Tag Archive: Karl Rove

SL Editorial: No legitimate reason to talk to Rove

The Star Ledger has an editorial today looking at some of the recent Christie news and what it means for his image:

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 editorial says that the current loan controversy may well blow over, but they believe that the larger issue for Chris Christie is the politicization of his office and communications with Karl Rove along with the further questions those communications raise:

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.

The Christie campaign wants people to believe that these were just casual conversations, but the editorial drives home the point that no explanation by Christie serves as a legitimate reason to talk to Karl Rove.  

What Tom Ridge tells us about Chris Christie

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If we learned anything during the Bush administration, we learned pattern.

How loyalty was rewarded over competence, how fact is shaped around a fixed policy when the truth lies somewhere else, how Bush made sure his friends got richer. It’s a pattern.

And so it is no surprise to many of us here – and most in the country by now-  that Tom Ridge now reveals the Bush administration tried to force him to raise the country’s terror alert level just in time for the 2004 Presidential election vote. Ridge, Bush’s first Secretary of Homeland Security, describes mounting tension in the White House as Attorney General John Ashcroft and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld pushed him to do what was clearly politically expedient for a President facing re-election.

Ridge withstood that pressure and did not raise our terrorist threat level. He refused to play politics with our national security. And in fact, the following month he resigned. In Christie, I think we have someone considerably more willing to cooperate.

This is the way George Bush behaved as President. How he led. With Karl Rove firmly in command of our his direction and strategy, too many national decisions were made with political self-preservation at the fore.

Ashcroft. Rove. Bush.

These are the names that emerge in a picture of how a smart but inexperienced Freeholder, who could not get re-elected, kept his federal job when less-cooperative US Attorneys did not.

What price did we pay for Christie’s loyalty to the Bush White House? What did Christie do for them, to keep his job? Or, is he such an unthinking partisan they didn’t even need to pressure him? How did Chris Christie get off the list?

George Bush used the Department of Justice – Christie’s workplace – to investigate hundreds of Democratic elected officials, at a rate of 7:1. They changed the electoral map, hauling in few of their own party. It’s the way these people operate. It makes a person wonder what Christie knew about the timing of the July political corruption sweep. Were events shaped to help his political future?

There’s a pattern.

Corzine campaign files FOIA legal challenges

If there’s nothing to all this, then it’s to the US Attorney’s Office’s benefit to release these documents. It’s to Christie’s benefit. He talks a lot about ethics. Let’s see if that talk extends to action. Let’s see if Christie comes out in favor of transparency.

The cascading stories of questionable conduct inside the United States Attorney’s Office – both during Chris Christie’s tenure, and now following it – are reason enough for the Corzine campaign, and anyone valuing ethical conduct, to want to get at the truth. Jon Corzine knows that without facts, Christie’s story of his own success there goes unchallenged. And the facts, once they come to light, may reveal a more complicated story.

Today, the Corzine ’09 campaign filed legal challenges under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to break what they call five months of stonewalling that have kept basic public records of Christie’s actions as US Attorney from light.

Eight adminstrative challenges – representing 18 separate requests – were filed with the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Information and Privacy. The campaign’s sought these records – budgets, travel expenses, schedules – since March, each attempt met with a logjam originating in the USAO here in NJ.

In fact, in a Corzine ad running on another site, a countdown clock registers the “stonewall” time at 155 days: 19 hrs: 21 min: 49 seconds – as I write this.

They also seek details of no-bid contracts Christie awarded, including one worth $52 million to his former boss – and fellow Bush crony – John Ashcroft. His communications with Karl Rove – the “architect” of George Bush’s political career (now also the subject of separate investigation by a watchdog group) and between Christie and those who succeeded him in the US Attorney’s Office, are also sought.

Corzine ’09 campaign strategist Tom Shea:

The United States Attorney’s office has many fine, dedicated, professional lawyers. 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.

If Christie has nothing to hide, if the US Attorney’s Office doesn’t, then let’s see those records.

