Leading Democratic Power Broker Faces Racketeering Charges

Along with five other defendants, George E. Norcross III, a former influential Democratic kingmaker in New Jersey, was charged with racketeering on Monday.

The group was charged with obtaining property and property rights on the Camden waterfront illegally, collecting millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits, and exerting control over and influence over government officials in the 13-count indictment that was unsealed by New Jersey’s attorney general, Matthew J. Platkin.

In a written statement, Mr. Platkin stated, “The indictment unsealed today alleges that George Norcross has been running a criminal enterprise in this state for at least the last 12 years.”

“This indictment demonstrates in graphic detail how a group of unelected, private businessmen used their influence and power to persuade the government to support and advance their criminal enterprise’s goals.”

Philip A. Norcross, the CEO of a Camden-based legal practice and brother of Mr. Norcross, was also charged by the attorney general’s office, which had been looking into Mr. Norcross’s use of government tax advantages.

George Norcross was in Trenton, New Jersey’s front row of the hall on Monday afternoon as Mr. Platkin read the 111-page indictment. Although he didn’t have an instant response, he answered, “I will later.”

The accusations strengthened New Jersey’s already damaged standing as a political corruption hotbed. Federal prosecutors are accusing the state’s senior senator, Robert Menendez, of accepting money, gold bars, and a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for his willingness to use his political influence to grant favors to friends. Menendez is currently in the sixth week of his trial.

For many years, Mr. Norcross—an insurance businessman and member of the Democratic National Committee—was New Jersey’s most influential unelected political figure. He had a significant impact on state policy, law, and governor selection.

Following a string of humiliating legislative setbacks, Mr. Norcross hinted he was leaving politics about a year ago. His public remarks came at the same time that news broke that the attorney general’s office had reopened its investigation into over $1 billion in tax incentives given to South Jersey businesses connected to Mr. Norcross through legislation supported by the Republican former governor Chris Christie.

The Democratic governor, Philip D. Murphy, publicly fought with Mr. Norcross and denounced the tax incentive scheme throughout his first term. This conflict characterized a large portion of his first two years in office. When the state started looking into the Economic Opportunity Act in 2013, Mr. Platkin was Mr. Murphy’s lead lawyer. He was then appointed attorney general.

Created with assistance from a prominent Democratic attorney, the initiative distributed roughly $7 billion in tax benefits but offered minimal safeguards to shield the state from deception.

Legislative hearings and subpoenas to businesses and at least one governmental agency were spurred by the program’s controversy, but no charges were ever brought.

When the governor was vying for reelection in 2021, the conflict between Mr. Murphy and Mr. Norcross seemed to lessen. In late 2020, Mr. Murphy approved his own $14 billion tax incentive plan, and he and Mr. Norcross started making public appearances together—a situation that had never before happened.

Tammy Murphy, the spouse of Mr. Murphy, received support from the Camden County Democratic Committee, a powerful organization under Mr. Norcross’s direction, early in her Senate campaign last year. The endorsement came at a critical juncture for Ms. Murphy, a first-time candidate, lending her campaign a sense of inevitable success.

In March, Ms. Murphy withdrew from the race just days before a pivotal element of Mr. Norcross’s triumph—a New Jersey-specific custom wherein party leaders provided special treatment to their preferred candidates on primary election ballots—was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge and Mr. Platkin.

Consequently, Mr. Platkin’s alliance with Mr. Murphy, who was previously among his closest allies, has deteriorated. 

Along with Mr. Norcross and his brother, the other defendants are William M. Tambussi, 66, of Brigantine, N.J., who has been Mr. Norcross’s personal attorney for a long period.

Former Camden mayor Dana L. Redd, 56, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, is the CEO of Camden Community Partnership.

Sidney R. Brown, 67, of Philadelphia, was the CEO of the logistics and trucking firm NFI.

John J. O’Donnell, 61, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, served as the executive leader of the home development firm Michaels Organization.