Monday, September 29, 2008

The heat is on Garrett after 2 scandals are uncovered

After word got out about Scott Garrett's $41,000 tax break for his farm that had $600 in income, as well as his ties to failed financial services giant Countrywide Financial, the press is starting to shine a light on the problems and conflicts of interest that Garrett has.

To recap the 2 scandals, they are as follows:

  • Garrett has taken thousands of dollars in campaign cash from Countrywide Financial and has hired its former lobbyist as his Chief of Staff. Despite his seat on the House Financial Services Committee, he has sat idly by while our economy spiraled into crisis.

  • Garrett has taken a $41,000 tax break, intended for real farmers, on his multi-acre estate by claiming his brother sells $700 worth of "shrubs." He does not disclose the complete value of the adjoining land or the income from this so-called shrub farm as required by federal law. Learn more and view Shulman's new ad at

Here are some of the things that are being said in the press about the 2 scandals:

The Star-Ledger highlighted Garrett's extensive ties to the financial services industry: "Garrett has received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from financial-service firms and in March hired as his chief of staff a former lobbyist for Countrywide Financial, the nation's former largest mortgage lender that earlier this year became synonymous with the financial-services meltdown." - Jim Lockwood, 9/25/08

The Record highlighted Garrett's tax problems in "Fake farmer TV ad could hurt Garrett": "Garrett's campaign says he's done nothing wrong taking advantage of the state's farmland assessment program.... But a similar attack of being a fake farmer cost Ellen Karcher, a Democratic state senator from Monmouth County, her seat in 2007." - Herb Jackson, 9/25/08

More coverage of the Shulman campaign's new tv ad:

"Gasperino [Garrett's campaign manager] did not respond to follow-up questions to identify which statements she deems untrue." - The Express-Times, 9/24/2008

"They say there are about two or three enduring storylines in world literature, and over the last year there have proved to be two or three storylines in New Jersey politics.... [T]he Shulman campaign argues that it's the Ellen Karcher story all over again, with Garrett receiving a $41,000 tax break on a piece of land that yields approximately $700 per year in income." - PolitickerNJ, 9/24/2008

More coverage of Garrett's ties to our economic crisis:

"[Garrett's] chief of staff, Amy Smith, used to be employed by a lobbying firm that listed Countrywide Financial as a client. Countrywide has borne part of the blame for the subprime mortgage situation that led to current financial distress." - New Jersey Herald, 9/21/2008

"When I'm in Congress, I will never put Countrywide Financial and Big Oil above the citizens I represent. That is why I have pledged to never take campaign contributions from an industry I'm supposed to oversee." - The Hill, Congress Blog by Dennis Shulman, 9/17/2008

Friday, September 26, 2008

Farmer Scott and his creative accounting

Over at Blue Jersey, there is a real interesting story about Garrett and some very shady tax related matters for his "farm". Since Jason Springer says it best, I'll just paste it below:
Maybe he means fiscally conservative in the sense of tightfisted with his own finances? Or possibly we should start calling him Farmer Scott? The Shulman campaign comes out today with a new website - - and goes on the air with an ad hitting Congressman Garrett on a farming tax exemption he avails himself of but fails to report as required:

According to the Shulman campaign's research, Garrett claims nine acres of his estate as a farm because his brother sells $700 worth of shrubs, then takes up to $41,000 in tax breaks meant to lighten the load of real New Jersey farmers.

The ad will run on cable throughout the 5th district. You can find their evidence on the Garrett Shrubs site along with the potential implications of such dishonesty. It appears Garrett actually reported the farm up until 2002. And here's what appears to be the website of the business in question. I wonder if Farmer Scott is a member of the NJ Christmas Tree Growers Association?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

New poll shows Garrett under 50%

Good news from a new Research 2000 poll in the district - besides Garrett polling under 50%, it looks like the Democratic sample may be underrepresented, and there is a lot of room for Democratic candidate (and "Orange to Blue" candidate) Dennis Shulman to pick up ground. The poll shows Garrett with 49%, and Shulman with 34%.

Here are some snippets from the poll, which is reported here:
On the positive side, Garrett is below the fifty percent mark, which is always troubling for an incumbent. At the same time, his favorables stand at a weak 44-38 - almost as many people dislike him as like him. On the flipside, Rabbi Shulman's favorables stand at 36-26, which means that nearly 40% of likely voters don't yet know who he is. In other words, he has room to grow.

