Corruption Runs Very Deep In The DC Establishment
Corrupt conservative Josh Gottheimer, the consensus Jersey machine candidate for Menendez’s seat, was supposed to have declared his candidacy today. He didn’t. Instead, Gottheimer contributed $3,300 to Bob Jr (Rob Menendez’s) campaign— and announced he would organize a fundraiser for him in DC next month. Gottheimer— and his shady SuperPAC (Jersey Values)— is one of the most prolific fundraisers in DC. He takes the kind of filthy corporate and lobbyist money that few self-respecting Democrats would be caught dead accepting. Jersey Values has nearly $14 million in the bank right now. Gottheimer hoovers up money from Wall Street, AIPAC, Blackstone… Last year, only 1.4% of his contributions was grassroots money. 68.2% came from wealthy donors and 22.4% from PACs. The only member of Congress— from either party— with more cash on hand than Gottheimer was Adam Schiff, who’s in the middle of a Senate campaign in the state with the most expensive media markets in the country. Gottheimer was the #1 recipient of bribes-- more than any Republican!-- from payday lenders, private equity firms and Wall Street overall. He was #2 in taking bribes from hedge funds, beaten out by another sleaze-ban, Ritchie Torres. And he came in third among members of Congress who accepted bribes from the insurance industry, beaten out by Richie Neal and Patrick McHenry. No Labels contributes overwhelmingly to Republicans but the right-of-center Democrats they shelled out cash for included Joe Manchin and a gaggle of Blue Dogs who vote with Republicans— like Jared Golden, Jim Costa, Ed Case, Vicente Gonzalez and, of course, Gottheimer. Overall this cycle he’s already raised $8,729,197.
There is also a buzz that Gov. Murphy's wife, Tammy, is going to run-- she's not; her husband may appoint her as a placeholder but she won't run-- and that Rep. Andy Kim is serious about the race and not just using it as a ploy to raise money for his House reelection campaign. Machine boss George Norcross won't let him run for his House seat now anyway and is putting one of his cronies into the seat instead, state Senator Troy Singleton (majority whip). New Jersey is the most corrupt state in America... but you already knew that.
Menendez only has two goals with his Senate seat now— before giving it up as part of a plea deal: negotiating to keep himself and his wife out of prison and keeping his son in Congress. Among the high profile progressives being talked about as potential Bob Jr. primary opponents are Jersey City councilman James Solomon (although he’s more likely to run for mayor), Hoboken mayor Ravi Bhalla and progressive activist Hector Oseguera.
As of yesterday— with sleazy Democratic Senate leaders Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin (also products of corrupt big city machines) standing by Menendez, just 3 of his Senate Democratic colleagues had called on him to resign: John Fetterman (PA), Sherrod Brown (OH) and Peter Welch (VT). Former New Jersey senator Bob Torricelli said “There’s a burden on Chuck Schumer right now. As Phil Murphy has skillfully navigated New Jersey Democrats to separate themselves from this debacle, the Senate caucus needs to do the same. Otherwise you’re going to get candidates in competitive states like Montana and West Virginia having to answer questions about Menendez and whether he represents a problem in the party.”
One of those candidates wasn’t waiting to be asked. Reformer and law and order candidiate Lucas Kunce, who’s running for the Missouri seat held by Josh Hawley, tweeted yesterday “I'm tired of corrupt politicians like Bob Menendez thinking they should be allowed to use their public office to enrich themselves. Resignation? Fines? Not enough. We need to update our laws so that any criminal in Congress who robs us gets mandatory jail time. Lock them up.”
“But most immediately,” wrote Matt Friedman, “Menendez’s indictment is a big headache for Democrats in New Jersey. In a little over a month, all 120 seats in the New Jersey Legislature are up. And Democrats, who hold a 25-15 majority in the state Senate and a 46-34 majority in the General Assembly, were already having a rough year before the Menendez news broke, struggling to counter Republican attacks on school policies regarding transgender kids and pushback to offshore wind projects. Republicans are already trying to monopolize on the indictment. ‘I think it’s representative of the sleaze that’s out there, and voters are going to take that into account,’ said New Jersey Republican State Chairman Bob Hugin, who was the unsuccessful GOP nominee against Menendez in 2018.” Remember that the governor, Senate president and Assembly speaker all came out almost immediately calling for Menendez to resign.
New Jersey has a unique ballot design in most of its 21 counties in which candidates are awarded “the line” in the primary— favorable ballot placement that brackets a party-backed candidate with all the others who have received party endorsement, from the top of the ballot to the bottom. With most Democratic county chairs calling on Menendez to resign, he’s unlikely to get the top ballot spot in most if not all counties.
Even in 2018, when Menendez had state Democrats firmly behind him, his sole primary challenger, the unfunded and largely unknown Lisa McCormick, won 38 percent of the vote against him. That was widely read as a protest vote by primary voters, and doesn’t bode well for a Menendez run in 2024 with none of the advantages he enjoyed six years prior.
Now, leading state Democrats— from Gov. Phil Murphy on down— are calling on the senator to step aside. And Cory Booker, the junior senator from New Jersey and a close ally, has said nothing publicly despite being one of the first to defend Menendez after his last indictment.
Ah, yes Cory Booker… Menendez has long held Booker’s residence in the closet over his head. Everyone in Newark— and the Senate— knows Booker is LGBTQ and no one cares. His main squeeze was never (presidential campaign beard) Rosario Dawson; it’s T-Bone (not an imaginary friend). But out in Monmouth, Cape May, Hunterdon, Salem and even Morris, Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester and Bergen counties some people might care. Would Menendez out him in the suburbs? You bet your sweet ass he would-- and that could well happen since this morning Booker tweeted "The details of the allegations against Senator Menendez are of such a nature that the faith and trust of New Jerseyans as well as those he must work with in order to be effective have been shaken to the core. Stepping down is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgement that holding public office demands tremendous sacrifices at great personal cost."
This morning 4 Democrats up for reelection, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Jackie Rosen (D-NV), and Jon Tester (D-MT) started a flood, the latter less enthusiastically: “I’ve read the detailed charges against Senator Menendez and find them deeply disturbing. While he deserves a fair trial like every other American, I believe Senator Menendez should resign for the sake of the public’s faith in the U.S. Senate.” Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI) and Martin Heinrich (D-NM) also called for him to resign. By noon, a majority of Senate Democrats had called on him to resign.
While dam was starting to break, former Republican Charlie Sykes penned a prodding column for The Bulwark, Old School Bribery. “There’s something almost nostalgic,” he began, “about reading the indictment against New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez. By which I mean clownishly nostalgic, because it’s a throwback to an age when our corrupt politicians were old-school crooks, and frankly, rather stupid. There are no seven-levels of separation influence-peddling, no elaborate shell-companies or conspiracies. What we have here, ladies and gentlemen, is a throwback— a house full of gold bars, envelopes stuffed with cash ($480,000), and a shiny new Mercedes parked in the garage. A slightly modern twist: DNA linking all of this boodle to the guys who paid cash for their own U.S. senator. The details are dazzling and worth dwelling on for the glaring grift of Menendez and his high-maintenance spouse. The indictment describes how the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee accepted ‘hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using Menendezs power and influence as a Senator to seek to protect and enrich [his crooked friends]… and to benefit the Arab Republic of Egypt. Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value.’… The headlines today describe Menendez as ‘defiant,’ but what they really mean is ‘shameless’ because he is testing the limits of our new post-shame political culture. Perhaps he thinks that the rules about ethics, evidence, and accountability have been transformed in the Era of Trump, and that he can go along for the ride, even though he is a Democrat.”