Bramnick vs. Sweeney: The politics of competing plans

Good for Jim Florio… at least he remembers who he is.

When asked whether or not he would endorse law partner Doug Steinhardt for Governor, the former Governor put it very simply:  “He’s not the right party as far as I’m concerned.  I would not vote for him.  I’m a Democratic voter.”

Doug is the Chairman of the Republican State Committee.  The two are partners at Florio Perrucci Steinhardt & Cappelli.  This insight came courtesy of that doyen of bloggers… David Wildstein. 

But hey, Florio gets it.  Party means something.

It is the job of the leader of every legislative party caucus – the Speaker, the Senate President, and the minority leaders – to defend and expand their caucus at the expense of the other side.  Those are the rules.  It is first and foremost.  We all understand this.

Last week, Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick rolled out his plan for addressing New Jersey’s fiscal crisis.  It was a direct appeal to elect more Republicans to the Assembly and centered on what they would do if elected.

Bramnick did exactly what he needed to do.  After pointing out the fiscal evils perpetrated by legislative Democrats, Bramnick lays out three solid policy positions that points New Jersey Republicans in the direction of what we should be for

(1) Cap State Spending at 2% (just like local government spending is capped).

(2) Cut the State Income Tax by 10% (make NJ more competitive w. other states).

(3) Full Deduction of Property Taxes on the State Income Tax (a move that takes the property tax issue away from Democrats like Andy Kim, Mikie Sherrill, and Josh Gottheimer).

In a political sense, the Assembly Republican Leader’s plan does not demonize any organized, well-funded interest groups – it simply starves government for the benefit of taxpayers.  Bramnick makes war on spending, not people.  And that is good politics.    

Bramnick avoids the mistake made in 2015 by then Governor Chris Christie and his Republican Party.  Christie’s pension/health benefits commission called for many changes but he went further and directly confronted the unions and their members, demonizing them in the process.  Christie inadvertently created well-organized, well-financed cells of opposition in every Republican district in the state. 

Like this year, 2015 was a low-turnout election with the Assembly at the top of the ticket.  Public employee unions targeted Republicans and Democrat super PACs – including those controlled by George Norcross – poured money into the campaigns of Democrat challengers.  Republicans lost four seats – four friends by the names of Donna, Caroline, Mary Pat, and Sam.

Yesterday, Senate President Steve Sweeney announced his “bi-partisan” plan that targets many of the same people that Governor Christie pissed off in 2015.  It should be noted that Sweeney’s plan was formally rolled out after the filing deadline for the Democrat primary.  Unfortunately for Republicans… it is some months until the November election.

This is not about the merits of the “bi-partisan plan” but rather, it is about the politics and timing of the plan.   

Are Republicans in danger of repeating 2015 again? 

Will the super PACS’s controlled by Sweeney allies like George Norcross back up every Republican legislator on the ballot this year?  Or will they stay true to form and support their Democrat challengers?  Will the Republicans on the ballot this year end up getting it from both ends?

This situation might be different if New Jersey Republicans had taken the time to build a base of small dollar donors and activists.  But as fundraiser Ali Steinstra noted at the March NJGOP Leadership Summit, broad-based Republican fundraising can only be accomplished by appeals to the party’s conservative base.   

The GOP establishment in New Jersey is barely on speaking terms with its base, so the ground has not been prepared.  We have no equivalent to what the NJEA and the Norcross super PACs will throw against us, so pissing on a hornet’s nest probably isn’t a good idea.  At this moment in time, it is more likely to motivate the kind of turnout that will cost us another four or more seats in November.

Assembly Leader Bramnick has a sensible, Republican plan that addresses the problem of spending and taxation.  It avoids drawing fire from well-organized, well-funded interest groups.  Those on the ballot this year have a choice to make.

Like in 1991, the NJGOP needs to hold a convention.

Take yourself back to September 1991.  The legislative midterm elections were less than two months away.  New Jersey was in the second year of a Democrat Governor, following eight Republican years.  The State Senate had not been in GOP hands for 18 years.  The Assembly was last Republican in 1989. 

1,032 delegates from across New Jersey attended the State Republican Convention that year.  They were exhorted by former Governor Tom Kean, who reminded them “that they must do more than criticize Florio and Democratic lawmakers” to wrest control of the Statehouse in the November elections: “People want to know what you're for, not just what you're against,” he said. “Attacking the present administration is not enough.”

The delegates discussed and debated issues… adopted a state party platform… and defined who they were.  In November, Republicans won a landslide victory and took control of both chambers of the Legislature.  Two years later, they took the Governor’s office too.

