Steve Lonegan: Conservative Puppetmaster?

In Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, the Prince of Morocco discovers that “All that glisters in not gold…” and departs with a disappointment he never expected when he arrived. For the most part, it sums up with a theatrical flourish my experience with Mayor Steve Lonegan – one that began with considerable hope and enthusiasm in 2009 and ended with a jaded, cynical epiphany two years later when I would be inspired to write this article by a recent comment to the post I made about the cancellation of his appearance at the Bayshore Tea Party Headquarters.

The commenter is of the opinion that the campaign against the BTPG did not originate with either Boy Blunder or Wee Willy Winky – but with Steve Lonegan.

I very much doubt that Eichmann and Winkler are the original cause of the attacks on the Bay Shore Tea Party. I think Steve Lonegan is the origin of the attacks. And some of you realize the motive: Lonegan wants to control the NJ tea parties…If you really want to know what a jerk Lonegan really is, buy the video “Anytown USA”…

Anytown, USA is a documentary produced by director Kristian Fraga that explores the 2004 mayoral race between Republican Steve Lonegan, Democrat Fred Pesce and independent Dave Musikant. There is no need to purchase the 90-minute video: you can watch it online here.

It’s an interesting theory. If a united Tea Party front is the bulwark of the Conservative Resurgence in New Jersey – and the source of thousands of hard-working boots on the ground – the last thing Steve Lonegan would need or want is the prospect of Tea Party groups throughout New Jersey asserting their independence and deciding for themselves in which battles they will or will not participate. It follows that any Tea Party group not marching in  lockstep with the Lonegan Strategy would necessarily have to be marginalized, ostracized and, if need be, neutralized.

Now the Bayshore Tea Party is the largest and most influential group of its kind in the Garden State and therefore would be the lynchpin to Lonegan’s Tea Party strategy. If they could be  marshaled to operate in the same fashion they operated for Anna Little’s primary campaign, they would become potent shock troops of the conservative movement.

We do know that a rift occurred between Lonegan and the Bayshore group in March, when the BTPG declined to participate in Lonegan’s MAXED OUT bus tour in Congressman Chris Smith’s district. (Go here for a detailed explanation of Bayshore’s decision to sit this one out). It’s worth noting that from this time going forward, CNJ’s attacks on the Bayshore Tea Party group increased in both frequency and ferocity.

What, precisely, was Bayshore’s unpardonable sin? They said ‘no’ to Steve Lonegan – a man whose reputation for arrogance and egotism precedes him by light years and whose ability to nurse a grudge makes Poe’s Montresor look like a McDonald’s customer  miffed that his Big Mac is missing the pickles.

But does this necessarily mean that Lonegan orchestrated the Jacobin siege of the Bayshore group? Outside of a smoking gun, we’ll never know with any ontological certitude. But we do know this for certain:  the purported  capo de tutti capi of the conservative movement in New Jersey and state director of the AFP chapter here apparently did absolutely nothing to stop the attacks or facilitate peace – a refusal to act that implies his consent. And if he consented (and continues to consent) to such appalling behavior, it doesn’t take an Evel Knievel leap of faith across the Snake River Canyon to find plausibility in the suggestion that at one point in time, à la Henry II, he lamented, “Will no one rid me of these turbulent Tea Baggers?

The strong-arm tactics of CNJ/CWA Brownshirts and their public lynching of the Bayshore Tea Party leave little doubt with regard to the fate of  ANY Tea Party group that refuses to blindly obey marching orders from Steve Lonegan.

It’s a complicated mess, to say the least. There can be no question regarding Lonegan’s conservative credentials: I am first to describe him as an unreconstructed Reaganite and hardcore conservative through and through.

But the problem isn’t one of ideology, it’s one of personality – the dynamics of which may very well sunder Movement Conservatism in the Garden State as Tea Party groups find themselves in the appalling position of having to choose between unity for the cause on the one hand and preservation of their principles and independence on the other.

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6 Responses to Steve Lonegan: Conservative Puppetmaster?

  1. Barb says:

    Thank you for standing up for principle Gene. You are a good man to do so.

  2. lg1015 says:

    Principle over Party… ALWAYS!

    • TeaPartyDem says:

      Gene, although I love the folks at Bayshore and consider them one of the premier TP groups in NJ, please don’t sell short the several other premier Tea Party groups in NJ. For instance, do you know about the group that replaced (3) GOP county Chairman last year? As I said, I love Bayshore and would consider it an honor to take my last breath while standing beside them so my comment is not to diparage them one bit. I just have to point out others you may not be aware of.
      Also, this alleged AFP salacious assault actually began in April. Withering blog posts like those directed at Bayshore were penned and directed at the organizers of the Citizens Convention Tea Party summit April 16th. Coincidentally Lonegan and several other so called “conservative” loving figures, some in the legislature now, requested to be speakers at the above event. They were politely and graciously denied……the blog assaults began. Was this a coincidence?
      So what we have here is a pattern of public negative assaults towards any group or persons that don’t “roll over” for the establishment self annointed elitist.

