Again? Really? Almost exactly 10 years after hints of what would come to be a federal corruption case against Sen. Bob Menendez first surfaced on the web, the senator is once again under federal investigation.
Menendez adviser Michael Soliman confirmed the inquiry. This comes after Semafor, a news startup founded and staffed by respected and established journalists, reported that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York had issued at least one subpoena, and that two sources “said that the broad outlines of the new inquiry are similar to the 2017 case.” That’s about all the detail on it so far.
The last case — in which Menendez was accused of doing official favors on behalf of Salomon Melgen, a Florida eye doctor, in exchange for private jet flights and lavish Dominican vacations — ended a mistrial, with most jurors wanting to acquit Menendez.
It’s too early to tell how advanced this investigation is. But if it’s anything like the last one, we’ll see years of dribs and drabs of ugly stories for Menendez before any kind of definitive move by prosecutors. Last time, news of the Menendez scandal began hitting the internet in November 2012, Menendez wasn’t indicted until 2015 and his trial didn’t start until late 2017.
This is the third federal investigation of Menendez in as many decades. You would think the Southern District would have to be pretty sure of its case to try again — especially in light of how much harder federal courts have made it to convict politicians of corruption. If this investigation is as slow as the last one, it could once again put a cloud over the senator’s reelection campaign.
Barring something big happening soon, I doubt this will do much immediately to change New Jersey’s political landscape. Menendez’s son is running for his father’s old House seat in such a safe district that his candidacy faces no real challenge. Menendez seems more powerful than ever, he’s a proven scandal survivor and, given his penchant for revenge, potential Senate successors won’t dare openly maneuver for his seat. I wouldn’t expect to see many Democrats applying pressure on him to resign.
But as this drags on, I could see that changing, because the political situation is very different than it was seven years ago. In 2015, Chris Christie was governor, so Democrats had an incentive to keep him in office, as the Republican governor would have appointed his interim replacement. Now a Democratic governor is in office until January 2026. Add to that the number of Democrats considering a run for governor, at least some of whom would be amenable to a Senate seat instead.
I imagine the state’s political bosses would salivate at having that option as a potential deal-maker. And if this drags on until 2024, are Democrats — both nationally and in New Jersey — going to want to see a corruption trial of one of their major players in the middle of a presidential election year while risking what should be a relatively safe Senate seat?
DAYS SINCE MURPHY REFUSED TO SAY WHETHER HIS WIFE’S NON-PROFIT SHOULD DISCLOSE DONORS: 263
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WHERE’S MURPHY? — No public schedule
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I really just did it to annoy my wife who was very anti-mullet but then as it grew out it actually had a nice shape and people kept telling me it looked good. So then I needed to perfect it.” — Eric Kormann of Penns Grove, who placed 17th in the USA Mullet Championship.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Murphy staff helmsman George Helmy, 101.5’s Eric Scott, Hamilton’s Rick Tighe
LABOR — AFSCME union suing Murphy claiming ‘racial- and gender-based discrimination, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, who has cast himself as a pro-labor leader and champion of pay equity, is being sued by one of the most prominent unions representing state employees, which is accusing the governor and his administration of “racial- and gender-based discrimination.” Leaders of the New Jersey branch of AFSCME, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Wednesday they are suing Murphy in the wake of the administration’s decision to raise starting salaries for state corrections officers — who are mostly white men — but not for workers in state health care facilities, including veterans homes and psychiatric hospitals, who are mostly Black women.
UNION BUSING — “South Jersey bus drivers getting back union dues that suit said they shouldn’t have paid,” by NJ Advance Medai’s Larry Higgs: “A group of bus drivers have reached a settlement in their case against a union and the South Jersey Transportation Authority (SJTA) on accusations they had union dues illegally deducted from their paychecks after they quit the union. The federal civil rights suit was filed by seven SJTA drivers in May against the SJTA and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers Local 196, a union that represents 80 bus drivers at the authority … The suit alleged that the workers’ First Amendment rights were violated when union dues continued to be deducted from their paychecks after they signed forms in October and November 2021, telling the SJTA to stop the deductions. They also sent resignation letters to the union, but the deductions continued, the suit said … Local 196 dropped any claim for union dues, fees, or other monetary compensation from the plaintiffs from January 1, 2022 on. The bus drivers also are due a refund for union dues they paid between Jan.1 and August 1, with 2% interest”
—“N.J. public worker pension fund lost nearly $10B during rough fiscal year”
—“Baraka steps up statewide listening tour as Unite PAC fundraises”
—“Should NJ Transit bus riders have access to the same route data as train riders?”
—“N.J. should repeal and replace law allowing college athletes to profit off name and likeness, [Codey] says”
—“New and final deadline for applicants to New Jersey’s immigrant worker fund”
—“Test scores show big post-COVID drop. What plans do lawmakers have to help?”