In contrast to last month’s gathering of the GOP in Atlantic City, the 1991 convention at Rutgers University was about policy, message, and people – it had a grassroots feel to it.  While the current state party operation is dominated by Trenton-centered professional operatives and consultants, in 1991 the party was still one of stakeholders – people with networks in their communities and districts.

New Jersey Republicans are suffering a crisis of identity.  And it’s not just the old controversies over social issues.  The current “favorite” for Governor in 2021 – former Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli – called Donald Trump a “charlatan” who is “out of step with the Party of Lincoln” and an “embarrassment to the nation.”

The NJGOP can’t seem to make up its mind on something as basic as the tax restructuring package – championed by former Governor Chris Christie – that ended the Estate Tax, cut a bevy of other taxes, prevented a huge property tax hike, and provided enough property tax relief to enable places like Warren County to actually cut property taxes.  Some Republicans seem determined to run against one of Governor Christie’s hallmark accomplishments.  Let’s hash this thing out once and for all.  

Legalizing the sale and use of recreational marijuana is another issue.  Although both Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. and Assembly Republican Leader Jon Bramnick have done admirable jobs of holding their delegations together on this – there are all these lobbyists occupying party office who are nibbling away at the resolve of individual legislators and there is no formal party position on this or any other issue of substance.

A convention could be just the thing to resolve these conflicts, to pull everyone together around what we agree on, our principles and objectives, to create a message, and build that message out with a platform of policies – which could then be fleshed out by people like Regina Egea and her Garden State Initiative.  Thus far, the only prescriptions offered by the NJGOP have been which consultant a candidate should hire or new “game changing” technology to employ.  These do not take the place of having an actual message to run on – as the past few election cycles have shown. 

Once upon a time, New Jersey Republicans knew how to tell their story.  Now it seems they’ve lost the art – or at least the plot.  Nothing like a gathering to bring everyone together to remember who they are, put it down on paper… and then go out and sell it.

NJ Republicans need to rethink the way they campaign

By “The Happy Warrior”


Not on a single issue, or in one direction or twain,
But conclusively, comprehensively, and several times and again,
Were all our most holy illusions knocked higher than Gilderoy’s kite.
We have had a jolly good lesson, and it serves us jolly well right!

(The Lesson, Rudyard Kipling)

Fellow Republicans:  Before jumping into the 2019 legislative cycle… doing the exact same things we’ve been doing and losing for the past decade – STOP!

We have just been crushed the worst we’ve been crushed in a century.  But it wasn’t unique. We’ve been getting our asses kicked now for a decade.  Not even a popular Governor prevented the usual and customary ass-whooping. We keep losing and the life blood of the party is draining away.

It doesn’t have to be.  It’s not this way in other states.  So STOP and THINK.

Question our old standbys, our comfort zones, that instinctive knee-jerk prescription that hasn’t won in a decade or more.

Because politics isn’t actual warfare, the participants of these slaughters get to live and repeat the performance.  It’s as if General Custer somehow survived the Battle of the Little Bighorn to lead a gallant new troop of cavalry. One would hope that he would think about avoiding the actions that lead to everyone being killed the first time… that he just wouldn’t take command because “he’s done it before” and – having received command – he wouldn’t simply proceed “the way it has always been done before.”

There is certainly no shame in losing.  The founding military and political leader of our nation, George Washington, suffered a string of defeats before and after the Battles of Trenton  and Princeton, before winning the conclusive Battle of Yorktown. The shame comes from not putting a defeat to good use by learning from it. To not ponder a loss and instead stubbornly go back to the exact same way as before.

Then let us develop this marvellous asset which we alone command,
And which, it may subsequently transpire, will be worth as much as the Rand.
Let us approach this pivotal fact in a humble yet hopeful mood—
We have had no end of a lesson, it will do us no end of good!

THE DEMOCRATS’ NEW WAY

The Democrats have developed a new way of conducting and winning political campaigns.  It is a loose, fluid, decentralized style of campaigning – and it never ends. The Democrats’ campaign is an endless campaign.

The Democrats have mastered the marshalling of superior resources through the procurement of contracts, the selection of vendors, and the creation of entities – for-profits, non-profits, political action committees, leadership PACS, party organizations, superPACS, and campaign committees – by which fundraised money flows around donor limits and every other rule.  Added to this is their ability to field an army of activists using established issues groups as well as the more generalized “anti” groups born after the election of Donald Trump.

