New Jersey – The Democrat’s ‘Better Way’
Just a few New Jersey highlights:
$6 Billion budget deficit
$30 Billion in debt
Highest property taxes in the nation
Job growth lags the nation
Highest per student spending in the nation – SAT scores lower than the national average
Highest health insurance premiums in the nation
Bankrupt Roads and Mass Transportation Fund
Bankrupt Schools Construction Fund
Our Governor Jon Corzine summed up the state of New Jersey when he said: "We're pretty much broke.”
New Jersey, Come See For Yourself! That’s the new state slogan. Really.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito
Lautenberg and Menendez Fili-Busted
New Jersey’s Senators, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez joined the attempted filibuster, by voting against cloture, which if successful would have denied Alito a vote by the Senate.
Lautenberg’s and Menendez’ vote to deny Alito a vote strikes us as a vote against the “little guy” who worked hard, played it straight and made good, in favor of the moneyed special interests.
Menendez, a man who sits in the Senate without the benefit of winning an election, casts his first major vote in the Senate against one of his own constituents. This no doubt will be the first of many votes against the wishes and the best interests of his fellow Jerseyans. Thankfully, we’ll have the opportunity to return the favor in November.
Lautenberg, Menendez To Vote No On Alito
Update: It’s official, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez will vote against the confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito.
Although both senators spoke harshly of Alito's judicial record, they found room to praise him as a fellow New Jerseyan and as an intelligent man.Brother, ‘the values' of New Jersey?
"But it is not enough to come from New Jersey - the test is- will you represent the values of New Jersey and this nation on the highest court in the land?" Menendez said.
Update II - More Commentary from Bench Memos:
The senior Senator from New Jersey is a fairly comic figure, trying to oppose home state Judge Alito. . . Lautenberg's reading some speech that sounds like it was written by a 23 year-old legislative assistant who hasn't read all the way through the Constitution.
Not to be outdone by the senior Senator from Judge Alito's home state of New Jersey, junior Senator Bob Menendez has now taken the floor. The incongruence of his two-faced statement — attempting simultaneously to pander to his home state and to the liberal Left that controls Democrat campaign purse strings — is stunning.
Menendez says he "takes pride in the honor that's been bestowed on a fellow New Jerseyan," noting that he too is the "son of immigrants" and that Judge Alito's "story of seizing opportunity and working hard" is "a story close to my heart."
But when it comes to a Supreme Court nominee, he says: "It's not where you come from that matters, but where you will take the nation."
Menendez thinks that Supreme Court Justices are supposed to "take the nation" someplace: he, like the liberal Left opposing Judge Alito, doesn't understand that under our Constitution, courts are not supposed to "take us" anywhere.
The two-faced pandering flips back and forth so fast, it's hard to keep up with it:
Pandering to New Jersey: Judge Alito has "a keen intellect."
Pandering to the Left: But he can't replace Justice O'Connor, the deciding vote "protecting our rights and freedoms" (he got that line from Ralph Neas!).
Pandering to New Jersey: "I take pride" in the nomination of Judge Alito. "He's a decent, intelligent, accomplished man."
Pandering to the Left: But Judge Alito would "overturn a woman's right to contol her own body," "side with corporations over African Americans," "favor the concentration of unlimited power in the hands of the President," and "make it impossible for a person has been discriminated against to take his or her case to court."
But really, he's very proud of the decent, intelligent, and accomplished Judge Alito!
More Like Debra Burlingame
On Opposing Alito
The usual band of losers - Kennedy, Kerry and Gore are leading the charge. ... Hillary ET AL are signing on because they need the pocket book of the Left for 2006 and any ambitions they are entertaining for 08. Unfortunately, it's really just another instance of liberal politicians willing to abandon anything that resembles principle to realize a short-sighted gain.As Wizbang has pointed out today:
There is absolutely no question as regards Alito's fitness for the post. But then being qualified never means anything to the Left, so long as you're willing to sell out principle and the Constitution to help them forward a losing cause.
The American people support Judge Alito by comfortable margins in every poll out there: FOX News/Opinion Dynamics has him up by 15, CBS News/New York Times has him up by the same margin, and CNN/USA Today/Gallup says that 54 percent of the American people favor confirmation.So, where do New Jersey’s Senators stand with one day to go before the vote on Alito? They won’t say. But Roberto writes:
Lautenberg and Menendez are not going to vote for Sam Alito. The filibuster question is different since support for the obstructing move is symbolic. Lautenberg may not support a filibuster, only because he did say such nice things about Alito when he introduced him to the senate. Just a hunch on my part. Menendez needs all the help from the liberal/progressives he can get in what may be a close race in November. My guess is he will support a filibuster.As we previously posted, a recent Rasmussen poll found in New Jersey, 53% favor Alito’s confirmation, 28% oppose. So what’s up the New Jersey’s Senators Lautenberg and Menendez? It’s all about posturing for the radical left to milk them for campaign contributions and assuming by the time November rolls around no one else will remember their vote against Alito. Let’s hope this time they figured wrong.
New Jersey Spends $10 Billion In Property Tax Relief - Unfairly
"Property taxpayers are overwhelmed, while state aid has not been increased for five years."That is an interesting comment that needs to be challenged. State Income tax revenue has grown from $7.035 billion in fiscal year 2000-2001 to $10 billion in fiscal year 2005-2006. That’s a 30% increase in five years and it has been distributed to municipalities in what is called school aid.
Governor Corzine’s Budget and Reengineering Government Transition Policy Group released a report this past Friday that said:
School aid is a nearly $10 billion item, growing significantly every year. The budget problem cannot be solved until the State deals with controlling education costs.Strickland should have said school aid has increased by at least 30 % to the 31 Abbott School districts over the past five years, but state aid for schools in the rest of the state has been steadily decreasing. Parity in per student spending has long since been achieved in New Jersey’s “needy schools”, with per pupil spending 30-35% greater than a non-Abbott School counterpart in the same county.
To be more precise, property tax relief (school aid) has increased by 30% in the past five years, but only a select group has benefited. New Jersey’s Constitution mandates that 100 percent of the revenue collected from New Jersey’s income tax must be deposited in the Property Tax Relief Fund to be used solely for the purpose of reducing or offsetting property taxes. Specifically, income tax revenue must be distributed to reduce the school tax portion of property tax bills.
New Jersey Constitution:
No tax shall be levied on personal incomes of individuals, estates and trusts of this State unless the entire net receipts there from shall be received into the treasury, placed in a perpetual fund and be annually appropriated, pursuant to formulas established from time to time by the Legislature, to the several counties, municipalities and school districts of this State exclusively for the purpose of reducing or offsetting property taxes.To address the property tax crisis the state needs to distribute revenue from the Property Tax Relief Fund (state income taxes) more equitably and must curb escalating education costs in Abbott School Districts to ease the state’s budget crisis. You can compare property tax information and state property tax relief for your town against others here. It’s a real eye opener.
As Governor Corzine looks to add a surcharge to the income tax, what he really will be doing is taxing your income to provide more property tax relief to those already getting the lion’s share. Hard pressed property taxpayers don’t need rebates; they need an equitable distribution of funds from the state’s Property Tax Relief Fund.
Contact your state representatives and tell them you oppose an income tax surcharge or income tax rate increase. Tell them the state is not distributing property tax relief fairly and it’s time for this practice to stop. Find the names and contact information for your representatives in the state’s Assembly and Senate here.
401(k) Plans To Be Taxed To Pay For Bloated NJ Public Employee Benefits?
Budget advisors for new NJ Governor Jon Corzine (sworn in last week) have raised the possibility of taxing private 401(k) retirement accounts to help close a $6 billion budget gap.
Nearly 20% of that amount is needed simply to keep state pensions solvent. As many of you know I've harped on the destructive policies of state defined benefit pension plans, and now the chickens, as they say, are coming home to roost. I wonder how NJ residents will feel having their private retirement accounts reduced simply to help pay for those of public employees?
