‘Progressive Fraud’: Three thoughts on ‘Trumpism’ in Hudson
Real Jersey City publisher Michael Shurin offers three thoughts on Trumpism in Hudson County – suspicious business dealings, filling the courts with loyal judges, and exploiting religion for political gain.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t published anything in a few weeks, it’s because the BS in Jersey City & Hudson County is sickening to think about – especially local progressives and their brand of Trumpism.
It’s also because my work is meaningless, evidenced by the hysteria following the Bloomberg report on Mayor Steven Fulop’s questionable business dealings – most of which was already published on Real Jersey City. Quite frankly, reading the report and online reaction was frustrating, exhausting, and borderline gaslighting.
To blow off steam in the moment, I published a rapid reaction piece about the mayor’s wife, Jaclyn Fulop, being nominated by Gov. Phil Murphy to the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. Unfortunately, I got the title of the story wrong, and, in fact, Jaclyn was already approved by the New Jersey State Senate at the time I published.
Yet the substance of that piece remains true, most of which was triggered by Mack-Cali CEO Michael DeMarco’s quotes to Bloomberg – which symbolized peak Trumpism in Hudson County. For the purpose of this piece, I’m defining Trumpism as the intersectionality of suspicious business dealings, filling the courts with loyal judges, and exploiting religion for political gain.
Suspicious business dealings
If you haven’t been paying attention, Pres. Donald Trump has nominated a lot of loyal cronies and family members to various positions throughout the federal government. Despite their ideological and partisan differences with Trump, Murphy & Fulop share eerie similarities on the state & local level that are shameless at best.
For example, the Bloomberg piece highlighted potential conflicts of interest related to Jaclyn Fulop, as co-owner of Exchange Place Therapy Group (EPTG), leasing space from Mack-Cali in Weehawken – first brought to light by Real Jersey City during the Katyn Memorial controversy back in May 2018.
Jersey City Spokesperson Kimberly Wallace-Scalcione told Bloomberg that “to avoid even the appearance or perception of any conflict of interest, the mayor, in fact, has recused himself from any city negotiations or dealings with Mack-Cali requiring city approval,” and provided recusal letters that date back as far as June 2018 – which would be one month after Real Jersey City’s original report questioning the business relationship.
Furthermore, according to the report, Michael DeMarco, CEO of Mack-Cali, said his company “negotiated the leases with Jaclyn Fulop’s business partner and didn’t realize the mayor’s wife was involved.”
“She’s only a co-owner of the business,” DeMarco said in a recent interview, “so even if there had been some special deal, she would’ve only gotten half of it.” The report also notes that EPTG has since negotiated another lease with Mack-Cali for an Exchange Place space.
Despite all that’s been written, without seeing financial records it’s impossible to know if any nefarious business activity occurred. Given that the Bloomberg report was published after Jaclyn Fulop was confirmed, an opportunity was lost for state senators to ask if she received “half of a special deal” from a company that donated $250,000 to a Super PAC associated with her husband’s unrealized gubernatorial ambitions.
Nevertheless, I appreciate the Trumpesque, above-the-rules tone of DeMarco – which makes me sad that Mack-Cali couldn’t provide the same quote at the height of the Katyn Memorial controversy.
Furthermore, the Bloomberg report notes that Dixon Advisory USA has declined to comment on what it charged Jaclyn & Steven Fulop for work related to both their Jersey City Heights home and Rhode Island property. Alan Dixon, the firm’s CEO, would only say that the company “has completed market-priced work for the mayor of Jersey City, as well as many other clients, and has made market-level profits.”
Dixon Advisory USA, the wholly owned U.S. subsidiary of an Australian financial services firm, has donated at least $50,000 to over a dozen state-based Hudson County campaign accounts since 2013, and $300,000 to Fulop’s Super PAC. Despite losing in a runoff election, Dixon’s former general counsel, Rebecca Symes, was endorsed in 2017 by allies of Fulop for Ward E city councilperson.
Additionally, Dinah Hendon, the former executive director of The Waterfront Project (WFP), a non-profit affiliated with Dixon, was hired by Fulop as director of the Office of Housing Code Enforcement (and replaced by Symes at WFP). Before leaving to work for the city last summer, Hendon paid tribute to Dixon Projects & Dixon Leasing, as well as the religious non-profit Jersey City Together, at the organization’s “Justice for All” fundraiser.
To be clear, Dixon Advisory USA manages the US Masters Residential Property Fund (URF), a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) listed on the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), which owns approximately $475 million worth of property in New Jersey (primarily Jersey City/Hudson County). After being hired by Fulop, Hendon now works as one of the most influential government regulators of the URF’s assets.
Of note, Real Jersey City has filed an Open Public Records Act (OPRA) complaint in Hudson County Superior Court against the Fulop Administration for withholding records related to grant funding for WFP.