The Democrat command and control structure is instructive – in that it requires only a broad agreement on targets and goals to effectively get the job done.  The Democrats do not micro-manage.  They point everyone in the right direction and then allow the folks on the ground to get the job done.

The Democrats’ method of campaigning is activist-based.  Republicans, on the other hand, insist on campaigns that are highly centralized, tethered, and top-down – echo-chamber campaigns that reinforce the established certainties.  

POLITICAL PARTIES:  3 IN 1

Both major parties are really each three separate parties all occupying the same space and seeking to speak for the same “brand”.  

(1) There is the broad “party” defined by formal “membership” (voter registration, etc.), self-identification, or electoral support.  These people have some idea of what the party brand means and they like candidates to adhere to it. They like to get what they think they are voting for.

(2) Next is the activist base.  These people are motivated by a particular issue or set of issues (or by a candidate who serves as the vessel for such).  Some organize themselves to great effectiveness. Many are organized permanently and have established themselves as genuine powers.  Others can be motivated in the right season, on a case by case basis. The most successful are able to create enough activity to earn a living from their activism (essentially, they are paid for their leadership).

(3) Finally we have the “professional” party – the regulars.  Broadly speaking, they are paid or make money from politics, whether as attorneys, vendors, lobbyists, elected officials, appointed officials, patronage employees, political consultants, legislative staff, and such.  They are transactional and make money through or directly from politics – that is the big difference between them and the broader party.

Of necessity, the concerns of each of these three groups can be very different.  On the whole, the first two want candidates who will represent their points of view (although, depending on the issue, some in the second might find themselves outside the mainstream of the first).  The concerns of the last can be quite complex depending on relationships (personal, professional, and financial), the political considerations of maintaining power, and monetary contracts or understandings.  Suffice to say that the maintenance of power for its own sake is a primary concern, so they see the world very differently than the almost black or white delineations of the greater party.

All three entities are very important.  Whether Democrat or Republican, a party needs its broad membership, its activist base, and its professional party regulars.  But it needs them working together… not hating each other.

In the election just completed, the Democrats successfully engaged and involved the second group and we saw literally thousands of people from the first group – average voters – flood into the second to become activists.  In contrast, the Republicans maintained rigid, centralized control… and they were nearly wiped out.

OODA LOOPS & NCO’s

In political campaigns, as in warfare, command and control is all about the time it takes to observe a threat or opportunity, orientate your forces to bear on it, decide what to do, and then do it.  In the aftermath of America’s failure in Vietnam, when the President of the United States was personally selecting which bridges to bomb, military theorists grappled with various ways to improve command and control.  After 241 military personnel, mainly United States Marines, were killed by a truck bomb driven into their barracks in Beirut, the need for a “quick action” method of command and control became an imperative. In Beirut, the forces on the ground had to get permission from the brass in Washington in order to react decisively.  Unfortunately, the terrorists didn’t wait.

An Air Force Colonel by the name of John Boyd studied warfare through the critical lens of time.  For Colonel Boyd, it was all about time… reaction time… the ability to get inside your opponent’s decision-making loop.  

Colonel Boyd came up with the concept of OODA loops or time cycles while studying air combat and then applied it more generally to warfare and to other forms of human conflict.  Boyd wrote that the key strategic advantage in any conflict was the ability to Observe a threat or opportunity, Orientate oneself to it, Decide what to do, and then Act… an OODA loop.  If you could complete your OODA loop quicker than your opponent could, you would probably win.

In New Jersey, the Democrats operate on a pretty brisk OODA time cycle.  The Republicans move like glue and are utterly disconnected from the ground.  The Democrats understand who their NCO’s are and largely trust them. This gives the Democrats the ability to communicate what needs to be done, with the view that if they point the field NCO’s in the right direction, they can be trusted to get the job done.

The Democrats would understand Marine Colonel Chesty Puller’s comments to his NCO’s at the start of WWII… it would make no sense to a regular Republican in New Jersey.  We have no NCO’s. (We need them… desperately!)

The reasons for this are historical.  Beginning with the nascent post-war (WWII) ascendancy of the conservative movement and the candidacy of Barry Goldwater, the New Jersey GOP establishment recoiled against the modern conservativism of Bill Buckley and Ronald Reagan.  These sentiments were rooted in the class-based prejudices and religious bigotry of a Republican Party that had been crushed by FDR and the New Deal. Of a party that still expected the gratitude of African-Americans and was shocked when it was withheld.  

