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New Jersey: DESPERATELY SEEKING LEADERSHIP

As 2008 begins to end, our nation looks ahead to the election of a new President and New Jersey begins to wonder about 2009 and our own election for Governor. In doing so, we could all place an ad out that would ask for what the wanted advertisement displayed here seeks.

While the country debates over the stability of our national economy, New Jersey is still wondering when we will be able to get a handle on our own economy. While Americans cope with a lack of buying power due to the ripple effects of rising energy costs, New Jerseyans wonder how they can deal with that on top of the affordability crisis in our state.

As the current governance of New Jersey consists of rising rates on existing taxes and the implementation of new taxes, the citizens of New Jersey wonder how much more can we pay? As the cost of gas ranges back and forth between unaffordable and impossible the state is looking for opportunities to raise the price that it costs to drive on the roads that we use that gas for. As taxes rise in the state on both consumers and producers costs rise and less is purchased. The less purchased causes less to be produced which leads to more lay offs and more business closings. This is reflected in the states dismal economic growth and it’s lower than average rate of small businesses and the creation of them. Under the current corporate and small business tax structure in New Jersey, starting a business here offers more penalty than profit.

Today we find ourselves desperately seeking leadership and a leader who can inspire us and offer our state a direction that leads to prosperity and a comfortable existence. We seek someone who understands us and our hopes and needs.

For the past 7 years our state leaders have offered us a dog and pony show that has been painful to watch and expensive to deal with.

Before announcing that he “was a gay American” to cover up his scandals, Governor Jim McGreevy exercised statecraft by appointing people to important positions based upon the sexual positions that they enjoyed and their oral talents.

He was followed by a leading financial expert who took part in the risk taking that led to historic federal bailouts. With Governor Jon Corzine, New Jersey was afforded that financial expertise of a state budget that is fueled by tax increases and held hostage to unions and their leaders who he has literally been in bed with.

Carla Katz, the Governor’s former lover and current leader of the state’s largest union , slept with the man that is making the bed that we have to lie in. He even made these union deals in secret and refused proper examination of the evidence that proves the secrecy of their deals. As a result, we are left with meeting the demands of unions gone wild and paying for pensions plans that are more exorbitant than the golden parachutes of failed Wall Street execs.

On top of all this we are constantly witnessing the derailment of public trust as well as the careers of a large chunk of New Jersey’s political class. Each week, and at the beginning of the past summer, each day, we have endured the indictments and convictions of hundreds of lawmakers from the municipal levels to the county and state levels. This is all a product of New Jersey’s proliferation of governments. As the 46th largest state in the nation our size does not limit the opportunity for political corruption. In fact the expansion of state government coupled with the over 650 local governments, makes government the largest employer in the state. It also provides for the inordinate amount of patronage positions, lucrative sweetheart contracts , special favors, graft and opportunity for corruption that the overabundance of government entities brings to the table.

All of this leads to not just an affordability crisis but also a crisis in confidence. A lack of confidence in those who are entrusted with our states effect on our lives. These circumstances have led state government to be more of a problem in our lives than a source of comfort and stability in them.

As a Republican I cannot say that my state GOP has been much of a help. Since Governor Christine Todd Whitman, New Jersey Republicans have lost their agenda, their voice and yheir numbers in the legislative ranks.

The last individual that the party ran for Governor, was not even man enough to take blame for his own lack of influence and ability in the state. In the face of a gubernatorial race that he was out spent, out maneuvered and outdone in, he blamed President George Bush.

In trying to replace Corzine’s handpicked replacement in the United States Senate, the party settled for the unaccomplished son of a very accomplished, former Republican Governor. His candidacy was so off track, uninspiring and unattractive that the embarrassment of his Republican representation forced me to write in the name of a different New Jersey Republican.

The lack of a cohesive agenda and message has made New Jersey Republicans inconsequential. There minority status in the state assembly and senate have left them out in the cold and sitting at the kiddies table when it comes to hammering out state budgets or initiatives.

