MENENDEZ ‘severely’ admonished — PORT AUTHORITY trashes Turner — SWEENEY goes negative on free community college

Good Friday morning!

The Senate Ethics Committee’s decision on Sen. Menendez is in, and it’s pretty brutal. It’s a “severe” admonishment over his advocacy for Salomon Melgen while receiving gifts from him.

A snippet: “While accepting these gifts, you used your position as a Member of the Senate to advance Dr. Melgen’s personal and business interests. The Committee has determined that this conduct violated Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct." Read the whole thing here.

The committee also demanded Menendez pay back all the gifts he’s received from Melgen that he hasn’t repaid already, though it gives no total value. "Accordingly, the Committee issues you this Public Letter of Admonition, and also directs you to repay the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already repaid," the decision reads.

But the real cost for Menendez is political. Now Bob Hugin can spend his self-funded millions on commercials saying that Menendez’s own colleagues on a bipartisan committee found he broke federal law. On the plus side for Menendez: This letter comes more than six months before he faces reelection. That’s always been a long time in politics, but with new Trump administration scandals popping up every week it’s even longer. Trump is so politically toxic statewide that Hugin won’t even call himself a Trump supporter. And there are no new facts to the Menendez scandal that has been in the papers since 2013.

And as a last resort, there’s always the precedent of the last New Jersey U.S. senator to be admonished by the Ethics Committee, over a similar controversy: Bob Torricelli. That and the public blowback forced him to drop out. Democrats were able to convince the Supreme Court to let them swap him out late in the game, setting a precedent. So in the unlikely event it comes down to that, Democrats still have an option — if they could actually convince Menendez to step aside.

WHERE’S MURPHY? In New York, speaking at the Regional Plan Association Annual Assembly Conference. 10am at the Grand Hyatt by Grand Central

HAPPY BIRTHDAY — Congressional candidate Steve Lonegan, DNC Northeast Director Mansoor Abdul Khadir. Saturday for Lampitt aide Rich DiCriscio. Sunday for Assemblyman Arthur Barclay, DSC E.D. Liz Gilbert, LD2 aide Rich DiCriscio, Gusciora aide Brendan Neal

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The LoBiondo seat is still a recruiting hole for us, I’ll be honest … I wish we had a better recruit in the LoBiondo seat but we don’t” — National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Shivers, all but conceding retiring GOP U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo’s seat to Democrat Jeff Van Drew.

** A message from 1199SEIU & Garden State CARES: NJ nursing homes are chronically understaffed, ranking 45th in the nation in staffing of certified nursing assistants, the workers who patients rely on for their daily needs. That’s why today, 1199SEIU caregivers are marching in Trenton —calling for passage of bill S1612/A382 to establish minimum CNA-to-patient ratios in nursing homes. Learn more: www.gardenstatecares.com/ssp **

WHAT TRENTON MADE

A GOVERNOR WHO DOESN’T HAVE YOUR BACKGROUND CHECK — New Jersey hires former investment banker previously accused of securities fraud, by POLITICO’s Ryan Hutchins: A former Citigroup executive once accused of defrauding thousands of investors was hired last month by the state Department of Transportation, where he is now in charge of overseeing several major divisions. Lewis E. Daidone, 60, began work in late March as the DOT’s assistant commissioner for finance and administration, according to memos obtained by POLITICO. He will manage the agency’s budget and capital investment staff, along with several other programs. Daidone, who was a managing director at Citigroup, was named in a 2005 enforcement action by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The case was later dismissed by a federal judge, though a separate class-action lawsuit ended in a judgment and his employer agreed to a separate settlement requiring it to pay $208 million in fines and restitution. “The status of the matter was discussed with the candidate,” Steve Schapiro, a spokesman for the state DOT, said in a response to written questions. “Notwithstanding the Citigroup settlement, Mr. Daidone pursued legal action to clear his name. The allegations were dismissed by the court.” Read the report

DEMOCRATS BEING DEMOCRATS — Democratic infighting escalates as Coughlin blasts key Murphy ally, by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin fired a warning shot at a key ally of Gov. Phil Murphy on Thursday, telling him it would be unwise to put political pressure on his caucus members through an advertising campaign. In a column Thursday, The Record’s Charles Stile paraphrased former Murphy campaign manager Brendan Gill saying that the pro-Murphy political nonprofit Gill runs, New Direction New Jersey, will launch an online and possibly television advertising campaign next month to “steadily mobilize public support and build pressure on resistant lawmakers” to pass Murphy’s progressive agenda. "Trying to pressure our members would be an unfortunate decision,” Coughlin (D-Middlesex) said in a statement. “Our caucus is focused on crafting a budget that represents the best interests of the taxpayers and no amount of pressure will deter us from doing what we believe to be in the best interest of New Jersey’s families. I would strongly advise the administration to distance itself from these remarks and these tactics." Read the report

