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THE GOVERNOR & THE PRINCE:
NEW JERSEY DEMOCRAT MCGREEVEY USED 'MACHIAVELLI' AS
A CODE WORD FOR EXTORTION DEAL
Taken from the Galvin Opinion July 13, 2004
What does a New Jersey governor have in
common with an Italian philosopher?
About $40,000 in extorted campaign donations.
New Jersey governor, James McGreevey, is in a pickle. He's been identified
as "State Official No. 1" mentioned in a federal indictment of a
fund-raiser concerning an extortion deal. The fund raiser, David D'Amiano,
met with farmer Mark Halper. Halper wanted to sell
his 74 acre farm to a developer but government officials wanted it
preserved as open space. The government threatened to invoke eminent
domain and take the land for government use.
D'Amiano told Halper that if he made a $40,000 contribution to the
Democrats, the government would make a higher bid for his land.
The indictment, unsealed in Newark
today, said McGreevey used the word
``Machiavelli'' during a meeting with the farmer. The fund-raiser, David
D'Amiano, told the farmer before the meeting that McGreevey would use the
word as a signal that the farmer's political contributions had bought
influence with the governor, the indictment said.
Governor Jim McGreevey's subsequent
explanation for using 'Machiavelli' in a
conversation is laughable, priceless at best.
``Yes, I did use the word `Machiavelli,'''
said McGreevey, 46, during press conference in Somerdale, New Jersey. ``It
was not a code word. It was a
The governor must surround himself with a literary crowd because 2 more
New Jersey Democrats saw fit to bring up the literary allusion, too.
In conversations about the payments,
D'Amiano once referred to the payments as ``mulch and topsoil'' and said
Halper would have to pay ``20 loads and 20 loads'' to win his case in
court and with the county, the
Two unnamed state officials and several Middlesex County officials got
involved in the case after D'Amiano intervened, the indictment said.
One ``top state official'' and one
county official worked the name ``Machiavellian'' or ``Machiavelli'' into
separate conversations with Halper to signal that they had agreed to help
him, the indictment said.
D'Amiano had told the farmer in advance that the officials would mention
the words as a sign that they would deliver on promises to intervene in
the land sale, the indictment alleges.
There was a lot of back and forth on the land and extortion deal.
Piscataway officials have condemned the Halpers'
75-acre farm on South Washington Avenue. The township had offered
$4.3 million in 1998, but the family balked, saying they didn't want to
sell and the land was worth more. In 2002, the state offered the Halpers
$3 million for preservation rights, but the family declined. In March
2003, Mark Halper wanted $10.5 million for the development rights to the
farm, according to the indictment.
D'Amiano helped coordinate meetings between Mark Halper and DeAngelo
and Kelso where the county officials offered a compromise amount -- nearly
$7.4 million to preserve the property as farmland. For further discussion
about extortion deals, ahem, literary allusions, check out the following
1. Bloomberg, July 6:
McGreevey Says He Is Unnamed `Official No. 1' in Bribery Case
2. NYTimes, July 6: A Fund-Raiser for McGreevey Is Indicted
3. NYTimes, July 6: The governor loves Cicero, too! Yes, McGreevey Said
It, but Did He Know It Was a Code Word? He gave a simple explanation for
his reference to Machiavelli: he often drops the names of writers and
political thinkers. Indeed, his aides said, he has invoked writers ranging
from Cicero to John McCain.
4. NJ.com, July 7: After governor mentioned a book, the plot thickened
5. NYTimes, July 7: In the spirit of Clinton and Torricelli; When you're
caught red-handed, blame the prosecutor. McGreevey Accuses U.S. Attorney
6. NJ.com, July 9: `Machiavelli' explanation twists, turns "A
literary allusion, give me a break," said one Democrat. "It
makes things look worse, worse than I hope they are. No one believes you
use Machiavelli to strike up a conversation with a dairy farmer."
7. Home News Tribune, July 10: Halper's wife cites meetings with governor
8. The Trentonian, July 11: McGreevey takes another near hit The governor
wasn't happy about the indictment, nor being named in the document, but
what does he do when it goes public? He follows this little tidbit up with
a 20-minute tirade to proclaim his innocence in the case. That's the
punchline. The people who are usually out front proclaiming their
innocence early are usually the ones with the most to hide.
9. Home News Tribune, July 13: Governor admits he, Halper met three times