ATLANTIC CITY — The second floor of the Irish Pub, decorated like an elaborate Victorian parlor, was packed with members of the nonprofit Liberty and Prosperity group Sunday for its annual fundraiser.
“This is a little nicer than we’re used to,” joked the group’s Executive Director Seth Grossman. “We’re a bunch of deplorable people,” referring to the words used by Hillary Clinton to describe Donald Trump supporters.
Free bumper stickers were stacked around food tables, saying “No Toll Hikes!” and “Repudiate NJ’s Unconstitutional Debt!”
The group is named for the state’s official motto, “Liberty and Prosperity,” Grossman said to the gathering of about 70 people.
It is an educational nonprofit, several attendees explained, dedicated to founding principles in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
“The Constitution is the basic foundation. Cut that anchor and we are adrift and lose our identity,” said Len Grossman, of Atlantic City, a physician who has no relation to Seth. “The further away you get the less liberty people in the country will have.”
He said the group educates about the nation’s founding principles and advocates for Legislatures to make laws, not judges.
Carlene Abbott, of Egg Harbor Township, said she has been a member for several years and it’s important to her for the government to control its borders and improve the economic situation so people can get jobs.
“We’re in economic dire straits here now,” she said of the Atlantic City region. “I’m more than thrilled that Trump has been elected, and I’m giving him all the space to prove what he is going to do. At this point it’s wait and see.”
Len Grossman and his wife Dora said they find Atlantic City government spending unsustainable, but they don’t think the state takeover is the answer because there is a lack of accountability. The state is not being transparent about what it is doing and how much money it is spending, they said.
Republican candidate for governor Jack Ciattarelli, the assemblyman representing parts of Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex and Somerset counties, was the guest speaker.
When asked about the state takeover of Atlantic City, he said he would have preferred the city go through a bankruptcy proceeding.
“I’m an MBA and a CPA,” he said. “A municipal bankruptcy would be in everybody’s best interest because it removes all politics.”
The room erupted in applause.
Conservatism means government should only do what the people cannot do for themselves, Ciattarelli said.
“Government is trying to do too many things,” he said. “We’re on the verge of collapse in the country and this state (because of it).”
His five-point plan for improving the state includes reforming three things: school funding to solve the property tax crisis, public employee benefits to restore fiscal responsibility, and state tax laws to spark economic growth. It also includes making government smaller and improving bipartisan communication, he said.
People think after eight years of Gov. Chris Christie Republicans can’t win, but this year is different, he said.
“The Chicago Cubs are the world champs and Donald Trump is president,” said Ciattarelli. “Throw out conventional wisdom.”
It was the Washington-Lincoln fund raiser, which Liberty and Prosperity hopes will fund its $18,000 annual budget.
The group spends about $1,500 per month to fund its activities, it said. In addition to this one February event, it raises money through membership dues of $30 per year.
LibertyAndProsperity.org said it maintains two websites, a Facebook page, and sends email updates that reach roughly 15,000 people in New Jersey each week.
It also has breakfast discussions every Saturday at a local diner and sends speakers to high schools, colleges and civic groups throughout the state.
Every September it co-sponsors a ceremony to remember Somers Point hero Richard Somers, who died in Tripoli in the First Barbary War.