This is bi-partisan corruption.

The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption Part I

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            "The culture of corruption in New Jersey is unique nationwide." So begins The Soprano State: New Jersey's Culture of Corruption Part I, a documentary written by reporters Bob Ingle and Sandy McClure. New Jersey won, they say, by a large margin over runners-up Louisiana, Illinois, and Rhode Island. The culture rules regardless of who is in power. This is bi-partisan corruption.
            The film itself is poorly organized and marred by a hokey narration, but it is still a wakeup call to incompetence and stupidity in government and blind acceptance of a broken system by a sleeping citizenry. We are talking here about tax evasion, fraud, bribery, money laundering, kickbacks, theft, and a host of other, less obvious, vices; the filmmakers make the amusing point that it started when New Jersey charged tolls to New Yorkers traveling across the state to attend the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. How's that for consistency?
            The running theme here is "everybody's paying somebody." We meet some genuinely nasty people: David Friedland of Hudson County who faked his own death in a Scuba accident to avoid prosecution and then founded five dive shops in the Maldives; Leona Beldini, deputy mayor of Jersey City, right there on video tape taking bribes in a diner; Wayne Bryant, king of Camden County who funneled millions in funding to the state dental school in return for a "no show" job. Newark Mayor Sharpe James, former civil rights hero and star cheerleader for Newark who was still personally greedy enough to end up with a celebrity lifestyle - a huge boat, a Bentley, multiple homes, and two city credit cards for trips. And there is his mistress Tamica Reilly who bought real estate low from the state and flipped high.
            And lest we forget: Governor John Corzine who paid his former girlfriend and union head Carla Katz 6 million to renovate her house and buy a Hoboken condominium. And James McGreevy who took benign neglect to a new level. He didn't steal money, the filmmakers say, but he didn't care whether anyone else did. What he did do was hire his lover Golan Cipel, an Israeli who needed back door help just to stay in New Jersey, to be head of the state's Homeland Security department, passing over the available former FBI chief Louis Freeh to do so. John Lynch who made huge profits on shady deals and was taken down by then U.S. Attorney Christie. Charles Kushner, McGreevy's fundraiser, was nominated by his boss to be chairman of the NY/NJ Port Authority and fell under charges of graft and fraud. The Meadowlands are awash in scandal: the polluted dump where $50,000,000 vanished into a swamp after houses were built on trucked in landfill only to be torn down when the fill proved toxic.
            This is government by corruption and unbridled arrogance. The cost to each of us is a 10% corruption tax on top of the already highest state taxes in the Union. Wake up, New Jersey.


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