Shed a tear for the poor dark money groups

Shed a tear for the poor dark money groups

Political operative Tony Teixeira was sentenced Monday to eight months home confinement and three years probation for wire fraud and tax evasion.

The crimes involved a network of super PACs and non-profits, along with at least one campaign, run by Sean Caddle, who last month was sentenced to 24 years in prison for hiring hit men to murder his friend. Teixeira had nothing to do with the more heinous crime, but he and Caddle admitted skimming off the top of these political groups.

The organizations — a word I use loosely here — were created for the purpose of hiding the source of money that was pouring into local political campaigns around the state. It was a simple scheme: Donors gave to non-profits, which did not disclose the donors’ identities, and the non-profits then gave to super PACs, which do disclose donor identities — in this case, just the names of the non-profits.

So imagine my chagrin when I read this line in the prosecution’s sentencing memo: “Teixeira was a high-ranking public official, with significant authority and influence. He used that position to defraud various campaigns, PACs, and 501(c)(4)s supportive of the candidate he was supposed to be serving, as well as, by extension, the people and organizations who contributed to those entities,” it read. “These types of fraud, particularly those that involve campaign financing, erode public trust in our political institutions, furthering the all-too-popular narrative that the system is rigged for insiders with political influence.”

Really? It seems pretty obvious to me that the existence and legality of groups whose sole reason for being is to obfuscate money trails to protect interests more powerful than a couple of political operatives is more likely to give people the impression that “the system is rigged for insiders with political influence.”

With no hint of irony, the memo further down states that cases like Teixeira’s “are incredibly difficult to investigate and prosecute.” “The interplay between campaigns, PAC, and 501(c)(4)s on the one hand and the individuals and entities that they make payments to are opaque and challenging to unpackage,” they wrote.

Well, yeah. They’re like that by design. Isn’t that the actual problem here?

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: “New day.” — Teixeira’s remarks to the press following his sentencing

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Matt LeBlanc. If it’s your birthday and you’re not on this list like LeBlanc, blame your friends (pun sort of but not entirely intended)

WHERE’S MURPHY? — In Hollywood, Fla., to speak at the International Longshoremen’s Association convention at 11:30 a.m.

BELLMAWR TO BUILD WORLD’S BIGGEST DORITOS PILE — “What weed paid for: What are NJ towns doing with marijuana taxes?” by The Asbury Park Press’ Mike Davis: “As the New Jersey cannabis industry enters its second year of recreational marijuana sales, municipalities are beginning to reap the tax benefits promised to officials when they signed up to become first in line. While the revenues are not budget saviors for any and likely will decrease with time and competition, town officials say it’s driving real impact. More than $4.6 million was collected in cannabis tax revenue in 10 of the 12 municipalities where adult-use sales began in April 2022, according to a USA TODAY NETWORK analysis of municipal budgets and interviews with municipal officials. The impact in those municipalities is varied, often depending on the size of the municipality: In small towns, cannabis tax revenue can pay for new firefighters. In bigger cities, it’s simply a way of keeping costs down. Complete tax figures were not available in three municipalities — Deptford, Egg Harbor and Paterson, where cannabis tax revenue wasn’t listed as a budget line item and municipal officials did not return multiple requests for clarification and comment.”

WEED THAT’S MID-CLASS ON A GOOD DAY — “Cannabis company cites ‘ample supply’ of weed in N.J., but critics wonder where it is,” by New Jersey Monitor’s Sophie Nieto-Munoz: “Curaleaf announced last week the company is laying off 49 people [at] its Winslow Township plant, citing an ‘ample supply’ of marijuana to meet the market’s current needs. But marijuana advocates argue that the claims of sufficient cannabis supply are not in line with stubbornly high prices in New Jersey … New Jersey has some of the most expensive marijuana in the country. An eighth ounce of recreational marijuana at Curaleaf stores in New Jersey costs up to $60 … So why are New Jersey consumers shelling out so much while Curaleaf closes facilities claiming there’s more than enough weed in the state? The advocates pointed to the unknown state of New Jersey’s supply and overwhelming corporate control of the industry.”

THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC INTEGRITY TESTS — “List of targets provided by O’donnell, prosecutors remain sealed,” by New Jersey Globe’s David Wildstein: “When suspended attorney Matt O’Donnell, the state’s cooperating witness in a five-year-old corruption sting operation, first walked into the state attorney general’s office in 2018, he offered up about a dozen names of New Jersey political figures he could help charge with multiple crimes. Later, the attorney general’s office gave O’Donnell its own target list of politicians they thought their witness might be able to help them with. It’s still unclear who the prosecutors wanted to administer selective integrity tests to; judges have sealed those lists, perhaps rightfully.”

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—Opinion: “Want to stick it to NYC’s congestion pricing? Fully fund in NJ Transit

—Hennelly: “NJ versus NY a sure loser during the climate crisis

COAH REBRANDED AS COAST: COUNCIL ON AFFORDABLE SECURITY THREATS — “The U.S. Navy called a Moorestown affordable housing project a security threat? Here’s why,” by The Courier-Post’s Carol Comegno: “An affordable housing community here would pose a national security threat. That’s the contention from military officials opposing a housing project planned for Centerton and Hartford roads. That concern has led to a long-awaited, but still pending, land swap and rezoning for a plan to build up to 76 affordable family units within a complex of 152 apartments and townhomes initially proposed four years ago on the township-owned Nagle Tract. The U.S. Navy and national defense contractor Lockheed Martin of Moorestown opposed that site for housing because it is directly across the road from a Navy facility that tests and operates the Aegis radar and weapons systems in a highly classified operational partnership.”

NEPODICTORIAN — “Top students at N.J. school passed over for $10K scholarships, raising questions about ‘foul play’,” by NJ Advance Media’s Brianna Kudisch: “After years of hard work, senior Gauri Bhandari earned the coveted salutatorian title at Ridgefield Park Junior-Senior High School this year. … For the last several years, Ridgefield Park school administrators had awarded a $10,000 academic scholarship funded by a private donor to both the valedictorian and salutatorian of the graduating class. …. Confused, Bhandari reached out to her guidance counselor the next day. She said she was told neither the valedictorian nor the salutatorian would be getting the money — because the donor had made a different choice this year. … Two students received the $10,000 scholarships. … One of those students who received the money is a relative of the school board president. … [School Board President Ricardo] Martinez told NJ Advance Media he was unaware a member of his extended family won the scholarship until someone mentioned the award went to a school board member’s relative. He also said he didn’t know the specifics of how the winners were chosen, but he believes the donor changed the eligibility for the scholarship this year.”

MICHAEL JACKSON WON’T STOP ‘TIL HE GETS ENOUGH ANSWERS — “Paterson Housing Authority suspends ‘compromised’ search for new director,” by The Paterson Press’ Joe Malinconico: “The city’s housing authority has halted its search for a new executive director amid allegations calling into question the recent appointment of one of its voting board members. ‘We suspended the search because portions of the search may have been compromised,’ said the Paterson Housing Authority’s chairwoman, Paula Alford. … Alford also confirmed that the housing authority’s retiring director, Irma Gorham, is doing “a thorough investigation” into allegations by Paterson Councilman Michael Jackson regarding the city housing commission’s newest board member. … The councilman claimed the appointee’s income would make her ineligible for public housing, and thus disqualify her from holding the tenant representative seat on the authority. Jackson didn’t name the appointee in his letter but has confirmed he was referring to Carmen Rivera. … Jackson has said he believes Rivera’s appointment to the housing authority was designed to break a potential 3-3 tie vote for the impending appointment of a new housing authority director.”

NJ LEGISLATURE TO JC: ‘WHO TAUGHT YOU HOW TO DO THIS STUFF?’ JC: ‘YOU, ALRIGHT? I LEARNED IT BY WATCHING YOU!’ — “Jersey City Council fails to pass $701M budget in narrow vote at special meeting,” by Hudson County View’s Danuel Ulluoa: “The Jersey City Council failed to pass their $701,380,029.82 municipal budget with a roughly two percent tax increase during a special meeting [Monday] morning in an unexpected twist. Initially, the city wanted to discuss and pass cannabis revisions that have been in the works. However, Council President Joyce Watterman and Ward E Councilman James Solomon both noted they did not have time to review them, nor were they posted for the public to review. ‘We have to stop getting things at the last minute,’ Watterman said.”

