Category Archives: Michele A. Brown

NEW CHRISTIE BOMBSHELL-NYT: Christie May Have Gotten Improper Aid

The New York Times – By DAVID M. HALBFINGER

When news broke in August that the former United States attorney, Christopher J. Christie, had lent $46,000 to a top aide in the federal prosecutor’s office, he said he was merely helping a friend in need. He also said the aide, Michele Brown, had done nothing to help his gubernatorial campaign.

But interviews with federal law enforcement officials suggest that Ms. Brown used her position in two significant and possibly improper ways to try to aid Mr. Christie in his run for governor.

In March, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign requested public records about Mr. Christie’s tenure as prosecutor, Ms. Brown interceded to oversee the responses to the inquiries, taking over for the staff member who normally oversaw Freedom of Information Act requests, according to federal law enforcement officials in Newark and Washington. The requested information included records about Mr. Christie’s travel and expenses, along with Ms. Brown’s travel records.

In mid-June, when F.B.I. agents and prosecutors gathered to set a date for the arrests of more than 40 targets of a corruption and money-laundering probe, Ms. Brown alone argued for the arrests to be made before July 1. She later told colleagues that she wanted to ensure that the arrests occurred before Mr. Christie’s permanent successor took office, according to three federal law enforcement officials briefed on the conversation, presumably so that Mr. Christie would be given credit for the roundup.

The federal law enforcement officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were barred from speaking on the record.

Ms. Brown declined to be interviewed for this story. In an e-mail message to The New York Times, she called the allegations “outrageous and inaccurate,” but declined to answer further questions. Through a spokesman, Mr. Christie stood by his earlier assertions that Ms. Brown had not assisted his campaign in any way.

News of Mr. Christie’s loan to Ms. Brown broke in August, dealing a blow to his candidacy, and he apologized for failing to report it on his tax returns and ethics filings.

Less than two weeks later, Justice Department officials told Mr. Christie’s interim replacement, Ralph Marra, to remove Ms. Brown from acting as coordinator of the Freedom of Information Act requests about Mr. Christie’s tenure because of the obvious conflict of interest, according to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the communications. Ms. Brown resigned from the prosecutor’s office the same day, the official said.

She took a job at a law firm with close ties to Mr. Christie — a firm that represented one of five companies identified as targets in his office’s investigation of kickbacks among makers of artificial hips and knees. Ms. Brown had led the case and, with Mr. Christie, negotiated a settlement in which the company paid a fine and avoided criminal charges.

Allegations that Mr. Christie played politics as a prosecutor have dogged him; reports that he discussed a run for governor with Karl Rove in 2006 led Democrats to assert he had violated the Hatch Act, which forbids candidates from “testing the waters” for a run for office.

The possibility that Ms. Brown may have helped Mr. Christie’s campaign from inside the United States attorney’s office casts a new light on their relationship and on the prosecutor’s office. Federal law and Justice Department policy prohibit prosecutors from using their “official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election.”

The arrests of 44 people in the corruption and money-laundering case on July 23 drew national attention and put a spotlight on New Jersey’s reputation for corruption. Mr. Christie had built his reputation battling public corruption, and the case served to remind voters of his record and underscore that corruption remained a persistent statewide problem, one that could require a new governor to root out.

As it turned out, there was no need to hurry up the corruption arrests to ensure that they would redound to Mr. Christie’s credit: the Obama appointee who replaced him, Paul J. Fishman, was not installed until last Wednesday.

Mr. Christie has said he and his wife are close friends of Ms. Brown and her husband. The couples live a few hundred yards apart in Mendham, N.J.

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Filed under Chris Christie, ethics, Freedom of Information Act, Gov. Jon Corzine, Michele A. Brown, repayment of loans, The New York Times, US Attorneys Office

Corzine Campaign Statement On The Brown Resignation

The following statement was released by Corzine campaign spokesperson, Elisabeth Smith, shortly after the sudden news of the resignation of Michele A. Brown, the acting first assistant U.S. Attorney for New Jersey:

“Michele Brown’s resignation today does nothing to put to rest questions about Christie’s conduct both in and outside of the U.S. Attorney’s office. Whether it was illegally laying the groundwork for his gubernatorial campaign from the U.S. Attorney’s office with the help of Karl Rove, maintaining a secret financial relationship with the number two at the U.S. Attorney’s office during his campaign, or rewarding political cronies with millions of dollars in no-bid contracts, Christie still must answer to serious legal and ethical questions. He can start by demanding the immediate release of public documents from his tenure as U.S. Attorney as requested by the Corzine campaign.”