What we need in New Jersey is a true leader. Someone who can convey the fact that they understand the people they wish to lead. We need someone who is willing to bring a Main Street attitude to Trenton, not the Wall Street mentality that we currently have. We need a leader who can approach government with a vision that inspires state residents and offers innovative directions and policies to expand opportunity for economic growth. Someone who is reform minded , not stuck in a mode of reviving failed policies of our past.

Governor Corzine may or may not be running for reelection in 2009. The way I see it, if his choice for President, Barack Obama , wins, Jon might be jumping ship and accepting a presidential appointment such as Treasury Secretary. After having done all that he has to the state treasury, I can only pray for divine intervention if he gets control of the national treasury. But the nation’s loss might be New Jersey’s gain. It may open up a window of opportunity for Republicans to climb through. With the right candidate who has the right vision and agenda, we might just be able to send the right person to Trenton.

Although I am a conservative, one person I would like to see go for it is John Murphy. The same John Murphy that I wrote in for U.S. Senate against Senator Menendez when Tom Kean, Jr. was the Republican nominee.

Murphy, a Morris County Freeholder, is fresh, bright, fiscally and personally responsible. He may not have the conservative agenda of former gubernatorial candidate and Bogota, NJ Mayor Steve Lonegan but he has something that Lonegan doesn’t….appeal. He also has the freshness that New Jersey’s political atmosphere needs. When Murphy sought the Republican nomination for Governor in 2005, he outlined a very promising vision and a credible, optimistic plan to restore faith in government and solvency in our state budget and the pockets of the people.

It would seem that Murphy may not go for it this time. Instead he may seek the assembly seat being vacated by fellow Morris County resident Rick Merkt and Rick Merkt might be making a run for Governor instead.

Having reviewed the record of Merkt, I can say that his conservative credentials are worthy of considering but I have little more opinion of him. His tenure in the New Jersey assembly has been commendable but he has not been known for injecting innovation and real leadership.

Then there is the 800 lb. gorilla on the scene, U.S. Attorney Chris Christie.

In a recent Quinnipiac poll Christie polled 40 percent to Jon Corzine’s 41 percent. That is impressive and if I knew anything about his positions on the issues, I would say that it is encouraging. However, like most New Jersey residents, I know nothing about Christie that goes beyond his exemplary and aggressive pursuit of crime busting. As the chief federal prosecutor in the region, Christie has been quite adept at rooting out corruption especially in the case of New Jersey political corruption. There he has been quite busy.

Democrats are already afraid of his potential entry into the race. They are already trying to discredit him and calling for him to resign as U.S. Attorney. By law a candidate for public office cannot maintain the position. If he does decide to run he will resign from the justice department but until then his political critics will just have to hope that they are not caught with their hands in the cookie jar because if they are, Chris Christie will add them to his long list of political prosecutions.

If he does run, his campaign will provide me with the information I need to determine if he is the man we are looking for. If he is able to provide a voice for the opposition to the liberal agenda controlling New Jersey. If he can offer a positive alternative path to prosperity and if his agenda is the Main Street agenda that New Jersey needs then I will be at his side, scratching for every vote that we need to steer the state in a better direction.

As a former New Yorker from Brooklyn, I worked on the campaign of another shining prospect that was a prosecutor. His name was Rudy Giuliani and although he was not a conservative, he revived New York City. He brought it out of it’s downward spiral and brought it back to new heights.

In the mean time, I wait. I wait for someone to answer our ad and save us from the oppression of a liberal government that takes much but does little. I wait for my own party to live up to it’s responsibilities and offer the people of New Jersey a viable alternative to a state controlled by liberals and lacking hope.

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FRANK RALEIGH LAUTENBERG AND NEW JERSEY…PERFECT TOGETHER?

