Tom Moran’s obsession with NJEA and its executive directors might be almost flattering if it wasn’t so unmoored from reality. In the latest in his series of increasingly shrill and misleading opinion pieces about NJEA, he has stooped to an astonishing new low.
Drawing on public records detailing the compensation of union officials, he used a mind-bogglingly dishonest calculation to claim that my compensation is nearly 4 times what it really is. He cannot claim ignorance. He knows that the figures he reported were misleading, but his decades-long crusade to discredit NJEA will not be stopped by anything as inconvenient as facts. That’s par for the course with Tom when he’s in one of his NJEA-induced rages.
Just as disconcerting is that Tom has decided to advance his anti-NJEA agenda by becoming the loudest voice of support for the Sweeney-Norcross political machine in South Jersey. It’s another patented Moran move, and an echo of when his editorial board endorsed Chris Christie for re-election in 2013. Most of the endorsement was a litany of Christie’s manifest failures and shortcomings. But his progressive Democratic opponent, a respected state senator with a record of achievement, committed the only mortal sin in Moran’s moral universe. Barbara Buono was supported by NJEA.
Never mind that Christie, according to Moran’s editorial board, was “overrated,” “hostile to low-income families,” a “catastrophe for the environment” with “measurable failures”, including his “fraudulent” claim to have fixed the state budget. For Moran, that’s the man who deserved the endorsement over a far more progressive opponent.
It’s past time to take a more critical look at Moran and see how he undermines progressive politics in New Jersey. Backing the South Jersey machine is only the most recent and blatant example.
It’s another very revealing calculation for someone who has built a career portraying himself as a good government crusader with a progressive bent, but there you have it. Out of an apparent belief that “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” Tom has grown very friendly indeed with the Sweeney-Norcross-Christie machine, repeatedly lending it the support of his editorial page during the current hard-fought election.
That allegiance probably explains how Tom can write a column ostensibly about union officials’ compensation without mentioning the fact that Sweeney’s union compensation, according to the most recent filings by his union, is over $235,000 for what is, presumably a part-time job. Approximately one-third of his work in that job, according to the same filing, is lobbying and political work.
I say that job is presumably part-time, because Sweeney also gets a taxpayer-funded salary of over $65,000 as Senate President, a position widely acknowledged as the second most powerful elected office in New Jersey, with commensurate responsibilities. So the $235,000 he earns from his union for work done in his off hours is a pretty good salary indeed.
Whatever you think of Steve Sweeney earning over $300,000 per year, with the bulk of that coming from his work as a union official, it is revealing that Tom didn’t say a word about it, because he knew about it. Steve Sweeney and I are in the same tax bracket, but you’d never know that from reading Tom’s diatribes.
Likewise, Tom is remarkably silent about the wealth of Sweeney’s primary benefactor, South Jersey political boss George Norcross, who has built a political and business empire that’s made him a multi-millionaire many times over.
Tom’s double standard can only be explained by his single-minded obsession with NJEA. If it means an opportunity to take another public shot at NJEA, Tom will gladly do the bidding of a powerful political machine. Tom’s rants are slowly turning him into the newspaper version of Chris Christie: a one-trick pony whose attacks on NJEA ring more and more hollow every time he goes back to that well.
It’s a safe bet that he’ll regret his support of the Sweeney-Norcross machine just as much as says he regrets his support of Christie, the machine’s best partner over the last eight years.
Fortunately, while he rails away from afar, NJEA members in LD3, joined by colleagues from across the state, are hard at work building a grass-roots campaign to help Fran Grenier unseat Steve Sweeney and end the Sweeney-Christie era that caused so much damage.
There’s no question it’s a tough job. When an entrenched machine, with the support of an enabling editorialist, decides to fight, it is formidable. But NJEA’s members are formidable in their own right. They aren’t afraid to knock on doors, make phone calls and have conversations with other LD3 voters who are deeply disenchanted with Steve Sweeney. And those voters aren’t hard to find. After so many years of giving his constituents sub-par representation, it’s not just NJEA members who have had enough.
On November 7, the decision won’t be up to the political machines, the editorialists or any of the other pundits across New Jersey. It will be up to the voters of LD3, who will step into the voting booth and decide whether Steve Sweeney has put them first, or whether it’s time to elect someone who will.
Ed Richardson is the Executive Director of the 200,000-member New Jersey Education Association.