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In September, Kay LiCausi, a lobbyist, political consultant and former senior aide to New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez, was named as one of the “top forty business people under the age of forty” by NJBIZ magazine. The program, says the magazine’s website, “honors men and women who have been making headlines in their field and who share a commitment to business growth, professional excellence and to the community.”
But this month, LiCausi was the subject of some rather unflattering headlines: the Star-Ledger reported that LiCausi, “who quickly built a successful lobbying business after leaving Menendez’s office,” is now “under scrutiny by federal investigators.”
According to the story:
Federal investigators recently began examining LiCausi’s lobbying contracts with organizations Menendez helped to win government funding. Officials at the Jersey City Medical Center, which received subpoenas, have pledged cooperation with authorities and released information about LiCausi’s earnings . . . Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken has also received a subpoena in the matter. The school paid LiCausi’s firm $123,750 over the past three years, according to lobbying reports.
Yet astonishingly, the story has gotten relatively little press attention, even though it involves Menendez, who is vice chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “There is some lingering suspicion that the U.S. Attorney in New Jersey is a ‘loyal Bushie’ in the worst sense of the term and that the investigation is politically motivated,” says a Washington lawyer who has followed the case. “But Menendez is an old-fashioned city political boss who’s been skating close to the line for years.”
LiCausi went to work for Menendez in 1998, when she was 26 and he was serving in the House. They developed a close friendship. LiCausi left his office in 2002 and money quickly began flowing into her new firm, KL Strategies, from Menendez’s campaign coffers and from his New Millennium Leadership PAC. In 2003, Menendez helped LiCausi win a $130,000 fundraising contract from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. By 2004, PoliticsNJ.com had put LiCausi on its list of “New Jersey’s Best Hired Guns.”
In 2005, the New York Times did a terrific story on the Menendez-LiCausi relationship. “She has amassed hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts as a consultant, lobbyist and fund-raiser,” the story said. “Some of the work was orchestrated by Mr. Menendez . . . Several of her clients are businesses and organizations run by prominent supporters of Mr. Menendez. Other clients need the assistance of the powerful congressman, and Ms. LiCausi has lobbied her former boss on their behalf.”
The story continued:
But what has struck many seasoned politicians and consultants in New Jersey is the speed of Ms. LiCausi’s ascent and the scope of her work, even in the state’s forgiving political culture. She had little experience on Capitol Hill or in Trenton. In her highest position, she supervised a half-dozen members of Mr. Menendez’s Jersey City staff . . . The tale of her swift success, however, is complicated by the widespread belief among elected officials and political consultants in Hudson County and former members of Mr. Menendez’s staff that she and the congressman had a romantic relationship. Both Ms. LiCausi, who is 33 and single, and Mr. Menendez, 51 and recently divorced, refused to address any aspect of their nonprofessional lives. “That’s strictly personal,” Mr. Menendez said.
Whatever Larry Craig did in that bathroom in Minnesota doesn’t come close to being as troubling as the allegations now being investigated about Menendez and LiCausi. The media should be paying much closer attention.
More from Ken Silverstein:
Perspective — October 23, 2013, 8:00 am
How pro-oil Louisiana politicians have shaped American environmental policy
Postcard — October 16, 2013, 8:00 am
A trip to one of the properties at issue in Louisiana’s oil-pollution lawsuits
For the past three years my dosimeter had sat silently on a narrow shelf just inside the door of a house in Tokyo, upticking its final digit every twenty-four hours by one or two, the increase never failing — for radiation is the ruthless companion of time. Wherever we are, radiation finds and damages us, at best imperceptibly. During those three years, my American neighbors had lost sight of the accident at Fukushima. In March 2011, a tsunami had killed hundreds, or thousands; yes, they remembered that. Several also recollected the earthquake that caused it, but as for the hydrogen explosion and containment breach at Nuclear Plant No. 1, that must have been fixed by now — for its effluents no longer shone forth from our national news. Meanwhile, my dosimeter increased its figure, one or two digits per day, more or less as it would have in San Francisco — well, a trifle more, actually. And in Tokyo, as in San Francisco, people went about their business, except on Friday nights, when the stretch between the Kasumigaseki and Kokkai-Gijido-mae subway stations — half a dozen blocks of sidewalk, which commenced at an antinuclear tent that had already been on this spot for more than 900 days and ended at the prime minister’s lair — became a dim and feeble carnival of pamphleteers and Fukushima refugees peddling handicrafts.
One Friday evening, the refugees’ half of the sidewalk was demarcated by police barriers, and a line of officers slouched at ease in the street, some with yellow bullhorns hanging from their necks. At the very end of the street, where the National Diet glowed white and strange behind other buildings, a policeman set up a microphone, then deployed a small video camera in the direction of the muscular young people in drums against fascists jackets who now, at six-thirty sharp, began chanting: “We don’t need nuclear energy! Stop nuclear power plants! Stop them, stop them, stop them! No restart! No restart!” The police assumed a stiffer stance; the drumming and chanting were almost uncomfortably loud. Commuters hurried past along the open space between the police and the protesters, staring straight ahead, covering their ears. Finally, a fellow in a shabby sweater appeared, and murmured along with the chants as he rounded the corner. He was the only one who seemed to sympathize; few others reacted at all.
Number of U.S. congressional districts in which trade with China has produced more jobs than it has cost:
Young bilingual children who learned one language first are likelier than monolingual children and bilingual children who learned languages simultaneously to say that a dog adopted by owls will hoot.
An Oklahoma legislative committee voted to defund Advanced Placement U.S. History courses, accusing the curriculum of portraying the United States as “a nation of oppressors and exploiters.”
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