 

Cryan files ELEC complaint, Pascrell wants Federal investigation, Corzine campaign asks “why”

Joe Cryan wants an an immediate investigation by ELEC into Christie’s failure to disclose a personal loan of $46,000 to Michele Brown, currently the first assistant to the United States Attorney, promoted since Christie’s resignation.  

“Christie continues to fail to live up to the ethical standards he sets for others,” said Cryan.  “He is running for Governor — failing to report a personal loan to a close colleague is a serious transgression and breaks both federal and state ethics rules.  Christie, of all people should know – he has prosecuted public officials for similar offenses, yet, he dismisses his own unscrupulous behavior as a simply an ‘oversight.’ This situation demands an immediate and thorough investigation.”

[snip]

“Christie also must come clean about the questions this blatant conflict of interest raises – does he discuss his campaign with Brown?” said Cryan.  “How have their financial ties affected his candidacy?  It raises serious concerns about the stark contrast between what Christie says and what he actually does.  Despite Christie’s dismissal of this serious violation he is not above approach and just like any other New Jerseyan who violates the law Christie must be held accountable for his actions.”

And while Cryan pursues action on the state level, Congressman Bill Pascrell wants a federal investigation to ensue:

“Add this to the growing list of Christie’s capers,” said Pascrell. “Is it mere coincidence that Mr. Christie’s personal life is again in conflict with his public obligations? A prosecutor at his level should know that once he gave that loan, no matter how well-intended it was, it changed the relationship between Mr. Christie and Ms. Brown. We have a right to know to what extent it changed. At the very least, this is a conflict of interest.”

The Governor for his part has stayed focused on the Rove ties to Christie, stressing that he thinks the Hatch violations are the most serious. But his campaign did comment on the situation and tied it to their larger request for information that still hasn’t been met:

“Serious questions remain about the loan Chris Christie gave to Michele Brown. Chris Christie had at least four opportunities to comply with the law and disclose this loan, yet he failed to do so each and every time. There seems to be no mystery that he was determined to keep it secret. The question is, why?”

“Christie and the U.S. Attorney’s Office need to begin providing answers. They can start by immediately providing the specific dates of the promotions and salary increases Christie gave Michele Brown. We have filed a Freedom of Information Act request requesting this information, but our previous requests for such basic public information have been bottled up by Christie’s friends for more than five months. The public shouldn’t have to wait a day longer.”

“Finally, as the number two in command in the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Michele Brown must be objective about pursuing criminal cases in New Jersey in a non-partisan manner. But how can she possibly be objective when she remains indebted – literally – to the Republican candidate for governor? U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra is also reportedly facing questions about whether he inappropriately helped Christie’s campaign. This whole episode raises grave questions about impartiality in our justice system, and the public deserves answers.”

It’s clear that the Democrats smell blood after the most recent weeks news and that’s a question they will keep asking. The more they broaden the issue to show how connecting all of the dots continues to undermine who Christie wants people to believe he is, the more effective it will be I think.

Tornoe’s take: A Rovian Eclipse

Rob Tornoe is out with his latest cartoon, this time on the Christie/Rove connections that are now coming to light:

And questions are also being asked today about whether the Christie/Rove conversations actually started back in 2003:

But might Christie discussed running for Governor with Rove even earlier? From a 2003 NYT profile of Christie:

Unlike some United States attorneys who prefer to cultivate an apolitical image, Mr. Christie remains a die-hard Bush supporter, with photographs of the president prominently placed in his office. One shot from the Texas governor’s mansion shows Mr. Christie with Mr. Bush in front of a painting of the last stand at the Alamo. Mr. Christie noted that the photo was taken by Mr. Bush’s omnipresent political adviser, Karl Rove.

The whole Christie-Bush-Rove photo session sounds so adorable, but the question of whether or not they discussed a bid for Governor or his duties as U.S. attorney is more important, because, as the the New Jersey Star Ledger writes, “Christie had been attracting buzz as a promising GOP candidate since 2003.”

Meanwhile, I wrote separately that CREW wants a closer look taken at the situation as well.