With the election of Ronald Reagan as President and the mainstreaming of his platform in 1980, New Jersey’s regular Republicans – the party’s “professionals” pursued a course at an odd variance with that of the national party.  The wider Republican party in New Jersey – and its activist base – kept step with the national Republican Party. The professionals became more and more a strange “hothouse” variety – a hybrid.

The GOP regulars tried to win “our way” but the losing only grew worse and worse, the excuses bolder and brazen.  Governor Chris Christie had the good sense to enlist the activist base, running as an economic and social conservative – a supporter of traditional values, Pro-Life, and Pro-Second Amendment – unfortunately, GOP legislative candidates too often have not.  In the end, with the loss of county and local governments, then the state government, many of the professionals found accommodation with the Democrats – some even becoming Democrats.  

Without jobs for the boys, NCO’s recruited from the professional regulars dried up.  Without an appeal to activist issues or at least the RNC platform… there was no compelling way to replace them.  People fight for money or they fight for cause. Both have been taken away.

Now, with the 2016 election of Donald Trump, the membership of the Republican Party, as well as its activist base, are now totally disjoint from the professional regulars of the NJGOP.  If most average Republicans knew who their “leaders” represented economically, they would find it revolting. Many would never vote again.

But there is hope.  The Democrats under Governor Phil Murphy are demonstrably whacky enough to recruit the support of the activist base as well as the wider party… to enlist and to activate many, many who have not been active before.

Party professionals can earn lucrative livings by wielding the collective power of the votes of many people.  These people willingly turn the power of their vote over to them because they believe the word “Republican” stands for certain things.  All they ask in return for turning their power over to a GOP “leader” is that they not be lied to in such an extreme way that they are made to feel like fools.  And the regular professionals make the wider party feel like fools… at their own peril.

In summary:  Stand for something.  Open the doors to the activist base and the wider party.  Tighten that OODA loop by loosening your grip. Recruit NCO’s, train them, point them in the right direction, and allow them to do their work.

It was our fault, and our very great fault—and now we must turn it to use.
We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse.
So the more we work and the less we talk the better results we shall get—
We have had an Imperial lesson; it may make us an Empire yet!

How Steve Oroho finished what Jay Webber started

In the Legislature, you can be a conservative in one of two ways... broadly speaking.  One way is to be a conscience, sit above it all, and vote accordingly.  You could not find a more perfect example of this than Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who negotiates the prickly halls of Trenton with a Zen assuredness.  He always knows the right thing to do... and he always does it.  Instead of the wilting figure of John McCann, the YR's and CR's could do no better than to adopt Assemblyman Carroll as their Sensei.

The other way is to wade into the muck in an attempt to climb aboard the ship of state and steer it in a more desirable direction.  Sometimes the engine isn't even working and you might need to get down into the boiler room -- knee deep in waste -- and grapple with the machinery of government, just to get it sputtering in some direction.

Assemblyman Jay Webber takes this course... to a point.  He seems well enough suited to steer, but when it comes to the engine room, he doesn't want to get his hands dirty.  That's where he differs from Senator Steve Oroho.  Oroho accepts that he will have to endure the heat and muck in order to get the machine running -- and he doesn't mind busting a knuckle or two while grabbling with a boiler wrench.

A prime example are their differing approaches to preventing the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF) from going bankrupt and ending the Estate Tax.  Two very conservative causes.  The TTF, funded by a gas tax, was right out of the Reagan mantra of using user taxes to fund public infrastructure.  Those who use the roads should pay for them, said Reagan, no free rides!  While the death tax -- which is what an Estate Tax is -- has been identified by conservatives for years as the destroyer of small businesses and the ruination of family farms.

Jay Webber waded into the issue assuredly enough.  On October 14, 2014, the Star-Ledger published a column by the Assemblyman.  It's title was "Fixing transportation and taxes together."  Webber was writing about how to raise the gas tax to re-fund the nearly bankrupt TTF, while offsetting that tax increase with cuts to other taxes.  He zeroed in on the Estate Tax:

"NEW JERSEY leaders are grappling with three major problems: First, New Jersey has the worst tax burden in the nation. Two, New Jersey's economy suffers from sluggish growth. And third, our state's Transportation Trust Fund is out of money. There is a potential principled compromise that can help solve all of them.

Of the three problems, the Transportation Trust Fund has been getting the most attention lately, and for good reason: It's broke. There is just no money in it to maintain and improve our vital infrastructure. Without finding a solution, we risk watching our roads and bridges grow unsafe and unusable and hinder movement of people and goods throughout the state. That, of course, will exacerbate our state's slow economic growth.