Alexander K. McClure at PoliPundit weighs in on the topic with - The Path to a Republican Governor in NJ in 2010.
Just a few of our previous posts on the subject:
The High Cost of Public Employees
Public Employees Lecture New Jersey Taxpayers
Rutgers Report: New Jersey's Economy Lags Nation
The More They Waste, The More They Make
Codey: State Pensions, Benefits "Strangling" New Jersey Taxpayers
Stop New Jersey’s Death Spiral
Corzine's win means that voters don't see the danger ahead, and we can't blame them for being in denial over our situation. But that also explains why no real change is forthcoming.
So until meaningful opposition presents itself, meaningful budget cuts will NOT happen, no matter how obviously bloated our government's payrolls are. Instead of cuts, business-destroying sales taxes are on the way. Our most mobile (often our best-off) citizens aren't going to sit and be fleeced, not with the option of New York or PA nearby and looking increasingly competitive.
Here comes a whole new level of pain, as the wealthy and mobile continue to bail and the tax burden gets driven down to lower economic stratas. You'll see gas taxes, clothing taxes, incomes taxes, and sales taxes hiked.
This cycle of government spending and empty 'reform' promises will continue until the system finally collapses.
Unfortunately, by then it's too late, and cuts won't end the death spiral.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 37
Johnny-Come-Lately To Kos Club
Bob Is Back
Bob the Corgi is back. Just thought you might like to know.
The McGreevey, D'Amiano, Halper Saga
The Halper family owned a farm that Piscataway (Middlesex County) was looking to take through eminent domain. The county offered Harper $3 million for the property, an amount the family believed to be far less than fair market value.
Then, David D'Amiano approached Halper and worked out a deal where the farmer would donate money to Democrats in return for assurances that elected officials would help get him a better price.
According to the indictment, D'Amiano arranged for government officials to mention the code word "Machiavelli" in their conversations with Halper to assure him that he was getting what he was promised. One state official and a county official spoke the code word to the farm owner in face-to-face meetings, according to the indictment. We now know the state official was then-Governor McGreevey.
Halper donated about $40,000 after a court ruled Middlesex County officials could seize his farm under eminent domain to prevent Halper from selling it to a developer. Once D'Amiano got involved and the donations were made, the government’s offer jumped to $7.4 million.
Harper said “it took a donation to the Democratic State Party and an FBI-supervised payoff to get officials to sit down and hammer out a reasonable offer."
Federal authorities played McGreevey tapes of his conversations with Halper and D'Amiano during an interview back in March 2004. At the time McGreevey said rumors that that he was "state official 1" mentioned in the indictment was essentially a smear campaign aimed at him by Republicans through U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie. We now know McGreevey was lying.
Yesterday, a Superior Court jury awarded the Halper’s nearly $18 million for the land, which was seized by the township of Piscataway in Middlesex County.
McGreevey was not charged in the indictment with D'Amiano, and still faces no charges in the continuing investigation. Why?
Wake Up New Jersey Republicans
Voters say 57 - 28 percent that they would rather cut services than raise taxes to balance the state budget. Democrats split 44 - 44 percent on service cuts or tax hikes, while Republicans prefer service cuts 75 - 13 percent and independent voters prefer service cuts 55 - 26 percent.Given nearly everyone in the state understands there is a serious budget problem facing the state and a clear majority would prefer spending cuts to tax increases; you have to scratch your head and wonder why Jon Corzine was elected Governor this past November. Corzine ran on his “affordability agenda”, chuck full of new state spending initiatives. What were voters thinking? Better still, what were the citizens who failed to vote thinking?
We are left to conclude tax receivers were highly motivated to vote in their self-interest and that many taxpayers stayed home because they didn’t believe Doug Forrester would govern with their interests in mind – it really didn’t matter who won the election – their interests would not be placed first in a Forrester administration.
This is a major failing of New Jersey’s Republican Party in our opinion. The Party tries to court both taxpayers and tax receivers, a strategy that fails time and again. Taxpayers hear a mixed message from state Republican candidates and therefore, stay away from the voting booth in droves.
Taxpayers need representation and they are not being well served by the New Jersey Republican Party’s weak advocacy and muddled message. There’s a majority of voters in New Jersey longing for candidates willing to stand up to the special interests and to fight for their families and economic future. What will it take for the state’s Republicans to become their standard barer? Wake up Republicans!
Aaron Brown Makes The Case
Now check out the two examples Brown provides, one from the left and one from the right.
He cited the example of an e-mail faulting what the sender considered to be NewsNight's inadequate coverage of an anti-war protest in Washington, D.C. The note ended with, "I hope the violence visited on the people of Iraq will someday be visited on your children."Brown provides a specific “say anything” example from the left and without a doubt the sender’s message was uncalled for, viciously personal and cruel. The example he provides from the right is not specific, and whether true or false, amounts to the opinion of some viewers. For all we know, Brown’s correspondents from the right may have been responding to the anchor’s willingness to “say anything” about President Bush and the country “regardless of how cruel or false it may be”
Those on the opposite side of the political spectrum are no more tolerant, Brown said. "Any criticism of the administration is regarded as hatred of the president and hatred of the country itself," he said.
There’s a big difference between the examples, no?
European Union Supports New Jersey
Assemblyman Christopher Connors (R-Ocean), a member of the Assembly Judiciary Committee recently pointed out: "We haven't committed the death sentence for anyone for 43 years. Effectively we have a de facto moratorium in place."
Do you think the EU was aware New Jersey’s legislation was an empty gesture?
Kerry Calls For Alito Filibuster
Never mind the majority of Americans favor Alito’s confirmation, the Senator’s from Massachusetts are ginning up campaign contributions and bowing to pressure from special interests groups. Kerry’s move is a purely political stunt and surely aimed to please his recent blogging host, Kos and like-minded left-wingers.
Everyone that has paid attention to the confirmation process knows Judge Alito is superbly qualified to sit on the Supreme Court. Rasmussen found in every state that the firm polled, a plurality or majority believes Alito should be confirmed. In New Jersey, 53% favor Alito’s confirmation, 28% oppose. Who’s out of the mainstream?
Meanwhile, New Jersey Senators Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez claim they have yet to decide how vote on Alito’s confirmation. Give them a call and help them decide to vote yes on confirmation.
Senator Frank Lautenberg - 202-224-3224
Senator Bob Menendez - 202-224-4744
Update: Kerry explains his rationale for an Altio filibuster on his blog host, Kos.
Update II- ABP- Just Politics? - A Look At The "Political Calculus" Of Kerry's Filibuster Call
and more at Betsy's Page
Report: New Jersey Is A Financial Basket Case
“The fiscal health of the state of New Jersey has plunged perilously close to ruin”, begins a “politically explosive” report from Corzine's “budget and re-engineering government” policy group. The Press of Atlantic City obtained a copy of the report Wednesday.
The report portrays a grim picture of state finances, estimating the accumulation of $30 billion in debt and another $30 billion in unfunded liabilities to retirement and health care programs. The group warns that without changes the problem will get worse as the state continues to spend more money than it takes in.“The “budget and re-engineering government” report includes these recommendations to Governor Corzine:
[T]he state has gone from a financial powerhouse to a financial basket case,” the report states. “Make no mistake. Failure to implement fundamental change will have grave consequences, including a further downgrading of the state's debt rating and therefore higher borrowing costs, skyrocketing property taxes due to a reduction in state aid and rebates, and reduced state services in order to pay for mandatory debt service, pensions, health care costs and more.”
- An increase in the gas tax to help replenish a bankrupt state Transportation Trust Fund
A “temporary tax-rate surcharge” to plug a $5 billion hole in the 2006-07 budget. (See Assemblyman Louis Manzo (D-Hudson) income tax surcharge plan here.)