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Filed under Chris Christie, Gov. Jon Corzine, Michele A. Brown, New Jersey, resignation, US Attorneys Office

Public Perception

There is a thin vale that separates reality from perception, very often ones own perception of events supersedes the reality of what actually has taken place. The Corzine campaign knows this and is using it to there advantage over Republican opponent Chris Christie.

The recent news about Christie speaking to Karl Rove about a potential run for the New Jersey governorship on top of the failure to disclose the loan of $46,000 to his assitant federal prosecutor, Michele Brown, while heading the US Attorneys office has left Christie open to attacks rightfully on his character and motivations.

The follwing opinion from piece from the Burlington County Times lays out Christie’s problem exactly:

Burlington County Times

Throughout his campaign for New Jersey governor, Republican candidate Chris Christie has represented himself as an ethics reformer who will “stop corruption in its tracks.”

Now that he has been forced to address questions about a $46,000 loan he made to an assistant when he was U.S. attorney, and that he failed to report it on his income tax and financial disclosure forms, he may want to change his approach.

Christie has said that it was all a mistake and that he plans to file all the amended paperwork.

OK, we’re willing to believe that.

But what really bothers us is the admission that Christie spoke with Karl Rove, adviser to former President George W. Bush, during his time as U.S. attorney. Rove has said that they discussed Christie’s interest in running for the state’s highest office. That means that Christie may have been actively pursuing the governorship while serving as a federal prosecutor. And that’s a violation of the Hatch Act, a law that restricts employees of the executive branch of the federal government, as well as state and federal employees, from any political activity.

Rove was well-known for blurring the lines between politics and the Justice Department and allegedly rated U.S. attorneys based on their loyalty. It also has been reported that he threatened to fire prosecutors who refused to pursue certain politically motivated cases.

In the middle of the 2006 election, Christie subpoenaed U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez. The investigation never led to any charges. Democrats claimed at the time that the probe was politically motivated and now cite Christie’s conversation with Rove as proof.

Christie’s record of winning convictions against a large number of corrupt public officials struck a chord with Garden State voters sick and tired of political corruption in the state.

Now, the fact that the majority of those officials prosecuted by Christie during his tenure were Democrats seems less of a coincidence, and it’s easier to believe the link between Christie and former President Bush being made by Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign.

If voters believe they’ll have to second-guess any and all of Christie’s work as a federal prosecutor, as well as the motivation behind it, what may have been a benign conversation could end up costing him the election.

It would not be the first time a candidate has been done in by public perception.

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Filed under Burlington County Times, Chris Christie, ethical violations, Gov. Jon Corzine, Hatch Act, Karl Rove, Michele A. Brown, US Attorneys Office

Poll: Christie leads Corzine by three points

Wally Edge from PolitickerNJ is reporting that Chris Christie’s lead over Governor Corzine in a new opinion poll is down to 3 percentage points
This is extremely good news for the Corzine campaign and shows that voters are beginning to wake up and pay attention to this race for the governor’s mansion.
Could the news from last couple of weeks about Christie talking to Bush White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove about a possible run for the governorship and his shady loan to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michele A. Brown be taking hold?
It seems that the “Knight In Shining Armour” and the white horse he rode in on is tarnished and dirty.
Republican Christopher Christie leads Gov. Jon Corzine 39%-36% among definite voters, according to a poll conducted by Neighborhood Research, a survey firm run by conservative strategist Rick Shaftan. Independent Christopher Daggett is at 6%.

