Showing posts with label Governor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Governor. Show all posts

July 6, 2018

GOP Fl. Gov. Scott Most Get Something by Denying 1.5 The Right To Vote

At Florida's Capitol in Tallahassee, four times a year, dozens of anxious people gather to hear a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. Felons whose sentences and probation are complete stand before the governor and other Cabinet members to ask for clemency and the restoration of their right to vote.
After waiting for years, Joanne Calvarese made her case to the clemency board in June.
"I feel that I have paid my consequences," Calvarese said. "I know I don't deserve your mercy, but I beg you for it."
The panel congratulated Calvarese on turning her life around and gave her back the right to vote. Most of the 100 others making the same request that day were not as lucky.
Across the U.S., most states restore voting rights to felons after they've completed their sentences. Some wait for probation and parole to be complete. In recent years, many states have updated and streamlined the process.
Florida, however, has gone in the other direction. When Gov. Rick Scott took office seven years ago, he rolled back reforms put in place by his predecessor, Charlie Crist. More than 150,000 Floridians had their voting rights restored during Crist's four years in office. In the seven years since then, Rick Scott has approved restoring voting rights to just over 3,000 people.

In Florida, more than 10 percent of the adult population is prohibited from voting because they've had felony convictions. Under a law that dates back to the Reconstruction era, Florida bars felons from voting, unless officials approve a request to have those rights restored. That means nearly 1.5 million people in Florida can't vote, even though their sentences are complete.  
At a hearing in 2016, Scott tried to explain to one man why he was denying his request to have his rights restored.
"Clemency is — there's no standard," Scott said. "We can do whatever we want. But it's ... tied to remorse. And ... understanding that we all want to live in a law-abiding society."
Jon Sherman, with the Fair Elections Legal Network, says that's the problem with Florida's system.
"There's no rule, no standard, no criteria governing their decision-making," he said. "Sometimes, the governor simply says, 'I don't feel comfortable at this point.'"
Sherman believes the inconsistent way in which Florida restores voting rights violates the U.S. Constitution. He represents a group of former felons that's suing the state.
"A lot of people have seen how unfair and arbitrary the process is, how delayed," Sherman said. "I mean, we've met people who are waiting for up to 10 years for a hearing on their application. And they see that and they decide, 'You know, it's not worth it to even apply.'"
One of those suing Florida is Yraida Guanipa. She served 11 years on a drug trafficking conviction before being released in 2007. Since then, she's gone back to college, earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, and started a business in Miami. Her probation ended in 2012, but Florida's law requires her to wait an additional seven years before applying to have her rights restored.
"The seven years is not up until next year," Guanipa said. "And after that, I have to get into the line of the backlog, or maybe 10 years. I probably would be dead."
Part of the reason Florida withholds the right to vote from felons, Guanipa says, is political. She believes it's aimed at suppressing the vote in minority communities.
"It's not only punishing me," she says, "but it punishes my family and my community because it's blocking us [from having] a voice."
In Florida, more than 20 percent of otherwise eligible African-American adults are unable to vote because of the law.
Earlier this year, a federal judge said Florida's process for clemency and restoring voting rights was unconstitutional. The state appealed and arguments in the case are scheduled in a few weeks. But before there's a final decision on that, Florida voters will weigh in.
Another group that has been working to restore voting rights for felons, the Florida Rights Restoration Coalition, gathered more than a million signatures for a constitutional amendment that will be on the November ballot. It would restore voting eligibility to most felons once they'd completed their sentences.
"This is an issue that transcends rural-urban-suburban divide. It transcends the partisan divide," said Neil Volz, with the coalition. "And it really is something that impacts all communities and all walks of life."
Many believe the referendum may offer the best chance of overturning Florida's ban on felon voting. Recent polls show it's supported by more than two-thirds of state voters.

October 10, 2017

PR Gov. Sends Letter to Congress PR Going Down for 3rd Time:Trump Asks $ From Congress


