The Soprano State The Soprano State
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Update

2023

  • Gov. Murphy’s support for gutting two corruption-busting agencies could come back to haunt him should he make a bid for higher public office.

    While Murphy’s state lawyers went before the U.S. Supreme Court to try to end New Jersey’s participation in, and thereby kill, the mob-busting Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, NorthJersey.com reported a $100,000 donation in 2022 from the International Longshoremen’s Association to a dark money nonprofit tied to the governor. The Longshoremen also gave $40,000 in 2021 to a nonprofit that funded Murphy’s inauguration, NorthJersey.com reported.

    As recently as 2021, FBI agents said their work with the Waterfront Commission revealed influence by Genovese and Gambino organized crime families over the Longshoremen and waterfront businesses. High-ranking Longshoremen and Genovese family members have in the past been convicted of conspiring to collect tribute payments from port workers.

    (To read about former Gov. Jim McGreevey’s problems with the ILA and a Genovese capo check out The Soprano State’s Chapter 8, The Gospel According to the Mob.)

    Despite statements by the FBI, the U.S. department of Labor, and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York that the Waterfront Commission is vital to crime-busting, New Jersey Democrats and Republicans contend the mob’s influence has waned and the Waterfront Commission hurts waterfront business.

    Murphy went so far as to name Joseph Sanzari, an honorary card-caring member of the Longshoremen, as New Jersey’s representative to the commission. But he didn’t last long.

    During arguments before the high court, there was no talk of mob-busting. New Jersey argued it has a legal right to break away for the agency charged with keeping corrupt practices out of the ports. New York argued that New Jersey’s agreement 70 years ago is binding. The justices appeared to side with New Jersey, leaning on contract law, which allows one party to end a contract if there is no specific wording on how it should be severed. A ruling is expected in June.

    This was Murphy’s second recent attack on a crime-busting agency. He supported a bill that would gut the Election Law Enforcement Commission, New Jersey’s election watchdog.

    The bill, tabled after outcry from the press and good government advocates, would have made ELEC’s executive director a direct appointee of the governor and would have reduced the statute of limitations on election law violations from 10 to two years. The bill also would have nixed the state’s pay-to-play laws, doubled contributions politicians could take, and in some cases tripled the amount raised by political parties.

    Ry Rivard, Politico, March 1, 2023, Nov. 22, 2021; Colleen Wilson, NorthJersey.com, March 1, 2023; Ashley Balcerzak, March 1, 2023, Feb. 27, 2023; Matt Friedman and Daniel Han, Politico, Feb. 27, 2023; Ted Sherman, NJ Advance Media, Dec. 19 and April 5, 2021

  • Democratic lawmakers boosted their reputation for trying to sweep Soprano State corruption under the rug with their move to gut the Election Law Enforcement Commission, an election watchdog since 1973.

    Credit goes to the press and good government advocates for temporarily foiling the outrageous move.

    The attempt is right up there with Democrats’ efforts to get out of the 70-year-old mob-busting Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor. Both moves were supported by Gov. Murphy.

    The proposed election law, wrongfully called the Election Transparency Act, was bad enough until amendments were added at the last minute, prompting Assemblyman Brian Bergen, a Republican from Morris County, to label the bill the Public Corruption Authorization Act.

    The bill would gut the agency’s independence by making its executive director a direct appointee of the governor. Currently the executive director is chosen by the ELEC commission, a board with equal number of Democrats and Republicans appointed by the governor.

    The bill would reduce the statute of limitations on election law violations from 10 to two years, thereby killing pending charges against Democrats for failing to report nearly a million dollars in donations and a million in expenses, according to the Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran. Assemblyman Lou Greenwald, sponsor of the bill, told Moran the million-dollar violations were “weak tea, to put it politely.” (See more of Greenwald in Chapters 3 and 4 of The Soprano State.)

    The pending bill would allow state and county political parties to create housekeeping funds with twice the contribution limits, would nix the state’s pay to play laws and double the contributions politicians can take, and in some cases triple the amount raised by political parties.

    Published reports indicate the push to gut ELEC started in the governor’s office as retaliation against an email sent buy ELEC executive director Jeffrey Brindle, who questioned the celebration of National Coming Out Day.

    As Charles Stile of NorthJersey.com said, a “cringe-inducting email, for sure.” But no excuse for opening the door to election corruption.

    Matt Friedman and Daniel Han, Politico, Feb. 27, 2023; Tom Moran, The Star-Ledger, Feb. 26, 2023; Charles Stile, NorthJersey.com, Feb. 27, 2023; Ashley Balcerzak, NorthJersey.com, Feb. 27, 2023


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