Daily Archives: August 20, 2009
Here is another good article, published today by Charles Stile of NorthJersey.com detailing Chris Christie’s recent ethical mishaps. It’s worth the read!
Two weeks ago, Christopher J. Christie promised to convert the closed caucus room of Trenton into a temple of transparency.
The public deserves a more detailed, warts-and-all accounting of a public official’s personal income and interests, he said. Current disclosure rules are a “joke” that provide only a superficial summary.
“If you look at the one that I had to fill out as a federal official, it will give you a headache,” Christie said, referring to his tenure as U.S. attorney for New Jersey. “I would rather give public officials a headache … than to continue to use an ill-advised, narrow form that does not give you the information you need to judge whether or not a public official is acting in his or her own interest or in the public interest.”
Christie is now the one with a throbbing headache for failing to practice what he preaches.
The Republican nominee for governor was on the defensive this week following revelations that he omitted a $46,000 loan to a former subordinate, Michele Brown, on his tax returns and federal and state disclosure forms.
Swamped by questions about the legal and ethical consequences about the loan, Christie, the fiery ethics crusader, was suddenly the contrite candidate dispensing damage control. He vowed to amend those returns to reflect the 2007 loan.
“It was an oversight,” said Christie. “My mistake.”
Let’s put aside, for now, the glaring conflict of interest of possibly having Brown, the first assistant U.S. attorney in Newark, repaying the governor a loan at 5.5 percent interest. And we need not dwell too much on the Corzine-esque nature of the loan — sorting the differences and similarities between Corzine’s $470,000 loan to ex-girlfriend and union leader Carla Katz and the Christie-Brown loan doesn’t offer much insight into Christie’s decision.
What I find most puzzling is that Christie’s “oversight” is at odds with his experience as a corruption fighter. He should have known better.
Perhaps more than any other federal prosecutor who preceded him, Christie demonstrated how New Jersey’s toothless disclosure laws foster corruption. It was a common theme in his indictments and convictions.
Former Paramus Democratic state Sen. Joseph Coniglio was convicted in June on charges that he was hired by Hackensack University Medical Center as a $5,000-a-month lobbyist and concealing his interest in a consulting company. State disclosure laws did not require him to disclose that he was working for the hospital.
It was Christie who prosecuted former state Sen. John Lynch, the longtime Middlesex County Democratic power broker for secretly taking tens of thousands of dollars from a contractor while lobbying to help him develop state parkland.
Dennis Oury, a Bergen County Democratic Party lawyer, was charged last year with failing to properly disclose his interest in a grant-writing firm that was receiving public funds. Oury is awaiting trial this fall.
If Christie was truly concerned about the pernicious dangers of poor disclosure, he should have set an example by reporting the loan two years ago instead of explaining himself amid a political firestorm.
“I never thought of it as an asset,” Christie said of the loan to Brown and her husband, Michael, who had lost his sales job and was facing mounting credit-card debt. “I saw it as money we loaned to friends who were in financial trouble and they were paying us back.”….
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Harper’s Magazine’s Scott Horton wrote an excellent piece yesterday detailing how Chris Christie may have used his influence with friends/former employees left over at the US Attorneys Office to stage some political theather to effect the New Jersey race for governor by moving forward on a corruption crackdown that netted 44 politicians, officials and religious leaders in one day last month.
As it happens, Christie is the Republican candidate to replace Jon Corzine as governor of New Jersey. He’s running on an anti-corruption platform, and this news—which stole headlines for a solid week—helped to propel him to a solid lead over the incumbent in the polls.
Watching this unfold, it was hard not to notice how convenient it all was for the Christie campaign. The announcement reflected a substantial number of largely unrelated cases, but they had been aggregated and held for arrests all on the same day as a sort of batch-release. Whatever law-enforcement considerations justified this step, it clearly helped gain newspaper headlines. Moreover, the announcement came at the end of July, which is the last possible moment for indictments with political impact in an election year cycle. Department of Justice guidelines preclude a U.S. attorney from announcing politically-charged indictments in a campaign season, which, by general reckoning, would begin the following month.
So it all looked good for Chris Christie—his accusations of public corruption were dramatically validated in newspaper headlines, and he was presented as a sort of Thomas E. Dewey—a clean prosecutor in a position to right the situation. But now, suddenly the Associated Press reported that the
Justice Department was examining whether acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra made inappropriate public comments that boosted Republican Chris Christie’s political challenge to incumbent Democratic Gov. Jon Corzine. Before running for office, Christie was the U.S. attorney for New Jersey, and Marra was his top deputy. Marra made the comments last month while announcing the corruption case against dozens of suspects.
But the investigation may wind up reaching far beyond an error in judgment about specific words used at a press conference or the timing of the announcement of indictments. The Justice Department’s internal probe comes just as The New York Times reveals the existence of a significant, undisclosed financial relationship between Christie and Michele A. Brown, another prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office. In response to an appeal from Brown, whose husband had lost his job, Christie loaned her $46,000 and took a mortgage on her home as security. The matter raises interest because failure to report this dealing is potentially a crime—and indeed, in the group of 44 political figures whose indictment was announced on July 23, one—Bergen County Democrat Dennis Oury—was indicted specifically for filing financial statements that failed to disclose a holding in a company that received public funds.
Today, Christie sounds remarkably like Mr. Oury:
“When I make mistakes, I’m going to admit them,” he said, adding that he had already amended some of those filings and would finish the rest by Friday. “It was certainly nothing that I was trying to conceal or hide.”…
Read More >>>Here