Add a sales tax on clothing
Tax tanning and massage parlors, limousine services and cable television
Reduce state operating costs by requiring all departments to cut current budgets through hiring freezes
A mandated vacation week without pay for state workers
A "symbolic “across-the-board symbolic salary cuts for employees not in a collective bargaining unit (The majority of state employees are represented by unions and covered by collective bargaining)
Gradually eliminating the state's pension program by offering defined contribution plans, such as 401(k) accounts, for new hires
Immediately move members of the legislative and executive branch not covered under collective bargaining to a defined contribution plan
New Jersey is a “financial basket case” because government has spent more than its citizens can afford. Look at those clamoring for taxes increases – politicians that have purchased votes with your hard earned money and those on the winning side of the tax and spend ledger.
“Symbolic” state spending cuts may fool some into believing Corzine’s budget plans call for a shared sacrifice, but these token cuts are all mere window dressing. Look no further than Corzine’s pledge to increase state spending by one-half billion dollars in just one of his steps along the path to “universal healthcare.”
The key to revitalizing New Jersey’s financial health is to:
- Roll back the McGreevey/Codey state spending increases
Reduce benefits to all government workers in-line with private sector employees and not just new hires (New government hires should be few and only as replacements for essential positions)
Revise the property tax relief funding formula to bring about greater parity in aid to municipalities and per student spending in the state’s public schools
Place a moratorium on state funded school construction
Cut taxes to stimulate the state’s economy and high-paying job creation.
It’s not possible to tax people or the state into prosperity. Many have tired, all have failed. And if you need an example, just remember New Jersey.
Update: A Blog For All - You Were Warned: “Indeed, throughout New Jersey, retail is doing quite well. But don't expect it to last if the taxes go up. That rosy retail picture can quickly change if the imposition of sales tax [on clothers]drives off consumers to other places.” “Make no doubt about it. No matter how much any of those taxes are increased, it will not solve the budget woes.”
Dynamobuzz - That Didn’t Take Long: “Jon Corzine inaugurated as New Jersey governor: January 17, 2006. Plans to increase taxes on the already over-taxed New Jersey residents: January 26, 2006. I think Jim Florio took at least a month of posturing before initiating his tax increases. Corzine has done the same in less than two weeks”
Judge Alito Has Friends in Pennsylvania – Not New Jersey
Pennsylvania Democrat, Robert Casey, running against Senator Rick Santorum for the U.S. Senate, announced yesterday that he supports confirming Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Casey's announcement came hours after Gov. Ed Rendell (D-PA), an abortion-rights supporter and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said he thinks Alito ought to be confirmed. Rendell’s wife Midge serves with Alito on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals,
Now in Alito's home state of New Jersey it's a different story. Former Senator and now-Governor Corzine (D-NJ) skipped the traditional role of introducing a constituent to the Senate as a Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) remains undecided. "This is a man who is very capable. It's a question of how he uses those capabilities. That's the question for me. I want to wait until we uncover everything we can about his views," Lautenberg said.
Newly appointed Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), who succeeded Gov. Corzine in the U.S. Senate, said he is still reviewing the notes of a 45-minute conversation he had with Alito last week and hopes to have a decision by the end of the week.
Menendez said he remained concerned about whether Alito would be independent of the president and the executive branch.
State Senator, Tom Kean (R-NJ) supports Judge Alito’s nomination and urged the members of the United States Senate to confirm the Judge. Kean is the presumptive Republican nominee in this year’s senate race against Menendez.
Update: Rasmussen Reports: Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans believe Samuel Alito is likely to be confirmed and serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. In every state that Rasmussen polled on this topic, a plurality or majority believe Alito should be confirmed. In New Jersey, 53% favor Alito’s confirmation, 28% oppose.
Hillary Clinton Vs. Condi Rice
Most voters now say there's no way they'd vote for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008 - while just 16 percent are firmly in her camp, a stunning new poll shows.We’d like to see Condi Rice run for President, although she probably won’t. Still it’s good to see Secretary of State Rice is more popular than Senator Clinton.
CNNGALLUP found that 51 percent say they definitely won't vote for Clinton (D-N.Y.) in 2008, another 32 percent might consider it, and only 16 percent vow to back her. That means committed anti-Hillary voters outnumber pro-Hillary voters by 3-1. The poll suggests she can forget about crossover votes - 90 percent of Republicans and 75 percent of conservatives say there's no way they'd back her.
Meanwhile, 46% said they would oppose Secretary of State Rice if she ran for President - a step Rice has repeatedly said she won't take.
Update - Riehl World View: Okay, now ask yourself, this is stunning and shocking as compared to what, exactly?
Was there another recent legitimate poll done showing her as a shoe in I missed? Has there been anything other than some MSM talking heads who perhaps love to coo over Hillary's political potential telling us anything contrary to this poll? If so, I'm unaware of it.
Teach Your Children Well - II
Michael was sent from school for violating a school district policy.
Michael was “livid” and thought “his rights were being violated”.
Michael and his mother said they "forgot" about the school policy.
Michael’s antics at school the next two days were enough to earn him a seat in the principal's office "immediately"
"The entire protest was Michael's idea. My husband and I did not approve of this," Michael’s mother said. "We warned him that he would get into trouble.”
Laura Coviello, Michael’s mother said she spoke with schools Superintendent Joseph Luongo, who explained district policy.
Michael continued his “protest” and on the third day, Principal Peter O'Hare told Michael his behavior was disruptive.
Michael was given a note to bring home to his parents explaining that he was barred from continuing his “protest”.
That's when Laura Coviello contacted the ACLU.
"If Michael wants to protest, then he should have that right," Laura Coviello said.
After that, Michael continued his protest everyday.
Last week, the Coviellos, an ACLU representative and school administrators crafted a compromise
"This is the right outcome," ACLU attorney Jeanne LoCicero said in a written statement. Michael protested a "senseless, discriminatory school policy," she said.
What was Michael Coviello “protesting” and what “right” was the ACLU defending?
Fausta has the answer.
Where Do They Find Them?
Even though it has been widely reported that the search queries requested by the government cannot be traced to their source, and therefore no personal information about users would be given up, the Times managed to find these folks to quote:
Kathryn Hanson, 45, a former telecommunications engineer who lives in Oakland, Calif., immediately told her boyfriend she’d Googled 'rent boy,' just in case I got whisked off to some Navy prison in the dead of night," she said.Thankfully, the reporters were able to find two people with a logical reaction to the government’s request for the information as part of its effort to uphold an online pornography law.
Jim Kowats, 34, a television producer who lives in Washington, has been growing increasingly concerned about the government's data collection efforts. "Where does it stop?" he said. "What about file sharing? Scalping tickets? Or traveling to Cuba? What if you look up abortion? Who says you can't look up those things? What are the limits? It's the little chipping away. It's a slippery slope."
Mike Winkleman, 27, a law student who lives in Miami said he would like to think that the erosion of his privacy was for "a good cause, like national security or preventing child porn," he said. "But I can't help but feel that for each inch I give, a mile will be taken."
Sheryl Decker, 47, an information technology manager in Seattle, said she was now thinking twice about what she said in her personal e-mail correspondence. "I have been known to send very unflattering things about our government and our president," Ms. Decker said. "I still do, but I am careful about using certain phrases that I once wouldn't have given a second thought."
Genny Ballard, 36, a professor of Spanish at Centre College in Danville, Ky., said she had grown more conscious about what she typed into the Google search box.
Ming-Wai Farrell, 25, who works for a legal industry trade association in Washington, said: “It’s scary to think that it may just be a matter of time before Googling will invite an F.B.I. agent to tap your phone or interrogate you.
Josh Cohen 34, a financial adviser in Chicago said he was willing to accept that tradeoff in the pursuit of national security. "In order for the government to catch people that prey on children, or fight the war on terror, they are going to need the help of the search engines."And another question. Isn’t it a little strange that people so afraid of the government finding out about personal matters are willing to share these details, including their names for publication in the New York Times?
Mr. Cohen said he doubted there would be much compromising of his individual privacy because the amount of data collected by the government was so voluminous. "My rationale tells me that with close to 300 million people in the U.S., and about 45 to 50 percent of households having Internet access, that I don't need to be too concerned with my search engine behavior," he said.
