Home Artificial Intelligence Stomping Grounds: Artificial Intelligence, NJ Transit, Georgia Prosecutors, and Mike Kelly

Stomping Grounds: Artificial Intelligence, NJ Transit, Georgia Prosecutors, and Mike Kelly

New Jerseyans aren’t always civil, but it’s still possible for a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican to have a rational and pleasant conversation about politics in the state.  Dan Bryan is a former senior advisor to Gov. Phil Murphy and is now the owner of his own public affairs firm, and chief strategist for Tammy Murphy’s Senate campaign, and Alex Wilkes is an attorney and former executive director of America Rising PAC who advises Republican candidates in New Jersey and across the nation, including the New Jersey GOP.  Dan and Alex are both experienced strategists who are currently in the room where high-level decisions are made.  They will get together weekly with New Jersey Globe editor David Wildstein to discuss politics and issues.

New Jersey Globe: Artificial Intelligence is really beginning to scare people.  An AI-generated audio featuring a New York City political boss “talking smack” about an assemblywoman “went mini-viral among Harlem political players on Sunday,” POLITICO reported.  Since the last few years were dominated by people blaming hackers for inappropriate social media posts, are we looking at people blaming AI for their mistakes?  How much of a priority is it for the legislature to take up this issue?

Dan Bryan: America is already suffering from a crisis of misinformation, and AI is about to pour gasoline on the fire. To be clear, I don’t know enough about AI to know how it can or should be regulated. But something clearly needs to happen.

This is the type of issue that shines a bright light on our broken federal legislative branch. If we had a congress that could govern, actually take on important non-partisan challenges and pass laws that were good for the American people, I’d feel better about AI being reigned in and regulated. But I don’t think any of us have any confidence in the Republican-controlled House being able to take meaningful action on this (or anything, really). 

Alex Wilkes: I certainly think it’s a priority, but I fear that the technology has already become so sophisticated that it might be impossible to rein in entirely. Just look at the bill the Congressman Kean introduced this week to address the degrading, deep-fake pornography created by AI of real people (namely, Taylor Swift, in this week’s example). It’s scary how the abuse of the technology came up seemingly overnight.

I think legislators should take this on, but they ought to be careful not to overregulate and stamp out innovation (though that might be a tall order for Trenton). I’ll be paying close attention to what I think could be a landmark case in The New York Times’ lawsuit against Microsoft for the use of their copyrighted work.

NJ Globe: New Jersey Transit wants to raise fares for buses and trains by 15%.  Is this good politics for the Murphy administration?

Alex: The politics were what Governor Murphy needed them to be last year when the legislature was on the line. The Governor has long bragged about NJ Transit fares not going up under his watch (he did it as recently as last year, as Senator Testa pointed out). These were always pretty bold claims considering that it was widely known that the agency was headed towards a fiscal cliff, and Murphy seemed to be more focused on priorities, like building out an opulent new headquarters (a shady decision that ended up benefitting a top Murphy donor).

Democrats hold the levers of power and pulled out all the stops last year to shore up their own power. They sent property tax checks at the same time as vote-by-mail ballots. They ran on senior tax relief that is now on the chopping block. They withheld critical news about Ørsted pulling out of offshore wind projects until one week before the election. The politics of this inconvenient matter were exactly how Democrats engineered them to be, and in the end, it will be the most vulnerable New Jerseyans who get screwed.

Dan: Good government is good politics. Governor Murphy will do what he has to do to ensure a healthy NJ TRANSIT, regardless of the politics. Remember: fares haven’t been raised in almost a decade. That’s not sustainable forever. 

Let’s remember something: Governor Murphy took over NJ TRANSIT in a time of crisis. The previous administration had gutted the agency, ignored the federal government’s PTC requirement, and left its engineering ranks undermanned. Under his watch, NJ TRANSIT funding is up, the engineering ranks are way up, reliability is up, on-time performance is up, and PTC was installed in record time. 

Is NJ TRANSIT fixed? No – it took a while to destroy the agency, and it’s going to take some time to fix it. But there is no doubt that NJ TRANSIT is stronger and better positioned today than when Governor Murphy took office.

NJ Globe:  In Georgia, where Donald Trump faces election interference charges, there are allegations that the prosecutor hired a man she was allegedly in a relationship with to be the special prosecutor.  The New Jersey Globe has reported allegations that Deputy Attorney General John Nicodemo lied to grand juries in order to obtain indictments.  At what point should there be oversight over prosecutors?

Dan: It’s a fair question. No one is above the law, and anyone working in the judiciary needs to hold themselves to the highest ethical standard. This is why appointing (and, in other states, electing) judges and prosecutors of the highest integrity and honesty is so critical.

Alex: The Georgia case is truly jaw-dropping. Assuming one thought the former President was fairly charged and prosecuted for this alleged crime (and it wasn’t just masked support for a political maneuver against him), a fair-minded person would have to be similarly appalled at the unmitigated greed and stunning conflicts of interest found in this case. In her zeal for national name recognition, the Trump mugshot, and a seven-figure payout for her boyfriend, Fani Willis has turned this entire matter into a joke.

I think it should be up to the judiciary to police bad lawyers, but I also think that the politicization of the legal system will have far-ranging consequences, particularly in places where these positions are elected. George Soros had the foresight to invest in these types of races early on, and conservatives are now just catching up. Fortunately, I do think that the clear abuses of power and skyrocketing crime will help galvanize the public in calling for accountability for prosecutors who seek to use their offices to punish political foes or engineer social policy.

NJ Globe: I read Mike Kelly’s column in the Bergen Record advising national Democrats on his plan to defeat Donald Trump and re-elect Joe Biden.  When local guys try to be national pundits, doesn’t that just contribute to the serious death of local news?

Alex: Whenever I see columns like that, it reminds me of The Simpsons episode where old Abe Simpson is featured in a newspaper article “Old Man Yells at Cloud.” I mean, sure, this is America, you can write what you want, but is anyone listening? (I say this with complete awareness, by the way, that perhaps no one is listening to yours truly). 

I think it’s mostly lazy click-bait for political commentators who can’t – or won’t – see the very many problems in our own backyard. They know that adding in a keyword like “Trump” might draw marginally more eyeballs than a thoughtful column about a state policy matter, so that’s why they do it.  

Dan: I don’t know – I don’t really mind when local columnists give an opinion on national news. As long as they do it from a local perspective, it can be a good way to show the values of the region. The article you cite isn’t that – it’s a columnist playing political strategist, and as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with Bergen County.

Wherever I travel, I like picking up the local newspaper and browsing through it. I think it’s great that a local columnist in New Jersey, or Minnesota, or Oregon gives their take on national politics. If done well, it gives you a flavor of the region – you can intuit the attitude of the area, and get a sense of what’s important locally. But they can go wrong if the columnist forgets they’re writing for a local audience, not a national one.



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