Central Jersey Progressive Democrats Say Sen. Bob Smith Investigating the EDA Is “The Fox Watching the Hen House”

The Senate Select Committee on Economic Growth Strategies Meeting will hold its first meeting on July 29. Chaired by Senator Bob Smith, the committee was formed in response to the NJEDA tax incentive controversy and subsequent establishment of Governor Phil Murphy’s task force.

Central Jersey Progressive Democrats Say Sen. Bob Smith Investigating the EDA Is “The Fox Watching the Hen House”

Local Elected Official, Progressives Respond to Senate EDA Task Force Announcement

Piscataway, NJ– In response to yesterday’s announcement by NJ Senate President Steve Sweeney that NJ Senator Bob Smith (D-17) would lead the Senate’s investigation into the state’s troubled $11 billion tax incentive program run by the Economic Development Authority, Central Jersey Progressive Democrats issued the following statement:

 “The idea that Sen. Smith can conduct an impartial investigation into a tax incentive program is absurd. Sen. Smith has been running a political patronage machine in Central New Jersey for decades and represents the epitome of crony capitalism politics. Even a cursory investigation of the campaign contributions made to Sen. Smith and his allies over the years reveals exactly the kind of pay-to-play practices that have historically plagued New Jersey and that voters are rightfully fed up with. When he isn’t taking campaign contributions from entities and individuals profiting from local government contracts, he is enriching himself by representing them as their land use attorney before government bodies stacked with his allies. Recently, his firm represented Penford, a developer building a polluting truck depot bordering a residential neighborhood in Piscataway, a project that is deeply unpopular with local residents. Thanks to Smith’s involvement, Penford received waivers from the Piscataway Zoning Board and tax breaks from the Township Council in the form of PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) incentives.”

 Herb Tarbous, a Piscataway resident and Progressive Democratic Committeeman said:

 “This really is a case of the fox watching the hen house. Everyone knows that Sen. Smith has formed a political alliance with Sen. Sweeney, which resulted in Middlesex County Assemblyman Craig Coughlin becoming Speaker of the Assembly. Everyone is also aware that Sen. Sweeney is allied with political power broker George Norcross, whose past activities are the impetus for investigating the EDA in the first place. It’s a joke. If they are going to have Sen. Smith chair this task force, they may as well disband it and save taxpayers the time and expense of a political dog and pony show that will just end in another whitewash of corrupt practices.

“We are also deeply troubled by campaign contributions made to Piscataway’s entrenched Democrats in last year’s local elections, from Sen. Smith and from the principals of Netta Architects and Cummings Corporation, who were awarded local contracts.  Sen. Smith funded a large portion of the incumbents’ 2018 Township Council campaign.  They also received contributions from Netta and Cummings; they are now working on the Township’s long-awaited Community Center.  Smith’s long list of campaign contributions from for-profit developers, engineers, architects and others, and those of his cronies in power here deserve a full review to ensure that neither the spirit nor the letter of New Jersey’s pay-to-play laws are violated.   Piscataway residents deserve a full accounting of these activities, and New Jersey’s taxpayers deserve someone who can review the EDA’s decisions with true independence. We urge Senate leaders to replace Bob Smith with someone who can be trusted to do the job,” said Tarbous.

Tarbous is seeking re-election to the Middlesex County Democratic Committee to continue to make Piscataway work for all its residents.  He is running with more than 50 other candidates across the County as part of the Central Jersey Progressive Democrats slate.  CJPD, formed in the wake of Donald Trump’s election, won a lawsuit earlier this year to permit candidates to run for Committee without gender designations for the first time in County history. Visitwww.centraljerseyprogressivedemocrats.org for more information.

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