Newark Star Ledger Endorses Political Corruption

8:42 am in Uncategorized by DSWright

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South Jersey Boss George Norcross

“we said to Harry, wait a second, JCA was going to be the engineer of record. I don’t care about your f—— review process“…

” I sat him down and said ‘ [Assemblyman Conaway] Herb, don’t f– with me on this one. You know, don’t make nice with Joe Doria cause I’ll tell you if you ever do that and I catch you one more time doing it, you’re gonna get your f–king balls cut off.’ He got the message.”

- George Norcross, FBI Informant recording

As anyone who has watched Boardwalk Empire knows New Jersey has a venal political culture. Things have changed since Nucky Johnson’s days, somewhat.

But even in darker days it was never the practice of the press to endorse corrupt political bosses – until now courtesy of the Newark Star Ledger:

George Norcross, the political boss of South Jersey, has taken his share of knocks over the bare-knuckled game of politics he plays. If there were still smoke-filled rooms in Trenton, he would be at one head of the table opposite Gov. Chris Christie almost every time.

But there’s more to the Norcross story. He is making a genuine difference in the lives of impoverished people in Camden, the most desperate corner of this state. And his efforts seem to be growing every year….

For Camden’s parents, this is the best deal Norcross ever made — back-room or not.

Let’s stop right there for a second. Why? Why is Camden impoverished and desperate again? Oh, George Norcross and the political machine that has had absolute control over Camden City since 1991.

Chris Hedges, while writing a book on Camden’s fall, interviewed Norcross and wrote on Norcross’ influence in Camden:

The city is dominated by an old-time party boss, George Norcross III. Although he does not live in Camden, his critics contend that he decides who runs for office and who does not, who gets city and state contracts and which projects get funded. Tens of millions in state funds have been used for city projects, from an aquarium on the waterfront to a new law school to an expansion of the Cooper University Hospital and construction of a medical school. In 2002 the state approved a $175 million recovery package to save the city, but according to a yearlong investigation by the Philadelphia Inquirer, only 5 percent had been used to combat crime, improve schools, provide jobs or bolster municipal services.

Norcross has run the city from behind the scenes for a generation and recently was caught snagging over $400,000 out of the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) in a kickback scheme. Norcross made a call to a still unnamed official in the McGreevey administration who threw an insurance contract to a Norcross partner – who then paid Norcross’ insurance company Connor Strong a “referral fee” which Connor Strong listed on their books as a payment for “North Jersey Marketing.”

This scheme was uncovered by the State Comptroller’s Report on DRPA Corruption. And guess who condemned the Norcross’ backroom practices? The Star Ledger again:

The political boss George Norcross holds no job or title at the Delaware River Port Authority. Yet in the state comptroller’s scathing report about financial mismanagement there, guess who plays a starring role?

Turns out, Norcross got kickbacks for steering insurance contracts from the state agency, according to the report…

Not surprising, since the Democratic power broker runs South Jersey — but prefers to do so behind the scenes. Norcross, also the biggest name in the state’s insurance brokerage business, allegedly orchestrated a payment of $410,000 to his own company in return for recommending another insurance broker for the authority.

An additional payment went to a second broker, Michael Martucci, who happens to be an acquaintance of Norcross’ wife. When asked by the comptroller exactly what work he did to deserve his $45,000 cut, Martucci was succinct: “I performed nothing.”…

It took a two-year probe to pull the curtain back on these South Jersey shenanigans. Now imagine how many other backstage handshakes we pay for in this state.

Yes. That is the same editorial board under the direction of amnesiac Tom Moran. Condemning corruption uncovered in one report and citing Norcross as a wonderful benefactor in the next. But not only contradicting the initial overall portrait of the political boss – suddenly reversing itself on “backstage handshakes.”

The message from the Star Ledger is clear: it’s OK to be corrupt if your corruption leads to things we agree with.

What could go wrong?