      • Route 46 Overpass says:

        I don’t remember Gene “selling short” other Tea Party groups. For what it’s worth, in my view, both in NJ and the rest of the USA the great majority Tea Parties have been overwhelmingly a force for good.

        Thanks for talking truth to power. I fully expect the Loneganistas will be closing ranks and throwing everything they have at you. You will be probably be called names: “liberal”, “communist”, “bully”, “socialist”, “loser”, etc.
        Also, your sanity will be questioned. This is the same playbook I have seen used over and over by the Loneganistas for at least ten-years at municipal, county and state-wide levels.

        As you noted above, this is not about policy. Lonegan generally mouths the “politically correct” positions from a conservative position — and I agree with most of them, as I’d be willing to bet you do.

        Here are several statements that I believe, most of which Lonegan would also agree with, and most of which most Tea Partiers would agree with.

        Entitlement spending is out of control.
        Corporate tax rates are way too high relative to other countries. Teacher’s benefits and even fire and police benefits need to be scaled back.
        Military adventurism and military spending can be scaled back.
        Federal reserve policy has encouraged debt accumulation and lack of savings and investment.

        I suppose you could sign on to most of the above and still be called a liberal, if you are not willing to suck up to Lonegan. So while I concede that Lonegan usually mouths limited government positions, in practice we do not know what kind of a government official he would be. He has lost primary and general elections at the state, county, congressional district and state senate levels. He was mayor of Bogota, and his legacy is that he addicted the municiaplity to several installments of extraordinary state aid and wrecked the Bogota GOP to the point that now 100% of the Bogota governing body is Democrat.

        Lonegan has many skeletons in his closet, only one of which I will mention here. In the summer of 2009 Lonegan was on the losing end of a civil suit in Bergan County. The jury concluded that Lonegan and at least a couple other former Bogota government officials had violated the first amendment rights of a police officer, who pointed out what were in my view clearly corrupt actions that had taken place during the Bogota Lonegan administration. The jury in Creange v. Bogota awarded $15,000 in damages to the police officer defendant who had his first amendment rights violated.

        But the point of this blog and this post is not to pull the curtain back on this character. IMHO Lonegan is just a self-absorbed ignoramus — and is himself something of a puppet rather than a puppet master. The puppeteer behind Lonegan for ten-plus years has been Rick Shaftan, who is far more intelligent and knowledgeable than Lonegan. Shaftan’s Sussex County Sparta based polling and political operation has undergirded the conservative politicians in the GOP gerrymandered districts in Northwest NJ.

        If you had time, you might want to explore the Shaftan, Winkler, Littell family connection. The Littell’s are a three generation career politician family that has been a force in the Northwest Jersey gerrymandered districts.

        Ultimately, one key problem, as Bayshore knows, is these gerrymandered districts. It looks like the Dems will have a huge advantage at the assembly and state senate levels, as they have for the past ten-years. On top of that, the Republican districts are only competitive at the primary and not the general election levels. This mapping leads to highly partisan divided government and to career incumbent politicians in both parties. In the Littell case, the incumbency factor stretches out over three generations — this is not democracy, it is political aristocracy.

        BTW, you may play well with others better than you think. All three of the websites you had been involved with were to some degree controlled by Loneganistas — Jacobins who demand 100% toeing of their wings party line. The various videos on the net that show Barb and Bob explaining their positions, make it clear that they are the salt of the earth. It took some courage to stand with the Bayshore group instead of circling around them with the right-wing NJ establishments pack of wolves.

  3. TP109 says:

    It is a sad dilemma that a guy who would be King, will never be, as word spreads among the TEA Parties. Too bad because he effectively has publicized some important issues. But “pride goeth before a fall.” And isn’t it interesting that, as the TeaPartyDem reports, the original nastiness began toward the Citizen’s Convention after the organizers declined some “conservative leaders’ ” requests. Hmm. This would lead the trail to a triumvirate of Winkler, Eichman, Doherty, and Lonegan. Ok let’s throw out Eichman to make the Latin fit. He’s done anyway.

  4. Cranky ole Patriot says:


    I’m in agreement with TeaPartyDem! This is by no means a one party affair and we all see the efforts of these other groups beginning to have significant impact. The defense entered into here is for all of us. Thanks, TeaPartyDem!