—“Legislator looks to expand New Jersey’s outdoor smoking ban”
—“For some, NJ offers double tax relief”
—“Former lifelong Democrat NJ assemblyman switches to Republican”
HAVING HIS TRUMP AND EATING IT TOO — “As he aches to be a bipartisan broker, Tom Kean can’t shake this specter,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Tom Kean Jr. was emphatic: He is not an election denier. In an editorial board meeting with the USA TODAY Network New Jersey last week, [Kean] … recalled how he graciously conceded in past defeats, including his razor-thin 2020 loss to the candidate he’s challenging again, incumbent Democratic Rep. Tom Malinowski …
“[A]fter 16 days of waiting for final results, he didn’t resort to finger pointing, nor did he conjure any conspiracy theories. And he was quick to recall the joint statement he released with the state Senate’s former Democratic leader, the stalwart liberal Loretta Weinberg, in which the pair strongly condemned the Jan. 6, 2021, riot … Yet, for all his ardent, patriotic passion about the sacred rite of voting, Kean — who is nearing the conclusion of a heated rematch with Malinowski — dodged questions about Trump … Asked if he thought the American tradition of democracy would be more secure if Trump declined to seek the presidency in 2024, the Westfield Republican returned to the scripted non-answer that he gave me in an interview two weeks ago.”
PROFILES IN CHUTZPAH — “Ugh, they did just say that. Unbelievable!,” by The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran: “Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts included a nasty twist for New Jersey, a first-ever cap on deductions for state and local taxes, or SALT, on their federal income taxes. So, it was remarkable last week when Republican candidates gathered to blame Democrats for this. For that, we awarded them this week’s Chutzpah Award. Democrats from New Jersey have been banging their head against a brick wall trying to remove the cap, but they’ve been blocked at each step by Republicans. The Democratic House voted to eliminate the cap, but it died in the Senate. Rep. Tom Malinowski then drafted a fallback plan to raise the cap to $80,000, which would spare the middle-class from higher taxes. But that, too, died in the Senate. Republican opposition was nearly universal. One thing is certain: If Republicans take the House in November, the effort to repeal this cap is doomed.”
IF HE FEELS THE NEED TO SHORE UP GOTTHEIMER AND SHERRILL, IT’S WORSE FOR DEMS THAN IT LOOKS — Bloomberg pumps $10 million more into House campaigns as red wave looms, by POLITICO’s Christopher Cadelago, Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris: House Democrats scrambling to keep pace with the onslaught of late-arriving Republican super PAC dollars are again turning to billionaire Mike Bloomberg for help in the closing days of the midterms. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor, is sending another $10 million to the House Majority PAC, an adviser told POLITICO … While little of Bloomberg’s House spending so far is publicly accounted for, two people familiar with the expenditures said he is steering money toward Reps. Josh Gottheimer and Mikie Sherrill of New Jersey. Both are Democrats he’s backed in prior contests and both battleground seats have been competitive in the past, though they lean bluer thanks to redistricting. House Majority PAC this week made a $2.3 million buy for Gottheimer and VoteVets, a Democratic group that works in tandem with House Majority PAC, made a $2 million buy for Sherrill, according to AdImpact, a media tracking firm.
—“NJ-11 congressional debate focuses on abortion rights, loan forgiveness and ‘woke mob’”
—“Does horse-race coverage throw the race? | Matters of Fact”
—BPU approves $1B in onshore upgrades for offshore wind
MONTCLAIR’S OCTOBER REVOLUTION — “‘Montclair is broken:’ Resolution to put Stafford on paid leave, police called to council meeting,” by Baristanet’s Liz George: “Montclair Town Council, shortly after midnight, voted on a resolution to ‘immediately place Township Manager Timothy Stafford on temporary paid administrative leave, without loss of salary or benefits, pending the conclusion of the independent employment practices investigation concerning the allegations and statements reportedly made by a council member in the previously referenced Montclair Local and Baristanet articles.’ … The vote came after a contentious meeting with Montclair residents carrying signs calling for transparency and others calling for Mayor Sean Spiller to resign. Residents yelled out numerous times during the meeting, sometimes to challenge what was being said by the mayor, sometimes to heckle him, and other times imploring him to be transparent and to fix all that is broken in Montclair. Spiller tried to keep order.”
