National Round 05-15: Key Figure Who Orchestrated Bridgegate Plot to be Sentenced; Meet The Former AIPAC, RJC Staffer Running for Congress
The following is a round-up of national news from several major states across the country that will be featured on our site on a daily basis:
Key Figure Who Orchestrated Bridgegate Plot to be Sentenced: David Wildstein, a former Republican operative who orchestrated the Bridgegate scandal, will face a judge next month to be sentenced for his role in the bizarre scheme of political retribution.
U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton scheduled a June 14 sentencing date in federal court in Newark. He could get up to 27 months in prison, but is hoping to serve no time as a result of his cooperation with prosecutors.
Wildstein, 55, served as the key witness in the trial last year of Bill Baroni, the former deputy executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Bridget Anne Kelly, a one-time deputy chief of staff to Gov. Chris Christie. Both were convicted last November, largely on the Wildstein’s testimony, and have already been sentenced to prison terms.
A patronage appointee to the Port Authority in a $150,000-a-year position with no job title, Wildstein admitted he was the one who came up with the scheme to use the toll lanes at the George Washington Bridge to deliberately cause traffic in Fort Lee in September 2013. He has been free on bail and living in Sarasota, Fla., since pleading guilty in May 2015. [NJ Advance]
N.J. Pols Back Amtrak after Dismissing Calls from Cuomo, Christie to Privatize Penn Station Repairs: New Jersey lawmakers on Friday rejected calls to privatize Penn Station as Amtrak fends off complaints about its mismanagement of the transit hub.
The group of lawmakers, fresh off a train ride with a top Amtrak official to check out the state of Penn Station’s infrastructure, dismissed an idea from Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to hand over the transit hub to a private company. New Jersey State Sen. Bob Gordon dismissed a request for a private operator, “as if that were going to be the solution to these problems.” Gordon said that it sounded like a plan from two lawyers, rather than officials with MBAs.
The idea of bringing in outside help to manage Penn Station has gained momentum.
Amtrak CEO Wick Moorman testified Thursday at a New York Assembly hearing that he wants to contract a private company to run a new entity uniting the concourses that are split between Amtrak, NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road. Later, Cuomo and Christie in a joint letter called for a greater role for a private operator. [NYDN]
Rauner Still Won’t Answer Questions on Potential Re-Election Campaign: With less than three weeks left until the end of the legislative session, Governor Bruce Rauner is busy jamming both work-related and campaign events into his schedule.
After leaving a school in Bloomingdale Friday, Rauner headed to a midday fundraiser at Bentley’s Pancake House in the northwest suburb. The flier for the fundraiser, which was emailed to supporters, asked for donations from $5 to $50. Rauner again refused to discuss his re-election campaign during the event and has not formally announced that he’s a candidate in the 2018 race.
A growing list of Democratic candidates have announced campaigns in recent months. Among them are billionaire J.B. Pritzker, Chris Kennedy, State Sen. Daniel Biss, Chicago Ald. Ameya Pawar, downstate school Supt. Bob Daiber and business owner Alex Paterakis. [NBC5]
Meet Jeremy Wynes: The Former AIPAC, RJC Staffer Running for Congress: While the 2018 Congressional elections are more than 18 months away, Republican Jeremy Wynes launched his campaign this week to represent Illinois’ 10th District.
Claiming that voters are tired of partisanship, Wynes stresses his background at AIPAC where he worked with both Democrats and Republicans. “I have close to a decade of focusing in a bipartisan way on issues in Congress that are hugely important and we can only solve when both parties are on board,” he told Jewish Insider in a phone interview. While Wynes repeatedly stressed his pro-Israel credentials, it’s worth noting he’s running against a sitting Jewish member of Congress, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). The Democratic lawmaker opposed the Iranian nuclear deal and voted with Republicans for House Resolution 11, which blasted the United Nations Security Council for a resolution condemning Israeli settlements in December.
Wynes offered a more nuanced perspective on President Trump’s performance during his early months. He appreciates the Commander in Chief’s hardened policy against Tehran, but called the travel ban “misguided” and disagreed with the decision to withdraw from the TPP deal. “I don’t think firing the FBI Director was necessary at this point,” he added.
Accusing Schneider of nearly automatic opposition of the President and the Republican agenda, Wynes noting the highly competitive district and asked, “The question is whose message will appeal to the independent voters of this district who don’t care which party the Member of Congress aligns himself with? They care about what he says and his ability to be a leader.” [JewishJournal]
Boca Jewish Groups Raise More Than $57 Million in Legacy Gifts: Eleven South Palm Beach County Jewish organizations have raised more than $57 million the past two years (around $33 million last year and $24 million this year) in legacy commitments for their (and the local Jewish community’s) future through the Life and Legacy initiative. The initiative is part of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation’s Life & Legacy Campaign.
According to the Grinspoon Foundation, the local South Palm Beach County Life & Legacy Campaign raised the highest dollar amount of all the Jewish Life & Legacy communities around the country for the second year in a row.
On Tuesday evening May 9, more than 130 rabbis, lay and professional leaders, and legacy donors from these organizations celebrated this achievement with a Life & Legacy Community Celebration at Zinman Hall on the west Boca Raton campus of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County.
Matt Levin, Federation president and CEO, reported that, as of April 30, these 11 organizations have received 497 legacy commitments from 375 individuals these past two years for a total of more than $57 million in legacy commitments. [Sun-Sentinel]
Rick Scott Announces Record Tourism Numbers, Criticizes Marketing Budget Cut: A record number of tourists — 31.1 million visitors — came to Florida during the first three months of 2017, a 2.5 percent increase over the same period in 2016. Gov. Rick Scott released the latest numbers Monday at Miami’s Jungle Island.
Nearly 113 million tourists — most of them from the United States — visited last year.
However Scott warned that potential cuts to Florida’s tourism marketing agency could doom continued growth. State legislators recently voted to cut funding to Visit Florida by 67 percent.
“This historic number would not have been possible without the significant funding we have invested in Visit Florida over the past few years,” Scott said. “Now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. In business, you would never stop marketing when you start to see great results. Instead of decimating funding to Visit Florida, we should be investing in tourism marketing so we can continue to bring record visitors to our state,” Scott said.
Scott has signaled that he might veto the Legislature’s $83 billion state budget. Otherwise, it would take effect on July 1. [FL Politics]