As an FYI to go along with this, NJ State Senator Lorretta Weinberg is working to update the Sunshine and OPRA laws. Senate bill S. 1351 increases from 48 hrs to 3 days the advance notice requirement for agendas, and brings the OPRA law (passed in 1975) up to date with technology, among other changes.
Category Archives: Lorretta Weinberg
by Steve Singiser – Daily Kos
Sat Aug 22, 2009
Since early in the Spring (over 150 days ago, according to a clock helpfully placed in an online ad on PolitickerNJ), the campaign of New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine has been waiting on a Freedom of Information Act request. Back in March, Team Corzine began asking for documents pertaining to Chris Christie and his tenure in the U.S. Attorneys Office. A fishing expedition, perhaps, but one that is pretty common in campaigns.
The response, shall we say, has been lacking. Therefore, on Thursday, Team Corzine looked to kick it up a notch, filing several administrative challenges to the D.O.J. complaining about the stonewalling:
“The United States Attorney’s office has many fine, dedicated, professional lawyers,” said Corzine strategist Tom Shea. “But, in light of recent reports that Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra is under investigation to determine if he has used the office to help further the Christie campaign, Second Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele Brown has an ongoing financial relationship with Christie and Christie was communicating with Karl Rove about his run for governor from that office, we feel it is even more important we receive the information requested.”
Friday morning, in a press release, they took it a step further, as Corzine’s nominee for Lt. Governor, state Senator Loretta Weinberg, made what would seem to be a pretty reasonable request:
Senator Loretta Weinberg today called on Assistant United States Attorney Michele Brown to be removed from having any participation in fulfilling the Corzine ’09 campaign’s FOIA requests after it was revealed in the Star-Ledger that Brown is “playing a role in the process of retrieving” the documents requested by the Corzine ’09 campaign.
In recent days, it was revealed that Christie has an ongoing financial relationship with Brown, the number two lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s office, which he failed to disclose in either his personal financial disclosure forms or tax returns. Citing Brown’s potential conflict of interest, Weinberg called today for Brown to be removed off the task of retrieving any of the FOIA requests.
So, if the Corzine campaign is correct on this one, the person who was working on fulfilling those requests for information on Chris Christie was someone who owes Chris Christie almost fifty grand. Armed with that nugget of information, it is not hard to see why the delivery on said requests has been a tad tardy.
For their part, the U.S. Attorney’s office is denying that Brown is in charge of such requests, saying that she has played a role, but only because some of the documents pertained to her.
This whole episode, nonetheless, is why the financial arrangement between Christie and Brown was a horrific idea on Christie’s part, if he was contemplating a political career (and, from all reports, he was contemplating one for quite some time).
Even taking Christie at his word (that he was simply giving a hand to a friend in need), the optics of a political candidate shelling out what we presume was an unsecured loan for that amount, to someone in a capacity to assist him politically (perhaps by…say…sitting on an FOIA request for said candidate’s opponent), looks just awful. The appearance of impropriety is glaring, even if everything is on the up-and-up.
This also, it would seem, is going to put the U.S. Attorney’s office in Jersey into an incredible bind, even to the point of potentially jeopardizing some of their prosecutorial ability, if some of their targets can paint the office as driven by partisan political motivation. Given how many bad guys come before that office over the course of time, offering them that kind of potential “out” is terribly troublesome.
Christie could, of course, dampen the effects of that by coming completely clean on the present state of his relationship with the U.S. Attorney’s office. At this point, however, he seems to have clammed up:
On Thursday, Christie refused to answer questions for a second day. His campaign had said he’d be available.
Appearing at a senior center in Garfield, Christie said he and running mate Kim Guadagno would “take the heat when it comes.” However, he went in through a side door, held off press queries during the event, then pointedly refused to answer who he’s still in contact with at the U.S. attorney’s office and how informed he is about day-to-day activities there.
The conventional wisdom a while ago was that the only way Jon Corzine could be re-elected was if (a) the economy recovered faster than expected or (b) Christie’s reputation as the “corruption fighter” could be tarnished. The first condition might prove a difficult get by November (although New Jersey did add jobs in the month of July), but the second condition seems to be becoming more and more plausible.
