Thursday, February 12, 2004

It's 'Da Torch' Again!

I thought we'd seen the last of the New Jersey slickster, but he's back - Torricelli's help for Kerry draws rival's fire:
A year after an ethics scandal ended his political career, former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli's fund-raising for Democratic front-runner John Kerry has become an issue in the presidential campaign.

Assailing Kerry during a campaign stop in Milwaukee yesterday, rival candidate Howard Dean seized on reports that Torricelli helped underwrite a group that ran anti-Dean ads.

The former Vermont governor called Torricelli "ethically challenged," and said: "What we now see is that John Kerry is part of the corrupt political culture in Washington. That's exactly what I'm asking Wisconsin voters to stand up against."
Howie, that's what the Democrat party is all about. You just noticed?
Torricelli, who has claimed credit for raising more than $100,000 for Kerry, donated $50,000 last year to an independent group that ran controversial anti-Dean television ads in three early voting states -- Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Now there's a funny thing. Da Torch until recently had only worked for the government but somehow managed to become fabulously wealthy. What's the boy been up to lately, you ask?
Torricelli quit his re-election run in 2002 after the Senate ethics committee "severely admonished" him for accepting gifts from a wealthy campaign contributor. He now works as a government consultant, develops real estate and oversees a major environmental cleanup in Hudson County.
In case that desciption is too obtuse, it means he gets cut in on real state deals and receives cushy political appointments like the big environmental cleanup:
When U.S. District Judge Dennis Cavanaugh announced last week that he was appointing his former sponsor -- former U.S. Sen. Robert Torricelli -- to serve as a "special master" overseeing a $400 million environmental cleanup, to some it looked like a favor to an old friend.

Torricelli had championed Cavanaugh's appointment to the federal bench in New Jersey, and Honeywell International, the firm Cavanaugh has ordered to conduct the cleanup, had been a major contributor to Torricelli's campaign.

Torricelli dropped from public sight last year after he resigned from the Senate race following a long federal probe of his fund-raising activities and censure by Senate colleagues.
Special masters are frequently appointed by judges to assist the court in overseeing time-consuming remedies to major cases such as jail overcrowding and labor union corruption and even the payments to families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 attacks. The masters are often named from the ranks of veteran attorneys and retired judges.

According to lawyers familiar with such appointments, a master's fees are technically set by the court, but are usually billed at the attorney's hourly rate.

For a lawyer such as Torricelli, they said, it would not be unusual for his fee to amount to $500 an hour. Under the appointment order, the fees will be picked up by Honeywell, not the public.

And unless his duties are more specifically constrained by the court, one lawyer noted, "His time can really be whatever he wants it to be."
But others noted that besides a sizable fee, a valuable side benefit to Torricelli would be the ability to hand out some lucrative contracts of his own: to consultants and other experts who would handle the day-to-day supervision of the cleanup.

"It's great patronage for Torch," one lawyer said, using the former senator's nickname. "In addition to his own fee, this gives him the opportunity to hand out some political favors of his own."
One source familiar with the case, however, said he doubted Torricelli would see an exceptionally large payday. The people likely to make the big bucks, he said, will be the people the master selects to handle the day-to-day work.
And we know where their political contributions will go, don't we? But it's great to see a "man of the people" make good through selfless political service. Reminds me of Terry McAuliffe who managed to get rich as a political fundraiser. How come back in high school they never mentioned these jobs on 'Career Day'?