Entries in Max Pizarro (3)

Wednesday
Oct102018

Why is the Grease machine picking who’s who in the media?

There’s an old saying among machine politicians in Philadelphia.  It goes like this, “If you say you’re the boss, and nobody says you aint the boss, then you’re the boss.”

John F.X. Graham probably heard it back in the day, when he was prowling around amongst the ward healers in that sainted city of brotherly love.  Back when “ethnic” meant second or third generation Irish or Polish or Italian and individual neighborhoods developed their own dialects (yes, people really did talk like Rocky back then).

John F. X. moved to New Jersey where he followed the yellow brick road of selling insurance to government entities.  Unlike South Jersey’s George Norcross, John F. X. wasn’t really interested in building a political machine.  He was content with a money machine – the old-fashioned kind, the grease machine that uses campaign contributions to lube the representatives of the taxpayers, so that their money pumps out in a nice, steady stream.

Last December, the Observer wrote about John F.X. and his operation – the Fairview Insurance Agency – in a “special report” about “How Insurance Brokers Reap Public Funds Without Disclosure.”  It makes for interesting reading:

Insurance brokerages that make political donations are declining to disclose large amounts of money received indirectly from public entities.

One of the biggest goldmines for contractors in New Jersey is selling insurance plans to public entities, which employ hundreds of thousands of workers across the state.

But an Observer review of dozens of public documents shows that in some cases, it’s difficult or impossible to get a complete accounting of the money going back and forth between insurance brokerages — some of which are deep-pocketed campaign donors — and the public entities that award lucrative insurance contracts. 

For instance, Fairview Insurance Agency Associates is one of the largest political donors in New Jersey, giving more than $120,000 to various candidates and committees in 2016, the ninth-highest among businesses in the state, according to the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency.

The Verona-based brokerage is also a big contractor, raking in at least $1.1 million through public contracts or agreements across New Jersey in 2016.

Under state law, the firm is required to report annually all of its political donations and public contracts to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, provided it gets at least $50,000 in public contracts and makes at least one political donation of any amount. Curiously, however, some of the money Fairview gets indirectly from public entities is then reported to ELEC as $0.

The effect is that, to the average observer reading ELEC reports, Fairview would appear to have made much less from public entities and institutions than it actually got — directly and indirectly — in a given year.

Observer reviewed ELEC disclosures for five companies, only three of which were required to itemize their contracts and donations.

A review of six ELEC disclosure forms, 29 invoices, four contracts and eight resolutions by school boards and local councils revealed a loophole in state law that allows brokerages such as Fairview to not report to ELEC tens of thousands of dollars, or more, that they receive as a result of working for governments or public entities. 

In 93 cases, three brokerages reported receiving $0 from public agreements in 2016 on their disclosure forms filed with ELEC...  In one case, Observer found that Fairview was paid $54,000 indirectly from Jersey City’s school board but later disclosed $0 to ELEC.

It works like this. Brokerages — which sell insurance plans to local governments — are often paid commissions or fees by third-party companies. In this scenario, the actual contract does not go to the brokerage, but to the third-party company, while the brokerage still gets a cut of the business. 

In some cases, the dollar amount of these fees or commissions can be traced back by filing public records requests with local governments. Some public entities that answered such requests from Observer provided copies of the original public contracts, which in turn detailed the actual fees or commissions paid to insurance brokerages that were reported to ELEC as $0.

In other cases, there is no mechanism to piece together what a third-party company paid to a brokerage in commissions. Some public entities did not disclose or could not say how much their brokers were paid indirectly by their contractors.

In March 2015, the Jersey City Board of Education passed a resolution to award Fairview a $54,000 contract to be the school district’s prescription insurance broker for fiscal year 2016.

Fairview did not end up receiving an actual contract. The school board struck a deal two months later with Express Scripts to manage its prescription benefits plan, and in that contract, it directed Express Scripts to pay Fairview $4,500 per month on its behalf, according to a copy of the contract provided by the Jersey City school board. The school district essentially paid someone else to pay Fairview.

In the end, Fairview reported that it received $0 in 2015 and 2016 from its work for the Jersey City Board of Education, according to its annual reports filed with ELEC. The firm noted that the amounts it disclosed “do not include commissions received from the insurance carriers.” (Observer, December 6, 2017) 

Campaign contributions flowing one-way, huge contracts flowing the other… minimal to no transparency. That’s New Jersey.

The problem is… the Fairview Insurance Agency owns the news agency (InsiderNJ) that just handed out the designations as to who is who in New Jersey media. 