I recently had a conversation with a friend who was quite active in New York politics. He served on many a presidential campaigns and was the campaign voice for several local and statewide officials in New York. He has long since retired and moved away but during this conversation I mentioned Frank Lautenberg’s name and he said “Lautenberg, is he still around?” I chuckled and explained that you wouldn’t know it but he is still there. I really had no obvious evidence to point to his existence but I assured him that Frank was still there and that he was running to stay there.

After that conversation, I got to thinking , why did Frank Lautenberg run again? I mean back in 1982 Lautenberg ran for the United States Senate and he started off as a major force. During his first term he was the impetus behind the raising of the legal drinking age to 21 in all states by linking federal funding for their highways to their raising the legal age. He also revolutionized the airline industry by successfully authoring legislation that eliminated smoking on planes. But since then his, legislative activism and personal leadership has waned, In 2001, after 3 terms in office, he fittingly retired, only to come out of retirement to replace Senator Bob Torricelli on the ballot in his doomed re-election effort. Although state and party laws deny anyone the ability to replace a nomination within days of an election, the New Jersey Supreme court decided that laws do not matter and allowed Torricelli , who was under investigation for criminal conduct, to be taken off the ballot and replaced by someone who had a better chance to win the election. That person was Lautenberg.

Lautenberg didiwon that election, but what did Lautenberg’s return from retirement bring us? Aside from proving that the law did not matter and that he was above it, his six years since then have produced little, very little.

Oh Frank is a reliable liberal vote in Washington. He was counted on to support opposition to the efforts to combat terrorism. He was counted on to vote for any and every tax hike that came out of the collective congressional agenda. But aside from being a reliable vote for the liberal agenda, Frank did little for New Jersey and he did even less when it came to bringing any new energy for new ideas or directions. It seemed that Frank’s only major accomplishments were achieved back in the early 80’s when his once fresh voice led the way to sensible reforms that in some cases saved lives.

Credit must be given when and where credit is due and so, Lautenberg’s two landmark initiatives are to his credit. But after 24 years of legislating in the federal government on behalf of New Jersey, where is the credit that he once deserved to be re-elected for today. Since his 1982 -1988 stint, there is little merit that warrants electing Lautenberg to any of the terms since then.

The only level of increased activity that Lautenberg has demonstrated exists within his staff. It is a staff that has one of the largest numbers and highest payrolls in the senate. His chief of staff earns one of the highest salaries offered on Capitol Hill to any other colleague with the same title and responsibilities. As Lautenberg’s Chief of Staff, Daniel Katz has earned $81,183.59 just between October 2007 and March of 2008. Compared to others this is no measly sum of money. Yet, I do not begrudge Daniel Katz the money. He earns it.

He must work hard to control and motivate the other 52 staffers that account for Lautenberg’s senate activity. Daniel Katz must also work twice hard to make his inactive Senator appear busy and productive. It is a job that cannot be done alone. That is why Lautenberg’s staff includes 12 legislative assistants, aides and directors, who between October of last year and March of this year have been paid a combined total of three and a quarter hundred thousand dollars or to be exact $324,786.75.

Oddly enough along with having state directors and deputy state directors Frank also has a South Jersey Director and two Deputy South Jersey Directors and an assistant to the South Jersey Director. Now we all know that that New Jersey is famous for it’s extraordinarily large size. At 7,418 square miles it ranks as the 46th largest state in the nation. But these South Jersey, patronage, posts reflect less of a legislative need than a political need. Congressman Rob Andrews who challenged Frank for the democrat nomination is from South Jersey and most of the rumblings to replace Lautenberg come out of South Jersey.

These South Jersey directors have earned a combined $58,437.42 during the five months between October ‘07 and March ‘08. Add to this another $99,579.61 which has been paid to state and deputy state directors during the same time period.