Corzine leads 52%-13%-9% among liberals, and 40%-34%-4% among moderates. Christie has a 63%-13%-7% lead among conservatives. Undecided voters “skew heavily to the left,” according to the poll analysis. Among seniors, Corzine leads 46%-32%-4%.
Corzine has an upside-down 23%-46% favorable rating; Christie is also upside-down at 20%-27%. Daggett remains largely unknown, with favorables of 2%-1%.
President Barack Obama has a 47%-28% favorable rating among likely New Jersey voters. In a generic ballot test for the State Assembly, Republicans lead 40%-35%.
Among likely voters, Corzine leads Christie 37%-35%, with 6% for Daggett.
“If Corzine gets his liberal/urban/Democratic base together he’s going to open up a significant lead, forcing Christie to work the right,” Shaftan wrote in his analysis.
The poll was conducted between August 12-21 with a sample size of 319 and a margin of error of +/- 5.49%. The party breakout among respondents was 43% Democrat, 34% Republican, 23% unaffiliated.

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Filed under Chris Christie, Chris Dagget, Gov. Jon Corzine, Karl Rove, Michele A. Brown, Neighborhood Research Poll, PolitickerNJ, Wally Edge

The Newark Star Ledger Sunday Editorial: Questions For Chris Christie

Posted by The Star-Ledger Editorial Board August 23, 2009

A high horse is a difficult thing to ride, as Chris Christie is finding out. After building his image as a white knight rescuing New Jersey from the dragon of corruption, Christie is showing some gaps in his armor.

The Republican candidate for governor is facing questions about a loan of $46,000 he made to an assistant when he was U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, and failed to report on his income tax and financial disclosure forms. He says it was a mistake and is filing amended reports. If there’s no more to this story, it may blow over. Gov. Jon Corzine can’t make much of it without reviving questions about the Democrat’s own financial entanglement with former state labor leader Carla Katz.

Of more concern is the disclosure that, while New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor, Christie spoke with Karl Rove, political guru to George W. Bush.

Christie says they never discussed legal cases; Rove says they talked about Christie’s interest in running for governor. That raises questions about whether Christie took steps toward a campaign while still U.S. Attorney, in possible violation of the Hatch Act.

There’s no legitimate reason for Christie — or any U.S. Attorney — to have spoken with Rove. While at the White House, Rove bulldozed the wall between the Justice Department and politics, rating U.S. Attorneys for “loyalty” and pushing to fire some who wouldn’t mount politically motivated prosecutions. This has given new life to Democrats’ claims that Christie unfairly subpoenaed U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) during his 2006 election campaign in a probe that did not result in charges.

Christie’s record of winning convictions of more than 100 public officials is the key to his appeal. But that rests on the belief he went after bad guys wherever he found them, and that most happened to be Democrats because, well, those were the ones on the make and on the take.

To avoid any political taint, Christie should not have been talking to anyone — especially Rove — about running for office until after he left the Justice Department.


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Filed under Chris Christie, George Bush, Gov. Jon Corzine, Karl Rove, Michele A. Brown, New Jersey, NJ-Gov. Race, the Star-Ledger, US Attorneys Office

>PALLONE WANTS ANSWERS FROM JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES OF FORMER CHRISTIE ASSISTANT

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Long Branch, NJ — U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent the following letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip asking whether First Assistant United States Attorney Michele A. Brown had permission to attend a recent political gathering with New Jersey Republican Party leaders and staffers about former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie’s campaign for governor. The New Jersey congressman also asked the Justice Department whether such activity violates any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Brown’s position.

United States Department of Justice
Acting Attorney General Mark Filip
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-001

February 2, 2009

Dear Acting Attorney General Filip:

I am once again writing your office regarding what I believe to be a troubling pattern of misconduct involving some members of the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. As you should be aware, I have raised concerns regarding the increased use of deferred prosecution agreements by the Department, the apparent rewarding of political allies and supporters with lucrative federal monitoring agreements and the increased politicization of the office of United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by the former United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

It would seem that many of my past concerns have been borne out by the facts as shortly after Mr. Christie left office as U.S. Attorney he launched a campaign for Governor of New Jersey. It is troubling however, that the politicization of the office has seemed to continue despite Mr. Christie’s absence. Recently, I learned that one of his top deputies at the office and the current First Assistant United States Attorney, Michele A. Brown, was present at what appears to have been a political gathering of Republican Party county chairman, state legislators and campaign staffers actively engaged in and advising Mr. Christie’s campaign for governor. As I understand it, this meeting was an organized function of Mr. Christie’s political campaign, and not simply a social gathering. It included, among other things, speeches from prominent Republican fundraisers about campaign fundraising strategy, as well as remarks from key personnel of Mr. Christie’s political campaign and Mr. Christie himself about campaign strategy for his candidacy for governor.

