Get Great Deals At Get NJ

DiFrancesco goes public with stack of financial details

Originally appeared in the Star Ledger on 03/24/01

Acting Gov. Donald DiFrancesco, buffeted during his first days in office by revelations about his personal financial dealings during the past decade, released a mountain of documents yesterday that detailed his income, law firm clients and investments over the last six years.

"I'm tired of answering the questions of where this is from or that is from," DiFrancesco said last night, after waiting until the end of the weekly news cycle to make his disclosures. "So we thought, Give everybody everything, let them ask the questions and end it. That's what I was advised to do."

The records show:

Taken together, the documents DiFrancesco released yesterday sketch a picture of a complicated financial portfolio, including his $46,550 salary as Senate president, myriad stock and bond holdings, income from his law firm and rent payments from properties that he owns either wholly or in part.

DiFrancesco appears to have done particularly well on Wall Street during the soaring bull market of 1999 and 2000. According to records, he collected more than $100,000 through timely investments in the first-day offerings of sought-after stocks that are normally open only to insiders and institutional investors.

On at least eight occasions, DiFrancesco made thousands of dollars from investments he bought and sold within one day. For instance, DiFrancesco bought 100 shares of Palm Inc., a maker of handheld computers, for $3,800 on March 1 and sold them the next day for $10,890, the tax returns show.

A $2,800 buy into the initial public offering of Askjeeves, an Internet information company, performed even better. DiFrancesco's investment earned him a $10,246 profit when he sold his stock the next day for $13,046. Askjeeves, which DiFrancesco sold for $65 a share, is now trading at about $1.50 per share.

DiFrancesco also was among the New Jersey Republicans who collected gains from the initial public offering of Net2Phone. DiFrancesco bought 1,000 shares at $15 per share on July 29, 1999, and sold the stock the next day for $20,870. Former Gov. Christie Whitman's husband, John, and the former governor's chief of staff, Mike Torpey, also bought in.

DiFrancesco said yesterday that Sobel invited him to buy into the Net2Phone offering, but he said his wife handled most of the family's equity investments. He declined to answer specific questions about those investments. "You're going to have to ask Diane," he said of his wife, an insurance broker. "And I don't want you to ask Diane."

The reports show DiFrancesco briefly held a $25,000 stake in Glimcher Realty Trust, the company that developed the Jersey Gardens Mall in Elizabeth. Glimcher received more than $159 million in state-issued bonds and $15 million in other state funding to build the mall, which opened in 1999.

In addition, the developer benefited from state legislation, passed in 1997, that provided incentives to companies building on the sites of former landfills, as Glimcher did in Elizabeth. DiFrancesco held a $25,000 stake in Glimcher from Nov. 12, 1997, through Jan. 8, 1998, but gained only $26 when he sold the shares, the tax returns show.

The documents DiFrancesco released also listed his charitable contributions, which grew from $3,975 in 1996 to $14,294 in 2000. The list includes the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, the Little Sisters of the Poor and Eastern Paralyzed Victims. He also gave to his alma maters, Seton Hall and Penn State.

Other beneficiaries were Second Mile, a State College, Pa., charity for troubled children run by Jerry Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State; the Scotch Plains Policemen's Benevolent Association, and the Union County Police Chiefs Association. DiFrancesco did not, however, release the amounts he gave to each charity.

Political candidates in New Jersey are not required to release their tax returns, but it has become nearly routine for state gubernatorial candidates over the past decade. Despite his disclosures yesterday, a month after he promised to make them, DiFrancesco still came under attacks from his rivals.

"The full story is still not being told," contended Richard McGrath, a spokesman for McGreevey. "He did not disclose the years immediately preceding his becoming Senate president (in 1992). Full disclosure should show how his fortunes changed after assuming the power and influence of the top position in the Legislature."

McGreevey already has released his tax returns back to 1993, and McGrath said he is preparing to release five or six more years. "We'll go back as far as we need to . . . and we challenge him to do the same," McGrath said. Because McGreevey's income has come largely from his government salaries, his returns are far simpler than DiFrancesco's.

DiFrancesco's opponent, Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, said the acting governor should have released returns for every year since 1976, when he joined the Legislature. Schundler released his returns back to 1992, when he became mayor.

In addition to his financial data, DiFrancesco released some personal information that reporters have sought in recent weeks, including a copy of a Warren Township police report on a fatal traffic accident in December 1992 that involved DiFrancesco's longtime law partner, John Coley.

DiFrancesco was a front-seat passenger in a minivan being driven by Coley, who struck and killed a 77-year-old man standing in front of his home. Also in the van were Coley's family and DiFrancesco's wife. Coley was Warren Township municipal attorney at the time of the accident. No charges were filed by police.

Also included in the nearly 2-inch-high stack of documents DiFrancesco released yesterday was a press statement challenging his political opponents to be as thorough in their personal disclosures as he had been in his.

Democrats pounced on the release, printed on Office of the Governor stationery, arguing that DiFrancesco had used the resources of the governor's office improperly on a campaign matter.

Star-Ledger staff writers Ron Marsico, Ted Sherman, David Kinney and Brian Donohue contributed to this report.

Jersey City History
Your Ancestors' Story
Asbury Park
Bruce Springsteen's Jersey Shore Rock Haven!

The Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and The Central Railroad Terminal
Visit Liberty State Park!

Questions? Need more information about this Web Site? Contact us at:
297 Griffith St.
Jersey City, NJ 07307