Entries in New Jersey politics (5)

Thursday
Apr122018

Extortion isn't the American way, but that doesn't stop some.

Sussex County Watchdog has been around since the spring of 2012.  Over the years, our efforts have stopped or brought to light many instances of public corruption.  These have included attempts to sell the county dump, the premature forcing of some county employees into retirement in order to use the money for new patronage employees, the corruption at the Sussex County Community College, the use of toxic chemicals near county employees, county spending and borrowing practices, county vendors and lobbyists, the county Solar scam, and the county's poor history with OPRA.  

Along the way, we've uncovered inside deals in the awarding of tax breaks and vendors' contracts, and the purchase of land.  On several occasions, Sussex County Watchdog led the way by contacting state and federal law enforcement, as it did during the solar scam -- when this website provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the State Attorney General's Office with background and material information. 

From time to time, our activities have made some insiders less than happy.  There is an all-too-cozy corruption at work at the county level.  Most counties in New Jersey are actually much more corrupt than Sussex is -- but, as in the Solar scam -- our county is being colonized by other counties interested in expanding their corruption here.  

Watchdog is important because we will act when corporate media is afraid to act because some important advertiser is at the core or connected with a matter.  We are anonymous because, in a county as cozy as Sussex is, it prevents direct retribution for exercising our First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution.  Anonymous speech is as American as our Founders and has been protected through the centuries by the United States Supreme Court.

Nevertheless,  our efforts have been the target of extortion attempts -- of threats designed to coerce us to stop writing in a way that offends the extorter or to write in a way more favorable to the extorter.  We have always rejected such attempts, because extortion is not only a criminal act but an existential act.  As an act of coercion, it is designed to kill free will, and so is an enemy of freedom itself. 

Extortion is the crime of obtaining money, property, or services from an individual or institution, through coercion.

Most states define extortion as the gaining of property or money by almost any kind of force, or threat of 1) violence, 2) property damage, 3) harm to reputation, or 4) unfavorable government action. While usually viewed as a form of theft/larceny, extortion differs from robbery in that the threat in question does not pose an imminent physical danger to the victim. 

Extortion is a felony in all states. Blackmail is a form of extortion in which the threat is to expose embarrassing and damaging information to family, friends, or the public.  Inherent in this form of extortion is the threat to expose the details of someone's private life. 

Coercion is the practice of forcing another party to act in an involuntary manner by use of threats or force.   It involves a set of various types of actions that violate the free will of an individual to induce a desired response.  These actions may include, but are not limited to: extortion, blackmail, torture, threats to induce favors, or even sexual assault. In law, coercion is codified as a duress crime.  Such actions are used as leverage, to force the victim to act in a way contrary to their own interests. 

These crimes can take place over the telephone, via mail, text, email or other computer or wireless communication.  If any method of interstate commerce is used in the extortion, it can be a federal crime. 

As believers in the First Amendment and of the Bill of Rights, Sussex County Watchdog has always offered the liberty of our pages to any opposing point of view.  Write what you wish, and we will publish it.  We are an open forum, accessible to all.  And we offer anonymity to all who wish to publish.  We always have, and a few have made use of the liberty of our pages.  Some have stayed on as regular contributors.  

Unfortunately, there are many who don't want to be part of a free and open discussion.  They want to be able to exercise power, gain material benefit from the taxpayers, or seek power -- without scrutiny.  They don't want a discussion, they want power or a contract or taxpayers' money or status and they don't want to hear about it or have anyone asking questions.  These are the kinds of people who opt for extortion over the liberty of our pages. 

As one can readily appreciate, extortion is the realm of thug life, of wannabe Il Duces and Mafioso -- not of old political organizations and political families.  At least, it shouldn't be.  We have been surprised at some of the names connected with the latest attempt. 

Please allow us to provide counsel to our wannabe extorters, to those making the threats.  To those enemies of freedom, we say this:  The best way to address writing that you do not like is with more writing.  

Speech should be met with speech.  Not with threats, intimidation, coercion, and extortion.  Once you take that road there is only one way forward... as someone  who fears words, as the enemy of freedom, the book-burner, the hater of words and of journalism and of writing.  And where does it end?