Yep, there’s John F. X. Graham who owns both the Fairview Insurance Agency and InsiderNJ (he holds titles of founder and publisher, respectively).  Michael J. Graham is Chief Operating Officer of both the Fairview Insurance Agency and InsiderNJ.  Ryan Graham is the Director of Business Development for the Fairview Insurance Agency and the Associate Publisher of InsiderNJ. 

That’s it folks… John F.X.’s grease machine has its own media mouthpiece with which to skew perceptions.  And that’s a handy thing to have in an age of hollowed out local coverage and a dearth of what was once called “investigative journalism.”  The press is now routinely used to punish the whistleblower, the taxpayer advocate, citizen activist, the underdog.  It’s easy to see why.

Now don’t get us wrong, just because John F.X. is all about the money… and the money… and the money… and the money… That doesn’t mean he’s not above playing the part of the noble, the enlightened, crony capitalist.  Hey, didn’t some notorious mob boss put a roof on a church?  Doesn’t Johnson & Johnson make up for failing to warn women that their product could cause uterine cancer by being oh so woke on LGBTQ?  It pays to have fashionable connections and to assist those connections in the higher causes of fashion.

John F.X. is a friend of Hillary.  Yes, that old wind bag.  You could forgive him being a friend of Bill because, heck, who wouldn’t want a night out on the town with Bill Clinton?  He’d make a Saturday night seem like a month of weekends.  But Hillary?  You know that’s just fashion. 

Nevertheless, John F.X. has been called “a top Democrat fundraiser” by newspapers like the Bergen Record and the Newark Star-Ledger.  In addition to Hillary Clinton, John F.X. raised money for John Kerry in his 2004 presidential race, and he’s been a big giver to United States Senator Bob Menendez.  In fact, it was John F.X. who pushed the idea of Menendez on a national ticket as vice president:

In January 2008, the Jersey Journal along with other media outlets reported that “John F.X. Graham, one of Hillary Clinton’s National Finance Co-Chairs, thinks that New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez would make a great choice if Clinton wins the Democratic Primary… Graham fired off an email this morning to Clinton Campaign Manager Terry McAuliffe listing politicians who would make good vice presidential material, including the choices most often brought up:  Barack Obama, Bill Richardson, John Edwards and Joe Biden.  But Menendez, a Clinton campaign national co-chair, would be the “most intriguing” choice, Graham wrote.”

“The name Richardson does not sound exactly Latino,” wrote Graham.  “The Latino voting block is becoming the most influential in this election, especially with the immigration and other economic issues confronting our prosperity.  For lack of a better term, he is the Latino Barack Obama with the experience.” 

Why would John F.X. think that encouraging people to vote along racial or ethnic lines is good public policy?  Has he not heard of the former Yugoslavia? 

Finally, John F.X. made his pronouncements while Senator Menendez was the subject of an FBI investigation.  Not that something like that matters when you are making a fashion statement.

Yes, so it seems that InsiderNJ can also be considered an outpost of the far-flung Clinton Empire.  Ahhhh, corruption at its most tasty. 

And it looks as though John F.X. is quite a big deal.  Even Wikileaks picked up loads of correspondence between John F.X. and his fellow Clintonistas.  Here is an example:

As far as the money goes, national contacts and a national reach does have its advantages.  We found dozens of John F.X.’s insurance agency’s outposts around the country.  All making him money – but northern New Jersey and Essex County in particular is his base.  It was reported in Politico (November 24, 2014) that Essex County Democrat Party boss Joe DiVincenzo’s son worked for John F.X.’s insurance agency.  He also held a full-time public job as well. 

So it was no surprise that the most corrupt political machine in the state – the Essex County Democrats – inducted John F.X. into their “Hall of Fame” in March of 2015.  InsiderNJ editor, Max Pizarro wrote the panegyric, which we suppose was less messy than the alternative. 

Now can we ask this again?  What are these people doing handing out the rankings on New Jersey journalists?  Shouldn’t some organization, like the Society of Professional Journalists, be doing it?  Or the Columbia School of Journalism?  Or anything but the god-damned grease machine itself!

Ten years ago, the authors of The Soprano State – two old-school investigative journalists – joined with journalists like Josh Margolin to decry the corruption tax that added to the cost paid by New Jersey taxpayers on everything to do with government.  Could they have guessed that, ten years later, not only would the tax be more imbedded and less transparent, but that the very news agencies responsible for exposing and reporting on it would now be wholly-owned subsidiaries of the same grease machine responsible for the corruption?

New Jersey… you can’t make this stuff up.

Thursday
Sep072017

Matteson & Trish get their head stuck up Max's bum

Journalism ain't what it used to be.  Now they just make shit up.