I am sure you agree that it is crucial that citizens have the utmost confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of all employees of the Department of Justice and particularly those who serve in senior positions at the various United States Attorneys’ Offices. Given the many examples of misconduct and excess over the last few years at the Justice Department, it is clear that such confidence has been shaken and considerable work needs to be done to ensure that we once again have faith that our laws are faithfully executed and justice is administered fairly and without regard to political consideration.

I would like to know whether Ms. Brown’s attendance at this obviously political strategy meeting was approved of in advance by the Acting United States Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. and whether her attendance violated any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Ms. Brown’s position. Furthermore, given the excessive and inappropriate political activity engaged in under the previous U.S. Attorney, do the applicable guidelines need to be revised and/or strengthened to ensure that senior members of the U.S. Attorney’s staff do not simply become a campaign infrastructure in waiting?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

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Filed under Chris Christie, Frank Pallone, Michele A. Brown, Misconduct, New Jersey, Republican leaders, U.S Attorney Office

PALLONE WANTS ANSWERS FROM JUSTICE DEPARTMENT ON POLITICAL ACTIVITIES OF FORMER CHRISTIE ASSISTANT

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Long Branch, NJ — U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) today sent the following letter to Acting Attorney General Mark Filip asking whether First Assistant United States Attorney Michele A. Brown had permission to attend a recent political gathering with New Jersey Republican Party leaders and staffers about former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie’s campaign for governor. The New Jersey congressman also asked the Justice Department whether such activity violates any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Brown’s position.

United States Department of Justice
Acting Attorney General Mark Filip
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-001

February 2, 2009

Dear Acting Attorney General Filip:

I am once again writing your office regarding what I believe to be a troubling pattern of misconduct involving some members of the United States Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. As you should be aware, I have raised concerns regarding the increased use of deferred prosecution agreements by the Department, the apparent rewarding of political allies and supporters with lucrative federal monitoring agreements and the increased politicization of the office of United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey by the former United States Attorney Christopher J. Christie.

It would seem that many of my past concerns have been borne out by the facts as shortly after Mr. Christie left office as U.S. Attorney he launched a campaign for Governor of New Jersey. It is troubling however, that the politicization of the office has seemed to continue despite Mr. Christie’s absence. Recently, I learned that one of his top deputies at the office and the current First Assistant United States Attorney, Michele A. Brown, was present at what appears to have been a political gathering of Republican Party county chairman, state legislators and campaign staffers actively engaged in and advising Mr. Christie’s campaign for governor. As I understand it, this meeting was an organized function of Mr. Christie’s political campaign, and not simply a social gathering. It included, among other things, speeches from prominent Republican fundraisers about campaign fundraising strategy, as well as remarks from key personnel of Mr. Christie’s political campaign and Mr. Christie himself about campaign strategy for his candidacy for governor.

I am sure you agree that it is crucial that citizens have the utmost confidence in the impartiality and professionalism of all employees of the Department of Justice and particularly those who serve in senior positions at the various United States Attorneys’ Offices. Given the many examples of misconduct and excess over the last few years at the Justice Department, it is clear that such confidence has been shaken and considerable work needs to be done to ensure that we once again have faith that our laws are faithfully executed and justice is administered fairly and without regard to political consideration.

I would like to know whether Ms. Brown’s attendance at this obviously political strategy meeting was approved of in advance by the Acting United States Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. and whether her attendance violated any current laws or guidelines regarding the conduct of employees in Ms. Brown’s position. Furthermore, given the excessive and inappropriate political activity engaged in under the previous U.S. Attorney, do the applicable guidelines need to be revised and/or strengthened to ensure that senior members of the U.S. Attorney’s staff do not simply become a campaign infrastructure in waiting?

Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

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Filed under Chris Christie, Frank Pallone, Michele A. Brown, Misconduct, New Jersey, Republican leaders, U.S Attorney Office