Does Norcross Indictment Clear Path For Endless New Taxes To Bail Out NJ Pensions?

Last Monday, Governor Murphy’s Attorney General indicted Democratic power broker George Norcross for various political corruption charges that allegedly occurred in 2012 and 2013.   Why now? Is this the first step to bail out NJ public employee pensions with new yearly hikes in property taxes?

The “pay-to-play” corruption of Camden County’s George Norcross has been normal in New Jersey for many years.  During the 1990’s I paid for it when I paved the driveway of my Somers Point law office.  To get a permit, I had to have my plans and property inspected by the City Engineer.  For years, this did not cost anything because the City Engineer lived and worked in Somers Point.

However, during the 1990s, Democratic candidates backed by George Norcross were elected and won a majority of city council seats.  They rewarded Norcross by awarding no-bid contracts to professionals he “recommended”.  One of them was a city engineer from Camden County.  To get a permit to pave my small driveway, I had to pay hundreds of dollars to have that engineer drive from his Camden County office to and from Somers Point.

For years, George Norcross made hundreds of millions of dollars by supporting candidates for city council, township committee, and county freeholder/commissioner in towns and counties throughout South Jersey.  His methods were described in detail in the famous “Palmyra tapes”.

They were recordings of telephone conversations made between Palmyra town councilman John Gural and George Norcross during 2000 and 2001.  In them, Norcross explained in detail how he used his money and influence to elect officials who did what he wanted, and to remove anyone who opposed him.

Norcross wanted and got hundreds of millions of dollars of no-bid contracts for his engineering and insurance companies.

Norcross also made money by buying cheap land and making it valuable by changing the zoning or having inside information of government contracts.  Years ago, Rush Limbaugh did a “Reids’s Money Magic” satire commercial about how former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid got rich doing this in Nevada.

In 1905, “muckraker” journalist William Riordan published many well-known articles about how corrupt Tammany Hall politicians did this in New York.  His most famous were interviews with “Ex-Senator George Washington Plunkett” who explained how he got rich from “honest graft”.  Plunkett famously said “I seen my opportunities, and I took ‘em”.

“I Seen My Opportunities and I Took ‘Em.”: An Old-Time Pol Preaches Honest Graft (

Although this corruption of blatantly illegal and well-documented, no criminal charges were ever brought against Norcross.  Nothing was done between 2001 and 2009 when Democrats Jim McGreevey, Richard Codey or Jon Corzine were Governor.  During this time, Republican Chris Christie was the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey.  Christie was appointed by Republican President George Bush.  Christie made political corruption his top priority.  Christie prosecuted dozens of politicians for corruption and sent many to prison.  However, he never prosecuted George Norcross.

Nothing was done when Christie was Governor of New Jersey between 2010 and 2018.

During this time, George Norcross made Steve Sweeney, his childhood friend and ally, into one of the most powerful politicians in New Jersey.

In 1996, Norcross helped Steve Sweeney get elected to the Gloucester County freeholder/commissioner board.  In 2001, Norcross helped Steve Sweeney raise $1.9 million to become a NJ State Senator by defeating Raymond Zane, a long time incumbent.  Norcross also helped raise another $457,000 for a joint political committee that also supported John Burzichelli for the Assembly.  That was the most money ever spent on a political campaign for a legislative seat until that time.

In 2009, George Norcross helped form a statewide coalition that made Steve Sweeney President of the New Jersey Senate, the second most powerful position in state government.

Between 2010 and 2018, Democrat Steve Sweeney worked closely with Republican Governor Chris Christie.  Christie basically approved everything Steve Sweeney and George Norcross wanted and publicly praised them.  When Republican Chris Christie ran for re-election in 2013, Sweeney and Norcross did not seriously oppose him.  That allowed Christie to win by a lopsided majority and be a contender for U.S President in 2016.

At the same time, Republican Governor Chris Christie did not seriously oppose George Norcross candidates in the State Legislature.  This allowed Democrats to keep big majorities in the New Jersey State Senate and Assembly in 2013, in spite of Christie’s popularity after “Superstorm” (but not quite Hurricane) Sandy.

This is when the NJEA Teacher’s Union went to war against Steve Sweeney over New Jersey’s hopelessly insolvent pension system.

For years, New Jersey public employee pension funds have been run as classic Charles Ponzi and Bernie Madoff scams.  They are not collecting and investing nearly enough money to pay the benefits they promise.  As a result, old retirees are not being paid with money they contributed and invested.  Today’s retirees are instead being paid money collected from young employees who are working.  New Jersey pension funds are not collecting and investing nearly enough money to pay pensions to young employees when they get old and retire.

