Home>Articles>Opinion: Mobster-Style Intimidation Won’t Stop the Progressive Movement in South Jersey

Sue Altman.

Opinion: Mobster-Style Intimidation Won’t Stop the Progressive Movement in South Jersey

By Sue Altman, May 01 2020 4:11 pm

OPINION

This week, Jim Beach, the Camden County Party Chair attacked me and Collingswood activist Kate Delany in an email and desperate follow-up “op/ed”.

The vitriol in this letter is proof that our progressive movement is gaining power in SJ. No longer only based in Camden, the movement has spread to Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester and beyond. We know because they tried to keep progressives off the ballot in Cape May and Atlantic– and we won that lawsuit.

We know this movement is gaining power because we were able to recruit smart, talented, diverse, experienced candidates in seven counties in mere weeks- candidates who were angry that there are federal investigations of suicides in county jails, angry that their counties rank near the top in homelessness, drug overdose deaths, joblessness, measures of distress, angry that the plight of NJ’s poorest counties is a decades-long failure of leadership.

These were regular working class folks inspired to lead for change. Our platform, a work of art in progress, is here. You’d vote for us, wouldn’t you?

Corruption has run rampant in South Jersey for decades, while Trenton turned a blind eye.

But what we’ve seen before and after our suit is thuggish intimidation, mobster style. It’s meant to send a message to our growing movement, to all of us, across the state. Stop organizing, stop fighting back, stop attending meetings, stop asking questions, stop running candidates.

All bullies, from Jim Beach to Donald Trump, bluster with threats and lawyers’ letters, in an effort to suppress progressive values, democracy, and free and open elections. Their crude efforts to enact public Handmaid’s Tale style punishment on their opponents have failed before, have failed here, and will fail again if ever attempted.

It all makes sense, like a schoolyard bully whose friends just found out he wets the bed. Bullies gotta overcompensate.

The machine’s standing is at an all-time low after the year-long EDA scandal where we learned that over a BILLION dollars went to George Norcross and his friends on the Camden Waterfront, to build big shiny buildings, with gyms and helipads and free parking. All in the name of “helping Camden,” yet we are still waiting on basic jobs data. And a supermarket. And the outcome of a Federal investigation.

In fact, this weekend is the one-year anniversary of the first groundbreaking investigative journalism in the New York Timeswhich showed us that George and his brothers are really grifters- taking, taking, taking from the public coffers, using handpicked politicians to do their bidding. It is almost elegant they seek revenge now. Points for the artistry, boys!

But we will not be derailed. Beach said there is an “investigation” (whatever that means?) underway in three counties, which is news to me. But of course the machine wants to push sensationalized charges to try to ruin reputations, they care little about the actual substance of reality.

What I do know: We handled ourselves ethically, trying our best to navigate an ill-defined petition process using an untested and unregulated electronic system, during a pandemic, with little guidance from the Secretary of State or the Clerks. NJWF hired an experienced consultant to handle the execution of the process. Our side couldn’t get the proper electronic evidence in time. That’s basically all there is to it.

There is no dispute about whether we had sufficient petitions in our possession on March 30. We did: those we had, signed, timestamped via Docusign- they were submitted with our court documents. One of the many lies told in that letter is that our side provided no evidence. These letters were among the over 3,000 pages of evidence we provided to the Court.

The real travesty is a bunch of Democrats in NJ are giving each other high fives for preventing other Democrats from accessing the ballot. It’s happened before- South Jersey invented phantom candidates. They also relish in the opportunity to kick people off the ballot and call them “criminals,” like they did to folks in Camden.

Only the South Jersey machine, Trump and the Republicans would put up roadblocks to make it extraordinarily difficult for people to file to run, during an unprecedented global pandemic.

They are fighting like there is a huge amount of power and money at stake- which heaven knows, there is.

Freeholders are an “under the radar” office that controls an extraordinary amount of money. In Camden County, the Freeholder budget is about $400 million each year, making each freeholder seat in the county worth over $55 million dollars, per year; for a 3-year term.

The machine is terrified we will stop the gravy train in its tracks. How else would a lawyer like Bill Tambussi be able to afford $500,000 in loans to George Norcross’ PAC?

Fun fact: Bill Tambussi was Trump’s lawyer in that absurd case where Trump sued the author who said he wasn’t a billionaire. Now Tambussi is George Norcross’ attack dog (and counsel to the “intervenor” incumbents in our suit) and sending nastygrams to my house via Brown and Connery branded certified mail. My how far he’s fallen!

But, pity him not. Tambussi makes an extraordinary amount of money off of the public coffers, and he has for years. In 2017 his firm reported making over $5 million in public contracts. In 2018, another $5.1 million. And in 2019, his best year in a while, he made a whopping $6.1 million in public contracts. The trend is upward! So of course Norcross and friends are protecting their moneyed turf. Their lavish lifestyles (Mar-a-Lago, helicopters, black SUVs & drivers, control of the NJ Senate) depend on it.

They can’t scare us off, or all the people who want change in this movement. Their day of reckoning is coming when they will no longer be able to use the levers of power to enrich themselves and to handpick candidates to further their agenda.

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