FROM PTA TO PTI — “Parent-teacher organization treasurer accused of stealing $150K,” by NJ Advance Media’s Nicholas Fernandez: “A woman in South Jersey has been arrested for allegedly stealing more than $150,000 while acting as treasurer of her town’s parent-teacher organization and street hockey association, Atlantic County Prosecutor William Reynolds said. Laurie Montgomery, 53, of Linwood, has been charged with two counts of theft by failing to make the required disposition of property received, crimes of the second and third degree. An investigation began in August 2021 after suspicions arose that she was misappropriating funds from the Linwood Parent-Teacher Association, officials said.”

‘ICE TOWN COULD COST ICE CLOWN HIS TOWN CROWN’ — “East Brunswick unveils $40 million spending plan to build municipal ice arena,” by MyCentralJersey’s Susan Loyer: “The Township Council is considering a bond ordinance that would fund the construction of the state-of-the-art East Brunswick Ice Arena. The ordinance calls for the issuance of $40.3 million in bonds to finance the project at the old Wonder Bread site at 110 Tices Lane. If the measure is approved at the July 24 council meeting, the township is expected to go out to bid on the project in early fall.”

BOOBY TRAP — “Teen confesses to calling bomb threats at Hooters in NJ,” by NJ 101.5’s Dan Alexander: “An Old Bridge teen admitted to police making two bomb threats against a Hooters restaurant. The first threat was called 9:30 p.m. July 15 to the restaurant on Route 18 claiming there was a bomb in the bathroom, according to East Brunswick Police Chief Frank LoSacco. The Middlesex County bomb-sniffing K9 was brought to the restaurant and determined there was no explosive. Another threat was phoned in from the same phone number on July 19 just before 2 p.m., which led to the evacuation of the restaurant while neighbors were told to shelter in place.”

Ocean County plans to spend $92M on Justice Complex; 84% more than original estimate

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SETON HALL — Seton Hall president stepping down for upcoming year, by POLITICO’s Mia McCarthy: The president of Seton Hall University is stepping down after almost four years in the position, according to an email sent to university members on Monday morning. “I believe this is an appropriate time for new leadership to help write the next chapter of Seton Hall’s remarkable story,” Joseph Nyre wrote in an email. “As such, I have informed the Board of Regents that I will be taking a sabbatical during the upcoming year and then plan to relinquish my position as President.” Nyre’s unexpected sabbatical comes after an embezzlement scandal from Seton Hall Law School, the alma mater of many prominent political players in New Jersey. Chris Christie, former New Jersey governor and current Republican presidential candidate, graduated from the law school. An independent investigation in December found employees of the school embezzled more than $975,000 over several years.

HORRIFIC — “Court documents detail final minutes of Fajr Williams’ life as she died on school bus,” by MyCentralJersey’s Suzanne Russell: “In the last minutes of her life, six-year-old Fajr Williams flailed her arms and legs, shrieked or gasped twice, and kicked the window of her school bus. But Amanda Davila, the school bus aide, didn’t seem to notice the non-verbal child’s desperate attempts to grab her attention as she struggled to stay alive. That’s the grim account, detailed in court documents, of the child’s last minutes as she was she was strapped into her wheelchair fastened to the bus floor as a safety harness tightened around her neck and eventually strangled her. … Davila, 27, of New Brunswick, is scheduled to make her first appearance in Superior Court on Tuesday on charges of manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. … ‘(The school bus aide) appeared to be occupied on her cell phone during this struggle with her back to (Fajr) and did not appear to hear or see (Fajr) as she went unconscious at 8:48:47 a.m.,’ according to the affidavit.”

—“The Battleship New Jersey’s weather-beaten deck is getting a $4 million facelift

—“Jersey Shore men may have found first recorded shark attack in North America

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