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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ferriero shows why NJ needs ethics reform

News that things are heating up with the federal investigation of Bergen County Democratic boss Joseph A. Ferriero comes as no surprise, given the litany of corruption stories associated with Mr. Ferriero over the years.

Federal investigators raided Mr. Ferriero's law office at the firm of Scarinci Hollenbeck in Lyndhurst, removing numerous boxes of documents that are likely to become fodder for whatever type of investigation is brewing.

This is the same guy who used local police as chauffeurs to Yankess games and to casinos in Atlantic City at a cost of around $1,000 to county taxpayers, according to The Bergen Record, among other more run-of-the-mill corrupt activities.

Now, Mr. Ferriero represents a special version of New Jersey's typical warped public official, simply because he has enjoyed considerable success in developing Bergen County's Democratic forces into a powerful political machine that can raise millions of dollars while holding sway over dozens of governmental jobs and dozens of public contracts.

Most other party or governmental officials do not enjoy the same degree of success as Mr. Ferriero. But examples of the activities that Mr. Ferriero engages in so efficiently - pay-to-play, wheeling, and maintaining a strict system of political control - are much more commonplace in New Jersey than political bosses of the magnitude of Mr. Ferriero.

In Bergen County, Mr. Ferriero steered hundreds of public contracts and governmental jobs into the hands of party loyalists and financial supporters, rather than whichever was the best firm to do the necessary job, at the lowest price for the good of the public.

In turn, Bergen residents already paying massive property taxes end up paying more taxes for the same services, in what represents some unwritten corruption surcharge or crooked public official tax.

It's amazing that more people here in New Jersey don't come to the conclusion that something needs to do something about this.

Steering contracts and jobs to the party faithful and political contributors is the system that allows entrenched party groups to gain an iron grip on government. When it happens, everyone loses, except for the favored politicos.

State legislators like Assembly Speaker Joe Roberts, D-Camden, say this is the year when real ethics reform will come to New Jersey.

Let's hope he's for real, but judging how the Democratic majority in Trenton has treated past ethics reform proposals that specifically deal with pay-to-play and associated activities, it might not be a good idea for someone to hold their breath.

The ethics reform train might never leave the station.

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