Susan P. Crawford, a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in New York, agreed that the sheer volume of information obtained by the government was likely to dilute privacy threats.
"More experienced Internet users would understand that in the mountain of search-related data available in response to a subpoena, it is very unlikely that anything referring to them personally would be revealed," Professor Crawford said.
Eye Scan For New Jersey School
Funding for the project, more than $369,000, was made possibly by a school safety grant through the National Institute of Justice, a research branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.Gosh, only $369,000 – every school in New Jersey will need to install the equipment.
"The idea is to improve school safety for the children," said Phil Meara, superintendent, Freehold Borough School District, on Monday. "We had a swipe-card system that operated the doors, but the technology was obsolete."
Walter Perry Johnson Award: Blogs most Deserving of Wider Recognition
As Mister Snitch points out Wampum, has come up with the Koufax Award for blogs most deserving of wider recognition. Of course this in recognition of “lefty” blogs, no doubt named after the great left-hand pitcher – Sandy Koufax.
There are many blogs deserving of wider recognition and they are not all “lefties” So to honor “rightie” blogs, we are taking nominations for the Walter Perry Johnson Award for blogs most deserving of wider recognition.
To nominate a blog, submit the blog’s name and URL in the comments section of this post by no later than February 28. Winners will be awarded the cyber plaque shown at the right.
Note: We would have used the name of the greatest right-hand pitcher of all time – Cy Young – but another prestigious award already uses the name. To learn more about Hall of Famer, Walter Perry Johnson, check out this biography here and his stats here.
Who’s Out of the Mainstream?
Michelle Malkin has this quote from GOP Sen.Lindsay Graham at today’s Senate Judiciary Committee vote on Judge Samuel Alito:
Let me tell you another thing that's not good for the country. [Reading from a news article:] "With little chance of stopping Judge Alito's confirmation to the Supreme Court, Senate Democratic leaders urged their members to vote against him in an effort to lay the groundwork for making a campaign issue of his decisions on the court."Graham’s statement reminds us of this quote in an article by Democrat operative, Dan Gerstein in Sunday’s Wall Street Journal:
I'll just tell you right now. We welcome that debate. We'll clean your clock.
I mean, Judge Alito is closer to the mainstream of America than Citizens (sic) for an American Way.
We'll win that debate, but the judiciary will lose if we continue to do this.
We don't have any leader in power who will tell our base that we're not going to become a majority party again by telling the majority they're out of the mainstream.
Manzo's Property Tax Relief Plan
Based on a plan developed by the New Jersey Coalition for Property Tax Reform and refined by Manzo, the state would impose a 25 percent surtax on state income taxes and eliminate property tax rebates to generate a combined $3.3 billion. Manzo would use these funds to “to cut school property tax bills in half.”
Call us skeptical. Last year New Jersey’s municipalities collected $19.5 billion in property taxes and will certainly collect more in 2006. Property taxes pay 60% of the total coast of public school education in the state or about $12 billion. Obviously half of $12 billion is not $3.3 billion.
To mitigate the need for higher property taxes and to bring about parity in per student spending throughout the state, New Jersey introduced the income tax in 1975. New Jersey’s Constitution stipulates revenue from the income tax can only be used to reduce the public school portion of property tax bills.
This year New Jersey will collect a minimum of $9.5 billion in revenue from the state’s income tax and all of it will be distributed to municipalities for the sole purpose of reducing property tax bills. However, property tax relief is not allocated in a fair and equitable manner.
Homeowners living in New Jersey’s urban centers receive huge property tax reductions, while those living in rural and suburban towns receive little in the way of relief. Families with identical incomes and home values receive wildly different property tax relief from the state under the present system. This inequality has led to the current property tax crisis in New Jersey.
Parity in per student spending has long since been achieved and then exceeded in New Jersey’s “needy schools”. In every case an Abbott School spends far more per pupil than its non-Abbott School counterpart. For example, Haddonfield’s (Camden County) average cost per student is $10,658 while Camden (Camden County) spends an average of $15,091. That’s a 42% difference in spending per student. State property tax relief for a Camden homeowner is $10,654, a Haddonfield homeowner benefits from a $385 reduction.
This inequality is further exacerbated with the allocation of state school construction funding. Abbott School construction is paid 100% by the state, while rural and suburban towns receive little or no financial assistance. Is it any wonder a Star-Ledger analysis found school contraction costs were an average 45 percent higher for schools built with state funds versus those built with local funding?
Assemblyman Louis Manzo pays $5,887 in property taxes on his residence in Jersey City, $20 more than the average $5,867 property tax bill in the state. Manzo has his school tax bill reduced by $11,057 out of the state’s income tax fund – nearly twice the property tax bill he pays.
The average spending per student in Jersey City is $14,420. Compare this to per student spending in Millburn of $11,820 and state property tax relief of $472 per homeowner. No surprise a recent Millburn school bond referendum was soundly defeated by voters, Millburn’s property taxes are already among the highest in the state.
Manzo would like to increase the income tax to provide homeowners and renters with an average of $1,500 in school tax relief. We’ve seen how well the income tax has worked to reduce school taxes. It hasn’t. New Jersey has the highest property taxes in the nation. Now Manzo and his pals are working toward making the state’s income tax the highest in the country.
Manzo is offering more of the same - inequitable school spending, inequitable property tax relief and higher taxes. No thanks.
Anyway, see what this long forgotten cartoon has to do with the Sunday morning talk shows and Mary Matalin over at Betsy’s Page. We’re still laughing over this one.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 36
Deal for Stadium in New Jersey Gives Teams Reason to Cheer
One reason – politicians make decisions based upon political considerations and not sound business or financial calculations. The state's deal on the sports stadium and property in the Meadowlands is just one sad example.
In his farewell address last week as governor of New Jersey, Dick Codey highlighted his deal to build a new stadium in the Meadowlands as an accomplishment.
"We watched a new day rise in the Meadowlands with the Giants and the Jets working together to build a new stadium at no cost to the taxpayers," said Mr. Codey, who has described the deal as a win-win for the football teams and for New Jersey residents.The Giants and the Jets will make a killing. Here’s what they get:
But as any fan knows, some wins are more lopsided than others. The new, 80,000-seat stadium promises to be a gold mine for the teams, and something less than that for the taxpayers.
- $183.9 million a year from advertising and premium seats
- $100 million for each team in annual media revenues
- $55 million in ticket sales for each team
- $17.5 million a year for the stadium's naming rights
- $35 million a year from corporate sponsors and advertisers whose logos will adorn the stadium
- $30.8 million a year for club seats
- $102.8 million a year for luxury suites
- Ability to develop the property with 520,000 square feet of restaurants, ports stores, entertainment facilities, health and fitness centers and halls of fame and millions more in profit
- $100 - $124 million in debt on the old stadium
- $30 million bill for utilities, sewers and other infrastructure for the new stadium
- Loss of the revenue, about $19 million, the state currently gets from parking, luxury suites and advertising under the current lease
- New Jersey must acquire 20 acres in northern New Jersey for a Jets headquarters and training facility
- The Giants are getting the free use of 20 acres in the Meadowlands for training fields
- A total of $5 million a year in rent from the Jets and the Giants for the next 25 years
- In lieu of taxes the teams will pay a combined $1.3 million for the next 15 years
- Sales tax revenue from tickets, merchandise and concessions and income taxes from the players for the days they are in the state
- Two New York football teams - they won't even use New Jersey in their names
George Zoffinger, the chief executive of the sports authority, was a vociferous critic of what he described as the one-sided nature of the new deal. But he was overruled by Mr. Codey.You have to ask yourself why Codey did.
Update: The Star-Ledger - Concerns about whether the state got a fair deal were raised after the teams floated a prospectus among investment bankers earlier this week in an effort to financing for stadium construction.