...we should insist that if any tax is raised to restore the TTF, it be coupled with the elimination of a tax that is one of our state's biggest obstacles to economic growth: the death tax. By any measure, New Jersey is the most extreme outlier on the death tax, with worst-in-the-nation status...

New Jersey's death tax is not a concern for the wealthy alone, as many misperceive. We are one of only two states with both an estate and inheritance tax. New Jersey's estate-tax threshold of $675,000, combined with a tax rate as high as 16 percent, means that middle-class families with average-sized homes and small retirement savings are hit hard by the tax.

It also means the tax affects small businesses or family farms of virtually any size, discouraging investment and growth among our private-sector job creators. Compounding the inequity is that government already has taxed the assets subject to the death tax when the money was earned. Because of our onerous estate and inheritance taxes, Forbes magazine lists New Jersey as a place "Not to Die" in 2014.

That's a problem, and it's one our sister states are trying hard not to duplicate. A recent study by Connecticut determined that states with no estate tax created twice as many jobs and saw their economies grow 50 percent more than states with estate taxes. That research prompted Connecticut and many states to reform their death taxes. New York just lowered its death tax, and several other states have eliminated theirs.

The good news is that New Jersey's leaders finally are realizing that our confiscatory death tax is a big deal. A bipartisan coalition of legislators has shown its support for reforming New Jersey's death tax..."

Taking Webber's lead, Senator Steve Oroho got to work and began the painstakingly long process of negotiation with the majority Democrats.  Oroho was animated by the basic unfairness that New Jersey taxpayers were under-writing out-of-state drivers to the tune of a half-billion dollars a year.  He understood that if the TTF went bankrupt, the cost would flip to county and local governments... resulting in an average $500 property tax increase.  Oroho went to battle to prevent this disaster and even had to stand up to Governor Chris Christie, who wanted to end negotiations too soon and accept a weaker deal from the Democrats.

Unfortunately, Assemblyman Webber didn't stick with it.  When the time came for Jay Webber to be counted as part of that bipartisan coalition, he couldn't be counted on.  Jay got scared off by the lobbyist arm of the petroleum industry and what's worse is that he started attacking those who did what he advocated doing only a short time before. 

Remember that it was Webber who wrote these words in that column more than three years ago:  "Any gas-tax increase should be accompanied by measures that will help alleviate, or at least not increase, the overall tax burden on New Jerseyans." Jay Webber wrote those words, setting the direction.  Steve Oroho was left on his own to get the job done -- to do the negotiating.  The helmsman had abandoned the engineer. 

Webber said at the time that he believed the bipartisan tax restructuring package worked out by the legislative leaders (minus Senator Tom Kean Jr.) and the Governor would result in a net tax increase.  Oroho and others disagreed with him.  Webber is by all accounts a good lawyer, but Oroho is the numbers man.  He's a certified financial planner and CPA.  Before beginning his career of public service, Steve Oroho was a senior financial officer for S&P 500 companies like W. R. Grace and  Young & Rubicam.  It was this knowledge that enabled him to fashion the compromise that he did -- one that turned out to be the largest tax cut in New Jersey's history.

In the end, the Democrats' 40-cent increase on the gas tax was paired down to 23-cents.  The gas tax, the proceeds from which funds the TTF, had not been adjusted for inflation in 28 years, had not provided enough funding to cover annual operations in 25 years, and wasn't even bringing in enough money to pay the interest on the borrowing that was done to keep operations going (in 2015, the state collected just $750 million from the gas tax while incurring an annual debt cost of $1.1 billion).  Even so, Senator Oroho knew exactly where to draw the line... at the minimalist 23 cents and not the 40 cents the Democrats plausibly argued for.

In the end, the engineer got the job done.  Senator Steve Oroho emerged from the boiler room triumphant.  He ended the Estate Tax and secured tax cuts for retirees, veterans, small businesses, farmers, consumers, and low-income workers.  He secured property tax relief by doubling the TTF's local financial aid to towns and counties -- and prevented a $500 per household property tax hike.  He made out-of-state drivers pay for using New Jersey's roads -- and ensured that New Jerseyans will continue to have safe roads and bridges to drive on.

Oroho's tax cuts were praised by conservative groups like Americans for Tax Reform and conservative publications like Forbes, which called his tax cuts "one of the 5 best state and local tax policy changes in 2016 nationwide." 

That's getting something done.   