—“Phil Murphy takes victory lap, but faces real test for tax hikes, legal weed,” by The Record’s Charles Stile: “Gov. Phil Murphy took a victory lap Wednesday, claiming he "turned around the New Jersey narrative" in just 100 days in office. But it is in the next 66 days, and in the privacy of the closed-door Trenton clubhouse, where Murphy will face his first major test in governing. The pressure cooker of budget negotiations will challenge Murphy’s ability to persuade reluctant legislators to vote for his $1.7 million in tax hikes … He now has to make the pitch to grizzled Trenton veterans, like Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who couldn’t care less about Murphy’s ‘fairer and stronger’ sloganeering or poll numbers showing strong public support for parts of his agenda, like raising taxes on millionaires or legalizing marijuana for recreational use … He now has to make the pitch to grizzled Trenton veterans, like Senate President Stephen Sweeney, D-Gloucester, who couldn’t care less about Murphy’s "fairer and stronger” sloganeering or poll numbers showing strong public support for parts of his agenda, like raising taxes on millionaires or legalizing marijuana for recreational use.” Read the report

IT NEVER ENDS — 2 top Democrats question Murphy’s plan for tuition-free community college, by POLITICO’s Linh Tat: Gov. Phil Murphy’s vision for tuition-free community college hit a stumbling block Thursday, with two top lawmakers from his own party signaling they’re not yet sold on the idea. The questioning of one of Murphy’s key campaign promises means the $50 million he wants set aside in the upcoming fiscal year as a "down payment" on his plan to make two-year colleges tuition-free for all could be in jeopardy, since he’ll need the Legislature to agree to keep the money in the budget. State Senate President Steve Sweeney asked during a Senate budget hearing whether it makes sense to invest in a new initiative when the state has existing programs geared toward making college affordable. Sweeney noted that Murphy’s budget proposal would keep funding flat for the NJ STARS and Urban Scholarship programs. He also said the state is supposed to fund a third of the costs of community colleges, but only funds them at about 21 percent. “If we can’t fund the programs that we have existing now, and we’re not funding properly at the county level, can you explain why we’re creating a new program that we’ll have a hard time funding in the future?” Sweeney asked acting Secretary of Higher Education Zakiya Smith Ellis. Read the report

COUGH COUGH COUGHLIN — Coughlin was in Colorado yesterday to tour its weed industry as New Jersey debates legalization. Assembly Democratic spokesman Tom Hester: “The Assembly’s focus right now when it comes to marijuana legalization is solely on getting public input through the hearings being held by Assemblyman Danielsen and his committee.” No word on whether Coughlin sampled the goods. And, honestly, I don’t know if he’s still there today.

BUT WHAT ABOUT MIT? YALE? LONDON BANKERS? — Port Authority goes to great lengths to distance itself from Caren Turner, by POLITICO’s Dana Rubinstein: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey sought to make one thing abundantly clear on Thursday: Despite former Commissioner Caren Turner’s misbehavior, the agency has come a long way since the days when its chairman pleaded guilty to bribery and its executives were caught red-handed engineering the Bridgegate scandal. “Unethical and even criminal wrongdoing by past Port Authority leaders has badly damaged the agency’s reputation,” said Kevin O’Toole, the bi-state agency’s new chairman … Turner, in the statement also encouraged the “Tenafly Police Department to review best practices with respect to tone and de-escalation, so that incidents like this do not recur.” Yet the Port Authority board was so impressed with the police department’s performance and tone, that on Thursday it passed a resolution praising the department for its officers’ demeanor. “It is deeply unfortunate that former Commissioner Turner tested the patience and professionalism of the Tenafly Police Department on March 31, 2018,” the resolution read. “But it is a credit to the Tenafly Police Department that she did not succeed.” Read the report