"It's 183 for the Giants and the Jets to five for the state of New Jersey," said George Zoffinger, executive director of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority.We have been witting for well over a year (see previous posts below) that the various stadium deals reported in the press were bad for New Jersey. Codey wanted a deal come hell or high-water and as we previously pointed out:
"Serious questions have to be raised about the financial adviser to the governor in negotiating this deal," Zoffinger said. "Codey would have been better off with Sponge Bob Squarepants as his adviser."
During the gubernatorial campaign last fall, Corzine would not say what he thought of the deal: "I have no idea. I haven't seen the numbers."Now we learn:
Codey said Corzine never expressed concerns over finances when the two spoke during negotiations last fall. His singular worry, Codey said, was that the Jets and Giants were both part of the package, which they are.The current stadium deal is not final and Governor Jon Corzine can order the Sports Authority and the football team owners back to the negotiating table. He should.
When Corzine was running for Governor he liked to bill himself as “among his party's chief economic and finance experts” and in the later months of the campaign promoted himself as “one of the nation’s foremost experts on the economy and financial markets”.
Let’s see if Corzine proves any better than Sponge Bob Squarepants.
Kill The Deal With The New York Giants
The Opportunity Cost Of The Giant’s Stadium Deal
Giant Rip Off
We Want Our Bread, Not Circuses
The Fine Print Of The Giants Deal
Giants Stadium Was Always A Bad Deal For Taxpayers
Deal For New Giants Stadium Stalled
Democrat’s Priorities Inconsistent With Rhetoric.
NJ Taxpayers Still Owe $117 Million On Giants.Stadium
NJ Sweetens Stadium Offer To NY Giants
NY Jets - The Other NJ Football Team
Codey Eliminates “Pay To Play” For New York Giants.
NY Giants Seek New $700M Stadium In NJ
Corzine Looks To Add Half-Billion Dollars To New Jersey’s Budget Woes
"One of the priorities that will actually get funded is that we get on that pathway to full insurance for all children," he said.
Corzine made the pledge as the Association for Children of New Jersey released Kids Count, its annual report on the welfare of the state's children.
Taxpayers currently pay more than $1 billion to insure 539,000 or 25 percent of New Jersey's children through Medicaid. Beyond Medicaid, more than 110,000 children are insured by taxpayers through KidsCare at a cost of more than $175 million. All New Jersey children with a family income up to $65,975, for a family of four, are eligible for coverage under the program. Income eligibility under KidsCare rises to $102,000 for larger families.
So who are these 259,000 children Gov.Corzine would like us to insure? According to Kids Count they are the children of immigrants. More precisely, illegal immigrants, as legal immigrants are already eligible for benefits under both Medicaid and KidsCare.
Why should the taxpayers of New Jersey pay for medical insurance for people with no right to be in New Jersey in the first place? We are not suggesting medical treatment should be denied to anyone in need, but taxpayer funded insurance for illegal aliens is ridiculous. The state should be making every effort to deport those here illegally, not extending benefits the state can not afford.
"You have to make tough choices," Corzine said. "One of those tough choices is that our children come first."
That’s just it Governor Corzine, our children come first, not those here illegally and belonging to other countries. From now on we’ll know when you refer to “tough choices” you mean more spending and higher taxes.
Oh, and Governor if you are looking for a way to cut property taxes – try multiplying 259,000 illegal alien children attending the state’s public schools by the average cost per student of $14,000 and you’ll have $3.6 billion.
Is Menendez Leaning Towards a No Vote on Alito?
New Jersey's new Senator, Democrat Robert Menendez, says he has reservations about voting for Supreme Court nominee, Samuel Alito. He met with Alito, a fellow New Jerseyan, for about 45 minutes on Capitol Hill today.Not a good start to your Senate career Mr. Menendez. There’s more to New Jersey than Hudson County and left-wing Democrats. The voters in the Garden State will not remember you kindly in the voting booth if you vote against a highly qualified federal judge from your own state.
Menendez says the two spent the bulk of the time talking about the landmark abortion case, Roe v. Wade. He says he's concerned that Judge Alito won't say whether Roe is settled law.
New Jersey's other Senator, Democrat Frank Lautenberg, has not said how he would vote.
Call our Senators and tell them to vote yes on Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Senator Frank Lautenberg - 202-224-3224
Senator Bob Menendez - 202-224-4744
More on the Alito Confirmation:
NJ Democrat Del Tufo For Alito Confirmation
Tell Lautenberg and Menendez To Vote Yes On Alito
Alito And The "Vanguard" Case
Building The Case Against Alito
Samuel Alito – The Next Supreme Court Justice
NJ Democrat Del Tufo For Alito Confirmation
"I'm a Democrat, actually I'm a very liberal Democrat and Sam's qualifications to serve on the Supreme Court are unassailable," said Yale law professor J.L. Pottenger. "To see the ad "Shameful" click here.
He understands that a judge is not a policy maker. I resent the political partisan attacks on Sam Alito."
"He does not have a partisan bone in his body nor an ideological bent," echoed former Attorney General Robert Del Tufo (D-NJ). "He would certainly be a credit to this country."
Call our Senators and tell them to vote yes on Judge Samuel Alito’s confirmation to the Supreme Court.
Senator Frank Lautenberg - 202-224-3224
Senator Bob Menendez - 202-224-4744
Osama bin Laden Parrots American Left
Osama bin Laden warned that al Qaeda was preparing new attacks inside the United States, but said the group was open to a conditional truce with Americans, according to an audio tape attributed to him on Thursday.How can you tell when you’re winning a war? When the enemy starts calling for a truce.
He said insurgents were winning the conflict in Iraq and warned that security measures in the West and the United States could not prevent attacks there.
"The proof of that is the explosions you have seen in the capitals of European nations," he said "The delay in similar operations happening in America has not been because of failure to break through your security measures. The operations are under preparation and you will see them in your homes the minute they are through (with preparations), with God's permission."
"Your President is misinterpreting public opinion polls which show that the vast majority of you support the withdrawal of your forces from Iraq," bin Laden said.
"He (Bush) disagreed with this desire and said the withdrawal of troops will give the wrong message to the enemy and that it is better to fight them on their ground than on our ground."
He also said Iraq had become a recruiting ground for militants. Al Qaeda in Iraq, led by close bin Laden ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is one of several insurgent groups fighting U.S. and foreign forces in Iraq. U.S. and Iraqi officials say many of their members are non-Iraqis.
In the tape, bin Laden said al Qaeda was willing to respond to U.S. public opinion supporting an American troop pullout from Iraq. He did not specify conditions for the truce, but indicated it was linked to U.S. troops quitting Iraq.
Update: Good grief – the folks at Little Green Footballs has brought this to our attention:
"This Associated Press photo caption refers to Bin Laden as an “exiled Saudi dissident:” Osama bin Laden on Yahoo! News Photos."
Tell Lautenberg and Menendez To Vote Yes On Alito
This brings us to wondering how Senator Frank Lautenberg and the newly minted Senator Bob Menendez will vote on Alito’s confirmation. Will they vote against confirmation to placate the extreme left in New Jersey’s Democratic Party or will they vote to confirm a highly qualified Federal Appeals Court Judge?
Does it matter what the people of New Jersey prefer or do Lautenberg and Menendez believe only activists in their party will pay attention and a vote against confirming Alto is politically expedient?
Judge Alito will be confirmed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court with or without the support of the Senators from New Jersey. It will be a sad day if Lautenberg and Menendez vote against one of their own constituents merely out of partisan vindictiveness and for show.
Why not give our senators a call and let them know Judge Alito has your support and deserves a yes vote for confirmation. You can tell them you’re not alone in your opinion, the state’s newspaper of record, the Star-Ledger agrees in their editorial Confirm Alito to the court.
Senator Frank Lautenberg - 202-224-3224
Senator Bob Menendez - 202-224-4744
Jon Corzine was inaugurated as New Jersey’s 54th governor yesterday, a fact that should make everyone in the Garden State grab their wallets and expect four more years of life as an extra in the movie Groundhog Day.
