If only Corzine spoke truth to his fellow Dems

If only Corzine spoke truth to his fellow Dems

February 15, 2007  By TOM MORAN

Gaze across the border to New York state, and see what it looks like when a governor is willing to draw blood in the fight for reform.

Gov. Eliot Spitzer is getting mean and personal these days. He's visiting legislative districts to attack his opponents by name. He's refusing to help them raise money. And he's promising only more blood and tears if they keep resisting him.

The twist is that his main targets so far are not his Republican opponents. They are members of his own Democratic Party.

If only Gov. Jon Corzine could catch that virus.

He teased us during last summer's budget showdown, when he shut down the state government and the casinos to force some discipline on the Legislature. And he won.

But in this latest fight, Corzine rolled over like a puppy who wanted his belly scratched.

He watched the Legislature kill one reform after another. And instead of fighting like Spitzer, he took the scraps they gave him and called it a "historic" victory.

It's worth asking: What would Spitzer do?

Take the fight over dual-office holding: This is a New Jersey phenomenon in which politicians gorge themselves on two or even three government jobs.

One of the poster boys for this is state Sen. Nick Sacco, D-North Bergen. He is also mayor of North Bergen and an assistant superintendent of schools there, earning more than $250,000 a year, with a pension that taxpayers can only dream about.

Imagine if Corzine paid a visit to Sacco's district to spell out exactly why this is a scam, and how it allows Sacco to build a fiefdom for himself and his friends. Imagine if he spoke truth to Hudson County.

That's what Spitzer did last week when an Assembly Democrat opposed his reforms in Albany. He's done it to several more legislators since then.

If Corzine did that, he would make Sacco terribly angry. But that's a pretty good litmus test for reform: If it doesn't make people like Sacco mad, then it doesn't amount to much.

But Corzine is settling instead. He's said he'll accept a reform that applies only to elective offices and contains a lifetime exemption for legislators whose snouts are already buried in this trough. Sacco would be safe.

How about pay-to-play reform? This is basically a form of legalized bribery. You make a big campaign donation, and the grateful politicians will rig the process to help you get a government contract.

What if Corzine went to Bergen County, where this is a way of life for Democrats, and told people that Joe Ferriero, the county chairman, is selling the party's soul?

Corzine, with all his good intentions, can't seem to decide if he wants to play tough or not.

On Monday, during a press conference in Newark, he suggested he might refuse to sign the bill providing property tax credits until the Legislature first passes reforms on dual-office holding and pay-to-play.

But you could tell his heart wasn't in it. He stopped shy of threatening a veto.

Pity. Corzine's trying to do the right thing. Next time the Legislature tries to mug him on his reforms, maybe he should ask himself: What would Spitzer do?

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