‘Deny Everything and Shamelessly Attack’

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A number of years ago, in one of those “order another pitcher of beer” conversations that nearly always take place at the end of a long day in campaign headquarters, I asked our media consultant what advice he’d offer a candidate suddenly accused of misbehavior or serious impropriety.

“Deny everything and shamelessly attack,” he replied.

As the drama unfolds and the bitter conflict intensifies between Gov. Phil Murphy, Senate President Steve Sweeney (D-Gloucester) and South Jersey political figure George Norcross, it leads me to wonder whether the Senator and the powerbroker may have been eavesdropping on that long ago conversation.

When a task force created by the governor to scrutinize the activities of the Economic Development Authority in granting billions of dollars in tax credits and incentives let loose a political bomb by identifying several projects in Camden as benefiting from political connections to Norcross, the consultant’s strategy went into overdrive.

It culminated yesterday with a lawsuit filed by Norcross, alleging that Murphy and the task force had inflicted serious damage on him and his business associates, a jaw-dropping escalation of the hostilities and bitterness that have surrounded the issue from the outset.  The suit asks the court to declare the task force unconstitutional.

The initial response to the task force findings from the Norcross-led forces denied any undue influence or pressure on the EDA and launched a carpet-bombing campaign  against Murphy, the depth and harshness of which stunned even jaded, cynical observers of New Jersey politics.

It was “Deny