Turning up the heat on Middlesex County pay to play scandal

Politickernj writers Darryl Isherwood and Max Pizarro posted an in depth piece yesterday afternoon that exposes an incestuous web of influence driving planning, zoning and development approvals before the Middlesex County Freeholder Board and several municipal planning boards in the county.  

State Senator Bob Smith of Piscataway is the leader of the PACs that fund the campaigns of the Freeholders and municipal officials who approve the applications.  The applicants are donors to the PACs.  Smith is the applicants’ attorney.

It’s all legal.  And no one would know about it if not for Harold Kane of Monroe Township painstakingly examining thousands of pages of ELEC reports to find out where all the Middlesex Democratic money was coming from and the good journalists at Politickernj and The Star Ledger following the money.

Smith, the Senator working the system, and Peter Barnes, the Assemblyman and Middlesex County Democratic Chairman who’s candidates benefit from the system, know the solution to this “craziness.”   Barnes said that “any impetus to close the hole lies with the legislature.”  Smith said, “There is a solution to the craziness we have now and that is publicly financed elections – or complete transparency. “In New Jersey, we have nothing but chaos. The state needs one set standard across the state.”

Where is their legislation?   Smith and Barnes are both powerful members of the legislature.  They obviously know how the work the system.  They know how to fix it. 

Sponsor the legislation gentlemen.  Publicly financed elections won’t work.  Complete transparency will.

Here’s a campaign finance system that would be transparent:

1) Remove all limits on campaign contributions.

2) Require that all candidates and campaigns disclose all contributions of any amount on a dedicated website within 24 hours of receipt.

3) Competing campaigns, good citizens like Kane, and good journalist will examine the donations and expose influence.  Voters will decide if the influence is acceptable of not.

Correction: Peter Barnes, Jr, the Middlesex Democratic Chairman is no longer in the legislature.  His son, Peter III is an Assemblyman.

Now there are two Barnes and a Smith who can advocate for legislation that creates complete transparency.

Posted: April 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Campaign Contributions, Campaign Finance, ELEC, Middlesex County Democrats, NJ State Legislature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments »

12 Comments on “Turning up the heat on Middlesex County pay to play scandal”

  1. Rick Ambrosia said at 8:54 am on April 20th, 2012:

    And yet, OUR Freeholders rescinded the Pay to Play rules…Hmmm….

  2. Gene Baldassari said at 8:55 am on April 20th, 2012:

    While I am not familiar with the Middlesex situation, I have observed the propensity for electing Democratic and Republican candidates that support big budgets and bloated spending in NJ, regardless of where their campaigns get their money.

    These big spenders have had the monopoly in NJ elections. Voters do not get to vote for budget cutters and those running on budget cutting do not have a chance.

    This lack of competition is the result of election laws that favor the monopoly system.

    We will not solve our legislative problems until we completely rework every word of Title 19 in a way that gives every candidate an equal chance.

  3. ArtGallagher said at 9:01 am on April 20th, 2012:

    Rick said
    And yet, OUR Freeholders rescinded the Pay to Play rules…Hmmm….

    No, they didn’t. They made the county pay to play rules consistent with the state pay to play rules.

  4. Monmouth Girl said at 9:02 am on April 20th, 2012:

    Wrong again Rick.

    They adopted the State’s version. It is insane to have 565 town pay to play ordinances, 21 county ones and 1 state one.

    We need one and we have one. Too bad Middlesex has none.

  5. Rick Ambrosia said at 9:26 am on April 20th, 2012:

    The rules were more stringent than the State rules….and put in place after Operation Bid Rig…Also, it was by county, not towns “Monmouth Girl”….




  6. ArtGallagher said at 9:39 am on April 20th, 2012:


    If you want to debate the changes that the Momnouth County Freeholders made, that is a good topic. But its not this topic.

    You probably wouldn’t like the way I would write it up, so you write it up and I’ll post your work on thefront page. Then we can debate.

    In the mean time, stop highjacking this post. Stay on topic.

    And don’t argue with me that you are on topic. You’re not.

  7. Ouch. That Must Have Hurt Rick said at 9:49 am on April 20th, 2012:

    Sorry, I’m Off Topic

  8. Rick Ambrosia said at 9:54 am on April 20th, 2012:

    How can you divorce your post on pay to play and your suggested reforms with the way that our county has dismantled those tougher pay to play rules? You can’t. This IS on topic. Who donates to the Freeholder campaigns? Businesses that do business with our county. Its not just in Middlesex…its rampant in the state.

  9. Bob English said at 2:11 pm on April 20th, 2012:

    The County rules were stornger than the State pay to play laws. Until the State rules are strengthened and loopholes closed, the Monmouth County Freeholders should reinstate the rules that they just repealed.

  10. ArtGallagher said at 2:25 pm on April 20th, 2012:

    Rather than debate the county rules versus the state rules in this thread, why don’t we find flaws in the present system and/or debate my proposed system.

    If Rick, Bob or anyone else wants to write a piece about the county vs state pay to play system I will be happy to post it on the front page and we can have that debate there.

  11. brian said at 1:57 pm on April 21st, 2012:

    Liberals can only survive from the work of others, so they will NEVER put the effort in.

  12. all the county did said at 4:57 pm on April 23rd, 2012:

    was remove one public disclosure statement (“PDS” form) requirement from their “Fair and Open,” largely professional, competitive solicitations, which are posted and have been downloadable online, for many years, with all bid openings done in public, at the advertised times,and nearly all the county’s professionals have to compete to get an award- a very few, specialized labor-type or FCC-type contracts are done with a proposal and Board resolution…the policy has definitely resulted in lower prices to the taxpayers, since it was instituted… the state law has all proposers filling out a PDS on the NON- fair and open appointments anywhere, (also largely for the professionals), which are done,often in the Jan. re-org’s, without competitive proposals, ( yes, still, to many of the gov. bodies’ “friends”), and it is the same, now- in practice, towns are much more likely to award professionals without competition- it is legal, but may not result in cheaper prices, the county’s competition has….additionally, any businesses that do more than $50,000 worth of business with public entities statewide, also still have to file forms with ELEC, detailing it..it was, and still is a fact, that ANY contributions over $300. in NJ are called “reportable,” under the state Pay to Play laws, and must be listed on all candidates’ ELEC reports, it is the same now.. also,anybody can go online at ELEC, to see who- gets- what from whom, find any trails of supporters, etc., to your heart’s content…yes, it could be made more stringent, by passing another law, making ALL contributions immediately reportable online, then there’d be even more transparency…. the railing by the Dems this year, is again over-done and hypocritical, since it is their party, statewide, which “wheels” in more contributions, from the PACS and other sources, (other than the individual, reportable ones), directly to their candidates, in any given year!.. it’s called: hunting for a “gotcha” or an “issue”, since things are going quite well in the county, and many buy into it, just because they want to.. anybody who wants to see who proposes and wins services to the county can visitmonmouth.com, and either call, or go in, or request an OPRA record, and it will be given immediately, there’s nothing to hide, there.. ironically, despite all the jokes and past bad raps, does everyone realize that NJ, (perhaps, due to various past problems), is now considered one of the least “corrupt” states, because of all the remedial laws now in place?.. it is true, look it up!..