Ultimately, the “liberal white supremacy” of Hendon & Symes – in conjunction with Jersey City Together – is that they’ve been coordinating attacks against specific landlords, but have been silent about Dixon’s eviction tactics in Jersey City and partnerships with mega-landlords in Hudson County. Which leads to an important question – are they serving the public’s interests or are they serving Dixon’s interests?
Simply put, Fulop’s hiring of Hendon and Murphy’s appointment of Jaclyn Fulop show that cronyism & transactional politics – Trumpism, for lack of a better term – is alive and well in Hudson County.
Filling the courts with loyal judges
Like it or not, Trump – with the help of Republicans in the U.S. Senate – has successfully nominated over 125 judges to the federal courts (especially the appellate courts). Many of those judges were chosen based off guidance from the Federalist Society, a controversial D.C.-based group that aims to stack the courts with conservative judges.
Similar to Trump, when choosing judges for Hudson County, Murphy has apparently deferred to the powerful law firm of Chasan Lamparello Mallon & Cappuzzo, PC (CLMC) – which is why Hudson County Superior Court Judge Mirtha Ospina has not been reappointed.
NOTE: Upon review of the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee’s agenda, hoping to find Ospina’s name, is how I discovered Jaclyn Fulop’s nomination – not a tip.
According to sources, Ralph Lamparello, a managing partner at the law firm and powerful attorney associated with North Bergen Mayor/state Senator Nicholas Sacco (D-32), was unhappy with a few of Ospina’s rulings against the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office (HCPO) – which supposedly led to her downfall.
Of note, Ralph’s wife, Carol Lamparello, is the chief of staff to Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez. Additionally, CLMC is currently representing the HCPO in various legal matters – including a civil rights lawsuit alleging anti-mom bias within the HCPO’s leadership filed by former detective Erin Rubas.
As well, many of the current Hudson County Superior Court judges had at some point worked for CLMC – further highlighting the influence of Lamparello & Sacco (who holds a lot of power over the nomination process via senatorial courtesy).
Alas, Ospina, who has intelligence & integrity, plus diversity (Latina & lesbian), is not the type of judge Murphy wants in Hudson County. Rather, Murphy prefers loyalists on the bench that will be committed to the agenda of his supporters – Trumpism, for lack of a better term.
One last point – NJ Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner issued a statement regarding judges being removed from the bench in light of comments towards sexual assault victims. Defending judicial independence, Rabner wrote “there can be no reason for judges to fear discipline — not from the court system or any other entity — when they carry out their solemn responsibilities.”
Simply put, Rabner’s words feel awfully hollow right now.
Exploiting religion for political gain
It’s been said that “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” – which is representative of Trump’s rise to power.
I’ll add to that quote by saying “liberal white supremacy in New Jersey is heterosexual politicians wrapping themselves in rainbow pride flags while removing highly-qualified LGBT judges from the courts” – which is representative of Murphy’s leadership.
As for Jersey City Together (JCT), they’re a “non-profit” that describes itself as a multi-faith coalition, but operates like a typical Hudson County political organization with “progressive” branding.
As previously reported by Real Jersey City, JCT is organizing “Jersey City residents (& potential voters)” to push their vague education reform agenda that is associated with pro-charter school organizations. More recently, Shelly Skinner – leader of Better Education for Kids New Jersey (B4KNJ) – praised Frank McMillan, JCT’s top organizer, for his leadership after he met with charter school activists.
Sources close to the Jersey City Education Association (JCEA) say teachers union officials have become increasingly suspicious of McMillan’s agenda and JCT’s collaboration with Brigid D’Souza, a popular blogger affiliated with past & present Jersey City Board of Education (JCBOE) members that are considered anti-JCEA (like Ellen Simon and Matthew Shapiro).
It should be mentioned that utilizing religious institutions was a part of the campaign strategy of Jersey City United in 2016, a multi-faith, pro-education reform slate of JCBOE candidates that included Shapiro (unsuccessful in 2016, successful in 2017). EXAMPLE BELOW:
Let’s not forget, JCT has operated with the full support of Ward E Councilman James Solomon – who received campaign donations from Chris Cerf, a former state education commissioner under Gov. Christie, and Moshe Rozenblit – who once filed a lawsuit with a conservative activist group targeting the JCEA.
And it’s not just the issue of education. Just like JCT, which attacked vested Jersey City residents over development concerns at Bayfront, Solomon has been silent about the gentrification tactics of Dixon Advisory USA.
More on JCT, McMillan, and Solomon’s policy initiatives at a later time, but one thing is clear – exploiting religious institutions for political support and allowing foreign financial interests to exert influence over government through donations & suspicious business dealings is Trumpism, for lack of a better term.
Simply put, the end of this website is closer than ever, and exposing the “progressive fraud” being perpetrated against the people of Jersey City will be one of the last things I do – even if there won’t be another Mission Accomplished moment involving Judge Ospina.