By VICTOR E. SASSON
The Record today finally publishes an insider's look at the corrosive influence of money in politics, a subject the editors have always ignored.
This time, Teaneck lawyer M. Robert DeCotiis is the key government witness in the federal corruption trial of Joseph A. Ferriero, another lawyer who once was the powerful head of the Bergen County Democratic Party.
Once you read this Page 1 story you'll agree that many lawyers, including Governor Christie, appear to be at the root of all of our major problems.
The account by Staff Writer Peter Sampson, a veteran federal courthouse reporter, leads the front page, but poor editing robs it of the impact it could have had (A-1).
Readers who don't get past the bland headlines or text on A-1 miss the payoff that is mentioned only on the continuation page (A-6).
DeCotiis testified that one of Ferriero's law partners threatened to go to work for Hartz Mountain Industries, which opposed the Xanadu retail-entertainment project proposed by the Mills Corp., the DeCottis firms biggest client.
But the front page doesn't hint at the incredibly corrupt way it was resolved, according to DeCotiis and prosecutors:
Ferriero is accused of extorting $1.7 million from Mills from 2002 to 2004 under the threat of causing economic harm, and monthly $35,000 payments were made through the DeCotiis law firm to a shell company, Concept Realization (A-6).
DeCotiis, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, called Ferriero a tough adversary because of his "ability to raise money" and come out with "attack ads" that could kill the Mills proposal.
Also on Page 1, the image of Elizabeth Cady Stanton on the $20 bill is quite a contrast with another photo of the 19th century Tenafly resident and leader of the early women's right movement (A-6).
One Record reader commented that "is clearly the face of a male, who is dressed up in drag with two wigs on."
Former staffers might be reminded of Deirdre Sykes, the head assignment editor, who was known for her bad hair days.
In an editorial, The Record urges Christie to follow the advice of the law firm he hired to insulate him from the George Washington Bridge lane closures, and bar the use of personal email for government business (A-16).
The editorial follows a news story on Thursday's A-1.
But WNYC-FM reported today and Thursday that Christie met with David Wildstein, the crony he appointed to the third most powerful job at the Port Authority, at least twice in his Trenton office, even though the governor has denied it.
The public radio station's Christie Tracker reports the GOP bully is not in New Jersey today, and Bridgegate costs "billed to taxpayers and toll-payers" total nearly $10,700,000.
Bridget Anne Kelly, then Christie's aide, sent the infamous email, "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," to Wildstein, who ordered the lane closures in September 2013 as political retribution against Fort Lee's Democratic mayor.
You'd never know from Elisa Ung's rave review of Varka Estiatorio in Ramsey that Greeks and fish have a long and troubled history (BL-1).
In the Greek islands, the decades-long practice of fishing with dynamite has been outlawed, but continues, wiping out far more fish than intended.
And then Greek restaurant owners started opening fish houses like Varka, and exploiting customers by charging $3o and more a pound for fish that costs a fraction of that at retail.
Ung is a dedicated carnivore who doesn't see a need to tell readers the barbounia she loved are also called red mullet ($31 a pound).
And she is dessert obsessed, as well, as you can tell from her listing "Uncle Nick's Cheesecake" ($11) as one of four recommended dishes.
That seems high for cheesecake, and Ung omits the price of a glass of wine she didn't like.
Ung notes the cheesecake, "dolloped with jammy preserved figs," is one of the surprises at Varka, which opened in 2005.
All the dessert she insists on sampling at every restaurant meal may present another "surprise" -- coronary bypass surgery.