It’s been more than three weeks since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico. A little over 10% of the island has power and while President Trump throws paper towels at a crowd of displaced people hoping to absolve his blatant disregard for a colonized nonvoting island, Congress has yet to approve a relief package for any of the American communities affected by hurricanes this season.
Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who has played nice with the Trump administration despite the president’s best efforts to blame the island for its current crisis, wrote a letter to Congress on Tuesday pleading with them to provide more federal emergency aid beyond what the Trump administration has already requested.
“We are grateful for the federal emergency assistance that has been provided so far. However, absent extraordinary measures to address the halt in economic activity in Puerto Rico, the humanitarian crisis will deepen, and the unmet basic needs of the American citizens of Puerto Rico will become even greater,” wrote Rosselló.
Assessment of the damage will cost in the range of $95 billion, Rosselló said citing independent analysis. His request to Congress was a little more than $4 billion and included $3.2 million in community development grants, $500 million in community disaster loans, $500 million in social services grants, and $149 million in emergency relief.
Read Rosselló’s full letter below: 
On Tuesday afternoon, the Associated Press reported that the White House had requested an additional $5 billion in aid specifically for Puerto Rico. Congress is expected to vote on the White House’s initial request for $29 billion in FEMA funding next week. In September, Congress approved a $15 billion package for Hurricane Harvey relief.

Breaking: Trump's government just asked Congress for $4.9 billion to stop the government from collapsing.
Splinter News
Eleanor Sheehan

August 1, 2017

NJ Gov.Chris Christie Goes to Ball Pk Gets in The Face of Fan, Again

I remember when President Obama came to NJ about 8 years ago after the are was hit by a hurricaine that decimated the beaches and resident on low laying areas. President Obama invited Christie to AirForce One and they flew examing the damage. Governor Christie was so emotional and grateful for President Obama to have come in to help the area and give His highest priority that made Chrisite cry. He said he had never been on Airforce One and it was sad to see a guy that size with tears down the cheeks like a boy. Christie doesn't cry anymore and people don't shake his hand but by many other methods, mainly with fingers.


Maybe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie should just stay away from ballparks and beaches, not to mention bridges.

The month of July hasn't been very kind to the governor. First, Christie angered New Jerseyans by spending part of the July 4 holiday lounging on a popular state beach that was closed to everyone else due to a partial government shutdown. The internet memes created from a photo of Christie relaxing in his beach chair quickly went viral.

And then there was the foul ball the governor caught at Citi Field earlier this month that elicited loud boos from the crowd. Even one broadcaster couldn't help making a sly commentary: "Nice to see him get from the beach here to the ballpark."

Now, at yet another baseball game at Milwaukee's Miller Stadium over the weekend, Christie, a bowl of nachos in hand, got within inches of a heckling Cubs fan to give him a piece of the gubernatorial mind.

In a video of the incident posted on Twitter, it's difficult to hear, but Christie says "You're a big shot," to the man, identified as Brad Joseph, who is wearing sunglasses and a Cubs jersey. "I appreciate that," Joseph is heard saying sarcastically.

Speaking with WISN 12 News, Joseph says he saw Christie coming up the stairs: "I yelled his name and told him that he sucked ... I called him a hypocrite because I thought it needed to be said."

Joseph said Christie made contact with his knee and asked if he wanted to "do something" or "start something."

"(He) was yelling at me. First, he told me, 'Why don't you have another beer?' which I thought was a decent come back, and I thought that was kind of funny," says Joseph. "Then he started calling me a tough guy."

Even before "beach gate," Christie was experiencing some of the lowest approval ratings of any governor in the country. In fact, they've been falling more-or-less steadily since his 2013 reelection, followed quickly by Bridgegate.

And Christie, who can't run again due to term limits, hasn't shown much empathy either over what describes as "the global outrage" over the beach episode. In a radio interview last week, the governor said the flap has hurt his family and that he's avoided looking at the internet memes that have emerged as a result.

He said in Thursday's broadcast of Ask the Governor on NJ 101.5 FM that his family has been "more hurt by this latest episode than they've been hurt by anything else that has happened in the eight years and they don't understand people's unfairness and, quite frankly, their ignorance."

Many tears have passed away and Christie now can't run for goveror again because of term limits and Trump afer the election, have both become the men they relly are. Obnotious who care less about the voters because they care for number one first. They both used their position to acquire power. Not to solve problems. When Christie was passed over for the position he had been offered of Attorney General because Jarred Kutchner was opposed, after all Chrisite on the days he was working hard to do his job and politicly grow went after a billionaire, The head of the Family Kutcher. 

Who would have thought that one day that kid Jarred would have the power f Chrisitie to hae the ultimate orgasm. Not just to fly Air Force one but to Work in Washington with Doors open to the White House. Next it would be running for Presidet. Everything was writen on the carton of Breyers rockie road Ice cream. As far as Trump goes he could promised anything, as Trump would say it was a political campaign and you do what you have to but when he finaly gets where people have elected him to, he belives is all because of his own smarts that got him there. He does good if its also good for him and his otels and so many business. Doesn't even need the President's salary which is lunch money.  