The only good thing about this is that he is no longer in the United States Senate. Corzine, an independently wealthy former head of Goldman Sachs who has been a reliable liberal vote in Washington for five years, pledged yesterday to reduce property taxes, clean up corruption and restore public trust in state government.
I was impressed that Corzine could say all of this with a straight face and while the Bible upon which he swore his oath was still nearby.
Corzine’s Inaugural Address as Governor of New Jersey
New Jersey has collected 31% more from income taxes and 10% more in sales taxes in just the past two years alone. The “state is pretty much broke” because state spending has increased by 60% since 2001 from $21.3 billion to the $34 billion budget Corzine faces today.
New Jersey’s treasury was “flush with money”. However, rather than acting responsibly, our representatives in Trenton spent all the additional tax revenue and didn’t stop until the state was facing a $5.3 billion budget deficit and untold billions more in long-term debt. This is spending beyond your means and then some.
Governor Corzine says New Jersey “must learn to live within its means”. We agree and hope Corzine will bring a business approach to the fiscal disaster the state now faces. The budget axe should be his first tool of choice and we are heartened by Corzine’s recognition that Trenton “much change how our government does business, and we must remember, it is the people for whom we work”. For too long the taxpayer has been working for the government and Corzine’s acknowledgment of this fact is a good start.
Governor Corzine asks only one thing of the citizens of New Jersey - hold him accountable. He can count on us to do just that.
I know you share my belief that it is time for us to change all of that -- time for change, not because I am a new governor or because I am so righteous, but because it is the right thing to do and the public demands it. There was a clear message heard last fall: we must change how our government does business, and we must remember, it is the people for whom we work.
To earn the public trust, we must act, but we also must trust the people with the truth. We cannot build a financial future on the crumbling, papered-over foundation of a recurring fiscal crisis. Too often, for too long, under both parties, fiscal gimmicks have been invented, recycled, and reapplied to mask fiscal realities. As Governor Codey said in November, his transition report can be summed up simply: “the state is pretty much broke.”
The process of reestablishing our financial integrity will not be painless. Tough choices are ahead. I would prefer to be a governor with a public treasury flush with money to spend on good things for our state or further reduce the people’s tax burden. But that is not the hand we have been dealt. And it is our task to do the best we can with today’s stark realities. The state, like every responsible family, must learn to live within its means.
New Jersey’s prosperity is challenged by the deteriorating fundamentals of our economy. To put it simply, we are growing too few jobs, losing high paying, value-added jobs and replacing them with lower paying service work.
Economic growth and social justice need not be adversaries. With a policy and economic strategy to “invest, grow and prosper” we can and we will overcome our current problems, and meet future challenges.
So I call on all my fellow public servants to join in an historic effort to end the toxic mix of politics, money and public business – at every level of New Jersey government.
We will examine every program, measure performance, demand more for less, and root out spending that merely serves political not public purposes.
So I close with a simple pledge: that in the choices I make as your Governor, I will be guided by one principle – What is best for New Jersey.
And, in turn, I ask you – the citizens of New Jersey, hold me accountable.
Judge Alito should be confirmed, both because of his positive qualities as an appellate judge and because of the dangerous precedent his rejection would set.Senator Dianne Feinstein agrees, but she doesn’t plan to vote for Alito’s confirmation:
Judge Alito is superbly qualified. His record on the bench is that of a thoughtful conservative, not a raging ideologue. He pays careful attention to the record and doesn't reach for the political outcomes he desires. His colleagues of all stripes speak highly of him. His integrity, notwithstanding efforts to smear him, remains unimpeached.
It's fair to guess that Judge Alito will favor a judiciary that exercises restraint and does not substitute its judgment for that of the political branches in areas of their competence. That's not all bad. The Supreme Court sports a great range of ideological diversity but less disagreement about the scope of proper judicial power. The institutional self-discipline and modesty that both Judge Alito and Chief Justice Roberts profess could do the court good if taken seriously and applied apolitically.
Supreme Court confirmations have never been free of politics, but neither has their history generally been one of party-line votes or of ideology as the determinative factor. To go down that road is to believe that there exists a Democratic law and a Republican law -- which is repugnant to the ideal of the rule of law. However one reasonably defines the "mainstream" of contemporary jurisprudence, Judge Alito's work lies within it.
"This might be a man I disagree with, but it doesn't mean he shouldn't be on the court."Voting against confirming Judge Alito is not good enough, Senator Feinstein. You’re supposed to be hysterical at the prospect of a Supreme Court Justice Alito, no matter how qualified he is for the position.
"Dianne Feinstein's comment is very disturbing," said Kate Michelman, the former president of Naral Pro-Choice America and a witness against Mr. Alito at the confirmation hearings.Ah yes, the pro-choice groups, opposing every Republican nomination supposedly because the balance of the court would be changed and abortion rights would end. How many times can these groups cry wolf?
Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and a supporter of abortion rights, called abortion the "dominant issue" of the hearings:
Mr. Specter said he would vote for confirmation and …he said it was impossible to know how Judge Alito might vote as a Supreme Court justice. He said abortion rights groups had also opposed Justice David Souter, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor - all Republican nominees who have voted from the bench to uphold the core abortion rights precedents.
Carnival of the New Jersey Bloggers # 35
Stupid in America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids
Tonight John Stossel will host an ABC News special at 10 pm called "Stupid in America: How We Are Cheating Our Kids."
From today’s Political Diary from Opinion Journal (subscription required):
Stossel takes his cameras overseas to reveal how other countries are using choice and competition to better educate their young people. As an illustration, he gave identical tests to high school students in New Jersey and Belgium. The Jersey students were from an above-average school whose test scores were significantly better than those at most U.S. schools. Yet the scores of the Belgian kids were vastly superior.
"It has to be something with the school," a New Jersey student told Mr. Stossel after seeing the test results, "because I don't think we're stupider."
At age 10, U.S. students place a respectable eighth on a standardized test used in two dozen countries, scoring well in all categories. By age 15, however, on a test used by 40 countries, Americans place 25th, well below the international average. "In other words, the longer American kids stay in American schools, the worse they do," Mr. Stossel concludes. "They do worse than kids from much poorer countries, like Korea and Poland."
Mr. Stossel's TV special puts the blame squarely on the U.S. public education monopoly.
Alito And The "Vanguard" Case
In 2002, Judge Alito sat on the initial appeal in a case involving two people with a financial dispute. One person was suing another over $170,000 being held in Vanguard (mutual fund) accounts. The question was whether Vanguard should transfer some of the funds it held for one person to another. The dispute was between two people and not a “little guy” versus the “big guy” Vanguard. Vanguard was involved in the case to the extent the firm would be required to take action to the benefit or detriment of one of the two parties, depending on the court’s ruling.
After the case was decided, Alito received a recusal motion from the losing party. The legal code of conduct did not require Alito to recuse himself, although he did and the case was retried. Ultimately a new panel of judges heard the case and ruled the same as had Judge Alito’s panel, which ruled the same as the lower district court.
Experts on legal ethics have since looked into the Alito/Vanguard resucal matter and have found that Alito was not ethically or legally required to recuse himself, although in fact he did, and the case was reheard.
Senator Kennedy has repeatedly tried to imply Judge Alito acted improperly, unethically or perhaps illegally in this “Vanguard” case and was motivated to do so for financial gain. Kennedy asks Alito: “In 1990, you owned $80,000 of Vanguard funds. Is that right? And over the year it grew to hundreds of thousands. Is that correct?”
Kennedy makes much of whether or not Vanguard was on Alito’s resucal list, but fails to mention the Judge had recused himself in all other cases involving Vanguard and ultimately did so in this case – BASED ON HIS OWN DECISION.
The Senator obviously knows Altito had nothing to gain or lose personally by sitting on this case and he knows legal ethics experts have found Alito did nothing wrong. Kennedy knows Alito went above and beyond what was legally or ethically required and yet he persists in impugning Judge Alito’s honesty and integrity.
