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Thursday, October 06, 2005

Transparent as Mud

Wikipedia lists the absence of democracy, or so-called illiberal democracy, as a condition that is favorable to the development of political corruption. Can we make a case that New Jersey is an illiberal democracy? Let me count the ways.


Technically speaking, an illiberal democracy could be any democracy that is not a liberal democracy. However, the term is almost always used to denote a particularly authoritarian kind of representative democracy, in which the leaders and lawmakers are elected by the people, but tend to be corrupt and often do not respect the law.


Well, New Jersey does have elections, so the people do, indeed, elect the leaders and lawmakers. Well, at least we elect a Governor that gets to appoint a whole lot of leaders. So we have the first part covered. Do our leaders "tend" to be corrupt?

Let's start with Anthony Russo, who was sentenced to thirty months (barely two and a half years) for soliciting a bribe. Notice that Judge Pisano, at that point, had overseen no less than a dozen convictions on political corruption charges. In his official job as head Hoboken bribe-pimp, he paid off Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski (whose name will come up again) and also accepted payments from Pino's towing service, who contracted with the city. For that last bit, he worked through ABC Chairman Frank Andreula. In Russo's defense, he didn't actually keep the money - he blew it on gambling. Although, it should be noted, that the Russo's also own a very nice house "down at the shore".

Robert Janiszewski began taking bribes "almost from the day he took office" as Hudson County Executive in 1988.

Integral to both was accountant Gerard Lisa.

Beyond this fascinating trio, there's the intriguing case of Hudson Couty Freeholders William Braker and Nidia Davila-Colon, who were actually re-elected while pending indictment for their connections with Janiszewski. Then there's Jay Booth, who was a financial advisor to the City of Jersey City and bond underwriter. Add Paul Byrne, a political consultant, to the list. Don't forget Sam Klein, a county auditor who escaped prosecution by dying. Beyond the confines of Hudson County, you can see a very long list of corrupt Jersey politicians.

Do Jersey politicians respect the rule of law? Quite to the contrary, they flaunt it. Ask anyone in Jersey if they think it's possible for an honest politician to get elected here and they'll laugh.

Spread the word. Democracy in New Jersey is illiberal. Or, as I put it quite often, the Garden is rotten and it's time for some sunshine!

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