Sunday, April 20, 2014

Newark Teacher on Christie, Cami... Sirota Hints at Christie in Handcuffs

... I don't care about community criticism. We run the school district in Newark, not them....Governor Chris Christie
Ras Baraka, a mayoral candidate who is also Central High School’s principal, said Christie "told the truth at least."
"He does run the school district, not us. That’s why we need to get rid of him," Baraka said Wednesday. "To say that he doesn’t care about what Newark residents think shows that he doesn’t represent Newarkers."
Recipient of New Jersey pension deal housed charity run by Gov. Christie's wife. "Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this," Michael Moore.... 
And what a fine job running the Newark schools the state of New Jersey has done over the past few decades. Here a Newark teacher comments the clergy condemnation of Cami Anderson and Marie Corfield's petition to oppose Christie as the keynote speaker at Rowan College. I hope all the ed majors boo.
The nearly eighty Newark clergy members are to be commended for resurrecting their moral voices in condemnation of State Superintendent Cami Anderson's One Newark Plan. The part of their message that stuck in my craw, however, is the pandering to the education reformers regarding support of data driven instruction.

Newark teachers have spent the week pondering the outcome of Anderson's equivalency request to waive tenure and seniority laws in order to "right size" the district. Acting Education Commissioner David Hespe has inherited the request from his predecessor Chris Cerf who has migrated to the greener pastures of Amplify. Have any pink slips gone out for the massive layoff? What is the deadline to notify teachers that they will not be employed by the Newark Public Schools in September? Noticeably absent from the public square is reigning AFT Queen Randi Weingarten. Is she in Finland checking out highly performing schools and exemplary teachers, which are reportedly found there in abundance?

Marie Corfield has issued an all call for signatures on her petition requesting the President of Rowan University to reconsider his choice of Governor Chris Christie as keynote commencement speaker. Sorry Marie, but the last place I need my name right now is on a petition criticizing Chris Christie. Hopefully, there are others out there who are not in my company skating on thin ice.

Allow me to cut to the chase. Will the multitude of clergy have a meaningful impact on the community discourse in Newark? It gives me a measure of comfort to know that I am not wandering alone in the desert during Passover. As far as our governor is concerned, Chris Christie could not be less interested in what anyone in Newark has to say. Should Chris Christie under the cloud of state and federal investigations be paraded around as an exemplar for our youth by delivering commencement proclamations? Will the modern day pharaohs end my enslavement to the State of New Jersey control of the Newark schools? In the words of the spiritual, "Go down Moses and let my people go!"

A Newark Teacher

Baraka praises Ministers Fight for a Moratorium on One Newark School Reorganization Plan
Statement by Ras Baraka
“Nearly one year ago, the City Council passed my resolution calling for a moratorium on all of Cami Anderson’s public school initiatives. A year later, Ms. Anderson continues to run away from input by Newark citizens and continues to carry out her relentless drive to
close our neighborhood schools.
Today, the ministers of Newark have joined me in calling for a moratorium on the destructive One Newark Plan to close our schools, a plan already being implemented against the will of the people of Newark.”

While we're on Christie, David Sirota takes this shot -- I bet Cuomo is also up to his ears in stuff like this.

David Sirota
April 18, 2014
Recipient of New Jersey pension deal housed charity run by Gov. Christie's wife. "Time to put the cuffs on Chris Christie -- not for the bridge scandal, but for this," Michael Moore.

