Home > Uncategorized > NJ Senator Gopal Defends Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Picks – And Gets Owned

NJ Senator Gopal Defends Gov. Murphy’s Pinelands Picks – And Gets Owned

Senator Gopal Is The Epitome Of All That Is Wrong With Trenton Politics

Harshly Attacks Pinelands Supporters For Pushing “Disinformation” and “Propaganda”

Gopal Flat Out Lies About Environmental Group Support

Rarely does a politician – in his own words – reveal what he really thinks and in the process expose his entire corrupt political worldview and flat out ignorance.

In an arrogant and dismissive email to a constituent who had raised concerns with his vote in favor of Gov. Murphy’s controversial Pinelands nominees, NJ Senator Vin Gopal just did exactly that.

He actually attacked his own constituent and accused them of “pushing misinformation and propaganda”.

At a time when misinformation is a very serious problem in our politics and triggers de-platforming, canceling, and can destroy a person’s reputation and career, that is a very serious allegation that should not be used so recklessly and falsely to attack a critic. Shame on Senator Gopal for this cheap stunt.

And the Senator doubled down on it when I called him out on it. His followup reply to me not only revealed his ignorance of the Senate’ advise and consent role, the NJ Pinelands Act, ELEC, and State ethics laws, but also made a false factual claim about alleged support of the Gov.’s nominees.

If I were to try and write a caricature or parody of an out of touch, arrogant, petulant, entitled and dishonest Trenton partisan hack, I could not have done a better job than Senator Gopal did himself and in his own words. Seriously, it was like a High School lunchroom scene – “she’s my best friend!” She went to my wedding! – Gopal actually offered up that crap as the basis of why he supported a Pinelands Commissioner!

[Update – a knowledgeable Trenton source just sent me this note, which makes Gopal’s attack even more corrupt:

Matos’ husband is a Democratic consultant that did his [Gopal’s] campaign- his wife a lobbyists at Princeton Public Affairs. ~~~ end update]

It’s a long exchange, but well worth the read. So, below, in chronological order, a farce in 4 parts: 1) Senator Gopal’s reply to his constituent, 2) my criticism of it (plus addendum); 3) his reply back to me; and 4) my closing back to him.

1) Part 1 – Gopal insults constituent

From: Vin Gopal <vin@vingopal.com>

Date: January 13, 2022 at 1:44:15 AM EST

XXXX – thanks for your e-mail. Laura Matos is one of my best friends and stood with me when I got sworn into the Senate and stood with my family when I married my wife. She will make an outstanding commissioner and is a passionate environmentalist. She is not a registered lobbyist and never has been and I am really disappointed that activists are doing minimal research on who her and Davon are as human beings but are trashing them based on what a propaganda they are reading but not researching. They passed 39-0 because the Senate is very happy with Governor Murphy’s appointments.

I would encourage you and urge you to get to know who she is as well as Davon who worked at DEP and was outstanding and know who they are as human beings instead of pushing inaccurate propaganda. They will do a great job on the Pinelands Commission and also bring much needed diversity to a New Jersey commission that has never had any. Trump will win because our own Democratic activists want to tear people down instead of getting to know who they are and instead spread misinformation on them, when they will be natural allies to us when they are in the office.

Always feel free to reach out

Vin

2) My reply to Gopal:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net>

To: “vin@vingopal.com” <vin@vingopal.com>

Date: 01/13/2022 1:11 PM

Subject: Pinelands Commission confirmation vote

Dear Senator Gopal – My friend XXXXX forwarded your response below.

As I am one of those you apparently namelessly accused of “doing minimal research” and “trashing” and “pushing inaccurate propaganda” and “misinformation”, I feel compelled to reply.

Before I do, as we have not met, please allow me to introduce myself. [educational credentials and NJ professional experience deleted]

Frankly, I am appalled by your reply to XXXXX – both the tone and the content.

You begin by claiming that Ms. Matos is “one of my best friends“. That is irrelevant to the qualifications for a Pinelands Commissioner that you are sworn to review in your Senatorial confirmation capacity.

It is deeply disturbing that a Senator would vote to confirm a person to an important office based on friendship and the fact that you openly use that justification evidences a clueless Trenton “clubbiness” bubble scene composed of self serving and self dealing insiders and partisans.

You then claim, without offering a scintilla of supporting evidence, that Ms. Matos “will make an outstanding commissioner and is a passionate environmentalist“.

