Incite -- (v) 1: give an incentive; 2: provoke or stir up; "incite a riot"; 3: urge on; cause to act
Saturday, March 12, 2005

New Jersey: a study in bad government
Written by: Beck

Sure, everyone heard about New Jersey's governor James McGreevey and how he resigned in disgrace. It's not every day you hear a story about a state's highest elected official appointing a foreigner with no qualifications to the state's Homeland Security office and then sexually harassing him with gay sex propositions despite being married. Hell, it's not every millennium you hear one quite like that.

Not that McGreevey wasn't involved in more mundane scandals as well, but being New Jersey, it didn't draw much attention at all. Note I said scandals plural. McGreevey kept busy during his tenure. Those bribes aren't just going to pay themselves after all.

McGreevey's malfeasance, however, was just the tip of the iceberg. Run a search on Google News for "New Jersey government corruption" and you get 17 articles in the last twenty-four hours alone.

For instance, you'll find this excellent example of corruption: a kickback scandal which thus far has resulted in arrests of 14 elected or appointed New Jersey government officials.
In their continuing assault on political corruption in Monmouth County, federal prosecutors on Thursday arrested three men on money laundering charges, including two businessmen with extensive public contracts in the county.

The arrests brought to 14 the number of people caught up in an F.B.I. sting operation. Two weeks ago, 10 elected or appointed officials in the county were arrested on charges of accepting bribes in exchange for government contracts; an 11th was charged with money laundering.
Then there's Harry Parkin, the Mercer County chief of staff on trial for corruption. No surprise at all, the mafia is involved in this one.
Parkin is charged by federal authorities with 12 counts of mail fraud and a lone count of extortion. The corruption charges stem from a federal probe into alleged bid rigging and extortion in Mercer County government. The former Mercer County chief of staff faces a maximum 80 years in federal prison and $500,000 in fines if convicted on all 13 counts.
The New Jersey state contract awarding process has become so corrupt, that the government is now working on a law which will bar deals being awarded to contractors who have donated to political campaigns. Naturally, the fact that this infringes on their constitutional rights never crossed the minds of the New Jersey legislators who are crafting the bill. All they're concerned about now is appearing tough on corruption. The sad thing is, the campaign-contribution-for-contracts machine was so institutionalized that it was actually known by a handy catch phrase: pay-to-play. Of course, the law has more loopholes than a New Jersey bureaucrat can count.
The bill has some loopholes: It does not prohibit contractors from making donations to political funds controlled by municipal party organizations or legislative leaders, nor does it limit the movement of money between political funds.
Further, Acting Governor Codey had to veto the first form of the bill to come across its desk because of a conflict with federal highway appropriations rules (which still make some effort to allow people to support a political party while earning a living). No doubt the final version of this bill will be even more laughable.

Then there's the multiple indictments of engineering inspectors who were taking bribes in return for various things. Hint: avoid bridges in New Jersey, there's no telling what they're made of.

In other news, New Jersey lawmakers (on both sides of the aisle) are working to make it even easier for people to vote in the state. I can only assume that the goal is to increase the level of voter fraud so as to draw attention away from the fraud perpetrated by government employees. Once this bill passes, all that will be required to vote will be that one saunters up to a polling station sometime within a week of the election date.
Lawmakers are proposing to advance the date of New Jersey's presidential primary to February, require electronic voting machines to produce paper records, permit voters to use absentee ballots for any reason, and allow citizens to vote up to a week before Election Day.
A coworker of mine voted in the New Jersey election this past November after having moved to NJ in early October. All it took to register was to show his Minnesota drivers license--fulfilling the key New Jersey voting criteria of legally being allowed to drive in at least one of the 50 states--and supply a valid New Jersey address.

Oh, and did I mention that New Jersey is the sixth highest state in terms of charging its residents taxes, but only thirty-second in provision of services? So where does all the money go (apart from politicians' pockets)? For the children!
Jersey, meanwhile, pours big chunks of its state spending into its public schools, ranking fifth among the states in spending per pupil and first in teachers' salaries. But Jersey's students place tenth nationwide on test scores and the state ranks dead last on the Manhattan Institute's School Efficiency Index, which ranks each state's public schools by student performance in relation to school spending.
Well, you can say one thing for New Jersey: they've completely embraced the fact that they're something of a nationwide joke. At least that's what I conclude from the fact that state political organizers are trying to convince comedian Joe Piscopo to run for governor. And what do you know, it turns out that everyone's a comedian.
Some of the seven Republicans in the race weighed in.

Former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler's spokeswoman, Melissa Walters, said, "We welcome all candidates. Maybe this one will actually take a position on the Democratic plan to balance the budget on the backs of property owners."

"Rampant corruption and skyrocketing property taxes are no laughing matter," said John Radziejewski, a spokesman for Mercer County businessman Doug Forrester.

"Considering what the Democrats have done, having a comedian in the race might not be that much out of character," said Todd Caliguire, a former Bergen County freeholder.
(Cross posted to the Blogger News Network)

Update: The gentleman at Enlighten-New Jersey informs me in the comments that New Jersey is not 5th in school spending per pupil as reported in that City-Journal article, but rather first. Which makes their poor performance even more of a sick joke.

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