It is a bloody path that you are choosing...

Thursday
Apr302015

Bilik's photo-shop campaign

Assembly candidate Marie Bilik lives in Alexandria, Virginia, and is employed by a Washington, DC lobby group.  Bilik travels 4 1/2 hours back and forth to New Jersey on the weekends. 

This is an obvious problem for her political campaign for elected office in Sussex, Warren, and Morris counties.  She's not around and it shows.

Take a look at her campaign website.  Why would a candidate who lived in Sussex County need to photo-shop her image onto a background of High Point?  

Why would a candidate who lived in New Jersey need to photo-shop her image onto a background of the State House in Trenton?

If Bilik was around, she would do what everyone else who lives in Sussex County does when they want to take their photo at High Point -- drive to High Point and take a photograph. 

You can't find a single photograph taken in the 24th District on Bilik's website.

And it doesn't help matters that she's hired a Florida campaign consulting group to do her opposition research, design her website, and run her campaign.

For a campaign that complains about consultants so much the Bilik campaign is certainly loaded with them.  There's an opposition researcher from Florida, a web designer from Florida, a campaign consultant from Florida, and a couple energy company consultant/lobbyists from New Jersey.  And then there's the candidate herself,  who works for a Washington, DC area lobby group.

Tuesday
May062014

The Party Bosses forgot to tie Crabb's shoelaces.

Every elected official in Sussex County places his or her hand on a bible and swears to uphold the laws of the State of New Jersey.  Election law is part of that.  After the wretched Watergate scandal, reforms were enacted to ensure that the taxpayers and citizens would have the right to know who gives money to the people they elect to office to work for them.  The politicians didn't ban the legal bribery of special interest money, but they at least promised to make sure that everyone would know where the money was coming from.  It's called "transparency".

But transparency only works if politicians follow the law. 

Freeholder Phil Crabb has made a career out of ignoring the law.  In 2011, it got so bad and became such an embarrassment that the other elected officials in Sussex County were going to toss him off their ticket.  Since then, those elected officials haven't done a very good job of keeping their boy on the straight and narrow. 

According to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (NJELEC ), Freeholder Crabb filed his October 15, 2013, report on January 21, 2014.  That was the same day he filed his January 15, 2014, report.  But Crabb didn't report what he was required to report until April 15, 2014.  Crabb's July 15, 2013, report was filed on July 18, 2013; April 15, 2013, was filed on April 26, 2013; January 15, 2013, on January 31, 2013; October 15, 2012, on October 19, 2012; July 15, 2012, on July 17, 2012; April 15, 2012, on April 23, 2012; and January 15, 2012, on April 23, 2012.

Hey, has anybody seen Crabb's April 15, 2014 report?

Looks like somebody needs to hold Freeholder Crabb's hand to make sure he follows the law.  

Freeholder Crabb's last re-election was held on November 8, 2011.  His 20-day Post Election report was filed on January 9, 2012.  You do the math.

Those elected officials who have put their oaths of office on the line by condoning this behavior with their words and their money should wise up before they face a big embarrassment.  Your boy acts like a dodo and just because he's a safe vote for the powers that be doesn't mean that he should get a pass on following the law.  It is incumbent upon you, his supporters, to make sure that his shoes are properly tied each and every report time. To date, you have not done your job very well. 

Taxpayers and citizens may have to put up with the legal bribery that goes on.  We shouldn't have to put up with a lack of transparency too.

Sunday
May042014

The Coziness of a One-Party County

Last Thursday night there was a campaign fundraiser for Freeholder Phil Crabb, who has become a kind of cause célèbre for the network of insiders who run most of what happens in Sussex County.  We won't go as far as George Carlin and call them "the owners" but often, it appears that way.

Crabb's event was a packed house and he collected a lot of money.  It was a very different story three years ago when Crabb was up for re-election.  Then his fundraiser managed to attract less than two dozen people and his campaign finance reports were anemic.  Ah, Crabb's campaign finance reports.