To win it is required for many alliances working for themselves but believing this person will deliver on promises that contradict others he is also made, but they beleive he will deliver on theirs and are the ones that bring the votes together. 

As for many voters they vote for the "lesser of two evils" or because the other one went around prostituting, killing boys (many voter said this was a reason, it was put out by the pizza connection which was not unmasked by the FBI as made up stories. These ever competing political groups tell them those voters to beleive and they beleive. Others just stay home and thus voting for the candidate that won by neutralizing the vote of the one that lost. 

A percentage of voters and I have no idea how many are reading this. We get to know the person as a politician, never fall in love with a politician, politcians are not people you can totally trust. Liking a lot should be the most on that scale. Liking and respect should be the most a politicaian gets.

Adam 🦊

May 8, 2017

NJ with Lowest Opioid Prescription Rates Is Made to be by Christie as the Worse-Why?

 New Jersey last year reported one the lowest opioid prescription rates in the nation, even before Gov. Chris Christie signed into law tough new restrictions limiting when doctors may prescribe potentially addictive pain killers, according to a new survey. 
In New Jersey, prescriptions declined from 5.16 million to 4.59 million, a decline of 11 percent, according to a report released by the American Medical Association.
That amounts to 0.5 prescriptions per capita, second-lowest behind California and Hawaii at 0.4 scripts. New Jersey is tied with Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota and New York, according to the report released Friday.
In its report, "Physicians' progress to reverse nation's opioid epidemic," the leading lobby for doctors said prescribing rates have declined in all 50 states. During the same period of time, physician use of state prescription drug monitoring programs and the number of physicians undertaking training programs on opioid prescribing, pain management, addiction have spiked dramatically.
"These are good signs of progress, but to truly reverse the nation's opioid epidemic, we all have much more work to do," said Patrice A. Harris, who chairs the AMA's Board of Trustees. 
Despite its dense population and ample access to physicians, New Jersey has ranked low in opioid prescription rates for some time. In 2012, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 63 prescriptions were written for every 100 people New Jersey, at the bottom with New York, Minnesota, California and Hawaii in the lowest group.
Alabama and Tennessee were the highest-prescribing states, recording 143 prescriptions per capita, the CDC found in 2012. 
Last year, the CDC set guidelines for prescribers which state a seven-day supply is typically all that is required. In February in a show of determination to combat an epidemic of overdoses, Gov. Chris Christie and the Legislature adopted a law setting a five-day initial prescription that a doctor could increase after four days if pain has not subsided.
The Medical Society of New Jersey, the state affiliate for the American Medical Association, opposed the bill and predicted  cautious doctors would be reluctant to recommend opioids when they are necessary. 
Mishael Azam, chief operating officer for the Medical Society, said that prediction has come true, based on conversations with its members.
"Since the CDC guidelines were released and (S3) was signed, patients feel like criminals for needing pain medication," Azam said.
"Patients who need medication for mobility or daily quality of life are losing access because physicians are being blamed for opioid addiction, thus reducing even legitimate prescribing," Azam said. "Physicians are in fact learning and changing behavior, doing their best to balance the goals of treating patients and reducing addiction."
Christie has made reducing the addiction and overdose rate of heroin and prescription drugs the centerpiece of his final year in office. 
Backed by CDC studies and statistics that have shown a corresponding rise in the number of opioid prescriptions and fatal overdoses, Christie has taken aim at prescribing practices in the state and expanded the requirements that pharmacists update and doctors consult the statewide prescription monitoring database.
The law says doctors treating patients for acute pain must limit the length of the initial prescription to no more than five days. The law allows physicians to add another five days to the prescription after the fourth day if the pain has not subsided.
The measure would not apply to hospice or cancer patients or people in long-term care facilities, according to the bill. Nor would it apply to patients who are being treated for chronic pain.
Susan K. Livio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @SusanKLivio. Find Politics on Facebook.