Quote of The Day: "…He obviously was not only thinking of running for governor, he was seeking input…"
Lt. Governor Candidate Lorretta Weinberg reacting to the news that Republican candidate for governor Chris Christie, had conversations with White House deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove about running for governor of NJ while still acting as U.S. Attorney.
With the health care debate raging and tempers at town hall meeting boiling over, the Corzine campaign has released their latest video highlighting their achievements at making heath care more accessible and affordable for New Jerseyans.
Universal access to health care coverage for children and mandating insurance companies to provide coverage for mammograms for women under 40 with a history of family breast cancer are a few of the highlights featured.
The video then contrasts Governor Corzine’s health care achievements with the do-nothing, status-quo approach of Chris Christie that would cut health benefits for many who live in our state.
Governor Jon Corzine and Senator Loretta Weinberg travel the Garden State on the day that Senator Weinberg accepts the Lieutenant Governor nomination.
TRENTON—In the wake of continued stories in the Star-Ledger questioning Conservative Right Wing Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie’s role in a sweetheart plea deal involving two of his closest political associates and Christie’s assertion that he knew nothing of one of the largest tax fraud cases in New Jersey history—despite the fact that it transpired during his term as U.S. attorney—Lieutenant Gubernatorial candidate Loretta Weinberg today called on Christie to outline his full involvement with the case and role as U.S. Attorney.
“While Christie has been quick to take credit for all the accomplishments of the U.S. Attorney’s office during his tenure, he has run away from the office’s failures even faster. The people of New Jersey deserve answers to critical questions about Christie’s role as U.S. Attorney. What was the policy and criteria for cases being brought to his attention as U.S. Attorney?
“There are only two possible explanations for Mr. Christie’s assertions that he was unaware of this case- either he mismanaged the U.S. Attorney’s office so that a case of this size and import could be settled without his approval or knowledge, or he is not telling the truth about what he knew and when he knew it.”
TRENTON—Ethics advocate State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic Lt. Governor candidate, today asked former Republican US Attorney Chris Christie to explain his apparent contradiction that he was unaware of a sweetheart plea deal involving some of his closest political associates.
Under a deal struck by Christie’s office last year, a corrupt Morris County developer might walk without a single day in prison after engaging in one of the biggest tax frauds in New Jersey history – a $17.5 million scam.
A Christie campaign spokesperson claimed Christie knew nothing about the case until contacted by the Star-Ledger this week, but Christie’s signature appears on the four page charging document that set the stage for the plea deal.
“Chris Christie got caught in a political lie to cover up his role in a sweetheart deal that let a prominent Republican get a slap on the wrist in a tax fraud case involving tens of millions of dollars,” said Weinberg. “The fact that the guilty party was represented by two of Christie’s political colleagues makes his claim of ignorance impossible to swallow. Are we supposed to believe Christie’s campaign or Christie’s signature on a legal document? Come on Mr Christie – it’s time to tell us the whole truth.”
The tax fraud case took place in Christie’s political backyard- the Republican stronghold of Morris County. In addition, the defendant in the case was represented by two of Christie’s closest confidants and campaign contributors- Herb Stern and John Inglesino.
“This deal smells of political partisanship, cronyism and favoritism. It will be very hard for Mr. Christie to explain this sweetheart deal and his attempt to cover up his role in it,” concluded Senator Weinberg.
The defendant, Morton Salkind pleaded guilty in May 2008 and agreed to repay $17.5 million in back taxes within six months. However, the Star-Ledger reported, under the deal struck by Stern’s firm and Christie’s office, “Salkind officially pleaded guilty to just a single count of tax evasion of a much smaller amount — $276,000 – that he failed to pay in 2001.”
The newspaper wrote, “Federal guidelines recommend a prison sentence between 18 and 24 months for Salkind’s crime — a range that would have been higher if he pleaded guilty to a multimillion-dollar fraud.” Court records show that under the deal, Christie’s office allowed for Salkind’s attorneys to seek no prison time for their client at his sentencing next month.