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Grapevine: Lighting the way for Amazon

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If Amazon.com inks a deal with Matrix Development for a distribution site in Robbinsville, Bob Torricelli will have earned his keep as an adviser on the deal, according to a source. Amazon has promised to open two warehouses in New Jersey, setting off a race among municipalities trying to snag the ratables. Torricelli quietly runs his Rosemont Associates lobbying shop — the firm does not even seem to have a website — ranking 21st in the state, according to 2011 lobbying revenue figures reported to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.

Although tainted by a campaign finance scandal while he was a U.S. senator, Torricelli seems to maintain powerful contacts in New Jersey, and apparently with both political parties, Grapevine was told.

Actually, maybe some credit needs to go to Sean Jackson, Torricelli's top aide when he was in the Senate. Rosemont's 2011 annual report filed to ELEC in February shows Jackson earning more than Torricelli in reported annual salary and compensation: $85,800 for Jackson, versus $66,000 for the Torch. However, lobbying firms only need to report the pro rata share of salary related to lobbying; salary related to other activities, like public relations, does not need to be reported to ELEC. Grapevine bets Torricelli comes out ahead in the end with Rosemont compensation.

NJPAC stages incentive change?

A tipster says a Newark entity was the impetus for the state Economic Development Authority to change the eligible cost percentage for Urban Transit Hub tax credits. The source said the change was made for the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, which has a real estate development subsidiary.

EDA made the change last week so residential developers can have as much as 35 percent of project costs covered by Urban Transit Hub tax credits, instead of a 20 percent limit. The EDA board lifted the cap after announcing the competition for $100 million in transit hub credits, as developers had been relying on that competition having the same 35 percent limit other transit projects have carried.

An EDA spokeswoman confirmed the agency received calls from "various developers (and) interested parties," including Grapevine Development, in South Jersey, and the city of Newark, in "a conversation that largely focused on the city's experience with the program given the multiple projects under way."

"I also just want to emphasize that the change is consistent with the revised legislation/statute, so clearly there was a recognition made then that an increase was needed," the spokeswoman wrote in an e-mail.

Rigged lottery? Say it ain't so

Lottery private manager bidders are concerned with the direction of the procurement process, according to a source. Four companies have expressed interest in bidding to manage some operations of the state's lottery: Camelot Group; GTECH, a subsidiary of Lottomatica; Intralot; and Scientific Games Corp. But the tipster said it is not clear if anyone other than GTECH will bid.

On top of the $120 million upfront payment required of the winning bidder and the "difficult terms the state won't modify," lottery workers are saying the process is "rigged" for GTECH, the source said. GTECH is a vendor for the state's online games, while GTECH, Scientific Games and Pollard Banknote handle instant games, according to the state's request for information.

Government workers objecting to privatization is nothing new, but lottery staff making a mid-procurement allegation that a specific vendor is favored seems pretty unprecedented, according to the source.

A source in the Chris Christie administration said the terms for the bidding were developed by the administration after research done by Macquarie Capital, whose report, "New Jersey Lottery: Selected Observations" was an attachment to the state's request for information. The bidders were not involved in creating the terms, according to the administration source.

The administration source said the terms are "highly favorable" to the public, including the $120 million upfront payment and strict performance standards that must be met before the vendor can recover the $120 million.

"No one is making any apologies for arguing for the best deal for the taxpayers," the administration source said, asking why would GTECH be interested in bidding if the terms are so onerous. "It's never been around getting rid of state workers. It's about increasing lottery sales and giving people incentives to do that."

Grapevine reports on the behind-the-scenes buzz in the business community. Contact Editor Sharon Waters at sharonw@njbiz.com

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