The Governor's whole truth

Posted: Aug 15, 2004 12:00 AM

New Jersey Governor James McGreevey surprised his state and the nation, announcing that "My truth is that I am a gay American." With this statement and his resignation, McGreevey certainly got attention ? but did he draw attention to the truth? Well, he may be telling us a truth, just not the whole truth.

Yes, McGreevey's mea culpa was delivered in a refreshingly straightforward and open manner. I certainly felt for the governor, and especially for his family, simply as fellow human beings struggling through a time of emotional crisis.

But what led Governor McGreevey to unfold his own family drama onto the New Jersey political stage for the world to see? Was it in hope that citizens might forget the serious criminal investigations rocking the his administration? To inoculate the scandal-weary public against the sexual harassment bombshell the governor knew was on the way?

Remember the "Friends of Bill"? Well, New Jersey has been treated to "The Friends of Jim." Since he took the reins in January 2002, the shakedowns and corruption have surfaced seemingly non-stop:

  • Businessman Charles Kushner, McGreevey's largest all-time contributor, has been charged with obstruction of justice, conspiracy to promote prostitution, and retaliation against witnesses. He is also under federal investigation for illegal corporate contributions. McGreevey appointed Kushner to the powerful board overseeing the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but the ensuing political controversy forced Kushner to resign the post.
  • A leading fund-raiser for the governor, David D'Amiano, was indicted earlier this summer on extortion charges for offering the governor's assistance to a farmer in solving a land dispute in return for that farmer handing over $40,000 in cold, hard cash. In a conversation with the farmer that was tape-recorded by authorities, the governor used a code word allegedly designed to confirm McGreevey's commitment to the illegal deal. McGreevey argues the use of the apt word "Machavellian" was coincidental.
  • A year ago, The Record of Bergen County published a story charging that Rajesh "Roger" Chugh used threats of government retaliation and promises of jobs or public permits to shake down as much as a million dollars from the Asian-American community for McGreevey's campaigns. McGreevey was repeatedly warned about the corruption, but did nothing ? save appointing Chugh to a neat position in his administration. Chugh has now resigned and state and federal probes have been launched into his fund-raising for McGreevey.
  • The governor's former campaign manager and first chief of staff, Gary Taffet, and his campaign finance chief and first chief counsel, Paul Levinsohn, are under federal investigation for allegedly using the governor's office to assist their private billboard-development business, in addition to other alleged crimes. Two other members of McGreevy's campaign fund-raising team have already pled guilty to various federal charges and are now cooperating against Taffet and Levinsohn.
  • Last month, Commerce Secretary William Watley resigned amid a state ethics investigation into charges of funneling money to a business he had a financial stake in and awarding no-bid contracts to people connected to his office.
  • McGreevey's attorney general, Peter Harvey, was sanctioned by the state ethics commission for accepting free boxing tickets from the same boxing promoters he regulates. A judge also criticized the attorney general for accepting a plea deal in a corruption case concerning a company represented by a close friend.

The list of other ethical lapses, poor judgments, shady deals, resignations and criminal investigations goes on and on and on. . . .

But the most breathtaking scandal of all involves Golan Cipel, whose threatened sexual harassment lawsuit against McGreevey (along with ample soul-searching by McGreevey, of course) ultimately ended McGreevey's governorship.

Aides confirmed that the governor had a sexual relationship with Golan Cipel. Thick clouds of smoke suggest that this sexual relationship led to jobs for Cipel, first with the Democratic State Committee and then, after McGreevey won office, a $110,000 job with the State of New Jersey as the Homeland Security advisor to the governor.

Then problems surfaced. For starters, Cipel had none of the qualifications one would expect in such a position. He had no security background. Cipel is a citizen of Israel, not the U.S., and therefore wasn't even allowed to receive security briefings from the Feds. His only qualification seemed to be effusive praise from McGreevey. Under fire, Cipel left the administration for a series of jobs with politically-connected businesses.

Amidst all the abundant corruption, it is the Cipel drama that lays bare the ugly truth about Governor McGreevey. The people of New Jersey don't look at Homeland Security as just another line-item of government spending. Many know all too well the very real terror of terrorism ? up close and personal. And now they know that their governor would place his own sexual desires ahead of the public's safety.

If lives had to be put at risk so the governor could pursue his extramarital activities, so be it . . . said the governor. Oh, not in so many words. Just in so many actions. The governor had short-sheeted his state's security.

The governor took responsibility by resigning, at least. Kinda. Sorta. But to mock any professed contrition, McGreevey's resignation is not effective now. In fact, his resignation doesn't take effect until November 15th, after the election. Why the delay? Simply put, to prevent the people of New Jersey from getting in the way of a continuation of corrupt politics for the next 14 months. As The Record of Bergen County expressed in an editorial, "Fourteen months is too long to have an acting governor not elected by the people."

McGreevey's rope-a-dope resignation allows Senate President Richard Codey, a fellow Democrat and a 30-year legislator, to lead the state without any democratic check or balance from the voters. Resigning immediately upon his announcement would have been the normal, decent thing to do. But it would also trigger a special election this November. A special election would see more voters than usual, and thus be harder for the Garden State's political powers to control. And control, as readers of my free Common Sense e-letter know all too well, is what career politicians are all about.

Governor McGreevey's truth is that he has, until now, kept the homosexual aspect of his life secret. But this scandal is not about the governor's sexual orientation. Not in the slightest.

McGreevey still denies the whole truth, the obvious, plain-as-a-wart-on-your-nose truth: he's a corrupt career politician.