Morning News Digest: January 31, 2013
By Matthew Arco
More details emerge on Menendez flights to Dominican
A spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez tonight told several news outlets that the senator reimbursed a Florida donor more than $58,000 for two of three flights the senator took aboard the donor's plane.
But the reimbursement for the fights on the plane owned by Florida Dr. Salomon Melgen, which took place in 2010, did not come until earlier this month, the Menendez camp told the news outlets. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
The New Jersey Republican State Committee is accusing state Sen. Barbara Buono of apparent violations in campaign finance spending.
In a letter to the Election Law Enforcement Commission, the state committee argues Buono used her Senate campaign to finance her gubernatorial run in an apparent violation of campaign finance rules. The committee is asking for an investigation into the presumptive Democratic nominee’s spending. (Arco/PolitickerNJ)
Newark Mayor Cory Booker endorsed State Senator Barbara Buono for governor today via a written statement. (PolitickerNJ)
Menendez campaigns linked to doctor accused of setting up trysts with prostitutes
Records show that Salomon Melgen — a wealthy Florida eye doctor at the center of an FBI criminal investigation — has given tens of thousands of dollars to Sen. Robert Menendez’s campaigns and leadership PAC over the years.
At the same time, other documents show Menendez used Melgen’s private jet, a twin-engine Canadair CL-600 Challenger, for political trips. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)
Menendez did not pay for flights from campaign donor until this year
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez did not pay for two flights provided by Salomon Melgen — his friend and campaign donor whose office was raided by the FBI on Tuesday night — until more than two years later, and after a New Jersey Republican asked the Senate ethics committee to look into his travels.
Menendez spokesman Paul Brubaker today said the senator reimbursed Melgen for the flights on Melgen's private jet until Jan. 4 of this year. Both were round trips — one between Florida and the Dominican Republic in August 2010, and one between Teterboro and the Dominican Republic in September 2010. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)
Menendez denies prostitution allegations, says charges are 'politically motivated'
U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez today denied any wrongdoing in the wake of allegations that a major campaign donor now under investigation by the FBI provided him with prostitutes and plane flights to the Dominican Republic.
The allegations resurfaced after the offices of Salomon Melgen, a high-profile Palm Beach eye doctor who has given tens of thousands in political contributions to Menendez (D-N.J.) and others, were the target of a late-night raid by the FBI on Tuesday in Florida. (Friedman/Star-Ledger)
N.J. State Police to pay $135K to man arrested over disputed $129 bill
The New Jersey State Police agreed to pay $135,000 to a Mount Laurel man whom they arrested in 2007 because of a disputed bill for $129.44 from an auto mechanic, his attorneys said Wednesday.
The man, Richard Greenberg, will also receive $15,000 from Oil Station, the auto repair shop that complained to the State Police after the customer stopped payment on a check for work he thought was inadequate, the lawyers said. (Hutchins/Star-Ledger)
Attorney General-drafted bill would strengthen N.J. child pornography laws
A decade ago, John Molinelli, the Bergen County prosecutor, started a computer crimes division in his office. Building it stage by stage, he said his unit now features one of the most respected and robust child pornography-fighting squads in state law enforcement in New Jersey.
Yet for all his success in establishing a team that includes six detectives, a task force of 25 area police officers and its own forensic computer lab, Molinelli said he grows highly frustrated at times — and it’s not because of the crimes his team tackles or the way internet-based technology has changed the battlefield. (Grant/Star-Ledger)
N.J.'s largest public affairs firm to expand Trenton presence
MWW, the state’s largest public relations firm, is expanding its Trenton presence with the acquisition of Capital Public Affairs, Inc.
The move will add four lobbyists to MWW’s office in the state capital. Steve Some, president of Capital Public Affairs, will become senior vice president of MWW and general manager of the Trenton office, the firm will announce tomorrow. (Portnoy/Star-Ledger)
Christie to make campaign announcement Thursday before heading to D.C. for speech
Governor Christie isn’t planning to board an Amtrak train for the New Jersey Chamber of Commerce’s annual “Walk to Washington” Thursday, but he will be at a diner nearby before the train full of politicians, business leaders and lobbyists departs Newark Penn Station.
