Anthony Chiappone

Chiappone, re-elected by voters, wants committee assignments back

Assembly Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) wants his committee assignments back.

Chiappone, charged with allegedly cashing legislative aides' checks for personal and campaign use, was stripped of his membership in three committees by Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) immediately after he was indicted by the state Attorney General's Office.

But Chiappone insists he's innocent, and news of his indictment did not doom his reelection in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans eight-to-one.  Chiappone and running mate Charles Mainor - a police detective who was narrowly the top vote getter - got nearly three times the vote totals of their two Republican opponents. 

"Naturally I'd like to have [the committee assignments] back," said Chiappone.  "What the people basically said is what I've been asking them: give me the benefit of the doubt, give me the presumption of innocence."

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Mainor: running mate Chiappone innocent until proven guilty

The cover of today’s Jersey Journal has a picture of Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) next to the words “I’ll win.”

Chiappone, indicted along with his wife in August by the State Attorney General’s Office for allegedly cashing staffers’ checks for his personal and campaign bank accounts and  subsequently stripped of his legislative committee assignments, expects to be re-elected on Tuesday.  And the conventional wisdom is that he’s probably right.  He’s running in the Democratic column in a district where his party outnumbers Republicans eight-to-one.  

That’s part of the reason leaders of the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) – which saw several of its own members arrested in an unrelated federal corruption sting in July – did not make much of a fuss about forcing Chiappone to resign (with the notable exception of Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith, already a fierce rival of Chiappone’s).  Although Chiappone is not cozy with most of Hudson County’s top Democrats, HCDO Chairman Jerramiah Healy, the mayor of Jersey City, might have found it awkward if he called on Smith to resign but refused to do the same for corruption-charged Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega.

But the HCDO has kept its distance from Chiappone.  His running mate, police detective Charles Mainor, attends political events with the top HCDO brass, but Chiappone has not been not invited to join them.

So how does Mainor feel about having a running mate who has been indicted?

“As a police officer, I truly believe that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, and I extend that much courtesy to Mr. Chiappone,” he said.

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Smith says Doria resignation won't hurt Corzine in Bayonne

Bayonne Mayor Mark Smith feels that Governor Corzine’s campaign infrastructure is strong in Bayonne, despite Corzine’s forcing of former Mayor Joe Doria out of his cabinet after his house was raided by the FBI.

“I think there are such strong feelings for Joe Doria and admiration and respect for him.  As to whether that relates to or equates to people being upset or angry at Governor Corzine, I don’t’ know, and I don’t believe so or think so,” he said.

Although FBI agents visited his home the morning of July 23 – when 44 officials, politicians, rabbis and alleged money launderes were netted in a sting that resulted from a two-track investigation – Doria has not been charged with a crime.  

Bayonne’s Democratic assemblyman, Anthony Chiappone, was indicted by the state on separate charges alleging he put legislative aides’ paychecks into a personal and campaign account.  The distirct’s other Assemblyman, L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City), was among those charged by the feds in the July sting.

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Dumb press release

The dumbest press release of the week - so far - goes to the New Jersey Democratic State Committee.  They put out a release from Burlington County Freeholder Christopher Brown suggesting that GOP gubernatorial candidate Christopher Christie is now "in the middle" of a "scandal" in Medford, because he is running on the same Republican ticket as a Medford Councilman the Democrats are attacking on ethics issues. Christie got in the middle, Democrats allege, because he visited Burlington County yesterday and was just miles away from the scandal. 

The issue at hand is the allegation that the Medford Township Council awarded a $700,000 contract to a politically active construction firm.  Councilman Joseph Lynn is under fire after a financial firm he worked for loaned money to the construction firm, Mount Construction.

The issue - should an elected official be doing any personal business with a vendor - is clearly fair as Lynn seeks re-election to his council seat.  But tying Christie to Lynn just because they are both candidates on the same line would be as dumb as, say, Republicans beating up Jon Corzine because his running mate in part of Hudson County is indicted Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne).

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Indicted for misusing campaign funds, Chiappone pays wife/co-defendant $6k to manage his re-election bid

Less than a month after he and his wife were indicted on charges that they funneled legislative paychecks into a campaign account, Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) used his campaign account to pay his wife $6,000 to manage his bid for re-election.

According to reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission, Diane Chiappone was paid $6,000 on September 23 to serve as "campaign manager, coordinator, and record keeper."

