tenessee, Operation Tennessee Waltz.
But what this widespread bust underscores, once again, is that dirty politicians come in all hues. And they only care about one color: Green.
In a snort-worthy, empty political gesture, Democrat Gov Jon Corzine did his best Nancy “Clean House” Pelosi impression–proposing “reforms” that have nothing to do with the corruption at hand:
Gov. Jon Corzine said today he would propose sweeping legislation on ethics and campaign finance in response to the arrests this week of 11 public officials, including two state lawmakers.
“We are going to deal with it quickly…And it will be a bi-partisan response if I’m reading it correctly,” Corzine said.
Among the top priorities will be a “clean-up” of the law Corzine signed earlier this week that outlaws a long-accepted practice in New Jersey of holding two elected offices at the same time, the governor said. He signed a compromise version that allows incumbent lawmakers to keep their local posts.
Corzine also said he would demand bans on campaign finance practices, including “wheeling,” a way to skirt contribution limits to individuals, and “pay-to-play,” a practice where campaign donations are made with the expectation of gaining an edge in the awarding later of of government contracts.
Senate President Richard Codey earlier brushed aside questions of the need for such reforms. “I don’t think this (sting) has anything to do with dual office holding or any of that,” Codey said.
But after a breakfast speech to a national meeting of the Fraternal Order of Police in Atlantic City, Corzine acknowledged the arrests were not directly related to those issues, but they had a deeper connection in fostering a culture in New Jersey that allows such behavior tho flourish.
“It’s time to address this,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NJ Democrats are holding their annual state party convention. And some Democrats acknowledge the state of the party is…rotten:
Democrats who had read all 44 pages of the supporting material accompanying the criminal complaints said they were shocked and disgusted by the accusations of cash payouts and expletive-filled boasts about vote-rigging.
“Unfortunately, it’s become the focus of the convention, and it’s a very sad day for the Democratic Party,” said State Senator Stephen M. Sweeney, a Democrat from Gloucester County. “How dare these Democrats cast a cloud over the entire Democratic Party? Is your name worth $5,000? People will talk about the corrupt Democratic Party, and you know what? That’s fair game.”
“People will talk about the corrupt Democratic Party, and you know what? That’s fair game.”
There’s a bumper sticker.
Oh, crikey. I was joking when I said one of these corruptocrats would use the “doing it for the children” defense. But here it is, from the father of Pleasantville BOE member Jayson Adams:
“Jayson has never been in any trouble,” his father, Gordon Adams, said before the hearing. “He always had the interests of the children.”
He said he believed that maybe his son was approached by corrupt individuals and “he didn’t have the skills to deal with it.”
Looks like dad better read his son’s criminal complaint. He definitely had the skillz to get the billz.