CREW wants probe of Christie/Rove conversations

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) want a further look into the Christie/Rove conversations and whether they crossed the line:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Office of the Special Counsel (“OSC”) to investigate whether former United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Chris Christie violated the Hatch Act by discussing a run for Governor of New Jersey with then-White House official Karl Rove while he was still the U.S. Attorney.

And their Executive Director was pretty blunt in her assessment:

CREW executive director Melanie Sloan stated, “The Hatch Act is intended to ensure federal employees do their jobs without regard to partisan politics. Mr. Christie’s actions call into question whether the New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s Office investigated and prosecuted cases based on application of the law to the facts, or because certain prosecutions might have enhanced his prospects of securing the Republican nomination for governor.”

You can view their complaint and exhibits here. Corzine himself had a pretty candid assessment of Christie’s actions, which we posted as the quote of the day yesterday:

Quote of the Day: ‘A lawbreaker’ who ‘gets the reputation of being the king of law enforcement’

We had plenty of coverage of the Governor at Netroots Nation yesterday.  Yesterday while there for the panel, he met with a group of progressive bloggers and sharply criticized Christie’s discussions with Rove: (Via Think Progress)

It is hard to understand how a lawbreaker gets the reputation of being the king of law enforcement, and uses that as a platform. It’s the Hatch Act.

Of course the Governor is referring to House Judiciary transcripts of Karl Rove saying he talked to Chris Christie while he was US Attorney about running for Governor. And here is the video:

The campaign also got some great photos of the Governor’s appearance on the panel.

Quote of the Day: “I think more needs to be done”

Senator Menendez isn’t taking the news of Karl Rove’s communications with Chris Christie lying down. He has more questions and wants the Senate to seek those answers:

“Clearly the Rove information under oath creates very serious concerns about the political process that took place at the Justice Department and U.S. Attorneys offices across the country and the effect upon those U.S. Attorneys offices,” the senator said today after appearing with Gov. Jon Corzine, U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-Cliffside Park) and U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood at Metro Park to celebrate the state’s receipt of a $298.7 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Transit Capital Grant from the feds.

“To be very honest with you, I think more needs to be done,” Menendez told PolitickerNJ.com. “I think the agreement entered into by the House Judiciary Committee with Mr. Rove’s attorneys were limiting in nature. I understand that there’s an investigation going on by the Justice Department and I believe that investigation needs to be vigorous and I also believe that in light of the information that’s come out that maybe the Senate Judiciary Committee should be looking at a continuation of what that information reveals.”

The big headline here at Netroots Nation is New Jersey

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Hot damn.

This is how you want to arrive at Netroots Nation – the former Yearly Kos – the now-massive annual mojo-booster for progressive political blogger titans and titans-to-be. Clammyc – oh, hell, let’s just call him Adam – and I rolled in this afternoon, and promptly started drinking, and connecting up.

And it’s a buzzy night here right now.  New Jersey is on the front page of DailyKos, in a great diary by Jake McIntyre: NJ-Gov: The Other Shoe Dropping for Christie. So … Chris Christie’s got a little Karl Rove problem. Please go read it, add your own New Jersey-flavored comment, and then shoot that bad boy to 10 of your bestest friends. Especially the ones leaning toward Christie.

It’s important to understand what the stakes are here: Karl Rove, Republican strategist, architect of the Bush White House, and pit bull for the man who appointed Christie the US Attorney, said on the record to the House Judiciary Committee July 7, 2009, that he spoke to Christie several times over several years. That is, apparently, while he was United States Attorney. US Attorneys are barred by the United States Justice Dept. from engaging in partisan politics while in office. It’s a safeguard to avoid undue influence, impropriety, even the appearance of impropriety. Given that Christie is running on his record as USA, a violation of the Hatch Act further soils his credibility.

As Jason points out, huntsu had this more than two years ago.

