Blogs > Cliopatria > The Return of the "Torch"

Aug 14, 2004 11:49 pm


The Return of the "Torch"



My nominee for the sleaziest politician of the last decade--hands down--would be former NJ senator Bob Torricelli. Once an up-and-coming idealist--he was counsel to then-Vice President Mondale and returned home to New Jersey to oust a Gypsy Moth Republican in 1982, Torricelli had abandoned any pretense of being in politics for anything other than accumulating wealth and power even before he was elected to the Senate in 1996, in the Democratic equivalent of Saxby Chambliss' odious campaign tactics in Georgia in 2002. I still can't figure out how he avoided indictment for bribery charges in the scandal that drove him from office in 2002.

For 36 hours or so after Governor McGreevey announced his resignation, it appeared as if the Torch might be eclipsed on the New Jersey list of scandals. Think again. Today's New York Times has a brilliantly researched article on the McGreevey resignation, that concludes with the following nugget:

Then, a few minutes before 4 p.m., came a stunning development. Mr. Lesniak [McGreevey's attorney] received a call from a lawyer who said he was an intermediary working on behalf of Mr. Cipel and Mr. Lowy and wanted to cut a deal. Mr. Lesniak declined to discuss the matter because it was now under investigation by the F.B.I. But according to several people, the lawyer offered to drop the lawsuit in exchange for a cash settlement and the Governor's agreement to approve permits for Tuoro College, a school in Brooklyn, that was trying to found a medical school in New Jersey.

Take one guess which former New Jersey senator's lobbying firm has been working on Tuoro's behalf to obtain the medical school permit.

If true, the Tuoro offer provides an answer to the biggest unanswered question of this matter, which is why McGreevey's former lover, Golan Cipel, decided to go public. Maybe, of course, he's telling the truth: but most sexual harrassment cases lead to the victim suffering retaliation, not being constantly rewarded. Maybe, as McGreevey's lawyers have suggested, Cipel was trying to extort money. Or maybe, as McGreevey's 2001 opponent, Bret Schundler, alleged almost immediately after the resignation, Cipel was used by influential New Jersey Democrats pursuing their own agenda.

Obviously we'll learn more in the coming days. But it's nice to see that The Torch hasn't developed a conscience in his political retirement.


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