April 16, 2017

“Do Not Remove” Tag on Mattress More Popular than Christie



According to new, admittedly unscientific polls, Governor Chris Christie has the unique distinction of being the least popular governor in the United states. I don't know if there's an awards dinner, but if there is it's probably a bummer. 
The title of America's least popular governor is a little confusing. All this poll did was compare the approval ratings of governor's in their home states against each other. For example, Christie may be hugely popular in Wyoming but who gives a damn, because he's governor of New Jersey. So to paraphrase, amongst all the governors in the U.S. Chris Christie has the lowest approval rating in his home state thus making him America's least favorite.
You can say a lot of things about Chris Christie and his dubious new distinction, but you can't say he didn't earn it. As he nears the finish line of his two terms in office the state is inarguably worse off than it was when he took the reins. Our infrastructure is crumbling, mass transit is a mess, our credit rating is in the negative numbers and half his staff has been sentenced to prison. It's been a rough seven plus years for Chris.
Plus, naming him America's least popular governor seems a little mean spirited. I mean, he knows he’s done a terrible job and we know he's done a terrible job, putting a label on it seems a little bit excessive.

This page is by DREW SHENEMAN and it was published on
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June 30, 2016

Christie Hid Email Account Containing BridgeGate Related Conversations in Cover Up


For two-and-a-half years, New Jersey governor Chris Christie has maintained that he provided federal investigators looking into the 2013 George Washington lane closures with complete access to both his personal and government email accounts. According to WNYC, however, new court filings show that this was not actually the case, supporting earlier allegations from two defendants indicted in the scheme that Christie’s lawyers destroyed and withheld evidence.

Lawyers Say Chris Christie Destroyed Cell Phone, Text Messages and Emails to Cover Up Involvement in Bridgegate 
“I turned over my email, both professional and personal, to all of the investigators who asked for them. And said, ‘Look at whatever you want to look at,’” Christie said at a campaign event in New Hampshire last year, insisting that he, unlike Hillary Clinton, did not conduct government business on his personal account. (Christie was running for president at the time.) “I had a private email account, but I didn’t do my business on a private email account. She did everything on that account and then when she knows people are concerned about it, she gets the server cleaned.”

As it turns out, Christie shared a personal email account with his wife, Mary Pat, that was never searched. (The sender was “Chris and Mary Pat Christie.”) He sent at least one Bridgegate-related email from that account to Port Authority chairman David Samson. WNYC reports:

That email forwarded an article with the comment “per our earlier conversation” that discussed a phone conversation Christie had with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo concerning the lane closure investigation.

Christie’s own taxpayer-funded attorneys from the Gibson Dunn law firm, which has so far billed more than $10 million to the state, were in charge of responding to federal and legislative subpoenas seeking such emails. The lawyers simply ignored this account, even though Christie regularly used personal email accounts, including the one shared with his wife, for government business, sources say. He even used this account to email journalists concerning state business.
In court filings, Christie’s lawyers said that they had been aware of the account, “which we understood was not used by the Governor for official business and contained nothing responsive,” and, as such, had not searched it for responsive emails. His lawyers say they have since searched the account but found no emails “related to and contemporaneous with the lane realignment.”

Perhaps even more unbelievable is the issue of Christie’s cell phone, which he was carrying at the time of the lane closings, and which has now simply gone missing. Attorneys for the two indicted officials want to review the phone’s contents, as they believe texts the governor exchanged with ex-aide Regina Egea in December 2013 will be useful to their case.

Last month, Christie said his cell phone was “in the hands of the government...I don’t know exactly who has it. But I turned it over in response to a request from the government, as I said I would.” The US Attorney’s Office said that it doesn’t have the governor’s cell phone and never did, NJ Advance Media reports.

However, Christie’s lawyers told the court this week that they had reviewed the cell phone and its contents to determine whether it contained any records responsive to the government’s subpoena. After that was done, they said, the phone was returned to the governor. His lawyers have thus far refused to comply with the other defense attorneys’ requests to share those records.

June 23, 2014

Drunkard Tx.Gov Perry says he made a mistake comparing Gays to Alcoholics


Texas Gov. Rick Perry said it was a mistake for him to use a story about alcoholism to explain his views on homosexuality.
Perry said Thursday at a forum hosted by The Christian Science Monitor that he "stepped right in it" after being asked during a trip to California last week if homosexuality is a disorder.
Perry said at the time that if he had the "genetic coding" to be an alcoholic, he still has the choice not to drink. "I look at the homosexual issue as the same way," he told the Commonwealth Club of California.
His response came after the Texas Republican Convention sanctioned platform language allowing Texans to seek voluntary counseling to "cure" being gay.
The platform stands in contrast to California and New Jersey, which have banned licensed professionals from providing such therapy to minors.
The governor, a potential Republican candidate for president, explained Thursday that he allowed himself to be "distracted" by the question.
He said he should have kept his focus on the importance of creating jobs.
"I got asked about issues, and instead of saying, 'You know what, we need to be a really respectful and tolerant country to everybody,' and get back to talking about, whether you're gay or straight, you need to be having a job," he said. "I readily admit I stepped right in it."
Perry's explanation is similar to one he gave in the aftermath of a November 2011 presidential debate when he forgot the third of three federal agencies he had pledged to dissolve.
"I'm glad I had my boots on tonight," he said at the time. "I stepped in it out there."

