Tag Archive: US Attorney

This Isn’t The First Time Christie’s Scandal Timelines Changed

promoted by Rosi

There are two stories today covering the way Governor Chris Christie’s version of the George Washington Bridge closure came to his attention, one on NorthJersey.com and the other on Talking Points Memo.  

But this is not the first time that Chris Christie has been on the edge or closer to a scandal and given multiple accounts of his knowledge.  Way back in 2007 there was a series of US Attorneys fired for what appeared to be political reasons.  Complaints had come to the Bush administration from state Republicans that certain US Attorneys weren’t attacking Democrats hard enough, or focusing on voter fraud enough, or doing what they were told.  A number of the US Attorneys were let go despite high marks and reviews, but Chris Christie was not one of them.

It turned out he had been on the list to be let go, but that had been rescinded for an unknown reason.  There are suspicions it had to do with the leak of a subpoena dropped on Democratic Senator Bob Menendez at the last second during a Senatorial election against Republican Tom Kean, Jr.  

But what oddly mirrors Christie’s changing timeline were his multiple accounts of when he was told he was on the list, and when he was told he would keep his job.

In May of 2007 Christie told Tom Moran that he had learned of being on and taken off the list in one phone call two months earlier while poolside on vacation in Florida.  But in August Christie told The Record he had learned he was at risk of being fired in December 2006, and had to wait until January 2007 to learn he would be retained.  Huntsu wrote:

Now, both these situations are pretty memorable.  If I found out at the Christmas (Christie is Catholic) holidays that my job was in jeopardy, and then had to go through New Years thinking about getting fired it would stick in my head.

There’s no way that this is a simple misconception or the famous Republican, “I can’t recall.”  One of these stories is an outright lie.  

The media didn’t pursue this five years ago, but they are pursuing Christie’s changing story this time.  Here’s hoping they stay on this.  

Name the US Attorney for New Jersey

I’ll bet you can’t name the US Attorney for New Jersey without looking it up or checking out the keywords to this diary.

Yet for six or seven years everyone knew that Chris Christie was the US Attorney. Every time his office caught another crook, small or large, Christie held a press conference to announce it.  On occasion he even held press conferences that had nothing to do with his office or indicting people, just when he is angry a friend didn’t get confirmed as Supreme Court judge fast enough.  

And the media ate it up, loved the big jolly crusader and pumped him up.  That he was using them to build a brand and propel him to Drumthwacket didn’t matter.  He made criminals bleed, so he was in the lede.  

Media people would say that their fawning coverage was because Christie was newsworthy, but the fact that no one can name who was US Attorney before or after Christie puts the lie to that.  US Attorneys are just not newsworthy; their indictments are.  The media made Christie because he sold papers, not because there was any value to leading with him.

For instance, yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer has a story on the Cooper University Hospital system, guided by south Jersey’s political powerhouse George Norcross, being forced to pay $12.6 million in fines for corruption in their heart unit by the US Attorney for NJ.  Here’s the first paragraph:

The Cooper Health System in Camden has agreed to pay $12.6 million to settle a whistle-blower lawsuit alleging that it made improper payments to doctors in an effort to build its cardiology business, the U.S. attorney for the District of New Jersey said Thursday.

OK, what’s the US Attorney’s name? Still can’t tell?  He’s important enough to be in the first paragraph, but not to name.  Surely the name would come up soon, though?

Nope, not until the ninth paragraph!

But Chris Christie surely never used his taxpayer-funded job to promote himself and get a new job. No siree.

Hanna & Bauman – Christie’s latest nominees to NJ Supreme Court

As Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg notes, Christie announced two nominees – Robert Hanna and David Bauman – to the NJ Supreme Court today. Weinberg, of course, is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which holds the power to confirm or deny these nominees. Star-Ledger quotes Christie as discussing the nominees with Weinberg’s Senate leadership partner, Senate President Steve Sweeney, for two months. Christie is denying any dealmaking with Sweeney.  

Christie has often drawn on former underlings of his tenure as US Attorney for promotion to plum jobs; Hanna was already serving in the civil division there for 12 years before Christie was appointed US Attorney by President George W. Bush. Christie named Hanna BPU president about a year ago. Prior to that, he was Director of the NJ Division of Law (a Christie appointment as governor-elect). Before that Hanna was with the politically-connected law firm of Gibbons P.C. (where Christie pal Bill Palatucci just landed as special counsel after his so-very-quiet exit from his privatized halfway house business, not long after becoming a named defendant in a wrongful death suit, and the subject of both a New York Times special investigation and NJ legislative hearings).

Hanna, 54, is unaffiliated, says Christie. Bauman is a registered Republican.