  On Wednesday, Republican Senator Steve Oroho issued a statement that politely asked Democrat gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy to let voters know where he stands on the corruption case against United States Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat/NJ).  Senator Oroho made his request after an Observer.com report that Murphy was remaining silent on the corruption trial of Senator Menendez, the Observer's Christian Hetrick quoting Murphy that "he hasn't thought about whether a convicted Senator should leave office."

 

Max Pizarro, formerly of the Observer group but now quarter-backing his own InsiderNJ blog, proceeded to take that story and insert Assemblyman Parker Space into it.  Even though his name doesn't appear anywhere in Senator Oroho's statement.

 

But it gets weirder. 

 

The two ANITFA twins -- "Dishonest Kate" Matteson and Gina "pussycat hat" Trish -- jumped at the chance to (in Pizarro's words) put a hook up someone's ass (like they did at Gettysburg or some shit like that).  While acknowledging that their opponent, Parker Space, has done nothing illegal, they still want him to face the same penalties as if he had committed some heinous crime.  Do the ANTIFA twins constitute their own lynch mob?  Good thing these two aren't using their ad-hoc judicial process to hand out death penalties  "We feel you've done something wrong, therefore you must suffer."

 

And speaking of suffering, check out the ANTIFA-inspired effort that their campaign is conducting against Space Farms and the Space family.  The Democrats are attempting to destroy a 90-year-old Sussex County institution with bad on-line reviews. harassing telephone calls, threats, liable, slander, and an organized boycott.  As is usual for the Democrats, instead of creating jobs they are trying to destroy them.

 

Now the kicker is that ANTIFA twin #1 and ANTIFA twin #2 puffed themselves up enough to call on Senator Oroho to "do something about corruption" in New Jersey.  Where have they been, you ask?  Well, you have to take into account that ANTIFA twin #1 only started voting in 2016 and ANTIFA twin #2 ain't much better. 

 

So we'll excuse them for not knowing that it is their party -- the Democrat Party -- that has held up reform in New Jersey.  That's why their running mate -- Jennifer Hamilton -- doesn't join them when they go ANTIFA.  Hamilton is the thinking Democrat.  The twins... not so much.

 

Take just this one example.  There are dozens more.  This year, on three separate occasions, the Democrats have blocked efforts by Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) to force a vote on legislation (S-1557) to forfeit the pensions of corrupt public officials.  “Time and again, Senate Democrats have voted to protect the pensions of corrupt public officials,” said Beck. “It’s inexplicable that they would continue to choose convicted officials over the taxpayers they represent.”

 

An investigation by the Asbury Park Press last year found at least 40 convicted criminals collecting state pension checks of up to $83,000 per year.

 

“The APP found a million dollars of taxpayer money going to corrupt public employees, including some found guilty on federal corruption charges,” added Beck. “Those are just the people they found, there are probably dozens more. If you violate the public trust, you don’t deserve a cushy retirement at taxpayer expense. Why is that so hard for Democrats to understand?”

 

Why indeed?


Wednesday
Jun282017

Democrats want taxpayers to fund LGBT lobbyists

Yesterday we wrote about how Democrat legislators use public committee hearings to raise money from Garden State Equality (GSE), a notoriously political gay-rights lobbying and campaign organization.  We covered Monday's Assembly Budget Committee hearing, at which Democrat Assemblymen John "Porno" Burzichelli, "Hammerless Troy" Singleton, and Gary "The Hand" Schaer behaved like puppies trying to edge each other out in the effort lick the butt of their paymasters from Garden State Equality.

Today we follow that up with a piece of legislation designed to use the power of government itself -- and your tax dollars -- to fund Garden State Equality's lobbying and political efforts.  In effect, the Democrats want to create a program of government -funded lobbying and political campaign activity -- but only for one side. 

And this is being done expressly for Garden State Equality, a group with a history of threatening Democrats when they don't get their way.  Here is what happened when a few Democrats voted their conscience and opposed same-sex marriage in 2010:

Garden State Equality fires new broadside at Dems

By Max Pizarro | February 8th, 2010 - 10:41am

Smarting over the state Senate's refusal to pass marriage equality and disillusioned at the moment with the Democratic Party majority, Garden State Equality’s 85-member Board of Directors unanimously decided against giving financial contributions to political parties and their affiliated committees.  

Under the new policy, Garden State Equality will make financial contributions only to individual candidates and to non-party organizations that further equality for the LGBT community, according to a release issued this morning by the organization.