State Attorney General Anne Milgram has alleged that Chiappone issued $7,532 in paychecks to a legislative aide, who in turn donated all of the money to the campaign along with $629 to a woman who they falsely claimed was a legislative aide.  The state charges that that more than half of the money -- $4,299 - was deposited for personal use, and that the rest was put into the campaign account but not reported to the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

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In New Jersey, sometimes voters overlook an indictment

If Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) wins re-election despite his indictment on state corruption charges, he won't be the first politician accused of a crime to be validated by the voters.  In May 1982, State Sen. William Vincent Musto was re-elected Mayor of Union City 24 hours after being sentenced to seven years in a prison, and moths after his conviction on federal racketeering charges.  The same day, Newark Mayor Kenneth Gibson was forced into a runoff with City Council President Earl Harris; both were under indictment at the time.  The two candidates under indictment combined for 74% of the vote. (Gibson and Harris were both acquitted, although Gibson was later charged on another offense.)

Five weeks before a 1990 special election, Assemblyman Cyril Yannarelli (D-Paterson) was indicted on charges that he paid campaign workers to falsify some 5,000 voter registration forms.  He lost the heavily Democratic 35th district to Republican Frank Catania by nearly 3,000 votes.  Yannarelli, a former Passaic County Freeholder who had sought the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 1982, had won a special election convention for the Assembly after John Girgenti (D-Hawthorne) replaced the late Frank Graves in the State Senate.  Yannarelli avoided prison by participating in a pre-trial intervention program.

In 1980, U.S. Rep. Frank Thompson (D-Trenton), accused of taking bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as an Arab sheik, lost his bid for a fourteenth term to 27-year-old Republican Christopher Smith by a 57%-41% margin.  Thompson outspent Smith by a 2-1 margin in a district where Jimmy Carter outpolled Ronald Reagan.

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Chiappone, back at work, rebuffs Roberts

Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne) today fired back at Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden), who yesterday called on him to resign after he was indicted for allegedly funneling his aides' state-issued checks into his personal and campaign bank accounts.  

“There is a ‘presumption of innocence’ which is a constitutional right of anyone charged.  In your capacity as Speaker, as a fellow lawmaker, you have chosen to ignore that basic democratic philosophy and constitutional right because of an assumption of guilt and not of innocence,” wrote Chiappone.

One day after being indicted -- but not arrested -- Chiappone was back in his legislative office.

“Of course working without pay and benefits,” he said in a phone interview.  Those were also suspended by Roberts, who took away his committee assignments as well.

Chiappone, who is serving his second non-consecutive term and running for reelection, proclaimed his innocence and said he will not resign.

In his letter to Roberts, he went on to say that “my years of service and dedication to the public that has voted me into office warrants that I receive that basic consideration, yes even in spit of the inconvenience and ‘embarrassment’ that the ‘party’ may have to endure… And while I respect you as the Speaker of the House, no one man should determine who should resign.  The directive to serve or not to serve should come only from the voters."

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(TRENTON) – Democratic State Committee Chairman Joseph Cryan today released the following statement on the indictment of Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Hudson):

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Democrats have an 8-1 registration edge in Chiappone's district

Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone (D-Bayonne), indicted today on charges that he that funneled legislative paychecks for aides into a campaign account, stands an excellent chance of winning re-election if he refuses to drop out of the race.  It might be impossible for a Democrat to lose District 31, which includes Bayonne and part of Jersey City.

Democrats have a 8-1 voter registration edge in the 31st district.  Chiappone was unopposed in the 2007 general election; in 2005, Democrats won by more than 18,000 votes.  Bayonne delivered a margin of nearly 5,000 and the plurality in Jersey City was over 13,000.

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District 31 Republican sounds off on Chiappone indictment

District 31 Republican sounds off on Chiappone indictment
District 31 Republican assembly candidate Irene Kim Asbury in Bayonne

Republican Assembly candidates Irene Kim Asbury and Marie Day now find themselves running in a district where both sitting assemblymen are under indictment for different reasons. 

Asbury, an attorney from Jersey City, thinks that will make the race competitive, even in a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans eight to one.  Still, she acknowledges, “this is Hudson County.  “

“It’s an extremely Democratic County,” she said. “I think I’d still have to prove that I can do the job. It’s very easy: don’t do anything illegal. Don’t take bribes or funnel money through my legislative aides.”

Chiappone plans to continue his candidacy, although Governor Corzine and Assembly Speaker Joseph Roberts (D-Camden) have both called for his resignation.  The district’s other indicted assemblyman, L. Harvey Smith (D-Jersey City) – who was arrested last month for allegedly taking bribes from a federal informant posing as a developer --  opted to run an unsuccessful campaign for mayor of Jersey City instead of seeking reelection.  Democrats picked police detective Charles Mainor for his place on the ballot.

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Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest Sponsored by Auto Alliance: September 16th

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Quote of the Day

quote of the day

"As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities."

- Voltaire


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