A PandoDaily investigation has discovered evidence that Gov. Chris Christie's pending deal to award a $300 million pension management contract to a controversial hedge fund is in violation of state anti-corruption laws.
New Jersey state pay-to-play statutes prohibit state contractors from directly or indirectly financially supporting the election campaigns of state officials. Those statutes also explicitly prohibit the use of outside groups or family members to circumvent that ban.
Additionally, separate Department of Treasury rules appear to prohibit public pension contracts from being awarded to investment firms whose employees have made significant financial contributions to political entities organized to operate in New Jersey state elections. Those laws also bar investment firms doing business with the state from making contributions "for the purpose of influencing any election for State office."
Yet, late last month, the New Jersey State Investment Council moved to award a controversial $300 million investment contract to Chatham Asset Management, despite the fact that Chatham's principal, and a woman living at his address and sharing his surname, donated more than $50,000 to a Republican election group that oversaw major portions of Gov. Christie's 2013 re-election operation. The proposed investment is already highly controversial given the hedge fund also reportedly owns a stake in the Atlantic City casino, Revel.
Craig Holman of the watchdog group Public Citizen, which originally lobbied for the pay-to-play statute, said that the $300m offer "appears to be not an indirect violation, but a direct violation of the law."
New Jersey lawmakers seem to agree. "The optics are clearly horrible and the intent of the law is that this not happen," said New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski, the co-leader of the New Jersey Legislative Select Committee on Investigation. "There is a violation of the pay to play laws where someone donates funds to the RNC that are later used in New Jersey, and then that person receives a contract - in this case, a management of a large amount of money in return."
A spokesperson for Chatham Management appeared determined to distance the firm from the proposed (and already widely reported) deal, telling Pando: "Chatham Asset Management is not currently, nor has previously, managed funds for the State of New Jersey."
Incredibly, they then threatened to sue me, and Pando, if we reported that they had agreed to accept the proposed deal, saying: "Please be advised that if you choose to run a factually incorrect story, we reserve all legal rights we may have against you and your employer."
Following the campaign money from the RNC into New Jersey
According to an RNC press release from November 2013, celebrating Christie's re-election victory: "The RNC worked alongside the Christie campaign" on grassroots organizing efforts in his most recent campaign.
The press release was confirmed by press reports: The Newark Star-Ledger ran a story headlined "Republican National Committee spends big to persuade Jersey minorities to vote GOP," reporting that the RNC's operation in New Jersey spent at least $500,000 in the state - and ultimately up to $1.5 million. The money was part of the group's high-profile initiative to organize voters in support of the governor bid for re-election.
One of the major financial backers of the RNC in the lead up to that initiative was Chatham Asset Management. According to Federal Election Commission documents (embedded below), the firm's principal, Anthony Melchiorre, donated $22,500 to the RNC on May 5, 2012 and then $8,300 to the RNC on August 15, 2012. Andrea Melchiorre also donated $17,500 to the RNC on the same day, and then donated another $10,000 to the group on October 8, 2012.
Weeks after Christie was re-elected - and less than 18 months after Melchiorre's latest campaign donation to the RNC - the governor's state investment council announced its intention to invest $300 million with Melchiorre's firm, Chatham Asset Management. A memorandum written in November 2013 by the State of New Jersey outlines the state's intention to invest $300m of public money in a "Chatham Asset High Yield Separate Account." The minutes of a meeting of the New Jersey State Investment Council held around one week later show that the investment was discussed by the Council which found no impediments to the deal proceeding.
New Jersey laws bar campaign contributions from investment managers doing business with the state
The decision to award Chatham Asset Management the contract was made despite State Investment Council rules explicitly banning investment managers doing business with New Jersey from making (or having made) any political contributions "for the purpose of influencing any election for State office." Those rules bar pension contracts from going to investment managers who have made such contributions in any of the two years leading up to a proposed pension contract.
Additionally, section nine of New Jersey's pay-to-play law prohibits using outside groups - like, for instance, the RNC - or family members to circumvent pay-to-play statutes barring state contractors from donating to groups that financially support state election campaigns. That law declares that a contract is invalid if a contractor has contributed to a state candidate or party organization directly supporting the election of that candidate. The law says such a contract is invalid if a contractor "engage(s) in any exchange or contributions to circumvent the intent" of such a prohibition - by, for instance, routing campaign contributions through an outside group or a family member.
The law also stipulates that it applies to contributions "within the eighteen months immediately preceding the commencement of negotiations for the contract or agreement."
"If these contributions were made to the RNC in order to get around state laws, then it is a violation of the law," said Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington. "New Jersey law is clear: you cannot do indirectly what you are prohibited from doing directly."
A spokesperson for Governor Christie contacted by Pando two hours ahead of our original publication time said they needed more time to "verify and chase down" the facts surrounding Chatham's investment and the apparent violation of Treasury rules. Citing the fact that several New Jersey state offices were closed due to the Easter break, the spokesperson added "at this point we can't authenticate what David is alleging in his report." Robert Grady, head of the New Jersey pension investment council, did not respond to an email request for comment. The RNC did not respond to request for comment.
We agreed to give Christie's spokesperson an additional hour to confirm the facts - all of which are supported by publicly available documents linked above and embedded below. As of that revised publication time, Governor Christie has offered no additional comment. We will update this story immediately with any subsequent comment.
The Republican National Committee, the Christie administration and New Jersey Working Families have issued responses to our report.
RNC spokesperson Ryan Mahoney said only "These claims aren't accurate." He offered no factual refutation of Pando's reporting.
On behalf of Gov. Christie, New Jersey Treasury department Chris Santarelli told Pando:
    The donations from Chatham Asset Management to the RNC which you have called into question are not in violation of the Department of Treasury rules regarding impermissible political contributions made by funds doing business with the State. It would be a violation of the regulation if the firm or an investment professional of the firm made a political contribution "to a Federal party committee or other political committee or organization for the purpose of influencing State or local elections governed by."
    The purpose of the RNC is not to influence elections in the State of New Jersey and donations to the organization cannot be earmarked for a particular race.
The Christie administration's statement appears to directly contradict previous statements by the Republican National Committee. Only a few months ago, the RNC openly boasted about "work(ing) alongside the Christie campaign," and told New Jersey's largest paper about using hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost the Christie campaign's get-out-the-vote effort.
Santarelli also insisted that despite the size of the campaign contributions in question,  the Christie administration's investment council "was not aware of the contributions you have called into question."
Analilia Mejia, Director of NJ Working Families, told Pando: "Details of self-dealing and corruption continue to pile up around Chris Christie. If this report is accurate, his reelection was tainted with dirty money. Our state's pension fund should not be for sale to the highest bidder. As a prosecutor, Chris Christie held public officials to a much higher standard than he seems to hold himself. If these allegations are true, Christie is not qualified to lead our state and we must again call for his resignation."
[David Sirota is a staff writer for PandoDaily, television commentator and nationally syndicated weekly newspaper columnist living in Denver, Colorado. He is the author of the books "Hostile Takeover," "The Uprising" and "Back to Our Future" and has written for The New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Wired, Vice, The Nation and He covers the intersection of politics, technology and popular culture.]

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