Saturday, August 12, 2006

6 New Jersey Government Officials Indicted; More Big Money Scams.

Laura Masnerus, "6 Treasury Department Employees Indicted in Trenton," The New York Times, August 11, 2006, at p. B5:

"Six employees of the New Jersey Treasury Department, including three top officials, were indicted on Thursday on charges of accepting dinners, spa and golf outings and other gifts in return for overlooking overcharges by a state contractor."

The indictment charges these high level state officials with ...

"... receiving expensive dinners and entertainment -- whose value their lawyers say is highly exaggerated -- including spa services at a retreat in Maine, golf outings, meals, liquor, cigars and ... [for one defendant and family] a weekend trip by limousine from their home in Hamilton, N.J., to see 'Wicked' on Broadway. The trip was valued at $2,470.00."

This sort of corruption will be found among officials in many New Jersey state agencies and (probably) among many judges. Very few public school teachers, police officers or fire fighters get a little all-expenses paid trip for themselves and family in the city, with a Broadway show thrown in for the laughs. I wonder why?

There is an excellent chance that New Jersey cops and teachers won't get their pensions when they retire because of all the theft of public money. It sure makes people happy to know that Debbie Poritz gets her pension and that she and McGreevey as well as good old Rich Cody have been immortalized on canvas, at your expense.

"In New Jersey, you cannot go anywhere at home without bumping into something that is regulated by a relatively obscure agency called the Board of Public Utilities."

"... these days, the board has a more visible role. It is on the cusp of making one of the more significant decisions in its 95 year-history: whether to approve a $17 billion merger of Exelon, a Chicago-based company, and Public Service Enterprise Group, the parent company of P.S.E.&G., creating the nation's largest utility."

"The merger, first proposed in late 2004, has been approved by regulators in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut, as well as by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the Federal Department of Justice."

"That leaves the New Jersey board as the only remaining hurdle."

David W. Chen, "In Huge Merger Of 2 Utilities, 'Quiet Agency' Is in Spotlight," in The New York Times, August 20, 2006, at p. 25.

To the extent that this merger will benefit consumers and residents of New Jersey, public officials should be expeditious in seeing it brought to a conclusion. As Governor Corzine has made clear, the interest of citizens and all residents of New Jersey should determine public policy and not pointless -- as opposed to necessary -- delays by regulators, or a yearning on the part of politicians and others to find some way to gain financial profit (secretly) from this deal. As they say in Trenton: "Yeah, but what's in it for me?"

Walter Lippman spoke of the "public interest" as the standard by which to guide public policy. This ideal or value must not be lost.

Many citizens of New Jersey wonder whether continuing obstructions to this proposed $17 billion merger of utility companies creating the nation's largest utility corporate entity, which would provide much needed revenue and benefits for the people of the state, including possibly cheaper and better energy, are really only efforts by politicians -- or behind-the-scenes bosses -- to ensure that they get a piece of this pie. Trenton politicians like to whisper: "I gotta take something home for dessert."

The Jersey Boys also like to say: "Just let me wet my beak a little ..." David W. Chen, "Utility Merger Hits a Snag in New Jersey," in The New York Times, August 18, 2006, at p. B5:

"Senate President Richard Cody and other political leaders have urged the board to act quickly. Hours before the counterproposal was offered, Gov. Jon S. Corzine, who has said he approves of the merger, addressed the topic at a news conference, saying, 'I think it is time to bring this to conclusion.' ... "

Laura Masnerus, "Reprieve for Troubled Xanadu Entertainment Complex," in The New York Times, August 23, 2006, at p. B5 chronicles the sorry history of the "huge shopping and entertainment complex now rising in the Meadowlands," a project originally provided to "buddies" of former Governor McGreevey, now (for some reason) under investigation by the SEC "in connection with allegations of accounting irregularities."

You mean, "theft"?

The billions of dollars needed to complete the Xanadu project had to come from a new investor, to avoid the potential loss of billions more in public money, and the investigation is "on-going." This should be a good one.

There is much more to come in the days and weeks ahead. (See "Let's see what he's got under his fingernails" at Philosopher's Quest.)

How much is enough for the people of New Jersey?

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