KARMA CAMILO — “Campaign staffer charged with bribery in Perth Amboy council race,” by New Jersey Globe’s Joey Fox: “Ana Camilo, a campaign staffer working with Perth Amboy City Council candidate Jeanette Rios, has been arrested on bribery charges for offering gift cards to voters in exchange for votes. Middlesex County Prosecutor Yolanda Ciccone announced charges of third-degree bribery against Camilo this afternoon. According to the prosecutor’s office, Camilo offered voters ShopRite gift cards if they allowed her to fill out their absentee ballots for her preferred candidates. The office received word of Camilo’s actions on October 17, and sent an undercover officer to investigate; posing as a Perth Amboy voter, the officer allowed Camilo to fill out their absentee ballot and received a $20 gift card in return. Camilo was arrested immediately afterwards, with the absentee ballot still in her possession.”
DID WASHINGTON TELL A LIE? — “Academic credentials of school board president washington questioned; investigation sought,” by TAPIntoRoselle’s Jenn Oliveira: “Courtney Washington, current President of the Roselle Board of Education, is a candidate for re-election to the Roselle Board of Education on November 8th. On both the official website of the Roselle Board of Education and on a recent Roselle Board of Education Mailer entitled the ‘Rambler: A Publication of the Roselle Public Schools … ’Washingto is referred to as ‘Dr. Courtney Washington.’ In a letter dated October 17, 2022, emailed to TAPinto Roselle and addressed to Washington, resident and community activist Anthony Esposito says, ‘I am calling on you to validate the educational background that you are using as a cornerstone of your candidacy.’ … On October 19, 2022, in an email response to Esposito, which was provided to TAPinto Roselle, Washington refused to verify the information requested and instead stated that she met all of the requirements to be considered qualified to serve as a member of the Roselle School Board. She further requested that he cease and desist any and all contact with her.”
OFF THE WALL — “Wall administrator made discriminatory comment and retaliated after complaints, lawsuit says,” by The Asbury Park Press’ Mike Davis: “The former assistant township administrator is accusing the township of showing a ‘bias against women in leadership positions’ after her boss, township administrator Jeffrey Bertrand, made a series of’”’ex-based inappropriate comments’’ and retaliated when she filed complaints about him … Kohri alleged that Bertrand made numerous jokes about rape, sex, masturbation and objectifying comments about women’s breasts from the time he was hired in 2012 until Kohri quit in June 2021. The lawsuit also alleges Bertrand made light of required anti-discrimination and harassment training and, in February 2018, the requirement that supervisors report any sexual harassment or discriminatory behavior. ‘It’s like if Pamela Anderson worked here, hot Pamela Anderson like from her Baywatch years, and I walked into her office and she grabbed my crotch, I would like it,’ Bertrand said, according to the lawsuit… In July, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dismissed a complaint Kohri filed about the same series of incidents … Since 2016, Wall and its insurance carriers have paid nearly $3 million to settle lawsuits with former employees”
SUPER PAC PLAUSIBLE DENIABILITY — “The NJEA gave $70K that helped Andre Sayegh’s campaign. This is why,”” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “Mayor Andre Sayegh, who last week urged the Paterson school district to settle its teachers’ contract, benefited from a $70,000 political donation from the New Jersey Education Association. The union donation, made days before Sayegh won reelection in May, helped pay for $78,860 in printing and postage for campaign mailers that helped the mayor’s political committee, according to finance reports filed with the state. Sayegh on Tuesday brushed aside a question about whether the help from the state union affected his public statement about the Paterson teachers’ contract. The mayor pointed out that the state union money went into a Hudson County-based political committee, Progressive Values, that ‘is separate and independent from my campaign operation.’”
— “NJ politics: County’s hottest issue is mysterious death of official’s dogs“
R.I.P. — “Westwood firefighter dies week after responding to Upper Saddle River blaze”
—“Cop says Boonton punished him with false criminal charges. Here’s what sparked their feud”
—“Edison cops accused of stealing money reject deal in which they’d resign”
—“No more acting for Atlantic City police Chief James Sarkos, but concerns raised about diversity”
—“Buena considers doing away with fire districts”
HIGHER ED — Bloomfield College, Montclair State announce merger presidents say could be a national model, by POLITICO’s Carly Sitrin: Bloomfield College, New Jersey’s only four-year predominantly Black and Hispanic institution that was once in danger of shuttering, will officially merge with Montclair State University, a move both college presidents say could be a beacon for schools in similar situations nationwide. … According to a joint announcement from both institutions Wednesday, each college’s board of trustees has authorized a merger plan and laid out terms and conditions to create Bloomfield College of Montclair State University. Bloomfield will continue to operate independently, in collaboration with MSU, through the 2022-2023 academic year, with an intended merger completion date before June 30, 2023, according to the statement
—“Strip club that doubled as ‘The Sopranos’ Bada Bing sued after Route 17 death”
—“First non-profit medical marijuana dispensary in N.J. poised to sell adult legal weed”
R.I.P. — “N.J. man, 20, killed after being dragged by NYC subway”
CORRECTION — I mislabeled a Tammy Murphy event yesterday as a Phil Murphy event.