Feds won’t budge on charges against Menendez

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez appears to have become a U.S. Justice Department poster child for its anti-corruption campaign.

Menendez’s attorneys filed an unsuccessful motion to get bribery and other charges against Menendez dismissed based on the concept that federal legislators are immune to some kinds of criminal charges. But this exemption is mostly meant for minor crimes, not the kind of charges Menendez faces.

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his effort, leaving Menendez to either take the motion to the Supreme Court or wait until his trial, when his attorneys can try to convince a jury of his innocence.

While some charges have been dismissed, Menendez and his co-defendant and friend Dr. Salomon Melgen, whom Menendez allegedly helped in exchange for gifts, still face a truckload of trouble at a time when the general public is already skeptical about its elected officials.

These charges against Menendez have a number of local officials scratching their heads in much the same way they did after Bid Rig III in 2009 cast a wide net and dragged in the innocent as well as the guilty. Much of what Menendez is being accused of is common practice among federal legislators, raising questions as to why Menendez is being singled out.

Some believe that if Hillary Clinton is elected president, the charges may vanish. Menendez has gotten on the wrong side of President Barack Obama, in particular regarding Obama’s policies on Iran and Cuba.

A nuclear agreement with Iran and the opening of relations with Cuba are part of Obama’s outgoing legacy, and Menendez has taken a stance that Iran can’t be trusted, and that relations with Cuba should be tied to human rights improvements.

Most likely Clinton will not be able to save Menendez if she is sworn in as president next year, but she can issue him a pardon.

Why Hillary hates green

Supporters of Democratic presidential candidate Clinton are urging supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders not to vote for third party candidates such as Green Party candidate Jill Stein. (This is not, of course, the same Jill Stein who ran with Michael Lenz for school board in the early days of the Hoboken reform movement.)

While Clinton got a boost in the polls – in particular those states such as Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida that are seen as critical to the election – most observers at this point believe this is going to be a very close race, provided GOP nominee Donald Trump doesn’t say anything too outrageous. This is saying a lot, of course, since Trump has managed to offend everybody from veterans to veteran politicians. One of his more ignorant mistakes was his statements on former NJ Gov. Tom Kean, for whom he mistook for Clinton’s vice presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, a U.S. senator from Virginia. Trump not only got the wrong man, but also got the facts wrong about the former New Jersey governor. This was a real slap in the face, since Tom Kean is seen historically as one of New Jersey’s most successful governors, a man so well-respected that his election to office even managed to carry in legislators in Democratic strongholds such as Hudson County. Kean was also involved with the commission investigating the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and has been seen as the voice of reason by both political parties. Trump clearly can’t distinguish enemy from friend, which makes you wonder about his assessments of foreign powers if and when he attains the Oval Office.

Waiting for the dirty tricks

With Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop gearing up to run for governor, you have to wonder what tricks to expect from his campaign people, in particular Tom Bertoli.

Seen as a mastermind of street campaigning, Bertoli is known to have a hatful of tricks that he has used in campaigns dating back to when he dared to take on Mayor Nicholas Sacco in North Bergen in the early 1990s. Bertoli is known for digging up old facts and using them for best results. Even when on a losing side, he makes an election interesting.

This is down and dirty Hudson County politics, which the rest of the state may not yet be ready for.

Gasifying Hoboken

Frank Raia’s campaign to get a seat on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority (once known as the Tri-City Sewerage Authority) seems to be tied to a possible run for Hoboken mayor next year.

Hoboken appointments to the sewerage authority seem perpetually clouded with political intrigue, going back as far as Mayor Pat Pasculli, who was rumored to have tied appointments to support for the City Council agenda and other items.

Plots and counter plots as to who might get a seat even involved Pasculli opponents such as former Councilman Andrew Amato, who once tried to sneak his wife, Flo, onto that board.

Some people had hoped that with the emergence of a reform mayor such as Dawn Zimmer, the history of manipulation would fade. But clearly this is not the case. The failed move last year to get Raia reappointed to the board only highlighted his 2013 mayoral ticket which divided the anti-Zimmer vote and allowed Zimmer to win reelection.

But the new appointment, some believe, will not be for past services rendered, but to reward Raia for planning to run yet another third ticket in the election next year.

Timing is everything. Some members of the council are falling into line with the Raia appointment and are apparently arguing that he has been passed over for two seats already, and should be given the seat when it comes available. But for Zimmer, the appointment will come ahead of the election, not after it, and so the tradeoff will seem a little too obvious this time.

Raia, of course, will have to tell people why he is running. Perhaps he will resurrect an old sewerage authority idea about installing a gasifier at the sewerage plant. This was a plan developed in the early 1990s that would burn waste and then redistribute the accumulated gas to residents, thus lowering their natural gas costs. Well, to quote The Rolling Stones, it’s “a gas gas gas.”

Al Sullivan may be reached at asullivan@hudsonreporter.com

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