June 22, 2014

Brewer, The anti Gay Witch of Arizona changing direction on her anti gay ways?

There aren't many more ticks of the clock in the turbulent administration of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, yet once again she continues to surprise.
The woman who rode the thermals of hard-nosed immigration law to her first elective term as governor is now gliding to a finish with this tantalizing hint of social progress:
Arizona should probably extend its civil-rights laws to gays, Brewer told Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services this week.
"I do not believe in discrimination," she said. "We are in the United States of America and we have great privilege that is afforded to everyone."
Take a moment and chew on that.
The same Jan Brewer who scratched her name on SB 1070 and launched 1,000 boycotts, who was the darling of Fox News and the defiant finger that upbraided President Obama, is now supporting gay rights.
Four years ago, when the cardinal of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was comparing Jan Brewer's Arizona to Nazi Germany and calling her handiwork "the country's most retrogressive, mean-spirited and useless anti-immigrant law," did you guess this story ends somewhere over the gay-rights rainbow?
The narrative of her last chapter picks up in February when the Legislature passes SB 1062, a bill intended to protect the religious rights of business people, but defined by the left as a right to deny service to gays.
As Jan Brewer contemplated signing or vetoing the legislation, the biggest names in the Fortune 500 hurled their thunderbolts. Big business put down its marker: If you bar gays from the public square this won't be a social issue. It will be a huge economic issue for your state. And there will be pain.
After three days of enduring criticism, Brewer vetoed the legislation. Today she still bristles at the notion she dawdled. That "was irritating," she told the Arizona Capitol Times. "It was, 'Why did she take so long?' Come on. That's why you have five days to veto a bill is that you consider it, you try to be diligent about what you're doing."
Rebecca Wininger, president of Equality Arizona, isn't buying Brewer's newfound empathy for homosexuals. Gov. Brewer was responsible for curtailing gay rights when she signed a 2009 law that pulled back benefits from the domestic partners of state employees, she told Fischer.
Whether Brewer supports gay rights hardly matters. The full spectrum of those freedoms, including gay marriage, is coming to Arizona. Our state, like the rest of the country, is moving unmistakeably toward greater equality and tolerance. And young people are already there.
But it is worth noting that a lot of Arizonans misread this governor. They thought 13 seconds of dead air meant airhead. That SB 1070 meant unhinged.
And they were wrong. Jan Brewer may have rode SB 1070 into office, but it did not define her. Her policies in the end, from support of Proposition 100 to Medicaid expansion, proved anchored in two important way:  Moderation and reality.

titled,editing: adamfoxie*

June 10, 2014

Gov.Christie squeaks by with a D+ on Civil Rights

A report card released by the New Jersey chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday gave Governor Christie poor marks for his first term’s record on civil liberties and rights.

“Gov. Christie’s overall record on civil liberties and civil rights has been poor, ranging mostly from mediocre to failing,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer in a statement releasing the card. “The Christie administration’s first-term record on civil liberties will be remembered for its assaults on judicial independence and the separation of church and state, as well as for its disdain for transparency.”The ACLU-NJ examined 12 civil rights areas and gave the Governor a D+ average based on his and his administration’s public statements, actions and inaction on policy decisions. Christie received above average grades in respecting freedom of religion (B) and voting rights (B-), but received failing marks in separation of church and state, separation of powers, economic justice and transparency, where the report cited the ongoing George Washington Bridge scandal as exposing how the administration attempts to keep the public out of government business.