Three years ago Phil Crabb was under a lot of pressure.  He was up for re-election and was relentlessly peppered by party officials, county officials, freeholders, legislators, and operatives to clean up his act and file campaign finance reports that were then four years overdue.  These officials met with Crabb and sent him written emails that demanded that he follow the law or else they would push him off the ticket.  After assuring them many times that he had filed, which turned out to be untrue, Crabb finally did file and has, on occasion, filed on time since.

Phil Crabb broke New Jersey election law again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again, well, you get the idea.  It is the one consistent thing that defines his career as a Sussex County politician.

Crabb has been extraordinarily lucky in that nobody has ever filed a complaint against him with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.  Others who have done what Crabb did, but on far fewer occasions, have faced fines and penalties of tens of thousands of dollars.  In neighboring Morris County we have this example:

The N.J. Election Law Enforcement Commission also has accused (Freeholder Hank) Lyon of four violations of campaign finance laws during the 2011 Republican primary. Each violation could result in a maximum $6,800 fine.

One alleged violation involves a $16,000 loan made to the campaign a week before the primary but not reported until July 8. The state says that because the contribution was more than $1,200, it should have been reported within 48 hours.

Another alleged violation occurred when Lyon and his father certified the information on the loan and campaign report was correct but that they changed it in a subsequent report. Initially, Lyons reported that he had made the loan but it was later changed to identify Robert Lyon as the contributor, the state said.

Additionally, the state claims the information about the contribution was submitted after the June 27 deadline.

Further, the complaint says that $16,795 in expenditures were listed on July 8 but were due on June 27. (nj.com)

Last month, Freeholder Lyon was formally reprimanded by NJELEC and fined $8,100 for his late filing.  Lyon had only four violations, as opposed to the dozens Freeholder Crabb faces.

This leaves some people questioning why Crabb, who enjoyed only limited support in 2011, now has almost all the insiders supporting him in 2014.  Are they, with their words and their dollars, condoning behavior that they, as officials sworn to uphold the law, should have reported?  Why the radical turnabout?

Freeholder Crabb has proven to be useful to those with deep financial interests in the county and their allies.  In June 2012, Crabb was at the center of an attempt to take control of Sussex County's waste disposal away from the County's 24 municipalities and turn it over to a committee of five insiders.  Later the County dump's lifespan was magically extended just as it had once been magically foreshortened.  Blogger Rob Eichmann, who at age 48 died last October of cancer, extensively studied this and other issues.  His notes and papers have been preserved by his alma mater.

Since his current term as Freeholder began in January 2012, Crabb has been a point man for insider interests in Sussex County.  Last December, a dinner was hosted in his honor at the exclusive spot favored by those who run the County.  As a rule these events are priced just below the amount that triggers the state's disclosure laws.  Technically legal but morally suspect and ethically a no-go.  The spirit of transparency isn't flourishing here in Sussex County.

If Freeholder Crabb's problems do come to light and they end up reflecting badly on the County and on those elected officials who knew, but supported and funded him anyway, watch for the blame games to begin.

 

Tuesday
Apr222014

Sussex GOP Chair endorses Crabb

Sussex Republican County Chair Ailish Hambel formally endorsed Freeholder Phil Crabb for re-election last evening in an email sent to Republican county committee members, elected officials, and activists.  Hambel, who holds a patronage job in the Christie administration, attached a cryptic endorsement of Crabb to a funding appeal.  Hambel wrote:

 

Please help me make sure we keep Phill on the board he has experience, knowledge of the issues in Sussex County. We need that right now. Thank you for your consideration of these issues.

No mention was made about what "these issues" might be.

The "re-election fundraiser" for Freeholder Crabb is being held on Thursday, May 1st, at the Franklin Firehouse Hall, 137 Buckwheat Road, Franklin.  The event is called a "Gourmet Spaghetti Dinner" and is being catered by the Homestead Restaurant.  Tickets start at $60 per person.

We couldn't help but notice who the checks are being collected by:

Please make checks payable to: Crabb for Freeholder

Please mail to: Dennis J. Mudrick P.O. Box 1014, Sparta, NJ 07871

Is this being done because Freeholder Mudrick can be trusted to file his campaign finance reports and Freeholder Crabb can't?