THE LIFE OF BRIAN — “Stack unifies fractured statewide figures at Union City rally (without DeGise),” by InsiderNJ’s Max Pizarro: “Arrayed onstage with Governor Phil Murphy, Senator Bob Menendez and Senate President Steve Sweeney, Mayor (and state Senator) Brian P. Stack looked like he was ready for the German assault on Stalingrad tonight. His objective? Reelection in a walkover May 8th nonpartisan election. No one here in the Park Theater in this homage to Stack t-shirted humanity could name the person running against Stack … If irony was not the star of this apparent morality play, Stack in any event succeeded in providing a stage to convey a love bug vibe between fierce foes Sweeney and Murphy. Earlier in the day, sources coming out of the Trenton Senate Budget Hearing said they were stunned when Sweeney took the reins of the hearing to get some digs in on Murphy’s choice for higher ed.” Read the report

GUADAGNO GETS THE GREEN — “Guadagno joins law firm that has a cannabis practice,” by POLITICO’s Matt Friedman: Kim Guadagno, New Jersey’s first lieutenant governor and the unsuccessful GOP nominee for governor last year, has a new job. The New Jersey-based Connell Foley law firm has hired Guadagno as a partner, Guadagno and the firm announced Thursday in a press release. She’ll work out of its Jersey City office. "It was an easy decision to join Connell Foley," said Guadagno. "After eight years of public service as New Jersey’s Lieutenant Governor, I am eager to return to practicing law at one of the region’s most dynamic firms with an extraordinary group of dedicated and experienced professionals … Connell Foley has, over the years, had substantial state contracts. In 2015 — the last year for which the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission has information on its public contracts — it made $788,000 from public contracts, nearly half of which came from legal services for the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority. Guadagno during the campaign opposed legalizing marijuana, which Murphy ran in favor of. But her new law firm has a Cannabis Law Group that is "at the forefront of developments" in the cannabis industry, according to its website. Read the report

—“More than 3,000 attend Stack rally” Read the report

—“N.J. settles sex harassment case with $350K payout for state worker” Read the report

— PSEG subsidiary agrees to pay nearly $40M to settle FERC investigation Read the report

— Murphy tells PBA he’ll give ‘independence’ to pension fund Read the report

THE TRUMP ERA

ETHICS COMMITTEE, POLITBURO. WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE? — “Sen. Bob Menendez wonders if the Russians are coming to get him in this election,” by The Record’s Herb Jackson: “It may just have been a humble brag in front of a bunch of reporters who cover foreign affairs about being on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s enemies list. But Sen. Bob Menendez is wondering whether Russian interference with American elections will include going after his bid for another six-year term representing New Jersey this year. ‘Whether or not Russia succeeded in affecting our elections, that’s not even the question,’ Menendez said Wednesday afternoon during a no-cameras discussion with reporters who primarily cover the Foreign Relations Committee … NJ Advance Media’s Jonathan Salant then asked Menendez if he really believed Russia would interfere in New Jersey. ‘I think the whole system is under assault as far as I’m concerned,’ he said. ‘But certainly as someone who is specifically on a small list of those who are sanctioned and cannot go to Russia, as a result of the Ukraine Freedom Support Act that we passed … You know, hey, there’s no one who’s pushed Russia sanctions harder than I have. So if you can mess around with an election, why not? I don’t know that they would or won’t do it. I’m just saying it,’ Menendez said.” Read the report

DENEUF! DENEUF! DENEUF IS ON FIRE! — “DeNeufville family foundation gave to Planned Parenthood,” by NJ Globe’s Nikita Biryukov: “Republican congressional candidate Peter DeNeufville’s family foundation has given $55,000 to Planned Parenthood and the Tides Foundation, a progressive policy group, since 2012 The foundation gave Planned Parenthood $15,000 for health education in 2016 and $20,000 to support family planning in 2012. Donations to the Tides Foundation, $5,000 in 2016 and $15,000 the year before, were not listed with a purpose. Though it was a small portion – roughly 4.4% – of the almost $1.3 million the Roxiticus Foundation gave to schools, charities and hospitals, among other causes, over the five-year period, the giving could prove to be a liability for DeNeufville, who is vice president of the foundation, as the June primary approach. DeNeufville campaign manager Gregg Edwards said donations from the foundation are often directed individually by the family members that sit on its board of directors.” Read the report

BEING FRANK — “N.J.’s Pallone tells Trump’s EPA head he is ‘unfit to hold public office’,” by NJ Advance Media’s Jonathan D. Salant: “Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. lashed into the head of the Environmental Protection Agency Thursday, calling him ‘unfit to hold public office and undeserving of the public trust.’ ‘Every indication is you really should resign," Pallone, D-6th Dist., told EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt at a hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, where he is the ranking Democrat. Pruitt, accused of misusing taxpayer funds and for renting a room from the wife of a lobbyist with business before the EPA, said the attacks on him were an effort to sabotage President Donald Trump’s agenda of rolling back regulations.” Read the report