Michael Drewniak, the governor’s spokesman, dismissed the report saying it was to be expected from the ACLU, a non-profit liberal advocacy organization that works to protect individual rights.
“Does anyone really think the ACLU could fairly assess anything we do that doesn’t fit squarely into its agenda?,” Drewniak said in an email. “ I give them a D- for predictability.”
John Weingart, associate director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University, said report cards by advocacy groups are a way to get attention to issues that are important to them, but said they don’t generally have impact on political figures. He said they are only really helpful if they can be compared to previous report cards given to others in the same position.
He said he was surprised by Christie’s low scores on criminal justice and drug policy, since the Governor has been vocal about being supportive of finding alternatives for prison as a means of drug treatment.
“He has been more supportive of that and more outspoken of that than other recent governors in New Jersey, including Democrats,’’ Weingart said. “I would have thought that was an area the ACLU would have been somewhat enthusiastic about his actions in that area.”
The group also gave marks for freedom of expression, separation of church and state, women’s rights, immigrants’ rights, privacy, lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender rights.
The report criticized the governor harshly for not following through on prior statements. For example, the report states, that although the governor opposes discrimination against LGBT families, he fought against same-sex marriages in court and in the legislature, and while he supported giving immigrants living in the state illegally a chance at higher education by signing the NJ Dream Act, which allows them to pay in state tuition at public colleges, he removed a provision that would have allowed them to apply for state financial aid.
“Rhetoric without any substantive action helps no one but Gov. Christie,” the report reads.
The report lauded Christie for his “respect for religious diversity” citing his appointment of a Muslim lawyer to serve as a Superior Court judge, for speaking against critics of plans to build a mosque near Ground Zero and for signing legislation requiring out of state law enforcement agencies to notify state authorities of their actions before conducting surveillance in the state — a response to NYPD surveillance of Muslims in New Jersey.
The B- grade for voting rights came for his administration’s quick response after Superstorm Sandy in making sure that eligible voters could receive ballots through email.
“The Christie administration has worked closely with voting rights advocates, convening regular meetings that focus on improving elections,’’ the report reads.
For women rights, the governor received a C. He was given credit for signing legislation requiring insurance companies to cover breast exams and other testing, and signed a bill exempting cosmetic expenses related to breast reconstruction surgery from sales tax, outlawing genital mutilation of females under the age of 18, and supporting several measures aimed at closing the pay gap between men and women. But the report criticizes him for rejecting $7.5 million item in the budget for women’s health at family planning centers, and for rejecting federal funding that matches the state’s expenditure on family planning


May 2, 2014

The End Of The Ignorant Opportunist Sara Palin


After this weekend, it's probably safe to say that Sarah Palin is done. Like Jesse Ventura or Ross Perot, she may show up every once in a while to hurl red meat or use stunt cameos to remind us a little of her awkward charms. But recent events seem to confirm that she is an Obama-era novelty politician — and not much else.

First she gave a speech to the NRA in which she joked that waterboarding is how we baptize terrorists, offending people who otherwise make up her base. Next, Robert Costa reported on theever-smaller crowds that have been greeting Palin in Iowa.

When Palin took the stage at the Hy-Vee Conference Center under a banner that read "Heels On, Gloves Off" on Sunday at an event for Senate candidate Joni Ernst, the ballroom was half-full, with a couple hundred attendees scattered in clumps. [Washington Post]

If the politically engaged seem bored with Obama, they have all but forgotten Sarah Barracuda, the manqué of anti-Obama populism. After years of halting appearances on Fox News, gaffes about Russia, and a parody by Tina Fey that nearly eclipsed the original, it may be hard to remember the whirlwind national introduction to Sarah Palin, which culminated in her galvanic speech to the Republican National Convention in 2008. Sarah Palin wasn't a joke back then — she was a live threat. In a few days, with the help of an ace stylist, an ace speechwriter, and sheer novelty, Sarah Palin almost transformed that election.

It later became a reason to knock Palin's vanity and ambition, but Lisa Kline's work as a stylist gave Palin a frontier glamor — that red leather jacket, the military-cut coats — that put starbursts in commentator's eyes. She was an idealized image of a hockey-mom governor from the endless Alaskan wild. Obama was new, but cool and aloof. Sarah seemed relatable and engaging.

Until the introduction of Sarah Palin, the 2008 election had been almost entirely framed as one of "change" vs. "experience." But speechwriter Matthew Scully must have discerned a kind of frontier populism in her accent, history, and politics, and wrote a convention speech that gave the election a completely different cast.

Here's how CNN summed up the speech:

She slammed Obama for "saying one thing in Scranton and another in San Francisco," argued that he had written two memoirs but never authored a major piece of legislation, and asked what he would do "when those Styrofoam Greek columns are hauled back to some studio lot," a reference to the stage where Obama gave his acceptance speech last week. [CNN]

My personal favorite line was this: "The American presidency is not supposed to be a journey of 'personal discovery.'" You could almost hear that punch landing.

Palin gave what many in the Republican base had been craving all along. It was no longer McCain's long résumé against Obama's promise of change — it was a more primal election of "us" versus "them." She humblebragged, "I'm not a member of the permanent political establishment.... I'm not going to Washington to seek their good opinion."

