With less than two weeks to go to midterm elections, North Jersey’s reps on Capitol Hill are strutting their stuff and putting their hands into some very big cookie jars.

The spy who loved Israel

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Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr.

The attorneys for convicted Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard filed a petition for clemency last week, according to The Jerusalem Post. The petition requests that President Obama commute Pollard’s life sentence to time served – 25 years. The request comes on the heels of last week’s revelation by former Israeli lawmaker and intelligence officer Rafi Eitan that the United States broke a verbal agreement with Israel to release Pollard after 10 years. According to Eitan, Pollard remains in prison because of secret charges that were later attributed to Aldrich Ames, a CIA counter-intelligence officer and analyst who was arrested as a spy for the Soviet Union in 1994.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-8) wrote a letter to the president last month with three other House members calling for clemency. The letter has received 26 signatures, including that of Rep. Steve Rothman (D-9). Pascrell’s staff expects the letter to be sent to the president next week. Pascrell visited Pollard in federal prison in North Carolina in the late 1990s.

“More people are seeing that an injustice was done in the sentencing of Mr. Pollard, and more people are becoming comfortable about sharing what they know about how the case was handled,” Pascrell said in an e-mail to The Jewish Standard. “That is why I’m asking my colleagues to sign our letter requesting President Obama to commute the remainder of Mr. Pollard’s sentence.”

Pascrell will face Republican challenger Roland Straten in November. CQ Politics, a division of the CQ-Roll Call Group, a Capitol Hill news agency in Washington, considers Pascrell and Rothman’s seats to be safe.

Garrett lauds South Korea

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Rep. Scott Garrett

Two weeks ago, South Korea blacklisted 102 companies and 24 individuals accused of aiding Iran’s nuclear pursuit.

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-5) praised the South Korean government for its actions.

“I applaud the government of South Korea for stepping up to the plate and joining a growing list of countries that are committed to the prevention of a nuclear Iran,” he said in a statement sent to the Standard. “In order for economic sanctions against Iran to work effectively, all of our partners need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder as a sign of international solidarity.”

South Korea’s actions against Iran have affirmed that country’s “place on the international stage as a global leader,” he continued. Garrett went on to encourage other countries to follow South Korea’s lead in enforcing sanctions against Iran.

Garrett is a member of a House bipartisan working group that monitors the implementation of U.S. and international sanctions against Iran.

Garrett is facing opposition next month from Democrat Tod Theise, a former Republican who switched to the Dems two years ago. He ran unsuccessful campaigns for Republican slots in the New Jersey Assembly in 1993 and 2003, and made an unsuccessful bid as the Democratic candidate for Warren County freeholder in 2009.

CQ Politics considers Garrett safe.

Libya, a guardian of human rights?

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Sen. Robert Menendez

Last month, Libya joined the United Nations’ Human Rights Council after the country, which has a long history of terror ties, won election to the body earlier this year. New Jersey’s Sen. Robert Menendez issued a statement last month condemning Libya’s ascension.

“The election of Libya to the United Nations’ group that promotes human rights around the globe is deplorable,” Menendez said. “Not only has Libya historically scoffed at efforts to protect the rights of others, it places no value on the mandate that guides the council, promoting universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, without distinction of any kind and in a fair and equal manner.”

President George W. Bush normalized relations with Libya in 2006, a fact that played a major role in last year’s protests to keep Libya’s U.N. ambassador from staying at a Libya-own mansion in Englewood. Although protestors, led by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a columnist for this paper who lives next door to the mission, claimed credit for keeping Kaddaffi out, politicians pointed to an 1980s agreement that only Libya’s ambassador could use the house.

Libya has also been in hot water lately because of the early release of Abdelaset al-Megrahi, the only terrorist convicted after the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Scottish authorities released al-Megrahi last year on humanitarian grounds after doctors estimated he had only months to live because of stomach cancer. He has so far outlived those estimates, drawing international criticism of Libya, Scotland, and Great Britain.

“I am also aware of the pain Libya has caused the families of the 189 American victims of Pan Am flight 103,” Menendez continued. “I am currently poised to begin a hearing in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the facts surrounding that release and Megrahi’s return to Libya to a hero’s welcome. I hope the U.N. Human Rights Council listens to witnesses like Robert Monetti, a New Jerseyan who lost his son on that ill-fated flight, and ceases to include representatives in this body that do not have a history and tradition of respect for life and human rights.”

Menendez is not up for re-election next month.

Meet the candidates

The Jewish Community Relations Council of UJA Federation of Northern New Jersey is sponsoring two candidates’ forums on Sunday. Bergen County Executive Dennis McNerney and Republican challenger Kathleen Donovan will speak and answer questions at Temple Avodat Shalom in River Edge, while Garrett and Thiese will debate at Temple Emanuel of the Pascack Valley in Woodcliff Lake.

Both forums are open to the public. Call (201) 489-2463 for more information about the Avodat Shalom session, and (201) 391-0801 for the Temple Emanuel session.