The governor will make a ”campaign announcement” at Tops Diner in East Newark at 9 a.m. Thursday. His campaign did not elaborate on what Christie would be announcing. (Hayes/The Record)
Newark Healthcare Coalition Maps Patient Hotspots to Deliver Help Where It's Most Needed
An unprecedented level of data sharing between Newark hospitals is giving healthcare providers a good idea about where to focus their efforts to improve residents' health.
The data, released this week by the Greater Newark Healthcare Coalition, gives city hospitals a set “hotspots” -- the addresses of residents with the greatest number of hospital visits. (Kitchenman/NJSpotlight)
Annual Electricity Auction Helps Determine Rates Charged by NJ Utilities
For the past four years, consumers and many businesses in New Jersey have enjoyed a rare occurrence -- a drop in the price of the electricity delivered to their homes from power plants around the region.
Might the trend continue? More will be known by the end of next week when the state Board of Public Utilities holds its annual online auction to purchase most of the electricity needed to power millions of New Jersey homes and businesses. (Johnson/NJSpotlight)
Anti-Bullying Report Recommends Greater Autonomy for School Officials
A task force charged with looking at the benefits and challenges of New Jersey’s new anti-bullying law has published its , recommending that schools be allowed more discretion in identifying and investigating possible acts of bullying.
The unit was formed last spring on the heels of the 2011 passage of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights (ABR), which imposed tough new requirements on schools to not just act on accusations of bullying but to resolve the issue within a set timeframe. (Mooney/NJSpotlight)
While today’s signing of a binding purchase agreement was the next step for Prime Healthcare in acquiring St. Mary’s Hospital, it became apparent the California-based, for-profit system is making even larger inroads into New Jersey’s health care industry.
St. Michael’s Medical Center in Newark and Prime Healthcare entered into a nonbinding letter of intent in early December. St. Michael's, currently part of Catholic Health East, is the third hospital Prime has targeted, after St. Mary's and a failed attempt last year to purchase Christ Hospital in Jersey City. (Caliendo/NJBIZ)
The economy's gradual recovery inspired a cautiously optimistic panel discussion this morning at the Northern New Jersey Business Outlook at Ramapo College, in Mahwah.
Robert Topel, UPS vice president of marketing for the east region, said the 2013 economic expansion will be modest, but “there is room for some optimism, compared to 2012.” He said businesses “are making some forward-thinking decisions, but they are conservative and controlled in a way we have not seen in several years, and will remain so for some time to come, which will somewhat limit the expansion. (Fitzgerald/NJBIZ)
Turnpike agency to borrow $1.4B
WOODBRIDGE — People refinance with their home loans to save money on mortgage interest, so why not the New Jersey Turnpike Authority?
Turnpike Authority officials plan to do just that some time this spring to refinance $600 million of 2003 and 2005 debt to save and estimated $25 million to $26 million in interest over time. (Higgs/APP)
From the Back Room
Essex County Democrats voted at their meeting tonight in West Orange to back state Sen. Barbara Buono (18) for governor. (PolitickerNJ)
Hamilton Township Democratic Mayoral candidate Barbara Plumeri held a kick-off small donor meet and greet yesterday at Killarney's Publick House in Hamilton. (Isherwood/PolitickerNJ)
Gov. Chris Christie's intent to nominate Middlesex County Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano to a Superior Court judgeship Monday could take a solid Democratic Party brand name off the ballot in a battleground county. (PolitickerNJ)
Can GOP gain in the Legislature?
With the Democratic nomination for governor Barbara Buono’s for the taking, the Middlesex County senator is one step closer to where her ambition leads her.
But even Buono herself is acknowledging the difficulty of her quest to wrest the big chair away from Republican Gov. Chris Christie. On Monday, she discussed her 1994 Assembly bid, which she won, as an example of her ability to rise above adversity. (Schoonejongen/APP)
How did Menendez pay for those trips?
Sen. Bob Menendez denies published reports he accepted free plane rides from a Florida doctor whose offices were raided by the FBI Tuesday. Menendez’s office said the senator paid for three trips aboard a plane owned by Dr. Salomon Melgen but it didn’t say how the trips were paid for. The Associated Press reported it found no records reporting payments to Melgen or trips aboard Melgen’s plane in six years worth of office and travel-related expenses for Menendez’s Senate office, or in six years worth of campaign expenses on file with the Federal Election Commission. (Ingle/APP)
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