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Hoboken’s Frank Raia is well known for his stepping up to the microphone to sing The Rolling Stones’ ‘Satisfaction’ on his birthday every year.
He didn’t hold a birthday party on the Hoboken pier this year mostly because he was awaiting sentencing for buying votes in Hoboken 2013 election.
Unfortunately for prosecutors who were hoping to make an example of him for posterity, Raia got a relatively light sentence. So, now we have the prosecutors singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction as they appeal the sentence.
U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Craig Carpenito is appealing the three-month sentence because the guidelines for such a crime we’re five years in jail and a $250,000 fine.
One of Raia’s political insiders told me that when Raia found out he had to pay a $50,000 fine, he asked where he should send the check.
It’s hard to tell whether the US attorney got wind of this flippant response, but the appeal clearly shows un dissatisfied the government is with the slap on the wrister
Raia was at the core of a vote-by-mail bribery scheme in which he told campaign workers to pay residents $50 for voting for his council slate in and for a referendum that would have altered local rent control laws in 2013.
During that election, word on the street claimed that Raia had promised a number of his developer friends that he would gut the powerful rent control laws by defeating the referendum.
Raia, a developer himself, was in with the development crowd and always somewhat suspect in the Mile Square City where he has long operated on their behalf.
Long before the federal government indicted him word had reached the public about his activities through my weekly column in a local weekly newspaper.
Raia apparently hoping to keep a lid on the whole debacle reached out to the publisher and tried to suppress these stories claiming they were inaccurate and that the sources behind them were wrong.
After the indictment, one North Hudson Mayor told me I was the only one who got it right.
The 2013 municipal election in Hoboken May will go down as one of the most unethical in history even though much of these behind-the-scenes Shenanigans never saw press or the courtroom. It was full of sabotage, spies and double-dealing. It was an election in which the Raia-paid for ticket came out with a letter against football great Eli Manning which not only embarrassed the Raia ticket but almost seemed like it was on self-destruct.
Some political gurus at the time claim Raia fielded the ticket in order to split the vote and allow Dawn Zimmer to get reelected with less than 50 percent of the overall vote.
The prior-year Zimmer had managed to convince voters during Superstorm Sandy to do away with run-off elections and this set the stage for her 2013 victory provided there were more than two candidates running for mayor.
Perhaps a telling sign that Raia never seriously wanted to win that election came a day after the polls closed in 2013 and election observers noted that massive amounts of campaign literature that have been printed at Ray’s expense sat in the campaign headquarters undistributed suggesting that it had never been meant to go out into the public.
Some believed that Raia fielded the ticket to keep Ruben Ramos from winning in what may have been a deal that would have Zimmer appoint him to the local sewerage authority, a seat Raia coveted, and previously held.
Perhaps Raia should have paid more attention to that old drug dealer mantra that said, “never expect a junkie to pay for drugs he’s already used.”
Once Zimmer’s team was in office, they had no reason to honor their agreement with Raia and when the vote came, they betrayed him giving the seat to somebody else.
Whether or not Raia deliberately fielded this ticket to help Zimmer win, there was never any doubt that Rhea hoped to derail rent control to benefit his developer friends.
Hoboken reformers see Raia as proof of what they have claimed for years about Old Hoboken being corrupt. But to quote former Vice President Al Gore in a different context, the truth is a bit too inconvenient since many of those reformers used to call corrupt are these days working hand in hand with many of the reformers.
But even in the bad old days when Hoboken was split between Old Hoboken and new, Raia was not a popular guy in Old Hoboken, where most didn’t trust him, even when they were perfectly willing to take his money.
For decades, Raia was known for his deep pockets and his willingness to give other politicians money, a fact that was fully taken advantage of by numerous people. Raia was the political bank of last resort to whom many people turned when they could not find funding elsewhere.
Although Raia has become to symbolize corruption in Hoboken by some reformers as well as the U.S. Attorney, many streetwise political people have always seen him as politically naïve, a man who thought he could buy political credibility when most people never saw him as a serious political threat.
And as much as the U.S. Attorney sings about his lack of satisfaction with the Raia sentencing, the truth is Raia’s life as a political wannabe is over and perhaps never was, making his annual rock and roll choice of songs more ironic since he could never gotten any satisfaction in a place where nearly everybody exploited him, his political ignorance as well as his money.