Now you have to ask yourself why Kennedy would stoop so low in an attempt to smear and destroy a man with a clear record of impartiality and personal integrity? The answer is obvious – Kennedy lacks the very qualities Alito has consistently demonstrated in all aspects of his professional and private life.
Below are relevant sections of the Senate hearing transcripts, with links, providing the facts for those that may have misled by Democrat distortions of the record or superficial media accounts.
Day 2 Transcript – Senator DeWine summarizes the “Vanguard” Case
DEWINE: And, finally, let me add my two cents on this Vanguard issue. I'm going take it from a little different perspective than has been done so far.
To me, this is really a non-issue. In the so-called Vanguard lawsuit, two people were in a financial dispute. The plaintiff sued to force the defendant to turn over $170,000 held by him in some Vanguard accounts. The defendant went to court to prevent Vanguard from turning over the money.
Now, while Vanguard was technically part of the suit, and was technically a defendant, it wasn't really a defendant in any sense of the term that would be used by the public or understood by the public. It was not accused of any wrongdoing. It didn't stand to lose anything.
Really, the only question was whether Vanguard would transfer some of the funds it held for one person over to another. It was simply being asked: Who do I pay the money to? Who do I give the money to? That's all Vanguard was being asked to do. So nothing in the classic sense of being a defendant. Nothing about this case could realistically have affected Vanguard as a company, let alone -- let alone affected your mutual funds. It's a joke. It's ridiculous. It's absurd. And everybody on this panel knows that.
Now, for the sake of the process, I hope we can put these issues behind us.
Transcript Day 2 - Judge Alito Explains The “Vanguard“ Recusal Issue
ALITO: Thank you, Senator.
And I appreciate the opportunity to address this, because a lot's been said about it, and very little by me.
And I think that once the facts are set out, I think that everybody will realize that in this instance I not only complied with the ethical rules that are binding on federal judges -- and they're very strict -- but also that I did what I've tried to do throughout my career as a judge, and that is to go beyond the letter of the ethics rules and to avoid any situation where there might be an ethical question raised. And is a case that came up in 2002, 12 years after I took the bench, and I acknowledged that if I had to do it over again, there are things that I would have done differently. And it's not because I violated any ethical standard, but it's because when this case first came before me, I did not focus on the issue of recusal and apply my own personal standard, which is to go beyond what the code of conduct for judges requires.
This was a pro se case, and we take our pro se cases very seriously.
HATCH: By pro se...
ALITO: It's a case where the plaintiff was not represented by a lawyer. She was representing...
HATCH: She was paying for her own counsel and represented herself.
ALITO: She represented herself initially, and we take those very seriously. We give those just as much consideration, in fact more consideration in many respects than we do with the cases without lawyers because we take into account that somebody who is representing himself or herself can't be expected to comply with all the legal technicalities.
But, for whatever reason, our court system for handling the monitoring of recusals in these pro se cases is different from the system that we use in the cases with lawyers, and maybe that's because recusal issues don't come up very often in pro se cases.
But in any event, in a case with a lawyer, before the case is ever sent to us, we receive what are known as clearance sheets, and those are -- it's a sheet of -- it's a stack of papers, and it lists all the cases that the clerk's office is thinking of sending to us. It lists the parties in each case, and it lists the lawyers in each case, and it says, "Do you need to recuse yourself in any of these cases?"
And this is the time when the judges -- and this is the time when I focus on the issue of recusal. And I look at each case, I look at the parties, I look at the lawyers, and I ask myself, "Is there a reason why I should not participate in the case?"
Now, because this case, the Monga case, was a pro se case, it didn't come to me with clearance sheets. I just received the briefs, and it had been through our staff attorney's office.
They take a first look at the pro se cases, and they try to make sure -- they try to translate the pro se arguments into the sort of legal arguments that lawyers would make, to help the pro se litigants. And they give us a recommended disposition and a draft opinion.
And when this came to me, I just didn't focus on the issue of recusal. And I sat on the initial appeal in the case.
ALITO: And then after the case was decided, I received a recusal motion. And I was quite concerned because I take my ethical responsibilities very seriously.
So I looked into the question of whether I was required, under the code, because I just wanted to see where the law was on this. Was I required, under the code of conduct, to recuse myself in this case?
And it seemed to me that I was not. And a number of legal experts, experts on legal ethics, have now looked into this question, and their conclusion is: No, I was not required to recuse. But I didn't stand on that because of my own personal policy of going beyond what the code requires.
So, I did recuse myself. And, not only that, I asked that the original decision in the case be vacated -- that is, wiped off the books -- and that the losing party in the case, the appellant, Ms. Monga, be given an entirely new appeal before an entirely new panel.
And that was done. And I wanted to make sure she did not go away from this case with the impression that she had gotten anything less than an absolutely fair hearing.
And then, beyond that, I realized that the fact that this had slipped through in a pro se case pointed to a bigger problem, and that was the absence of clearance sheets.
So, since that time, I have developed my own forms that I use in my own chambers. And, for pro se cases now, there's -- I have a red sheet of paper printed up, and it's red so nobody misses it. And when a pro se case comes in, it initially goes to my law clerks. And they prepare a clearance sheet for me in that case and then they do an initial check to see whether they spot any recusal problem.
And if they don't, then there's a space at the bottom where they initial it. And then it comes to me, and there's a space at the bottom for me to initial to make sure that I focus on the recusal problem.
And in very bold print at the bottom of the sheet, for my secretary, it says: No vote is to be sent in in this case unless this form is completely filled out.
ALITO: So there are a number of internal checks now in my own office to make sure that I follow my own policy of going beyond what the code requires.
HATCH: In other words, there was never any possibility of you benefiting financially, no matter how that case came out, is that right?
ALITO: There was absolutely no chance and...
HATCH: You actually did recuse yourself when the question was eventually raised, even though you didn't have to?
ALITO: That's correct, Senator.
HATCH: Did you genuinely feel you were either legally or ethically required to recuse under those circumstances?
ALITO: I did not think the code required me...
HATCH: You were just going beyond, which has been your philosophy...
ALITO: That's right.
HATCH: ... and your personal ethical approach to it.
Well, your own conclusion certainly is supported by the independent ethics experts that you mentioned, who have recently examined this case. I know one of them is Professor Geoffery Hazard from the University of Pennsylvania.
Now, that name stuck out in particular because I remember when a financial conflict-of-interest issue arose in connection with the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. In 1994, Senator Kennedy and I -- we strongly defended the Breyer nomination. I did, too.
And during the hearing, Senator Kennedy highlighted a letter from Professor Geoffery Hazard to answer Justice Breyer's critics.
Well, Professor Hazard, he has examined this matter and concluded that you, Judge Alito, handled it, in his words, "quite properly."
Now, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to put not only Professor Hazard's letter into the record, but the letter of Stephen Lubet, Thomas Morgan and Professor Ronald Rotunda, all of whom found that you made no ethical mistakes.
SPECTER: Without objection, all will be made a part of the record.
HATCH: All right.
And let me just observe that these are all top ethics experts in our country today. And, you know, I have to say that Morgan of the George Washington University Law School, he happens to be the co- author of the nation's most widely read ethics textbook. Now, he was blunt in his assessment, saying that there was simply no basis for suggesting that you did anything improper.
So I'm glad to put those in the record.
Now, you actually did more than simply recusing yourself in this case. As you have explained, you have even set up a special system to make sure that this -- you know, that there never is going to be a question about this. And so you went farther than you were legally or ethically mandated to do.
ALITO: I did, Senator. And that is what I have tried to do throughout my time on the bench.
HATCH: When the new panel of judges looked at this case, how did they rule?
ALITO: They ruled the same way that we had, and we had ruled the same way that the district court did.
So let me just clarify this one more time, and you tell me if this accurately describes the situation.
You did not believe that you were ethically or legally required to recuse yourself in this case. All the ethics experts agree with you. Yet you recused yourself anyway when the issue was raised.
The party raising the issue got an entirely new hearing before a new and different panel of judges, who ruled the same way that you did originally.