The rest of Lautenberg’s staff consists of a rarely used speech writer along with an executive director, press secretaries, schedulers, constituent service directors, specialists, handlers and assistants, legal counselors, legislative directors, assistants and specialists. It also includes a legislative correspondent, director of correspondence, systems administrator, special project coordinators and numerous staff assistants.

In total, Lautenberg’ 53 staffers, and five month, nearly one and a half million dollar payroll ($1,437497.80), must work hard to make a sitting Senator who has little initiative to point to, look active and productive.

Everyday, leading up to his race for the nomination against Andrews, Lautenberg’s staff has produced countless press releases staking a position on an issue. In fact his staff has been responsible for the Herculean task of trying to demonstrate Frank Lautenberg as a constructive part of government in the face of his lack of real initiatives.

Let’s face it. Since Lautenberg’s first term 27 years ago, he has nothing to show for it. His latest claim is that he insured that the federal Homeland Security money provided to New Jersey is doled out on the basis of need. Accept for a press release, Frank did not correct the problem that existed in this area. Republican state legislators brought up a lawsuit against the state after revealing that Homeland security money was being given out only to districts that had Democrat lawmakers representing them. The Corzine administration was allocating money meant to shore up security in our state based on politics, not need. Frank Lautenberg’s press releases did not change this immoral activity, the threatened lawsuit brought about by Republicans did. But I guess if you have little effort or action of your own to point to, your staff must take every opportunity to make their boss look good.

Making Frank look good is a hard job though. In his days since 1982, Frank bitterly clings to his only major accomplishments, raising the drinking age and prohibiting smoking on airplanes.

His subsequent representation of New Jersey since then has not produced much else. In fact due to the democrats representing us in the U.S. Senate, New Jersey continues to be one of the lowest ranked states in terms of our return on the tax dollars that we send to Washington. Together, Lautenberg and Menendez have been unable to get much bang for our buck and through it all they maintain their liberal mantra that helps to continue the crisis of affordability that exists in New Jersey.

Perhaps the greatest shame in all this is not, the lack of initiative or leadership that an 84 year old man has in Washington, DC. but rather that the state of New Jersey does not have the ability to produce a citizen that can provide leadership in D.C.

Republican nominee Dick Zimmer is a worthy candidate. He has a good, proven twelve year record serving in congress as a representative from New Jersey. He has commendable views on policies pertaining to energy and the economy. His views on foreign policy are more attuned to the times and better suited for the times than the liberal, tea with terrorists approach that Lautenberg liberals take. But in New Jersey, none of this matters. The Republican party of this state has yet to get it’s act together and put forth an agenda that offers a clear difference from today’s ruling class liberals.

Even Dick Zimmer, as capable as he is, can not wage a decent campaign against Lautenberg.  The state G.O.P. has been unable to raise sufficient funds for our candidates. Current fund raising records show that Dick Zimmer has raised a few hundred thousand dollars, while the aging, millionaire, founder of one of the nations largest payroll companies, Frank Lautenberg, has a couple of million for his campaign.

It is also a shame that New Jersey operates under such a shroud of hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of a candidate who first took office in 1982 by attacking his opponent, Millicent Fenwick, for her age which at the time was in her low 70’s. The hypocrisy of a man who came out of retirement and was resurrected by breaking laws that switched his name in place of a candidate that was losing. The hypocrisy of a man who is elected to office to do things for New Jersey but has actually accomplished little for New Jersey in over two decades.

It is all a shame but it is a shame that New Jersey deserves. We deserve what we get and in Frank Lautenberg what we get is an aging fat cat, devoid of ideas and drive and propped up by an over million and a half dollar staff that is occupied by patronage posts that are charged with making Lautenberg look productive.

There is one thing New Jersey will accomplish when it keeps Lautenberg on the job for us. It will break a record and make Lautenberg the longest serving United States Senator in New Jersey’s history. That s something but it doesn’t mean much when it comes to the benefits we have gotten out of that long service, or should I say lack of benefit.

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