N.J. Democratic power broker George Norcross indicted on racketeering charges

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin (D) on Monday charged Democratic power broker George Norcross and five others with first-degree racketeering in a 13-count indictment, that, among other things, said he channeled tax breaks to himself and others in his circle.

Also on Monday, Norcross — a longtime kingmaker in the world of New Jersey Democratic politics — sat front row at the news conference in Trenton, N.J., as Platkin announced the charges. As some eagle-eyed social media users noted, the suit-clad Norcross was wearing shoes without socks.

“The state alleges that George Norcross has been running a criminal enterprise in the state for at least the last 12 years,” Platkin said. “This alleged conduct of the Norcross enterprise has caused great harm to individuals, businesses, nonprofits, the people of the state of New Jersey and especially, especially to the city of Camden and its residents.”

A bullish Norcross showed up to Platkin’s news conference Monday, listened to the attorney general, denounced the charges, and called Platkin — a fellow Democrat — a “coward,” according to the Associated Press.

Platkin and his team have been investigating Norcross for over a year in connection with redevelopment projects across Camden, one of New Jersey’s poorest cities. According to Platkin’s office, Norcross and the five other defendants “obtained property and property rights on the Camden Waterfront for itself and others, collected millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits, and controlled and influenced government officials to further the interests of the enterprise.”

The allegations are the latest strike to the powerful grip of the New Jersey Democratic politics machine. Earlier this year, upstart primary challenger Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) dealt a significant blow to the party’s power after he sued to do away with the “county line” — where for decades political bosses in the 21 counties have wielded outsize power to determine who gets elected. Kim won the Democratic primary for Senate in early June.

Norcross now lives in Palm Beach, Fla. He was charged alongside his brother Philip A. Norcross and former Camden mayor Dana Redd. Philip Norcross is the chief executive of a law firm headquartered in Camden. Another one of his brothers, Democratic Rep. Donald Norcross, who represents New Jersey’s 1st District that includes Camden and other Philadelphia suburbs in New Jersey, was not named in the indictment.

New Jersey Democrats are also dealing with fallout from the corruption trial of longtime Sen. Bob Menendez, who has been accused of accepting gold bars, a Mercedes-Benz and other bribes from business executives with ties to the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The latest indictment alleges that the “Norcross Enterprise” used “its power and influence over government officials to craft legislation tailored to serve the interests of the enterprise,” and that, with Redd’s cooperation, alongside that of other officials, they were able to use part of the city’s government to acquire “property and property rights” “through coercion, extortion, and other criminal acts.”

Norcross’s lawyer, Michael Critchley, did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment.

Norcross has long been a kingmaker in New Jersey politics, perhaps one of the most powerful nonelected Democrats in the state. A wealthy insurance executive, Norcross is known in New Jersey for being a generous political campaign donor and credited for building a powerful group of South Jersey state legislators, and the Norcross family name is well known among Democrats seeking political office in South Jersey.

At least $1.1 billion of $1.6 billion in tax breaks going to firms making capital investments in Camden went to Norcross’s insurance brokerage, his business partnerships and charitable affiliations, and clients of the law and lobbying firms of his brother Philip, an investigation by WNYC and ProPublica in 2019 found.

The New Jersey indictment against Norcross unsealed Monday is rife with examples of how he allegedly used his influence to threaten individuals. In one instance cited, Norcross is said to have threatened in 2016 a developer who would not relinquish his rights on Norcross’s terms, by telling him he would make sure the developer never did business in Camden again.

“I will f— you up like you’ve never been f—ed up before,” Norcross allegedly told the developer. When the developer asked Norcross if he was threatening him, Norcross allegedly said: “Absolutely.”

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