NYT: Dem crony rewrote tax law in NJ to benefit clients -- without registering as a lobbyist

Second look at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? After at least cheerleading the collapse of a relocation deal with Amazon in New York City, critics on both sides of the aisle torpedoed the progressive super-heroine for not comprehending the difference between tax credits and tax revenues. As it turns out, politicians in New Jersey don’t care about the difference — especially when they outsource the legislation to a Democratic crony.

The New York Times explains how $11 billion in tax credits resulted in very little return to Garden State taxpayers:

It was called the Economic Opportunity Act, a measure intended to kick-start the sputtering post-recession economy in New Jersey, particularly in its struggling cities. The state would award lucrative tax breaks to businesses if they moved to New Jersey or remained in the state, creating and retaining jobs.

But before the bill was approved by the Legislature, a series of changes were made to its language in June 2013 that were intended to grant specific companies hundreds of millions of dollars in additional tax breaks, with no public disclosure, according to interviews and documents obtained by The New York Times.

Many of the last-minute changes to drafts of the bill were made by a real estate lawyer, Kevin D. Sheehan, whose influential law firm has close ties to Democratic politicians and legislative leaders in New Jersey.

Mr. Sheehan was allowed by lawmakers to edit drafts of the bill in ways that opened up sizable tax breaks to his firm’s clients, according to a marked up copy of the legislation obtained by The Times, which identifies Mr. Sheehan’s changes.

Nearly six years later, the fallout from the legislation has set off an uproar in the State Capitol over allegations that the state’s $11 billion in economic development programs have been poorly managed corporate giveaways that have brought few benefits to New Jersey.

It’s impossible to excerpt more from the article without violating Fair Use. Besides, this should be read in full. One extreme example from Sheehan’s changes is worth mentioning, however. Holtec International relocated its headquarters to Camden in order to take advantage of a Sheehan clause in the tax law and scored a cool $260 million in tax credits. Even at that time, the state estimated its benefit from the tax credits to be less than $156,000.

Not $156,000,000, which would still have been a loss. That was $156,000, which represents less than 6% of the tax credits Holtec scooped up, thanks to Sheehan’s contributions to the EOA.

The best part of this? Despite the firm’s connections to Democratic legislative leadership and the fact that Sheehan was drafting the changes, Sheehan never registered as a legislative lobbyist. He was literally writing the law, and yet the law firm insists that their work on the bill didn’t qualify as lobbying. And there’s still more! The brother of the firm’s CEO served in the state senate at the time and is in Congress now. Another brother — a major Democratic power broker — got a big benefit from the bill for his insurance business ($86 million), according to the NYT.

Who are these connected Dems? There’s plenty more to read here from Corasanti and Haag, so again, RTWT. Don’t miss that while Democrats may have created the issue, Republicans like Chris Christie haven’t been shy about cheering on the EOA and suggesting that fresh looks at it are politically motivated. It’s a reminder that not all concern over cronyism and fat-cat sweetheart deals involving tax credits are unrealistic, although it is helpful to know the difference between tax credits and tax revenue.

As for the second look at AOC, however, make sure not to take a second look at the comic-book version of … Nancy Pelosi?

The artists did do better in realistically portraying Dana Loesch, however. I think that’s Chris to the left of her in the panel.