Tuesday, June 08, 2010

New Jersey Stuck in Political Quagmire - Payoffs Abound for Democrats Menendez & Staff


Just when we thought our politicians were starting to get the message that payoffs and campaign bribery have no business in our government we learn that Robert Menendez, Senator from New Jersey, was in the midst of securing $8 million in federal special earmark money to pay for corporate work that had already been promised from developers.

In fact, the multi-million dollar luxury condo complex on the New Jersey - New York waterfront required the private financed park as a condition of approval back in 2003, a fact that Menendez says he did not know. What kind of staff work was involved that led him to get $8 million in federal money for a luxury development when hundreds of teachers are being laid off in New Jersey and jobs could have been saved with the same money?

Maybe the problem with Washington politicians can be best seen by this fact. Menendez and former Senator Frank Lautenberg received over $100,000 in campaign contributions from the owners and employees of the privately owned complex. A former member of the Menendez staff received over $200,000 as a lobbyist for the project.

Menendez is quit to point the finger and lay the blame on Wall Street or BP for the problems we face as and he wants to be the leader in fighting to save jobs for the teachers yet he quietly, behind the scenes, is steering $8 million to huge developers and $200,000 to former staff members to pay for a park in one of the most luxurious condo complexes on the Hudson waterfront.

Liberals and Democrats including the powerful teachers union should be outraged at the hypocritical action by their advocate and the people of New Jersey should be disgusted by the continued efforts of the political machine in Washington to steer limited funds to special interests. Wake up New Jersey, you have been sold out again!

Apparently cleaning out the Governor's mansion with the election of Governor Chris Christie was just the first step in cleaning out the horrible mess in the Democrats stranglehold on the state and their disregard for the needs of the people of New Jersey. Using grey areas of the law to benefit huge corporations was supposed to be a thing of the past. Maybe Menendez should become a thing of the past as well to make sure people are heard.

The following is a report on the funding scandal that appeared in the Washington Times online.

By Jim McElhatton

HOBOKEN, N.J. | With a rooftop pool and 24-hour concierge service, the new luxury condominiums off Frank Sinatra Drive here seem an unlikely spot in need of a multimillion-dollar federal giveaway.

Yet U.S. taxpayers doled out at least $8 million on a public walkway and park space in front of the Maxwell Place development here overlooking the New York City skyline - an amenity the development touts alongside its entertainment lounge, rooftop hot tub and theater screening room.

But the decision to use tax dollars to fund the walkway project was made after private developers had already agreed in 2003 to pay for it - indeed, it was a key condition for getting the project off the ground, according to public records and interviews.

Still, under the so-called earmarking process, by which Capitol Hill lawmakers slip requests for pet projects into larger spending bills, Sens. Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrats, later pushed for millions of dollars in federal funding for the project.

In the swamp of federal earmark funding, $8 million isn't a lot. But critics say the project is emblematic of why the earmark process so enrages many taxpayers.

Mr. Lautenberg and Mr. Menendez combined have received approximately $100,000 in campaign donations from executives of past and current developers of the Hoboken project and their employees over the years, federal election records show.

What's more, the developers' lobbyist, whose firm reaped more than $200,000 in lobbying fees, was a longtime senior aide to Mr. Menendez, who was a member of the House when the lawmakers secured funding for the project in 2005.

Neither Mr. Menendez nor Mr. Lautenberg said the donations influenced their decisions. They also said they were unaware that the developer had already agreed to spend millions of its own dollars to complete the walkway.

The public walkway and park were dedicated by city officials last year, and developers, on top of the money from the federal government, separately paid out millions of dollars for the project. But questions persist. Watchdog groups, while noting there was nothing illegal about earmarking federal funds for the project, question the push for taxpayer money if developers already were obligated to foot the bill.

"If it already was going to be done by the private sector, why would we swoop in and pick up the majority of the costs?" said Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense. "That same $8 million could have been used on other worthwhile projects."


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