Main Menu | NJ Bicycle Routes | Great Jersey City Stories | New Jersey History | Hudson County Politics | Hudson County Facts | New Jersey Mafia | Hal Turner, FBI Informant | Email this Page
Removing Viruses and Spyware | Reinstalling Windows XP | Reset Windows XP or Vista Passwords | Windows Blue Screen of Death | Computer Noise | Don't Trust External Hard Drives! | Jersey City Computer Repair
Advertise Online SEO - Search Engine Optimization - Search Engine Marketing - SEM Domains For Sale George Washington Bridge Bike Path and Pedestrian Walkway Corona Extra Beer Subliminal Advertising Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs Pet Care The Tunnel Bar La Cosa Nostra Jersey City Free Books

State's Top Officials Find Spotlight a Little Too Hot

Originally appeared in The New York Times on Sunday, March 11, 2001
By David M. Halbfinger

David M. Halbfinger is Trenton bureau chief for The New York Times

Who has it worse: the acting governor or the junior justice?

There had to be some relief in the red-carpeted rooms of the State House this week, when testimony about Peter G. Verniero's role in delaying a federal inquiry into racial profiling finally knocked Donald T. DiFrancesco's financial affairs off the front pages.

But not much. The way things look now, a shift in focus to Justice Verniero, the former attorney general who was appointed to the state Supreme Court in 1999, will only replace a constant headache for Mr. DiFrancesco with a serious pain in the neck.

Each of these ranking Republicans -- like the state's Democratic senior senator, Robert Torricelli, who is ensnared in a campaign finance investigation -- finds himself caught in an unenviable position. Mr. DiFrancesco, who ascended to the nation's most powerful governorship on Feb. 1, enjoyed a two-week grace period before newspaper articles began appearing about his personal financial relationships over the years with friends and companies doing business with the state.

The latest, and arguably most damaging, was a report that K. Hovnanian Companies, the state's largest home builder, had provided Mr. DiFrancesco with $225,000 in 1996 to pay off a legal judgment obtained by a former friend. The friend had successfully sued Mr. DiFrancesco and two relatives over a long-unpaid loan for a project the relatives had been failing to develop for years.

David P. Rebovich, a political science professor at Rider University, said Mr. DiFrancesco's opponents were most likely to exploit any opportunity to portray him as beholden to the home-building industry.

"New Jerseyans are sensitive about overdevelopment, and about two sets of rules," Mr. Rebovich said. "I have trouble putting a screened-in porch in my backyard, but I see 250 town homes going up on what was a farmer's field across the street."

Mr. Rebovich said that at a minimum, the deal with Hovnanian undercuts Mr. DiFrancesco's preferred self-image. "What someone reading about this says is, this guy, who's running as a Republican populist, a New Jersey ethnic who's made good, really is a guy who runs with the wealthy," Mr. Rebovich added. "Half the people in New Jersey cant afford a Hovnanian town home, and Hovnanian's lending him $225,000? This guy can't relate to me."

Mr. DiFrancesco retains the stated confidence of Republican leaders, but several party officials here and at the county level privately expressed the hope that Mr. DiFrancesco has nothing more to fear from the media attention he is getting for the first time in his career.

That, of course, is no fault of Mr. DiFrancesco's, but one of the peculiarities of New Jersey's political institutions, including the press. It is a commonplace that only governors and those who have run for governor can become household names in this state, with its lack of a native television market to speak of and its keg-tapped-at-two-ends polarity. A corollary to that is that precious little attention is paid to anyone else, by the public or the news media.

And so a lawmaker for 25 years who rises steadily through the ranks on the twin pillars of middle-of-the-road politics and tremendous likability, at the brink of his greatest triumph, suddenly is confronted with a tidal wave of scrutiny.

Obscured for the moment, but certain to be revisited, was Mr. DiFrancesco's role in cobbling together the votes necessary for former Attorney General Verniero to win confirmation to the State Supreme Court in May 1999. At the time, Mr. DiFrancesco reportedly appealed to Republican senators' sense of party loyalty, winning a one-vote majority for Mr. Verniero, who was opposed by Democrats and three Republicans for being too inexperienced and too slow to respond to complaints of racial profiling by state troopers.

Now, of course, Mr. Verniero's own aides have testified to the Senate Judiciary Committee that he knew as early as May 1997 that racial profiling by the state police was extensive, and that although Mr. Verniero was told in July 1997 that the state police were searching vehicles driven by blacks and Hispanics far more often than those with white drivers, that information was withheld from the Justice Department.

Transcripts released this week show State Senator William L. Gormley, the Republican chairman, Senator John Lynch, the ranking Democrat, and Michael Chertoff, the veteran prosecutor serving as special counsel, all zeroing in on what and when Mr. Verniero knew about the alarming rate at which state troopers were obtaining consent to search cars driven by blacks and Hispanics.

Mr. Verniero's appearance before those three at a public hearing later this month promises to be a moment of high drama: a rare example of the purest bipartisanship, or confluence of ulterior motives masquerading as the absence of politics.

Mr. Lynch, who led the fight against Mr. Verniero and is a leading backer of James E. McGreevey, the probable Democratic candidate for governor, may well be out for vindication or political advantage.

Mr. Gormley, who defended Mr. Verniero and is forever angling for another run at statewide office, may well be motivated by revenge or sheer ambition.

Not at all, Mr. Gormley insists.

"It's what you should do for the state," he said. "You're talking about institutions. You're talking about the attorney general's office. You're talking about the state police. It's time for the Legislature to rise above partisanship."

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