Does that about sum it up?
ALITO: That's correct, Senator.
HATCH: Well, I have to say, Judge, that you went above and beyond your ethical duties here. And I think you're to be applauded, not to be criticized, for your rigorous attention to judicial impartiality and integrity.
Day 4 Transcript – Senator Kennedy Misleads on “Vanguard” Case
KENNEDY: I want to move on. I want to come back just briefly again to the Vanguard issue, which continues to trouble and puzzle me by your answers to me and others.
Now, just to get back to the starting point, in your sworn statement to the committee when you were nominated to the circuit court in 1990, on page 15 of that statement you wrote this about your recusal practices: "I do not believe that conflicts of interest relating to my financial interests are likely to arise. I would, however, disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard Companies."
KENNEDY: So according to your sworn promise, you were going to recuse yourself from cases involving the Vanguard Companies, is that correct?
ALITO: I said I would disqualify myself from any cases involving the Vanguard Companies.
KENNEDY: Recuse. All right.
You also said you'd recuse yourself from any case involving your sister's firm...
ALITO: That's correct.
KENNEDY: ... in cases in which you were involved in the U.S. Attorney's Office. Is that correct?
ALITO: Yes, that's correct.
KENNEDY: And there's been some discussion as to whether that commitment covered only the initial period of your judgeship. And I'm not going to go on into that. I'm not going into that.
I just want to know about the steps you took to meet your commitment to the committee even in the initial years. On Tuesday, you told Senator Feingold that you had no recollection of whether you put Vanguard on your recusal list when you were first appointed to the bench in 1990.
Is that still right?
ALITO: That's correct. I don't have the initial list that was submitted to the clerk's office. And I think I clarified, in response to Senator Feingold's question, that that is a list that is used by the clerk's office to make the first cut on recusal issues. But it is not by any means the last word.
And in 1990, you owned $80,000 of Vanguard funds. Is that right? And over the year it grew to hundreds of thousands. Is that correct?
ALITO: It grew, yes.
KENNEDY: So you were getting reports from Vanguard now either monthly or quarterly or annually, were you not -- reporting?
ALITO: Yes, I was.
KENNEDY: All during this period of time?
KENNEDY: Do you know whether Vanguard was on your recusal list in 1991?
ALITO: I don't know what was on the list that was with the clerk's office prior to the time when the system was computerized.
ALITO: And I have seen recently -- and I believe you have -- copies of the list that were on the computer. And those lists do not include Vanguard. There's no question about that.
KENNEDY: We received your standing recusal list from the 3rd Circuit earlier this week. It's dated January 28th, 1993. Vanguard is not on it. You have your sister's law firm on it, you have your cases from the U.S. Attorney's Office on it, but not Vanguard, your largest investment.
Here are the recusal lists for 1994, 1995, 1996 and Vanguard is not on it any of them either.
Do you have any reason to disagree with the report from the clerk of the court?
ALITO: I don't, Senator. I don't know whether -- I have no comment on the list. That's the list that they had. I don't know exactly how that list came about, but that's the list they have.
KENNEDY: What does it say at the top of 1/28/93 list under the date? As I understand it, it says no changes.
ALITO: As of 1/28/93, no changes. That's correct.
KENNEDY: This was '93. So there were no changes in that from '92. And you've listed probably eight or nine different items on there, have you not?
ALITO: There are eight items listed.
KENNEDY: OK. So you have eight items on there. Vanguard isn't on. And it says no changes from the previous year. So I assume that means '92 list was the same. So you did not have Vanguard on the '92 list either.
Do you remember whether you ever placed Vanguard on your recusal list at anytime between the time you were sworn in and January 1993?
ALITO: As I said, I don't have a copy of lists that predate this. In fact, I didn't have a copy of these lists. And I don't know -- obviously, I can't recall what was on their earlier list.
KENNEDY: Well, in 1994, you removed the U.S. Attorney's Office from your recusal list. Is that right?
KENNEDY: So you did revisit the recusal list at that time?
ALITO: I notified the clerk's office to take the U.S. Attorney's Office off the list. I actually think I have a copy of the letter that I sent there. I don't believe that I looked at the list and crossed it off the list.
I sent them a letter and I outlined -- I say, it's now been four years. This was another instance of my going beyond what I had to do. I recused myself in everything from the office, not just things that were there while I was in office.
And after the passage of four years, I thought that the cases that I had had any possible connection has washed out.
And so, I sent a letter, and have a copy of the letter, saying, take it off this list but notify the U.S. Attorney's Office and the public defender's offices that they should notify the clerk's office if any case comes up in which they have any reason to believe that any aspect of the case was in the U.S. Attorney's Office while I was there.
KENNEDY: Well, I just mentioned that one of the things you had to do was put Vanguard on the list, was it not, because you gave assurances to the committee, sworn testimony, that you were going to recuse yourself? That was one of the things.
ALITO: Senator, if it was not on the initial list, then that would be an oversight on my part. I said, in answering the question to the Senate, I don't believe conflicts of interest are likely to arise. They rarely do arise with respect to mutual funds.
That's one of the main reasons judges and other people who have to worry about conflicts, invest in mutual funds. And no Vanguard case -- no case involving Vanguard -- came before me for 12 years.
KENNEDY: Well, the point is judges, as I understand and as their responsibility, take the whole issue on recusal extremely seriously and review those lists very, very carefully. And given the assurances and the pledge and the promise under oath to the committee and not to find out that it's on your list.
And over the periods of these last weeks, we've heard so many explanations, Judge. This is what confuses us.
We heard, first of all, that it's a computer glitch. And then we hear, "Well, it doesn't really apply because it's an initial service list. So Vanguard didn't -- I wasn't in it because I didn't make the decisions on it until after I'd been in 12 years. I made the pledge to the committee. I don't know how good that pledge was, or how many years it was good, but that initial pledge -- initial service meant I didn't have to do it."
And then we heard the excuse, "Well, it was a pro se case, and we had different computers." That was what was mentioned in my office, "It's a pro se case, and we have different computers. They're different computers in the clerk's office than exist in the law firms here in Washington from all over the country."
I could never quite understand it, because pro se, obviously talking about individuals, you'd think that might even have a higher kind of a requirement.
But the facts are that you never put that Vanguard on your recusal list and all of these papers were in your control. And that, I think, is a matter of concern -- should be to all of us for the reasons.
ALITO: Senator, can I just say a brief comment on that?
I've tried to be as forthcoming in explaining what happened here as I possibly could be. And I am one of those judges that you described who take recusals very, very seriously. And I served for 15 and a half years. I sat on the merits on well over 4,000 cases.
ALITO: In addition to that, let me just mention the statistics for a recent year. And I think these are typical of my entire period of service.
During the last calendar year, I received over 500 petitions for rehearing -- most of those are in cases I didn't sit on initially; over 400 motions -- most of those are in cases that I didn't hear on the merits.
And many of those are just as important as appeals on the merits because they involve things like whether someone is going to be removed to a country where the person claims that they will be subjected to persecution or there are applications by habeas petitioners for permission to take an appeal in a habeas case. And if we don't issue the certificate of appealability, that's the end of the matter for that petitioner, who may be serving a very length sentence or a life sentence.
So we're talking about well over a thousand cases a year. And this is over a course of 15 years. This Monga case is one case -- and I've said there was an oversight on my part in not focusing on my personal practice when the issue came before me. And when the recusal issue was brought to my attention, I did everything that I could to make sure that nobody could come away from this with the impression that this Ms. Maharaj got anything other than an absolutely fair appeal.
But I've tried to explain the whole thing. I have not given conflicting answers. But I've been asked a number of different questions and there are a number of steps that were involved in what took place.
The fact that it was a pro se case -- I mention that not because the pro se cases are any less important than any other category of cases; they're very important. But it is the fact that our court uses a different system.
ALITO: For pro se cases, we don't have these clearance sheets. And that's when I have typically focused on the issue of recusal.