In Camden today, corrupt politics meets a castrated press


Christie, Norcross, and Sweeney
Christie, Norcross, and Sweeney

Corrupt politics meets a castrated press this afternoon in Camden. Gov. Chris Christie, whose wife’s cousin was recently favored with a job at the city’s state-operated school district, is coming to announce funding for school construction from the School Development Authority.

A statement from the governor’s office indicates the press is free to cover the event, but the governor will not answer questions from reporters. That’s what makes the press castrated.

Why shouldn’t the press be allowed to ask why Camden’s state-operated school administration hired Kathryn Meeley, 32, the daughter of Mary Pat Christie’s first cousin, Joanne Meeley?


Kathryn Meeley
Kathryn Meeley

Why shouldn’t they be allowed to ask why Meeley abruptly quit the $95,000-a-year job after someone in the audience at a school board meeting complained about nepotism in the system? Was she fired as a sacrifice to Christie’s political ambitions? Was she promised a better job somewhere else–a job, perhaps, better hidden from prying eyes? She is a devoted charter school advocate so certainly she will find a role somewhere in the privatization movement.

I asked questions of both Christie’s potty-mouthed press secretary, Michael Drewniak,  and of the Camden school system. Drewniak didn’t answer. Brendan Lowe, the spokesman for the school district, was kind enough to answer but he hid behind sensitivities about the family background of school employees.

Oh, please. If the governor is using state -operated school systems–like he used the state education department–as a hiring hall for relatives and political cronies, then the right of the public to know trumps such niceties as a policy to refrain from commenting on an employee’s family connections.

Camden will play a major role in Christie’s presidential ambitions. It will allow him to pose as an education reformer–which he is not. It will allow him to argue he plays nicely with opposition Democrats, when, in fact, he cuts deals with the corrupt Democratic South Jersey boss, George Norcross. You know, George Norcross, whom the state’s largest newspaper has absolved of all sins and now portrays as the Great White Hope for the Camden masses. (Just as WNYC recently  told us about how Christie has found religion beyond his self-adoration).

Camden will allow him to contend he is concerned about cities, when we all know his policies of starving the cities have led to bloodshed in places like Newark. If so many young people were not dying, this farcical burlesque would be funny.

But the local press–assuming any representatives thereof would have the courage to risk their access to the Big Man to do it– will not be allowed to ask questions when he unveils millions for Camden, just as he bestowed millions  on politically-connected charter schools through the Michelle Brown-run Economic  Development Authority. Millions he has refused to give to Newark because the residents there are not adequately worshipful.

Hiring relatives like Kate Meeley and the sons of political hacks like Joseph DiVincenzo, the back-stabbing Democratic Essex County executive, are corrupt acts that should be subjected to press scrutiny. It’s public money going to feed personal ambitions.

But, today, by government fiat forbidding questions, reporters will be mere stenographers and the stories will be of how generous Chris Christie is to the people of Camden.

It is to wretch.





  1. Just heard that the president of the Camden High Alumni Association was removed from the event along with a community activist on orders of the Mayor, a Boss George acolyte. Said reason was because the event was by invitation only.

    1. It’s 100% true, he is also a politician in Hope Twnshp and compared Christie to using Nazi tactics in suppression of opposition

      Bob Braun: If the shoe fits….

  2. In countries without a free press, a supreme ruler controls the message, the messenger and the flow of information. It’s not pretty. We’re careening in that direction in NJ under a ruthless (and, I believe, sociopathic) demagogue. Since the Star-Ledger has abdicated its responsibility to investigate abuse and keep us informed, you and others like you are our “underground,” Bob. The corruption and abuse of power in agencies under Christie’s control is far worse than people know. Keep digging.

    Bob Braun: Thank you. I try. But here, as well as a The Star-Ledger, I relied on my readers to let me know what everyone else need to know. The well-connected have easy access to the mainstream media but haven’t mastered dealing with the street.

  3. Keep hammering away, Cactus Bob. Give it to them with the bark on!

  4. Unfortunately, what we have here in NJ, and in the entire USA, has developed into FASCISM! When the media and government work together, along with the military and the giant corporations, there is not much hope without revolution.

  5. Amazing, Gov. Corzine in 2008 allocates $100 million for the renovation of Camden High only to have it cut by Gov. Christie in 2011. They are being applauded today for giving 50 million to renovate Camden High school but in reality it’s a net loss of 50 million. Renovations won’t take place for a few years when the governor is out of office. I wonder if they’re using 50 million through the SDA, taxpayer dollars, only to have the school turned over to a charter after the governor is out of office. Makes you wonder.
    “in politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way”.
    Franklin D. Roosevelt

  6. Bob – NJ’s spineless cheerleading press did the same thing as Christie used the Sandy disaster as one huge PR campaign.

    They covered every self serving press event and never asked a critical question about policy.

    The blew the Christie balloon up – the press is a major part of the problem.

    Bob Braun: You are absolutely correct. The general theme was Christie was the savior, despite all the evidence to the contrary. It showed an immaturity in New Jersey’s media, especially The Star-Ledger, that shocked me–and I was part of the Sandy coverage. But, apparently, the response to that coverage–in terms of clicks–has led to the transformation of the Ledger into the Christie Campaign Journal. Front page adoration–with occasional editorial demurrers.

  7. So, anyone interested in where the $50 million is coming from? That’s the rub, too. Let’s put it this way, Christie robs institution X, to fund institution Y, and gets to look like a savior of the cities!

    Bob Braun: While he was keeping SDA money from the public schools, he was using Michele Brown’s EDA to pump $125 million into charter schools.

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