NJ Politics. Twice the Shade
(Cherry Hill, NJ) — There’s so much nincompoopery in NJ politics it’s hard to know where to start. My advise: follow your nose.
Sen. Bob Menendez’ very, very, very best friend Dr. Salomon Melgen is a scumbag.
Melgen’s penchant for exotic, foreign
hookers models is what tipped me off. But the term “scumbag” can be subjective, a matter of personal opinion. So here’s what’s not debatable: Menendez patron Dr. Salomon Melgen is now a convicted felon, 67 times over. And thanks to his jaw-dropping $105m fraud conviction Melgen is facing 15-20 in the clink, a near- life-sentence for someone in their 60s.
It’s worth repeating: Senator Bob Menendez’
political sugar daddy best friend fraudulently bilked American tax payers out of $105,000,000.
Will this complicate Menendez’ own corruption trial? He’s accused to peddling influence to shady folks like Dr. Melgen in exchange for the sundry baubles of the mega-rich. But before we dissect Senator Shady’s legal woes, consider Bob Menendez’ $6m legal defense fund. Can you imagine needing 6 million dollars to pay for anything? Me neither.
Anyway, this September, Sen. Menendez hopes to convince a federal judge (and jury) that securing visas for Melgen’s many hookers had nothing to do with the palates of campaign cash Melgen rained down on Menendez. And those many, many lavish Caribbean junkets?
Imagine how that courtroom scene might unfold, won’t you?
“Your Honor, let the record show that I’ve done nothing wrong. Securing that lucrative port contract for Dr. Melgen had nothing to do with the nice things he bought me. I was merely looking out for an old friend. Those 67 felonies my best friend committed? Oh, it’s just a coincidence. No corruption here, Your Honor.”
Good luck with that, Bob.
Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli wants to be NJ’s next Governor.
I’m trying to recall a time when Jack stood up to current Governor Chris Christie and I’m drawing a blank. Can you help jog the memory? Because there’s not a single meaningful example where Jack resisted Gov. Christie’s dominance over Trenton Republicans. Nor a solitary vote to override a Chris Christie veto. Zilch (Pro-tip: Ciattarelli should remember his own extraordinary fealty as he traverses the state insulting Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno for her proximity to the disgraced Governor.)
Somerset GOP chairman Al Gaburo has emerged as Ciattarelli’s chief pit bull on the campaign trail. Gaburo’s a bluechip lobbyist at Princeton Public Affairs representing big-Phama and big-Liquor clients. Not coincidentally, Chairman Gaburo also reps Foundation Harmony, the only one (of 6) medical cannabis dispensaries in NJ that’s STILL NOT OPEN 8 years after NJ’s cannabis law passed. I’ve seen a copy of Foundation Harmony’s medical dispensary application and I’ll be honest: it looked designed to fail.
SO why is that significant?
The Christie administration’s byzantine medical marijuana regulations predicate any further industry growth on all 6 dispensaries running smoothly. Five of them are. But the one dispensary rep’d by Al Gaburo remains shuttered. Why? And why would a dispensary with a bluechip lobbying firm submit such a woefully amateurish license application? Was that on purpose? (Hint: probably.) The Foundation Harmony/PPA nexus even looked shady back in 2011.
Who benefits most if NJ’s medical cannabis program languishes? The anti-pot Governor Christie for starters. He wins politically. Then there’s big-phama & big-booze, they win financially. And of course lobbyists like Al Gaburo get theirs too. And this isn’t a new arrangement. The Foundation Harmony/PPA nexus even looked shady back in 2011. And BTW how do they afford a lobbyist if they’re not even opened yet!?
NJ has 5 medical dispensaries serving 10,000,000 residents which forces sick people to jump through hoops to get their medication. That’s squarely on folks like Garburo and the Governor.
For his part, Jack Ciattarelli is a decent man with a solid plan to confront NJ’s ghastly heroin epidemic. His public battle with cancer was inspirational. But he lost my sympathies when his vote deprived veterans with PTSD access medical marijuana. Then teaming up with the guy paid to sabotage NJ’s medical marijuana program?
Smells like 17%
Speaking of irredeemable, Chris Christie opened his mouth again. And just like all those other times, if Christie’s lips are moving we’re reminded why he’s the most unpopular Governor in NJ’s history.
First he brandished historical amnesia by clumsily conflating heroin abuse with the AIDS crisis. Not to be outdone, he fired a salvo at anyone with the temerity to challenge the failed War on Drugs. He even called ending cannabis prohibition “beyond stupidity.”
You know what’s really beyond stupidity? BridgeGate!! But let’s keep focus.
Striking out at cannabis users is Christie’s favorite sport. It was tired back at the height of his powers. And it’s especially tired as he slithers into irrelevancy. Beneath comment, really. But Chris Christie’s AIDS remarks? It was a cheap and lazy metaphor, almost laughable, notwithsanding the actual lives at stake.
I lived through the early AIDS crisis and back then, there were no powerful people like Chris Christie and every other politician in America sticking up for us. Opiate addicts currently have the sympathies of the entire planet at the moment, a luxury no one with AIDS would enjoy for decades.
But here’s the real Tea: If Governor Chris Christie truly wanted to address the state’s abysmal rates of HIV & heroin addiction he should fully fund a proper needle exchange in the Garden State.
Until then, I enthusiastically invite Chris Christie to STFU.
Jay Lassiter is an iconoclast, tech savvy media artiste, street warrior for LGBT liberty and marijuana reform, and an un-intimidated presence if the halls of Trenton power as he aggressively pursues liberal causes. He’s often at brunch and always on Twitter @Jay_Lass
Thanks to Menendez, Tom MacArthur will likely be our next US Senator. TMac pushed through his “MacArthurcare ” amendment so he can run for Senate and outflank his rightwing opponents in next year’s GOP primary. Instead of doing the right thing and withdrawing from the race in favor of a stronger Democrat, Menendez will cling to office as long as he can so he can raise more money for his legal defense from his sugar daddy, Sheldon Adelson, and the rest of the neoliberal/neoconservative gangsters at AIPAC.