(Cherry Hill) — We can debate whether it’s a good idea to keep giving huge corporations over 11 billion dollars (and counting) in taxpayer-subsidized corporate welfare. Yeah, we do that in NJ. It’s a scheme that’s good for the gatekeepers and especially great for whoever’s getting bailed. But it’s a raw deal for the rest of us.
That’s my bias.
And also the premise for a prickly Twitter exchange between Camden Country Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli and myself. He’s a big supporters of these no-strings-attached taxpayer-subsidized tax giveaways, says it’s essential to the redevelopment of Camden. Cappelli’s crew massively expanded NJ’s massive tax subsidy programs, a bill sponsored by (then-NJ Senator) Don Norcross to benefit his brother/party boss George Norcross. Top top it off, these dodgy tax giveaways are a focus of Phil Norcross’s lawyer/lobbying practice.
So of course Lou Cappelli, dutiful machine loyalist, can’t get enough of it.
A recent audit suggests these lavish tax giveaways, as administered by the NJ Economic Development Authority, are a bust.
“The Economic Development Authority has not consistently collected sufficient information from recipients regarding the employees who fill incented jobs,” said a scathing audit of EDA. “This deficiency prevents EDA from adequately verifying and confirming the recipient-reported data and from concluding that incented jobs were actually created or retained.”
So all those billions of dollars and there’s no evidence that these lucky recipients are hiring locals or investing in Camden, which they promised to do before they all flocked to get their slice of a tax-payer funded pie.
That debate will rage on and I’m ready for it.
But what’s not debatable is just how deplorable some of the biggest winners turned out to be. Each, with their own unique brand of contempt for the regular people of Camden.
Let’s take a peek!
# 1. HOLTEC INTERNATIONAL
Krishna Singh, the CEO of Camden-based Holtec International, who got a fat $260 million publicly-subsidized tax break, had nothing nice to say about the people who actually live in Camden. He said in September that Camden City employees “can’t stand getting up in the morning and coming to work every single day.”
Singh’s words, namely that Camden residents are lazy and feckless, show the contempt he feels for the very people who’ll never get a quarter billion dollar bailout in their lives.
It’s the same Holtec who, gassed up on your Benjamins, displaced Camden’s only needle change site, a mobile van, that operated nearby. So for the next three years, there was nowhere in Camden for heroin users to drop off their dirty needles. So at this point, Holtec’s only tangible legacy in the city of Camden is more HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne cooties.
And it only cost the rest of us chumps $260,000,000.
#2 PHILADELPHIA 76ers
Fresh off their $82,000,000 tax-payer funded subsidy, Philadelphia 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil was asked by the local NAACP if they’d be hiring locals for entry-level jobs at their Camden-based practice site.
“We need a point guard,” O’Neil famously quipped.
So here’s a rich outsider who’s happy to take your money, chump, but who has no interest in giving anyone from Camden an actual job.
This Philly Inquirer article outlining how 76ers executives lavished campaign funds on Jersey officials will make your blood boil. Unless you’re a freeholder from Camden county in which case you’re probably like “can i get some more of that??”
#3 CONNER STRONG + BUCKELEW
A top executive named Joseph M. DiBella at Conner Strong + Buckelew, the Norcross-linked Insurance firm that got a $86,000,000 tax break just to move to Camden, was busted on Twitter for liking a series of (N-word)-filled Tweets including one that compared Barack Obama to a monkey.
After suggesting that Hillary Clinton could improve her standing with black voters by performing a sex act on TV, Mr DiBella said he’d been hacked, a claim since disproven by the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office.
So on top of all that, he’s also a liar.
DiBella was kicked off the Brookdale Community College’s board of trustees but he’s still at CS&B, presumably reaping the benefits of the corporate welfare lavished on his very politically connected firm.
#4 EUROPEAN METAL RECYCLING
Joe Balzano, president of European Metal Recycling (EMS) recipient of $253 million in publicly-subsidized tax breaks, said this about his Camden workers: “There’s an expectation that, ‘Well, I came to work today,’ versus the expectation to do something.”
In other words, they’re lazy and lack a proper work ethic. So that’s why, despite a quarter billion dollar sweetheart tax deal, EMS won’t hire- or mentor Camden locals like they promised to do.
Personally, I don’t think Camden residents are any lazier than people from Cherry Hill or Princeton. But instead of building up Camden folk, Balzano’s inclination is to tear them down. Right after he takes a quarter billion dollars from your pocket.
#5 CAMPBELL SOUP COMPANY
Kelly Johnston, VP of government affairs at Camden-based Campbell Soup, recipient of a $43,000,000 tax subsidy, resigned after Tweeting conspiracies about migrants from south of the border. He blamed Jewish holocaust survivor George Soros for micromanaging the migrant caravan, even controlling “where they defecate.”
Kelly Johnston may have left Campbell Soup in disgrace, but you can find him over on Twitter being a martyr.
The massive EDA grants – $11,500,000,000 so far and counting – are just another powerful tool for politically-connected people in NJ to hoard money and power. And I’d bet my last bag of weed that the lucky recipients have, in turn, lavished funds on the SuperPACs and dark money orgs associated with the South Jersey dems who super-charged this practice.
But we’ll never know because disclosure isn’t mandatory.
There are many zeros in $11.5 billion. There’s a lot we could be doing with that kinda money besides using to subsidize rich, politically-connected firms. It almost feels like a bribe.
The recent audit was so scathing, it even got the attention of NJ’s Attorney General Grewal.
“I found the report’s conclusions deeply troubling – both as a public official and as a taxpayer. ” NJAG Gurbir Grewal said. “I spent a significant portion of my career rooting out financial misconduct as a federal prosecutor in Newark and Brooklyn. I get very concerned whenever I see a state agency distributing so much money, with so little oversight, over such a long period of time.”
I’m glad NJ’s top law enforcement official is concerned about this. You should also be concerned. After all, you’re the one making up the difference.
Jay Lassiter is a pissed off taxpayer from Camden County New Jersey. He’s paying way too much for medical marijuana and his property taxes are off the charts. He was last seen wondering when’s our bailout?