Christie, whose efforts to politicize New Jersey’s courts are obvious to anyone paying attention, hoped to fully stock the high court with Republicans. That effort was tested earlier this year with his nominations of Philip Kwon and Bruce Harris. Harris is a Republican, Kwon an unaffiliated voter. But both were rejected by the NJ Senate Judiciary Committee on the basis of both partisan balance (Kwon was a longtime member of the GOP before moving to NJ) and qualifications. Both have now been farmed to jobs at the Port Authority of NY/NJ, something Christie can and does make happen for those needing a soft landing.

Like Kwon/Harris, the Bauman/Hanna nominations have an attractive component of diversity to offer the high court. If confirmed, Bauman would be the first Asian American justice to serve the NJ Supreme Court; he was the first appointed to the Monmouth County Superior Court just four years ago.  

Did Christie go after rising Democrat John Adler in 2007?

TPM is out with a story today that almost creates more questions than it answers, due to a heavily redacted FBI file, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The players are US Attorney, now governor, Chris Christie and the John Adler, before his election to Congress while he was still a NJ state senator. Given what we know about Christie, what comes to light today appears to suggest more about him, and the way he used his federal office for politically-motivated witch hunts – which were often successful – than it does the late John Adler.

You can examine documents in John Adler’s FBI file here.

The documents detail an investigation approved by U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, following information from a cooperating witness who approached the FBI’s Philadelphia division in June, 2007 with a story that Senator Adler’s support – for a 2005 law placing inspection contracts under “local public contract law” -was corrupt.

The case was later closed for lack of evidence, and was not an issue in Adler’s successful run for congress the following year. You can read the details of what was investigated in TPM’s post. There appears, at least with documents so heavily redacted, to be nothing to the cooperating witness’ suspicions about Adler, nothing actionable. There’s no evidence Adler even knew there was an investigation. An Adler confidante suggested to TPM that the cooperating witness may have “had a bone to pick with Adler.’

That would have been catnip to Chris Christie.

Jump with me, for the rest.

Loretta Weinberg calls for investigations of Christie’s ‘Reform Jersey Now’

Senator Loretta Weinberg is urging a full-scale investigation of Gov. Chris Christie’s privately-funded slush fund operated by top Christie operatives whose donors were unknown till a Christie front-office news dump of the names in the blizzard aftermath during the Christmas/New Year’s week when most people aren’t following the news. Reform Jersey Now raised $624,000 to push the Christie agenda, and now that we know the donors (though we still don’t have the expenditures) some serious questions have been raised about the legality of the group’s activities. The group’s secret dealings have caused massive accountability and transparency issues in its much-maligned 6-month life. (Though Charlie Stile’s right: what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander).

Senator Weinberg today called on US Attorney Paul Fishman and Attorney General Paula Dow for a full investigation of Reform Jersey Now, citing concerns the group was organized with the specific goal of subverting federal and NJ campaign finance laws; also NJ pay-to-play laws. In letters to Fishman & Dow, Weinberg says an investigation is warranted because Reform Jersey Now appears to have been “a Republican-controlled entity (designed) to circumvent campaign finance and pay to play laws.” Weinberg also said there are concerns that the group “could have facilitated quid pro quo arrangements” between the administration and would-be state contractors.

Letter to AG Paula Dow. Letter to US Atty Paul Fishman.

Among contributors causing concern, Weinberg cites 2 highest-level donors, Ferreira Construction & George Harms Construction. Both gave $25K and received state transportation contracts in excess of $300 million. Another contribution of $1K from comes from Earle Asphalt Company, which has run afoul of NJ pay-to-play rules. Weinberg:

From its inception, Reform Jersey Now has sought to take advantage of every loophole under state and federal law and has blurred the line between lawful and unlawful conduct. Its contempt for our pay to play and other anti-corruption laws has opened the door to abuse and quid pro quo transactions. There is little doubt that by coordinating its efforts with prominent Republicans and openly soliciting contributions from contractors, Reform Jersey Now has violated the spirit of the law. The question remains, however, whether it violated the letter of the law.

Weinberg also challenges Gov. Christie’s claims that the group organized to privately propel his own agenda ever actually had a real “reform” agenda, given its refusal to disclose where its money was going, and given the fact its board included Christie Todd Whitman, whose pension bond scheme exploded NJ debt, and Donald DiFrancesco whose 9% pension increase was pushed through without providing a way to pay for it.  

Chris Christie has lost the benefit of the doubt

When Chris Christie first ran for Freeholder and was sued for defamation, it wasn’t his fault and he did nothing wrong.

When Chris Christie went from “not a candidate for US Attorney” to being appointed US Attorney after he was directly responsible for raising hundreds of thousands (and his brother donates hundreds of thousands) for Bush, the donations had nothing to do with it.

And when many top NJ lawyers pointed out that Christie didn’t have any experience in criminal law and his appointment was directly connected to the above hundreds of thousands in donations for Bush, that was just a coincidence.

(but wait….there’s more!)

