Nearly a dozen New Jersey elected officials were caught up in a FBI sting operation. Yeah, I know, it's hard to believe. In New Jersey of all places.
A sham company set up by the FBI paid bribes to nearly a dozen public officials -- including Passaic Mayor Sammy Rivera, city Councilman Marcellus Jackson and Assemblyman Alfred E. Steele -- who were arrested this morning in a widespread corruption sting, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.
Jackson took $16,500, Steele took $15,500 and Rivera $5,000 in return for their influence in awarding public contracts, federal officials allege in criminal complaints. The government says its evidence includes conversations recorded secretly during the 18-month probe at a series of meetings in restaurants, parked cars and hotels.
Rivera also boasts of his influence after allegedly taking $5,000 in cash from a cooperator while parked in a car in Passaic, the complaints say.
“I make the [expletive] decision,” Rivera allegedly says during another conversation. “And believe me, I’ve got the four [expletive] votes on the council. So let’s stop [expletive] and let’s get this thing rolling.”
The defendants — a collection of mayors, state legislators, and school board officials from Atlantic, Essex and Passaic counties — are to appear in federal court early this afternoon in Trenton.
They include former Passaic city Councilman Jonathan Soto, who is accused of taking $12,500.
Those charged are accused of demanding and accepting cash bribes in return for their influence in awarding contracts for roofing services and insurance brokerage from school districts and municipalities, according to criminal complaints unsealed with the arrests.
What is missing from those opening paragraphs? Party affiliation, of course. My first guess is they are all Green Party members. My second is they are Republicans. Not really, without going to the fourteenth paragraph of the story, I already know they are democratics. One, because it's New Jersey. Two, because the article didn't mention they were Republicans in the opening grafs.
First mention of party affiliation in fourteenth paragraph:
Straightest man I know. What's that mean? He's not gay? Or the guy thought he was not corruptible?
John Currie, chair of the Passaic County Democratic Committee, said that he first got Steele involved in the party in the early 1990’s. Currie said that Steele stood out to him because of his community activism.
“He’s the straightest man I know,” Currie said. “This is a man who’s always thought of helping people within his community.”
I know, it's probably not fair to pick on New Jersey. I'm sure there's corruption in every state's political community. It lends itself to corruption, if there are corruptible people in those positions. But, if you hear about a sting operation in a state that nets elected officials, what states come to mind first? Louisiana, New Jersey and what other state?
And finally, we have that paragon of virtue from New Jersey, Senator Bob Menendez. Or, maybe not.