This fact free claim is then following by this smear, to which I must respond because I am implicated in it: (i.e. I’ve written strong criticism of the Gov. and both nominees). You wrote:

“She is not a registered lobbyist and never has been and I am really disappointed that activists are doing minimal research on who her and Davon are as human beings but are trashing them based on what a propaganda they are reading but not researching.”

1. Registered lobbyist: You should look up the ELEC definition of “attempts to influence government processes” that triggers registration requirements.

Ms. Matos has spent her career – directly on indirectly – in such activities. Ms. Matos is a political operative. Her entire career reflects that. The fact that she is not a registered lobbyist is irrelevant (and she might have been in noncompliance). I’d welcome a debate with you on that issue.

You also should read the job description  that Orsted posted on Davon McCurry – here’s a link:

https://us.orsted.com/news-archive/2021/07/orsted-names-davon-mccurry-as-deputy-head-of-market-and-government-affairs-new-jersey

“McCurry will help develop and implement strategies to ensure the successful advancement of existing projects, Ocean Wind 1 and 2, inform efforts to secure additional business and shape Ørsted’s position and standing in the state.

His job function is to promote Orsted’s corporate interests – again see ELEC definition above. See also NJ conflict of interest laws, particularly the statutory “appearance” standard.

2. Minimal research

I do my homework. I reviewed all publicly available information on both nominees, including the Gov.’s press statements.

None of that provided any evidence to support your claims above. None suggested any environmental or Pinelands qualifications or experience. To the contrary, the public record is loaded with prior corporate and political activity.

I worked for 4 years in the DEP Office of Legislation during the Florio administration and am very familiar with its functions. Mr. McCurry was not qualified for his DEP post as Director. Period. Not even close. McCurry’s DEP experience is no evidence of any commitment to the environment, just the opposite, especially given how quickly he used that post as a revolving door to a higher paying corporate job with Orsted.

3. Misinformation and propaganda

I deal in the fact based world. I have opinions and ideology and expertise. I have values and standards. Fact based opinions are not propaganda. Law and fact based criticism is not “trashing” a person.

I really resent that – and coming as a fact free and anonymous smear from a State legislator is deeply disturbing.

You made a serious charge of “inaccurate propaganda” and “misinformation”. Don’t you think you have an obligation and the burden of supporting that allegation with facts?

4. The Gov.’s Office defended the nominations on grounds of promoting “diversity and environmental justice”.

I support those goals. But not at the expense of qualifications and commitment.

Do you assume or think there are no qualified black and Latina Pinelands supporters?

Such an assumption is racist.

And there was no need for Gov. Murphy’s nominees to replace Chairman Prickett and Commissioner Rohan Greene. The political balance on the Commission has gone from a 7-4 county dominated pro-development posture to a lopsided 9-3.

5. In terms of politics, the Democratic Party is losing to a rising Trump Neo-fascist culture and politics because they have betrayed the New Deal coalition, policies, and politics in favor of Bill Clinton’s “Progressive Neoliberalism” that uses cultural politics to disguise corporate economic policies (Google Professor Nancy Fraser’s work on that).

You can and must do better.

Bill Wolfe

Addendum:

Senator – In my haste, I omitted important issues:

1) If you – and/or Matos or McCurry – felt that their names and reputations had been besmirched by false “misinformation” and “propaganda”, then why didn’t any of you appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee and go under oath to correct the public record?

Why did the Senate ram the confirmations through in the last day of a lame duck session?

2) If both nominees were qualified and strong environmentalists, then why did the Gov.’s nominations blind side the conservation groups that had been working cooperatively with the Administration on Pinelands appointments? (i.e. PPA)

3) You seem oblivious to the fact that the Pinelands Commission is by law an independent planning and regulatory body. The Commission is a legacy institution that has become increasingly politicized. It is not a patronage pit for unqualified political loyalists, friends, or corporate cronies.

4) Over an almost 40 year career in Trenton, I’ve seen far too many ambitious, careerist, climbers in NJ politics and government.

If Matos and McCurry want to work on political campaigns or as corporate advocates, that is their prerogative.

But they do not belong in government or on powerful institutions grounded in law and science like the Pinelands Commission.

Bill Wolfe

3) Part 3 – Gopal reply to me

———- Original Message ———-

From: Vin Gopal <vin@vingopal.com>

To: Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net>

Date: 01/13/2022 8:36 PM

Subject: Re: Addendum – Re: Pinelands Commission confirmation vote

Bill – Thank you for your email.