And there on that convention stage we saw a preview of the "summer of rage" over Obama's health-care reform and the Tea Party rebellion of 2010.

For Republicans in 2008, alas, it became apparent that the McGovern presidential coalition had waxed in the past 40 years, while the Nixon coalition had waned. And for Palin, it's basically been all downhill since the convention: Saturday Night Live, a disaster interview with Katie Couric, an election loss, a boring reality television show, a number of her endorsed candidates flaming out, a clash with Roger Ailes, and one too many appearances on Fox News in which she seemed onpopulist autopilot or totally anodyne.

My theory is that Palin will have trouble finding a niche in the post-Obama world. She was the right minoritarian foil for the White House. The president is a brainy, cool-tempered, wonkish Hawaiian; he is a bit like the man from nowhere. Palin was slashing, heated, and defiantly Alaskan.

As his administration comes up more and more lame, what role will Palin play? Maybe none at all. The Obama-Palin dynamic may go down as a Pacific Ocean holiday from the Clinton-Bush rivalry that is the natural embodiment of our two-party, two-family American political system.

March 5, 2014

Gov. Christie’s Port Authority Slush Fund { How Christie Made it Happen}

Bayonne Bridge
Governor Christie announces that work has begun on a $1.3 billion Port Authority to renovate the Bayonne Bridge, June 2013. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Two former officials with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey described to Christie Watch a regime of secrecy, conspiracy and political favoritism inside the huge agency. They also claimed that Bill Baroni and David Wildstein, both of whom have resigned in the wake of the Bridgegate scandal, were key principals in a secret effort by Governor Chris Christie to raise tolls on the Hudson River bridges and tunnels in order to help fund a slush fund that was used to finance major construction projects that benefited the PA’s chairman, David Samson, and his law firm, Wolff & Samson. Among those projects: the raising and reconstruction of the Bayonne Bridge, a $1.2 billion project that benefited Skanska Koch, a construction firm represented by Wolff & Samson.         {{there Was a time Politicians went to jail over Slush funds}}
                                                     That Wont Happen Here
The projects, especially the Bayonne Bridge, were touted by Christie during his 2013 re-election campaign, and the governor used the project to win the backing of a major New Jersey labor union, the Laborers’ International Union.
The controversial toll hikes were the subject of major investigative articles in both the NewarkStar-Ledger and the Bergen Record on Sunday. The articles described how Christie and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo manipulated public opinion on the toll increase by having Christie’s aides first float very large increases in the tolls, allowing the two governors to then appear to be demanding restraint. Orchestrating the effort, the papers said, were Baroni and Wildstein.
According to one former PA insider, Baroni and Wildstein operated as political hatchet men for Christie, running what amounted to a network of spies inside the vast agency. The source told Christie Watch:
Bill [Baroni] was Mr. Politick and David [Wildstein] was the finger breaker. Bill was very affable, very articulate, very handsome, he played a sort of political role of smooth operator. And David was clearly operating at another level, where he would sort of skulk around the PA, get there early, walk around, see who was around.
The source added that there were at least four other PA officials who operated under Wildstein’s direction:
Each one of them was in their own way a David Wildstein spy in the different parts of the agency. And everyone knew it, that they were there to ensure orthodoxy. If you joked about Christie or said negative things it would get back to Wildstein. And people knew that “Uh oh, that might end my career.” And they were always, “Oh no, don’t be ridiculous that would never happen.” But it did.
They created a “climate of fear” inside the PA, the source said. And, he added, Baroni and Wildstein were often closeted with David Samson, the PA chairman and Christie’s political mentor. Samson, who has been accused of using his position as PA chairman to benefit his law firm, and whose resignation has been demanded by the Star-Ledger, was a highly engaged and activist chairman, said the source, adding that that was very unusual for a chairman. “Samson was in the office a minimum two, sometimes three times a week and [Baroni and Wildstein] would be behind closed doors with the chairman for two hours at a time,” he said.
Baroni and Wildstein, the latter of whom maintained a secret list of favored officials, conspired inside the PA to press for the toll hikes. Along with $1.8 billion in federal and PA funds used by Christie for pet projects after he canceled a plan to build a new Hudson River transit tunnel, the toll hikes and the PA’s more recent PA’s capital spending plan created a tidal wave of new cash for Christie to spend as saw fit. In an editorial on March 4, the Star-Ledger said in an editorial that all these funds created a “piggy bank” for Christie, and it quoted John Wisniewski, chairman of the committee investigating the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge, who said, “It’s a slush fund.” According to the Star-Ledger’s news article, Baroni and Wildstein also organized a cabal inside the PA over the toll hikes:
