Tuesday, July 13, 2004
THE GOVERNOR & THE PRINCE: NEW JERSEY DEMOCRAT MCGREEVEY USED 'MACHIAVELLI' AS A CODE WORD FOR EXTORTION DEAL
What does a New Jersey governor have in common with an Italian philosopher? About $40,000 in extorted campaign donations
New Jersey governor, James McGreevey, is in a pickle. He's been identified as "State Official No. 1" mentioned in a federal indictment of a fund-raiser concerning an extortion deal. The fund raiser, David D'Amiano, met with farmer Mark Halper. Halper wanted to sell his 74 acre farm to a developer but government officials wanted it preserved as open space. The government threatened to invoke eminent domain and take the land for government use. D'Amiano told Halper that if he made a $40,000 contribution to the Democrats, the government would make a higher bid for his land.
The indictment, unsealed in Newark today, said McGreevey used the word ``Machiavelli'' during a meeting with the farmer. The fund-raiser, David D'Amiano, told the farmer before the meeting that McGreevey would use the word as a signal that the farmer's political contributions had bought influence with the governor, the indictment said.
Governor Jim McGreevey's subsequent explanation for using 'Machiavelli' in a conversation is laughable, priceless at best.
``Yes, I did use the word `Machiavelli,''' said McGreevey, 46, during press conference in Somerdale, New Jersey. ``It was not a code word. It was a literary allusion.''
The governor must surround himself with a literary crowd because 2 more New Jersey Democrats saw fit to bring up the literary allusion, too.
In conversations about the payments, D'Amiano once referred to the payments as ``mulch and topsoil'' and said Halper would have to pay ``20 loads and 20 loads'' to win his case in court and with the county, the indictment alleges.
Two unnamed state officials and several Middlesex County officials got involved in the case after D'Amiano intervened, the indictment said.
One ``top state official'' and one county official worked the name ``Machiavellian'' or ``Machiavelli'' into separate conversations with Halper to signal that they had agreed to help him, the indictment said.
D'Amiano had told the farmer in advance that the officials would mention the words as a sign that they would deliver on promises to intervene in the land sale, the indictment alleges.
There was a lot of back and forth on the land and extortion deal.
Piscataway officials have condemned the Halpers' 75-acre farm on South Washington Avenue. The township had offered $4.3 million in 1998, but the family balked, saying they didn't want to sell and the land was worth more. In 2002, the state offered the Halpers $3 million for preservation rights, but the family declined. In March 2003, Mark Halper wanted $10.5 million for the development rights to the farm, according to the indictment.
D'Amiano helped coordinate meetings between Mark Halper and DeAngelo and Kelso where the county officials offered a compromise amount -- nearly $7.4 million to preserve the property as farmland.
For further discussion about extortion deals, ahem, literary allusions, check out the following articles...
1. Bloomberg, July 6: McGreevey Says He Is Unnamed `Official No. 1' in Bribery Case
2. NYTimes, July 6: A Fund-Raiser for McGreevey Is Indicted
3. NYTimes, July 6: The gov loves Cicero, too! Yes, McGreevey Said It, but Did He Know It Was a Code Word?
He gave a simple explanation for his reference to Machiavelli: he often drops the names of writers and political thinkers. Indeed, his aides said, he has invoked writers ranging from Cicero to John McCain.
4. NJ.com, July 7: After governor mentioned a book, the plot thickened
5. NYTimes, July 7: In the spirit of Clinton and Torricelli; When you're caught red-handed, blame the prosecutor. McGreevey Accuses U.S. Attorney of Smear
6. NJ.com, July 9: `Machiavelli' explanation twists, turns
"A literary allusion, give me a break," said one Democrat. "It makes things look worse, worse than I hope they are. No one believes you use Machiavelli to strike up a conversation with a dairy farmer."
7. Home News Tribune, July 10: Halper's wife cites meetings with gov
Amy Halper dismissed the explanations by McGreevey and Kelso, asking on the radio how many people in the course of a conversation spit out the name of the 16th-century Italian author.
"It was too much of a coincidence that that term was used," she said.
8. The Trentonian, July 11: McGreevey takes another near hit
The governor wasn't happy about the indictment, nor being named in the document, but what does he do when it goes public? He follows this little tidbit up with a 20-minute tirade to proclaim his innocence in the case. Thats the punchline. The people who are usually out front proclaiming their innocence early are usually the ones with the most to hide.
9. Home News Tribune, July 13: Governor admits he, Halper met three times