LOCAL

NO WORD ON WHETHER THEY WILL FOCUS CAMERAS ON 920 BROAD — “Newark ‘Virtual Police’ initiative will allow residents to view police cameras,” by ABC 7’s Anthony Johnson: “Newark Mayor Ras Baraka on Thursday announced the launch of the "Citizen Virtual Patrol," a virtual policing program. "This invaluable technology puts a real-time crime reporting tool in the hands of every concerned community member," Baraka said. Beginning April 26, officials say 62 surveillance cameras will be put up around the city. Anyone will be able to log onto the Newark Police Department’s website and view the surveillance cameras. The hope is that this will encourage citizens to aid police during investigations and deter criminal activity.” Read the report

HE’S GOT JIMMY DAVIS LIES — “Mayor says city never tried to condemn sites, but resolutions show they studied it,” by The Jersey Journal’s Corey W. McDonald: “Mayor Jimmy Davis, in a statement, blasted The Jersey Journal for its story detailing how the city explored an effort by a development company to take two local businesses through eminent domain. ‘I want everyone to understand the truth about the Starting Point/White Glove eminent domain story in the Jersey Journal yesterday: The DAVIS administration NEVER took ANY action whatsoever to condemn the properties in connection with the re-development of the former Texaco site,’ Davis said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. But resolutions approved by the City Council in 2016 show the governing body knowingly approved several resolutions to determine if the properties ‘constitute a condemnation area in need of redevelopment,’ including the approval of a $25,000 study … The council then approved a resolution to go to bid for a company to conduct an investigation of the two properties, and in June 2016 the city hired Phillips, Preiss, Grygeil, LLC, a planning and real estate consultant company, to conduct the investigation of the site for a total fee not to exceed $25,000. The purpose of the investigation was to determine whether the two subject properties should be included in the Texaco Redevelopment Site, and thus available to be seized through eminent domain.” Read the report

—“Montville residents speak out about official’s post comparing Nazis to Democrats” Read the report

—“Baraka has edge in bid for 2nd term” Read the report

—“Lakewood growth: NJ says township must prove it has enough water” Read the report

—“Assemblyman Wimberly backs Sayegh for mayor of Paterson” Read the report

—“Officials tout jobs, tax revenue for proposed [North Bergen] power plant” Read the report

—“A sanctuary space for immigrants in Montclair | Di Ionno” Read the column

—“Cherry Hill schools arming campus officers at high schools” Read the report

—“Paterson police celebrates its new police chief, Troy Oswald” Read the report

—“Newark and Camden just got 400K each to clean up dirty land” Read the report

EVERYTHING ELSE

AUTISM — “Autism Disorder Increases in U.S. Children, CDC Study Finds,” by Bloomberg’s Elise Young: “U.S. autism prevalence has grown, according to a federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, with about 1.7 percent of 8-year-olds affected in 11 states. The study, based on 2014 research, again identifies New Jersey with the highest incidence. One in 34 children in that state, or 3 percent, fall on what’s called the autism spectrum, which encompasses a range of social, behavioral and learning disorders ranging from the barely noticeable to the profoundly debilitating. Nationally, the prevalence has increased 150 percent since 2000, according to the study, which called autism ‘an urgent public-health concern.’” Read the report

—“Black men kicked out of L.A. Fitness say experience was ‘humiliating’” Read the report

—“Pets could be next target of exotic tick that infested N.J. farm” Read the report

POLITICO’s Ben White is bringing Morning Money to the Milken Institute Global Conference to provide coverage of the day’s events and evening happenings. The newsletter starts on April 29th.Sign-up to keep up with your daily conference coverage.

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** A message from 1199SEIU & Garden State CARES: New Jersey nursing homes are chronically understaffed—jeopardizing quality care for 44,000 of our state’s most vulnerable residents.

Nursing homes in our state rank 45th in the nation for the staffing levels of certified nursing assistants (CNAs)—the primary direct care workers who patients rely on for their most basic daily needs. That’s why today, International Worker’s Day, the caregivers of 1199SEIU are leading the “March for Our Patients” in Trenton—calling on lawmakers to pass bill S1612/A382 to establish minimum CNA-to-patient ratios in nursing homes.

To send a loved one to live in a nursing home is never an easy decision. Families faced with these difficult, life-changing choices should never have to worry about whether facilities lack sufficient direct care staff to provide devoted personal care and attention.

Add your voice to support better staffing in nursing homes by signing the petition at www.gardenstatecares.com/ssp. **

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