Robert Torricelli is a former Senator from New Jersey who only served a single term. He withdrew from the election race after allegations that he had accepted bribes from a businessman were made public.
Robert Torricelli was an elected member of the US House of Representatives from 1983 to 1997, serving as the representative of the 9th district of New Jersey. In 1996, he ran for the United States Senate and was elected. He began his term in January 1997 and served until January of 2003.
In the weeks prior to the election, a businessman named David Chang publicly stated allegations about bribing Robert Torricelli. Chang stated that he had sought the cooperation of the office of Robert Torricelli in helping him obtain payment from North Korea which he had sold to that nation. To that end, David Chang alleged that he had bribed Robert Torricelli with gifts such as Italian suits, a new Rolex watch, and a 52-inch television set. Though Robert Torricelli denied all the allegations, he decided to drop out of the race regardless.
David Chang's statements were made following his agreement with federal prosecutors to receive a reduced sentence for illegal campaign contributions within the state in return for testimony about corruption in the state's political system. However, prosecutor decided not to prosecute Robert Torricelli because Chang's testimony as a convicted felon would lack credibility, making it difficult to obtain a guilty verdict.
However, the state's Democratic Party had difficulty replacing Robert Torricelli's name on the ballot. State law stipulates that the names of candidates in an election cannot be changed any closer than 51 days after the election. However, Robert Torricelli exited from the race 35 days before the election. Therefore, legally Democrats were prohibited from replacing his name on the ballot with that of his replacement candidate, Frank Lautenberg.
Democrats argued before the State Supreme Court that despite the law, they should be allowed to replace Robert Torricelli's name in the public interest of the voters. Republicans argued before the Supreme Court that because the language of the legislation in question is clear and unambiguous, the Democratic request for an exception to the rules should not be argued. In its unanimous ruling, the New Jersey Supreme Court stated that it had decided it was in the public interest to grant the Democratic status, allowing for the replacement of Robert Torricelli's name on all ballots.
Following the end of his political career, Robert Torricelli became a lobbyist. In 2010, he again attracted attention when it was reported that he had used funds which were raised in the course of his aborted Senate re-election race and donating them to the campaigns of other politicians. While these donations did not violate federal law, the contributions attracted media attention and were cited as evidence of the need to create new laws regarding the legal use of money raised during political campaigns.