That is because for years, there was never any connection between how much public employees pay into pension funds when they work, and how much they collect when they retire.  For years, pensions were based on average salaries for the last three years of employment.  Now they are based on average salaries for the last five years.

Because of this, it is very common for public employees to “juice up” their pensions just before they retire.  For years, NJEA teacher unions negotiated contracts that gave big increases to teachers just before they retired. When I was on Atlantic City Council in the 1980’s, it was normal to keep seasonal lifeguards on payroll during the winter so they could “juice up” their pensions before they retired.  During the late 1990’s, Robert Codey, the brother of State Senate President Richard Codey earned roughly $45,000 as a low-level employee for the state.  However, just before he retired, he was appointed to temporary high salary jobs paying more than $150,000 per year.  This allowed him to retire in his 50’s with a state pension of more than $95,000 per year—more than twice what he earned during most of his career!

This problem was well-known to every Democrat and Republican politician in New Jersey since the 1980’s.

During the 1990’s Republican Christie Todd Whitman tried to “fix” New Jersey pension funds by borrowing money and speculating in the stock market. The market crashed and the pension crisis got worse.

Between 2010 and 2018, Republican Governor Chris Christie and Democrats in the Legislature (including Steve Sweeney) also tried to save New Jersey’s insolvent pension funds by allowing hedge funds to invest them in risky high-yield ventures.  We know very little of these ventures.  One of them may have been 2010 Revel Casino “mezzanine bonds” that lost 95% of their value. (The Revel Casino in Atlantic City was built at a cost of $2.4 billion.  When it failed, Florida investor Glenn Straub bought it from the bankruptcy court for $82 million.  He later sold it to the current owners of the Ocean Casino for $200 million).

Beginning in 2016, the NJEA Teachers Union began lobbying for a State Constitutional Amendment to raise taxes to guarantee 100% payment for all NJ public employee pensions.

Right now, public pensions are NOT guaranteed by the NJ State Constitution.  That is because state- government cannot be forced to pay any debts without a vote of the people.  Since 2016, the NJEA has been pushing for a vote of the people to amend the State Constitution.

They want a new state real estate tax for public pensions over and above current county, school, and local property taxes.  Those taxes would automatically increase every year to bail out New Jersey pension funds.

They want it to work just like the gas tax.  In 2016, Republican Chris Christie and  Republican State Senator Steve Oroho joined with Senate President Steve Sweeney and other Democrats in the Legislature agreed on an amendment to the New Jersey Constitution to bail out the junk bonds of the insolvent NJ Transportation Authority Trust fund.  They then fooled voters into approving it.  We now pay automatic increases in the gasoline tax almost every year.

In that same year, Democratic Senate President Steve Sweeney refused to approve a similar State Constitutional Amendment to bail out the insolvent state pension funds with new hikes in a new state real estate tax every year.

Because of this, the NJEA Teachers Union spent about $5 million to try to unseat Sweeney in 2017.  They supported Fran Grenier, a “Tea Party” Republican from Salem County.  George Norcross raised millions more to save Sweeney.  Sweeney  was re-elected in 2017 with a landslide victory of 59% of the vote. A total of $18.7 million was spent in that race.  That may be the most expensive state legislative race in American history.

In 2021 MAGA Republican Trucker Ed Durr narrowly defeated Sweeney with a low budget “under the radar” stealth campaign. Did the NJEA Teacher’s Union play a part in this?

In 2023, it appeared that Steve Sweeney and George Norcross were making a comeback.  During the past year, George Norcross and Steve Sweeney reached out to Democrats throughout the state to win support.

Last November, Norcross friend and ally John Burzichelli comfortably defeated Republican Ed Durr and took back Sweeney’s South Jersey Senate Seat.

Last December 11, Steve Sweeney announced that he was a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor.  George Norcross was his richest and most powerful backer.

Last Monday, Governor Murphy’s Attorney General indicted Norcross for crimes that allegedly took place in 2011 and 2012. is a tax-exempt, non-political education organization of roughly 200 citizens who mostly live near Atlantic City, New Jersey.  We formed this group in 2003. We volunteer our time and money to maintain this website. We do our best to post accurate information. However, we admit we make mistakes from time to time.  If you see any mistakes or inaccurate, misleading, outdated, or incomplete information in this or any of our posts, please let us know. We will do our best to correct the problem as soon as possible. Please email us at or telephone (609) 927-7333.

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  • Seth Grossman

    Seth Grossman is executive director of Liberty And Prosperity, which he co-founded in 2003. It promotes American liberty and limited constitutional government through weekly radio and in-person discussions, its website, email newsletters and various events. Seth Grossman is also a general practice lawyer.

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