It's exactly that growing room which gives Shulman the chance to make up the fifteen-point gap that R2K says he faces. Shulman's doing pretty well among Dems, winning them at a 72-11 rate, while Garrett is doing ten points better among members of his own party, taking Republicans by 77-6. The real issue, though, is independents. Garrett cleans up here 48-35. The good news for Shulman is that this group is the least familiar with him: fully 45% of indies say they have no opinion of the Democrat - an opportunity, if Shulman can get his name out there.

Those independents are the real X-factor in this poll. They make up a huge 54% of the sample, while Republicans clock in at 27% and Dems at 19%. This is actually pretty close to where registration stood in the district before Super Tuesday. However, Dem registration has shot up since then; I'm told that more recent figures indicate the district's makeup is more like 44I-32R-24D today. But knowing registration numbers is one thing - figuring out who will show up on election day is quite another.

And in that regard, NJ-05 is a bit of an electoral engima. The district voted for Bush in 2004 by what looks like a daunting 57-43 margin. In 2000, however, the margin was half as wide, just 52-45. Why the seven-point shift, when Bush only gained about three nationwide? Most analysts I've discussed this with believe there was something of a "9/11 effect" here, just as there was in many parts of the tri-state area.

If this assessment is accurate, then this right-ward shift may have been temporary. One possible piece of support for this thesis is the presidential head-to-head, which shows McCain leading Obama 52-37. Obama trails past Dem performance quite significantly, but McCain is at Bush 2000 - and not Bush '04 - levels, for the moment. In a red district, though, undecideds are more likely to drift Republican, so McCain's current 52% may not be his ceiling.

If you want to see a breakdown of the participants and other metrics, chck out the link above.

But this is great news for a district whose representative is so far out of touch with his constituents, the other members of the republican NJ delegation, as well as nearly every member of Congress.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Garrett's Responsibility for the Failure of Fannie and Freddie

According to an article in today's Financial Times, Mike Oxley, the former Republican chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is blaming Alan Greenspan and the Bush White House for killing a bill that "could well have prevented the current crisis."

The House bill, the 2005 Federal Housing Finance Reform Act, would have created a stronger regulator with new powers to increase capital at Fannie and Freddie, to limit their portfolios and to deal with the possibility of receivership.

Mr Oxley reached out to Barney Frank, then the ranking Democrat on the committee and now its chairman, to secure support on the other side of the aisle. But after winning bipartisan support in the House, where the bill passed by 331 to 90 votes, the legislation lacked a champion in the Senate and faced hostility from the Bush administration.

Adamant that the only solution to the problems posed by Fannie and Freddie was their privatization, the White House attacked the bill. Mr Greenspan also weighed in, saying that the House legislation was worse than no bill at all.

We missed a golden opportunity that would have avoided a lot of the problems we’re facing now, if we hadn’t had such a firm ideological position at the White House and the Treasury and the Fed,” Mr Oxley says.

While Oxley lays the responsibility for this at the feet of Greenspan and Bush, it is worth noting that even though the House passed the bill, Scott Garrett was one of 90 congressmen to vote nay. Keep that in mind the next time Scott Garrett tries to claim he saw this crisis coming and tried to stop it. Or has a plan to fix it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Maybe This Is Why He Is A "Taxpayer Hero"

The latest debacle in the financial services industry has the federal government planning to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two government sponsored enterprises that make and guarantee mortgage loans.

The total potential liability for the federal government: tens of billions of dollars.

The Congressional committee with oversight over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: the House Committee on Financial Services ("HCFS") and the Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity ("HCO")

Longtime member of HCFS and HCO: you guessed it, Scott Garrett

Ironic Award of the Day

Scott Garrett, who has spent virtually his entire career collecting a paycheck funded by the taxpayers of the United States, has been named a "Taxpayer Hero" by Citizens Against Government Waste.

For those of you who don't know, Citizens Against Government Waste ("CAGW") is a non-profit organization dedicated "to eliminate waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the federal government." You know, wasteful programs like childrens' health insurance.

In 2006, the Senate Finance Committee found that CAGW "appear to have perpetrated a fraud" on taxpayers" and probably violated their tax-exempt status "by laundering payments and then disbursing funds at Mr. [Jack] Abramoff's direction; taking payments in exchange for writing newspaper columns or press releases that put Mr. Abramoff's clients in a favorable light; introducing Mr. Abramoff's clients to government officials in exchange for payment; and agreeing to act as a front organization for congressional trips paid for by Mr. Abramoff's clients."

Jack Abramoff was sentenced the other day to four years in prison for conspiracy, honest services fraud and tax evasion charges, to be served after his sentence in Florida for fraud in connection with a casino deal.

Hey, I've got an idea to help eliminate "eliminate waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement in the federal government." Get rid of Scott Garrett.