I am not giving an opinion on the Governor’s process of selecting folks as that is his prerogative, not mine and his legal right to appoint or replace who he wants as the Governor of the State.

Laura is not a lobbyist so by continuing to say she is one is putting out misinformation to push a false agenda to try to make her into someone when you don’t know anything about her.

I don’t judge people i don’t know or characterize them with namecalling when I don’t know them. Laura is one of my best friends, she grew up in the Pinelands and my friendship with her is relevant to me because I personally know her character, integrity and ability. Only by knowing her personally do i know these characteristics and traits.

They were nominated several weeks ago and had the support of the League of Conservation Voters, Clean Water Action who testified on their behalf in judiciary committee. Nothing was rushed through.

I won’t engage in the namecalling that you have no problem engaging in on people that you have never met and don’t know.

I look forward to working with these commissioners to continue to protect the Pinelands and protect our environment

Be well and good luck with your future endeavors.

Vin

4) Part 4 – My closing reply, where I document Gopal’s ignorance and falsehoods:

———- Original Message ———-

From: Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net>

To: Vin Gopal <vin@vingopal.com>

Cc: senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, “tmoran@starledger.com” <tmoran@starledger.com>

Date: 01/14/2022 11:11 AM

Subject: Re: Addendum – Re: Pinelands Commission confirmation vote

Vin – you should talk to your colleague Senator Smith and inquire about my credibility and experience. I’m copying Senator Smith on this email.

You are flat out wrong on the Gov. powers with respect to Pinelands Commissioners. Read the Pinelands Act and the NJ Constitution – Gov. nominees are not his sole prerogative but must be confirmed by the Senate (advice and consent, remember that from 7th grade civics?). Shocking that I need to tell a sitting State Senator that.

I suggested you read ELEC regulations about the definition of activities that constitute attempts to influence government processesand NJ State ethics laws on the “appearance” standard.

You ignored that and instead accuse me of name calling. Again, shocking.

Clean Water Action did NOT support the nominations and did NOT “testify on their behalf”. I actually listened to Dave Pringle’s testimony, did you? Why are you factually misrepresenting it? I also have an email from his boss, Amy Goldmith and she did NOT support the nominees. Again, shocking.

Carleton Montgomery, longtime head of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance and a Harvard trained lawyer I believe, wrote this about the nominees. On December 3, 2021, he wrote:

“In a truly shocking move, Governor Murphy today nominated three corporate lobbyists for the Pinelands Commission. They would replace three seasoned environmental leaders with years of service for the Pinelands.

All three of the new nominees appear to have fundamental conflicts of interest due to their employment as lobbyists for industry.  Only one of the three appears to have any prior interest at all in environmental protection.”

Even the the Star Ledger editorial board excoriated the Gov.’s move as “a craven power play”, a “brazen” attempt to “gut the Commission during lame duck”, and a “scheme” that was similar to the “bullying” by Gov. Christie.

Is that name calling? Tell Tom Moran that to his face (copy my friend Moran on this as well).

Ed Potosnak has very little credibility as a Murphy and Democratic Party shill. And I don’t recall ever seeing him (or Matos and McCurry) at a Pinelands Commission meeting.

You rammed through corporate cronies. Own it.

Bill Wolfe

[Update: 1/16/22 – Senator Gopal triples down.

Here’s the conclusion of my “debate” with NJ Senator Gopal. He not only failed to correct his false statement about testimony, or note his misstatement of the Senate’s confirmation role, or apologize for false accusations of “misinformation and “propaganda”, he cluelessly digs in based on the nominees’ “skill sets”. He does this without realizing that this is precisely the problem: the nominees lacked essential qualifying “skill sets” and the “skill sets” they do poses are problematic (political loyalty, appeasement, go along, yes men).

———- Original Message ———-

From: Vin Gopal <vin@vingopal.com>

To: Bill WOLFE <bill_wolfe@comcast.net>

Cc: senbsmith <SenBSmith@njleg.org>, “tmoran@starledger.com” <tmoran@starledger.com>

Date: 01/15/2022 11:46 PM

Subject: Re: Addendum – Re: Pinelands Commission confirmation vote

Bill I appreciate your opinion but obviously disagree. I know the character and skillsets of the two nominees I voted yes for and which passed unanimously by the Senate.

All the best moving forward – I have no interest in fighting with you and I respect your opinion.

Vin

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