Word spreads fast here in Pittsburgh. I just walked through the lobby and got high-fived by five people. Everybody knows Jon Corzine is coming to Netroots Nation Saturday. He’ll be here to talk economy, but the buzz has already started that the truth will out when it comes to what Chris Christie doesn’t want voters to know about. Christie was George Bush’s hand-picked – and now we find out, hand-fed – man in the Garden State.

The one where huntsu was right about Chris Christie violating the Hatch Act

It’s no secret that Blue Jersey has had our eye on Chris Christie for many years.  Much of that work was led by the efforts of huntsu, whose work exposing the real Christie was years before it’s time.  Take a look at what huntsu said in April of 2007 after Christie announced a speaking tour:

Clearly for someone covered by the Hatch Act, which prohibits certain federal employees from engaging in politics, this speaking tour is patently unethical and should be stopped immediately.

Often the “appearance of impropriety” is enough to generate an investigation of a public official by a prosecutor.  Given how he got the job, how his investigation and conviction rates have changed, and his public speaking tour there is no way anyone can say that there is no appearance any longer.

Now at the time, Christie would have said that anyone suggesting any violations was just playing pure politics. But given the revelations in the House Judiciary Documents that Karl Rove and Chris Christie spoke about Christie running for Governor while he was US Attorney, those questions raised by huntsu and the Hatch act become that much more relevant:

Guidelines spelled out in the Hatch Act prohibit federal employees organizing political meetings or assembling campaign staff. The prohibitions also apply to preliminary political activities that set a candidacy in motion, said Erica Hamrick, deputy chief of the Hatch Act Unit in the Office of Special Counsel in Washington.

“Any kind of preliminary activity that leads to formally becoming a candidate can be considered candidacy in terms of the Hatch Act and would be in violation,” said Hamrick.

Preliminary activity, such as having discussions years before you announce your candidacy and sending people to campaign for you at your party’s national convention? Leading to formally becoming a candidate, such as the campaign Christie is running right now? Add those two up and you get a violation of the Hatch Act and that’s not huntsu saying it, that’s the Office of Special Counsel. Again I’ll ask, who was playing politics again?  The people who questioned Christie’s actions and motives, or the man himself who was carrying them out?

Updated by Jason: It looks like Thurman Hart was ahead of his time as well and he got Christie on the record too back in December of 2008 after Christie quickly announced his resignation:

A few months ago, at the end of primary season, I filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (Word doc) asking them to investigate Chris Christie’s actions (see here and here and here at NJ Voices) and determine if he was in violation of the Hatch Act.  In part, the complaint reads:

Mr. Christie has not openly sought the office of Governor, nor has he formally stated that he will run.  However, news reports indicate that he is in the process of interviewing running mates and that his brother, Todd Christie, has “represented his interests” at the Republican National Convention in Minnesota – at which convention it was reported that Todd Christie was involved in a discussion with several New Jersey Republican power-brokers concerning the viability of a Chris Christie candidacy.

I received their response today (pdf file), only a short three and a half months after I filed.  In part, it reads:

It was alleged that Mr. Christie engaged in these preliminary activities regarding a candidacy for Governor of New Jersey while still employed as a United States Attorney.

Allegations such as those described above ordinarily would trigger an investigation by OSC and, if the facts warranted, a recommendation to the President of the United States for disciplinary action.  However, because Mr. Christie is no longer a federal employee, OSC would be unable to obtain meaningful disciplinary action against him, even if our investigation were to substantiate the allegations described above.  Consequently, we have decided not to inquire further into those allegations and have closed our file in this matter.

So, the allegations – which were simply reports from New Jersey media sources – that Chris Christie was, in fact, running a shadow campaign for Governor while still a US Attorney cannot be pursued because Christie no longer is a US Attorney.  I am notified of this barely ten working days after Christie’s resignation becomes effective.  So which came first – the phone call notifying Christie that he would be investigated for Hatch Act violations or his “decision” to abandon his job at an inopportune time (nice to do Christmas without a paycheck, don’t ya know) and in a hurried manner?

In their own response, they practically admit that if the information available now was known then, it would constitute an investigation and possible disciplinary action.