The sources say the toll hike operation was run out of a conference room on the 15th floor of the Port Authority’s Manhattan headquarters on Park Avenue, and only those on Wildstein’s secret list had access to the room.
Only in New Jersey! Baroni and Wildstein reportedly met secretly with Christie and handful of top aides to organize the toll-hike effort. According to the Bergen Record:
A knowledgeable source said that only days later, on Aug. 3, Christie held a meeting in his office with about five top advisers, including former state Attorney General and Port Authority Chairman David Samson, Baroni and Wildstein. According to the source, Christie instructed the Port Authority officials to float the immediate $4 increase, and that he and Cuomo would reduce it to $2.
The two former PA officials interviewed by Christie Watch pointed to the Bayonne Bridge project as a key focus of Baroni and Wildstein’s efforts inside the agency. Not only did the project benefit Wolff & Samson and help Christie’s reelection effort, but within the PA it was widely believed that the project did not need to be rushed ahead, and could wait for years. Said one source:
The Bayonne Bridge was Bill’s big, big project. Rushing that through, making sure the right staff was working on it was a major, major political priority for Bill. And why? Because it’s an unnecessary project now, it probably should have waited ten years but it was a major Christie announcement that this is the way to secure the port’s future. And it tied in Christie’s relationship with the Longshoremen, and all the big port operators. [Baroni] set up his own team to do it, they answered directly to him. He would have weekly or bi-weekly meetings. He created his own task force, answerable to him, on the status of how the work was going for it, the Bayonne Bridge.
The Bayonne Bridge project had long been discussed within the PA. But, another former official said:
I recall there were meetings with Wildstein and/or Baroni about the PA position on Bayonne and they were concerned that not everyone was fully on board with the Bayonne Bridge and were still questioning.… With the arrival of the Chris Christie administration the Bayonne Bridge proposal took on a different life. It had already been a topic of conversation with people on both sides of the issue. But it took on new life once they got hold of it. Bill Baroni pulled together a group reporting to him on a direct basis on the progress of moving forward with the project.… They formed a team and informed Baroni on the progress. There were also political people, they were involved, they were part of everything.
Christie kicked off his reelection effort in 2012 at a rally with the Laborers’ International union, whose leader endorsed Christie, and cited the Bayonne Bridge project as a major reason for his support. But the union wasn’t the only beneficiary. One of the major contractors was Skanska Koch. Last April the PA awarded a $743 million contract to the firm and a partner to raise the bridge, so it could accommodate larger ships. And Skanska is represented by Wolff & Samson.
 The investigation of Christie and his aides by the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Paul Fishman, began with an inquiry into charges that the administration threated to withhold Superstorm Sandy aid from Hoboken unless its mayor, Dawn Zimmer, backed another project that was connected to Wolff & Samson. Now, however, Fishman’s office is looking intently at the Bridgegate scandal, too. Agents from Fishman’s office have already visited the home of Bill Stepien, one of the governor’s former top political aides, and they’ve interviewed Paul Nunziato, the head of the PA police union, according to The Wall Street Journal, which added that at least three lawyers—J. Fortier Imbert, Lee M. Cortes Jr. and Vikas Khanna—from the US attorney’s office are looking into the GWB scandal.
Meanwhile, the New Jersey state legislative committee looking into the tangle of scandals has initiated a major effort to connect Bridgegate to the toll hike and tunnel cancellation issues, too.
Back in 2012, Baroni, who’s at the center of all this, was pressed by Senator Frank Lautenberg about the decision to raise the tolls. As WNYC reported at the time:
The senator was also unable to pin Baroni down on one of his key issues: what did Governor Christie know about the Port Authority’s plans for last summer’s toll hikes, and when did he know it? Baroni wouldn’t get specific. “I’m not going to talk about conversations that I have with different administration officials,” he said—spurring Lautenberg to retort: “Are you running a protection agency there?” “Excuse me?” responded Baroni, all wounded indignation.
Later, frustrated, Lautenberg told Baroni: “Your impertinence is barely tolerable.”
At that time, of course, the full story of how Wildstein and Baroni conspired with Christie to push through the toll hikes, and how the money was used in part to fund the pet projects of the PA’s chairman, wasn’t yet known.

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