“No political party has a record good enough on LGBT civil rights that it can rightfully claim to be entitled to our money on a party-wide basis,” said Steven Goldstein, chair of Garden State Equality.  “No longer will we let any political party take our money and volunteers with one hand, and slap us in the face with the other when we seek full equality.

"Our Board of Directors felt so strongly about adopting this new policy," he added, "that it unanimously decided to include it in the organization's bylaws."

Garden State Equality estimates that since 2005 they have given $500,000 to Democratic Party candidates, while giving only minimally to Republicans.

"Is this a broadside at the Democratic Party?" asked Goldstein. "Of course, it is."

"With the exception of Speaker (Shelia) Oliver, who has had a long record of being a champion of equality, nobody in the Democratic Party's leadership reached out to us," said Goldstein. "Come on, if you're Steve Sweeney, pick up the phone. If you're John Wisniewski, pick up the phone. We have been the most unstintingly loyal organization to the party. Other than organized labor which is in its own league, no other constituency has been as loyal to the party."

Well it appears that Assemblyman Wisniewski got the message, because he's been subserviently sucking GSE ass ever since.  He sponsored A-4790, the GSE rip-off bill.  Here's what it does:

An Act providing for the issuance of “Equality” license plates and supplementing chapter 3 of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes.

   1.    a.  Upon proper application, the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission shall issue “Equality” license plates for any motor vehicle owned or leased and registered in this State.  In addition to the registration number and other markings or identification otherwise prescribed by law, the license plate shall display the Garden State Equality, LLC (“Garden State Equality”) emblem, consisting of: an image of a silhouette of the mathematical equivalency sign in the background and the shape of the State of New Jersey in a circle in the foreground.  The chief administrator shall select the design and color scheme, in consultation with Garden State Equality.  The “Equality” license plates shall be subject to the provisions of chapter 3 of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes, except as hereinafter otherwise specifically provided.

     b.    Application for issuance of an “Equality” license plate shall be made to the chief administrator on forms and in a manner prescribed by the chief administrator.  In order to be deemed complete, an application shall be accompanied by a fee of $50, payable to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, which shall be in addition to the fees otherwise prescribed by law for the registration of a motor vehicle.  The chief administrator shall collect annually, subsequent to the year of issuance of the “Equality” license plates, a $10 fee for the license plates in addition to the fees otherwise prescribed by law for the registration of a motor vehicle.  The additional fees required by this subsection shall be deposited in the “Equality License Plate Fund” created pursuant to subsection c. of this section.

     c.     There is created in the Department of the Treasury a special non-lapsing fund to be known as the “Equality License Plate Fund.”  There shall be deposited in the fund the amount collected from all license plate fees collected pursuant to subsection b. of this section, less the amounts necessary to reimburse the commission for administrative costs pursuant to subsection d. of this section. Monies deposited in the fund shall be appropriated annually to Garden State Equality and shall be used to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender advocacy and educational programs in the State.  Monies deposited in the fund shall be held in interest-bearing accounts in public depositories as defined pursuant to section 1 of P.L.1970, c.236 (C.17:9-41), and may be invested or reinvested in securities approved by the State Treasurer.  Interest or other income earned on monies deposited into the fund, and any monies which may be appropriated or otherwise become available for the purposes of the fund, shall be credited to and deposited in the fund for use as set forth...

How's that for making government work for you!

So an organization that is involved in lobbying, political campaigns, and funding the Democrat Party is going to get its own government bank account and source of government funding.  WTF!

And while this lobbying and political action organization is getting its own license plate, guess who won't be... veterans!

That's right.  New Jersey is the only state in America, the only one, that does not have a license plate to honor veterans who have been honorably discharged. 

Oh it has been proposed.  Former Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, whose husband served three tours overseas in the war against terrorism, proposed it again and again... but the Democrats stopped it every time.

The Democrats remain so focused on the groin, on genitals, on the sexuality of little children -- that they cannot be bothered with honoring the men and women who preserve their institutions, their freedom, their very being.  Screw veterans, say the Democrats... Ass Uber Alles!

Hopefully the Republican generalissimos responsible for defending and capturing legislative seats are paying attention, because if you can't design direct mail, cable, radio, and Internet advertising using this clear contrast -- then something is very wrong.  This is easy, clear-blue-water stuff that will drive up GOP turnout as it shames blue collar Democrats into taking a pass. 

Assemblyman Wisniewski, a normally thoughtful man, is allowing himself to be corrupted.  A-4790 is a very public shakedown by a lobby group/political action organization because it has the power to name and shame.  GSE is corrupt in the way that the mob is corrupt:  Do what we say or we will withhold money or use it against you or try to destroy your reputation. 

Anyone who cares about democracy and honest government will oppose A-4790.