Phil Garber and the NJ Democrats' Fake News machine

Phil Garber is a small-time editor of a weekly newspaper operating out of Mount Olive, in Morris County.  Garber has never heard of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), the oldest association of writers and editors in the United States, and if he had heard of them, his actions over the years confirm that he's never read the Code of Ethics of the SPJ. 

truth_pravda.jpg

In a recent headline, Garber reported that Mount Olive is getting $292,500 from the state for a repaving project.  Garber noted that the funds were possible because of the recent gas tax increase that has more than doubled the amount of funds for local road and bridge safety improvement projects.

Of course, Garber had pissed all over the Republican who led the fight to prevent the bankruptcy of the Transportation Trust Fund (TTF), from which those funds were drawn.  That was in 2016.  The Tax Restructuring Package that cut five taxes and re-funded the TTF through a 23-cents a gallon increase on gasoline was passed in 2016 and signed into law by Republican Governor Chris Christie on October 14, 2016.

But that did not stop Editor Garber from making this the first sentence of his story:  "The first fruits of the new administration of Gov. Phil Murphy have been harvested in terms of a grant of $292,500 for the first phase of repaving International Drive North."

No shit.  Phil "the swallower" Garber wants us to swallow this.  The "first fruits" of an administration that didn't take office until January 16, 2018.  How did that work?

Garber works for a newspaper that is owned by the wife of Mark Magyar, one of Senate President Steve Sweeney's top aides.  In December of 2014, Magyar was hired as the Democrat's new Director of Policy and Communications.  Magyar had been a statehouse reporter for the Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record, as well as the editor of the New Jersey Spotlight.

The corporate and political empire of Democrat Party boss George Norcross -- the political machine of which the Senate President is a part -- has a history of co-opting or attempting to co-opt local and regional newspapers in that part of New Jersey where his authoritarian rule is almost uncontested.  The machine is in the process of solidifying its rule in its southern New Jersey base, while expanding its power across the state -- and beyond.  The machine is allied with powerful lawyer-lobbyists like former Governor Jim Florio and Camden County Freeholder Director Lou Cappelli, who are expanding into neighboring states.  And while the machine's first such foray ended in prosecution and tumult, it might well be successful, and could usher in a period of sustained, anti-democratic ruthlessness, unique in the experience of post-Prohibition America.

Mark Magyar is the spouse of Elizabeth K. Parker, Co-publisher and Executive Editor the New Jersey Hills Media Group.  The group is controlled by the Recorder Publishing Company, a privately held entity in Bernardsville, that owns and publishes 17 local newspapers in Republican Morris County, Somerset County, and Hunterdon County -- and in Republican towns in Essex County.  Their readership comes from towns that usually get the short end of the sick from the Democrats in Trenton.

Elizabeth Parker owns Recorder Publishing with her brother, Co-publisher and Business Manager Stephen W. Parker.  He oversees the print and on-line advertising operations.  The company also sells other services, including website development, search engine optimization, "Reputation Management", and "Social Media Management".

Some of the newspapers they control have been around for more than a century -- like the Hunterdon Review, established in 1868; the Bernardsville News, 1897; Madison Eagle, 1880; and The Progress, 1911.  Recorder Publishing was started by the late Cortlandt Parker, who founded the Morris Observer in 1955.  His company expanded to its current size with the acquisition of the Eagle-Courier Group in 1991. 

Cortlandt Parker, who died in 2002, had residences in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, and Boston, Massachusetts.  His New York Times obituary describes him as having progressive positions on "social issues" and cites as an example his refusal to accept cigarette advertising in his newspapers "before it was common to do so."

While taking a position against the generally working class pleasure of tobacco, Mr. Parker was an advocate of that upper class pleasure -- wine.  He founded the Greenvale Vineyards in Rhode Island and published several magazines about the wine industry in the Finger Lakes region of New York, New England, Long Island, and Virginia.  The New England Wine Gazette is published by Recorder Publishing, at its Bernardsville operation.

Newspapers were never as pure or disinterested as their cheerleaders would have us believe, but at least -- once upon a time/ just yesterday -- they did constitute a locus of power independent of political machines.  Not necessarily of their corporate advertisers (per Herman and Chomsky), but certainly of base political machines.  Those days are drawing to a close. 

New Jersey is unique in its forms and ways of political corruption -- especially of systemic corruption -- in that it rides the wave just ahead of the rest of America.  Sadly, it appears that what we once called journalism is on a rapid descent into the realms of propaganda and in future will be little more than coarse party broadsheets -- advertisements using histrionics worthy of Pravda or the Völkischer Beobachter.