/New Jersey Democrats split over anti-corruption efforts, and Cory Booker picks the wrong side

New Jersey Democrats split over anti-corruption efforts, and Cory Booker picks the wrong side

New Jersey Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy rests his hand on a box of petitions as he answers a question before delivering the petitions to meet Monday's deadline for candidates to file petitions to run, Monday, April 3, 2017, in Trenton, N.J. Monday marks the deadline for Democrats and Republicans thinking of jumping into this year's primary race for New Jersey governor. Independent candidates have until June 6 to collect the needed signatures and file paperwork to run. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

New Gov. Phil Murphy’s anti-corruption efforts threaten his agenda and reelection … and the support of Sen. Cory Booker.

New Jersey politics have never been accused of being clean, and for good reason. Now that rampant and systemic sleaze is threatening freshman Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy. 

The gist of the feud is South Jersey political boss and all-around a-hole George Norcross, an insurance mogul who has seemingly purchased the entire South Jersey Democratic establishment, and much of its statewide crew as well. Many of the seedy details can be found in this article, and this one, oh, and this one. But it can be neatly summed up like this: While Camden is facing public school closings because of a $27 million budgetary shortfall, Norcross and his allies have sucked up $1.1 billion in public subsidies and tax breaks supposedly designed to help places such as Camden. 

One of the marvels of this campaign season has been Sen. Cory Booker’s utter inability to get any traction in the Democratic primary. This morning I wondered, “When is he getting his CNN town hall?” Turns out he had it in March. He’s invisible even when he isn’t! So lots of respect for the primary electorate, distrustful of Booker’s recent ideological conversion.

Part of that distrust comes from his clear desire to associate himself with big money. It’s no accident that he’s been the top recipient of Wall Street money in Congress, receiving even more than Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer. Now, given the chance to stand for openness and accountability, Booker has sided with Norcross instead, against his governor’s attempts to root out waste and fraud. It fits his pattern. 

Meanwhile, Norcross’ response to Murphy’s interference in his sweet, sweet, taxpayer-funded schemes? He’s threatening the governor with a primary challenge while simultaneously using his puppets in the legislature to stymie Murphy’s legislative agenda (such as marijuana legalization and even state budgets). 

If Norcross and his allies genuinely used that $1 billion+ to bring much-needed economic revitalization to distraught communities, then why fear an investigation into that spending? It’s unfortunate that not only is this cleaving the state Democratic Party in half, but that there’s even a half that is siding with mass corruption.