Last week’s bust of 30 elected officials by the FBI in a corruption probe in New Jersey is unfortunately not a shock to many residents. Abuse of public office and public funds in New Jersey is big, and it is small, and it is everywhere.
But is it an expectation?
According to the Cliffview Pilot, that’s how the Mayor of Hoboken, Peter Cammarano, now in custody for allegedly accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, sees it. This spring, then-candidate Cammarano told an FBI cooperator posing as a corrupt developer his election as Mayor was in the bag, “I could be indicted, and I’m still gonna win 85 to 95 percent.” The conversation, recorded in the Malibu Diner, is now evidence of how the Mayor agreed to suspend zoning laws for a developer in exchange for, “some green.”
New Jerseyans like corruption about as much as they like impending state bankruptcy and high property taxes. But what’s not often mentioned is these things are related. These arrests fight the symptoms but not causes.
As FBI Special Agent Dun stressed in Thursday’s press conference, “Corruption in this state will not end due to law enforcement’s effort…it’s time for the citizens of New Jersey to ask what do we need to do to wipe the spider web of corruption off the face of this state.”
That spider web has everything to do with the state’s institutions and how individuals choose to profit from, or avoid, the regulations those institutions have created. This is what provides the opportunity for civil servants to take bribes: “I might be willing to waive this permitting fee, but it’s going to cost you.”