Sunday, July 26, 2009

Corruption - Lessons Not Yet Learned

The corruption and money-laundering charges in the news last week were the third phase of investigations going back to 2002 in Monmouth and Ocean counties. This time, Hudson County officials were prominently represented. The magnitude of the arrests last week, with officials and religious leaders taken by the busload to appear in court, was shocking. But the alleged behavior was not unprecedented.

Take a look here at the 12-page press release and individual ones on each person charged. Then scroll down through the rest of the press releases for 2009 to see why New Jersey retains the title of "The Soprano State."

The recorded conversations that allegedly took place between the cooperating witness and the young Hoboken mayor are especially revealing of attitudes that shape political life. A cynical pattern of reward and punishment is seen here. Pay-to-play practices effectively sideline legitimate, honest businessmen and developers, or so it seems.

Some of the individuals have already stepped down from official posts, but Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, previously an attorney specializing in election law, has declared he will remain in office while fighting the charges against him. He won his seat less than a month ago. It is chilling to read his alleged words on how people will be treated according to their degree of allegiance to his campaign.

Maybe any aspiring politician should sit down and read all of last week's press releases on the arrests. Some of the defendants assure the cooperating witness they have been laundering money for years. One even says he has been involved in selling human kidneys for years. But the proverbial long arm of the law has now collared these persons and they face possible loss not only of honor and status, but of their personal freedom as well.

Many New Jersey residents long for the day when such news stories will become rare and the stigma of corruption will fade. It will all depend on how well current and future politicians and community leaders take the lesson delivered last week.

--Bernice Paglia


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