Receipts & Memos of Christie’s “pattern of abuse” luxury travel as US Attorney

Chris Christie hotel receipts via OPRA
All the documents, in larger, readable form, are after the jump

Here are 14 reciepts and memos generated for Chris Christie’s travel and lodging in his last job, as US Attorney for New Jersey. According to the Inspector General of the US Dept of Justice, Christie engaged in a “pattern of abuse” in luxury travel spending on himself billed to taxpayers while he held that job (read the Report). Living it up on the government dime, as emptywheel put it so well. These 14 docs came to us via a Blue Jersey reader; they were obtained under a public records request.

You’ve read some of this already. You know that this is standard operating procedure for Christie – hypocrisy, doing as he pleases (even when you’re paying), and traveling all over the country preaching austerity to GOP faithful (but don’t look too close).

Use your scrollbar to review all 14 documents; receipts from several luxury hotels, and memos from Christie explaining repeatedly that he was unable to secure government rate for his lodging.  

Chris Christie – Worst abuser of US Attorney travel

Once again, what Christie says should apply to everyone else and what applies to him are exactly the opposite.  Under “Christie’s rules”, seniors, the middle class, public employees, commuters, women and all but a privileged few must sacrifice as part of belt tightening.  But the other side of “Christie’s rules” is that Chris Christie gets to do what Chris Christie wants – regardless of the conflict of interest or hypocrisy.  Lead by example?  Not by a longshot.

Case in point: the just-released report by the US Department of Justice, Inspector General’s office on US Attorney travel that exceeded the Government lodging rate

In terms of the percentage of travel, U.S. Attorney C was the U.S. Attorney who most often exceeded the government rate without adequate justification. The U.S. Attorney provided insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification for 14 of 23 trips (61 percent) that exceeded the government rate.

And that is just from 2007 – 2009.

As always, emptywheel is all over this, just as we mentioned during the campaign as well – even when his expenses were approved by a subordinate, which is Rule number one on avoiding conflicts of interest.  Two of the many egregious examples include a 4 mile roundtrip trip from a luxury Boston hotel to and from the airport – costing $236; and a car service from the airport to his hotel in London (why is a US Attorney is taking overseas business trips again?) costing almost $600.

This was not a one -time thing, or even a few “transgressions”.  I’ll repeat: Chris Christie overbilled the US Government for excessive travel and luxury hotel costs more than every other US Attorney and for more than 60% of his total trips.

More from the report on Christie’s serial abuse:

U.S. Attorney C declined our request for an interview. In a letter to the OIG, U.S. Attorney C’s attorney stated that the U.S. Attorney was unable to provide “any other specific information” to supplement the travel documentation that we had provided to him for review.

In sum, we concluded that U.S. Attorney C did not comply with the travel regulations or show that his lodging costs which exceeded the government rate were appropriate. The U.S. Attorney or his staff did not make an adequate effort to determine whether the government rate was available within a reasonable distance of his meetings. Most of the justification memoranda that we found simply stated that the government rate was unavailable, but provided no substantiation for this claim. In four cases, there was no justification memorandum at all.

Way to set an example, Governor.  I guess when it comes to eliminating excessive government spending, that only applies to everyone else.

Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez: Not Guilty on All Counts

Northjersey.com reported a few minutes ago that Mayor Anthony R. Suarez, who hung on to his seat as most politicians arrested on the day of last summer’s massive corruption sweep gave theirs up, and survived an August recall election, has just been acquitted on all counts. Suarez’ was the subject of newspaper editorials calling for him to step down. Of the politicians bagged in the Solomon Dwek sting, Suarez remains the last to keep his office.

Earlier this month, jurors watched a grainy black-and-white video from a hidden camera carried on Dwek’s chest at about eye-level with Suarez. Dwek posed as a corrupt developer offering bribes in exchange for building approvals. The word “bribe” was never used, but prosecutors did use that word in the trial, saying Suarez took $10,000 in bribes from the one-time rabbinical student, turned criminal, turned informant. Suarez’ co-defendant Vincent Tabbachino was acquitted of conspiracy, but found guilty of attempted extortion and bribery.

Mayor Suarez’ acquittal marks the first time in more than 10 years that a public official has been cleared of corruption charges by a federal jury in New Jersey. The massive corruption sweep of last summer, an investigation started by Chris Christie when he was still United States Attorney for NJ and with Democratic politicians overwhelmingly the target, played a key role in propelling Christie to the governorship.  

How much is “enough”?

Here are a few things to consider:

Chris Christie won the Governor election with less than 50% of the vote.  That means more than half of the voters wanted someone other than him to govern.

He has consistently abused his power.   He pulled rank as a US Attorney to get out of a ticket when he went the wrong way down a one way street, and also pulled rank when he got a speeding ticket in an unregistered car to avoid being towed.   He failed to disclose his close financial relationship with top assistant Michele Brown, a conflict of interest.  He gave huge no bid contracts to his boss (John Ashcroft) and the man who didn’t prosecute his brother for securities fraud, while 19 others were prosecuted.  He governs with a personal vendetta to the detriment of New Jerseyans.

(more below the fold)