What’s going on in the NJ Governor’s race?

In electoral off-years, the few elections that happen are given outsized attention. Just look at how much publicity there was around the NY-20 Congressional special election in the spring.

So it’s no surprise, really, that as the governor’s race in New Jersey is heating up, everyone – particularly Republicans hoping to make a comeback– paying attention.

Governor Corzine has been really lagging in the race- it’s pretty bad when trailing your opponent 51-42% is “gaining ground.” But things have been looking up for the Corzine campaign- and are heading downhill for GOP opponent Chris Christie.

Christie, the former U.S. Attorney for the state of New Jersey, has staked his reputation on being a corruption-buster. Indeed, during his tenure there, the U.S. Attorney’s office was able to get 130 convictions from indicted public officials. Most of them were Democrats, but hey, the man was doing his job.

Now, questions are starting to come up about Christie’s own indiscretions.

As far back as April, some noise was being heard about Christie’s brother, Todd. According to PolitickerNJ:

“…it seems that Todd Christie was among 20 Wall Street specialists accused of fraudulent trading practices. “The conduct here was quite egregious,” said David Rosenthal, an associate regional director for the Securities and Exchange Commission. “Christie was one of the worst.” According to the SEC, Todd Christie committed more that 1,600 improper trades between January 1999 and March 2003, generating “riskless profits” of more than $1.59 million for Spear Leeds (his own company) and costing investors $1.4 million.” [bold in original]

It gets better.

“As it related to Todd Christie, 3 people above him and the 11 below him were all indicted. What is amazing to note is that one of the indictments was for someone who profited to the tune of $14,000.00 while Todd Christie, who profited to the tune of $1,590,000.00 was never indicted. In fact, perhaps the most amazing thing of all was that Todd Christie was #4 on the list of the top 15 and yet he was the only one of the top 15 not to be indicted. According to the SEC, Todd Christie committed more that 1,600 improper trades. So he gets off. There is a lot more to this story. So much more, and it is far too lengthy to post in this space. It includes the multi-million, no bid federal monitoring contract that Chris Christie gave to David Kelly, the prosecutor who didn’t indict Todd Christie a short time before. There are appearances made by Chris Christie’s mentor Herbert Stern and Chris Christie’s boss, former US Attorney John Ashcroft. “[bold in original]

Then came a $46,000 loan Christie made to one of his top aides during his prosecutor days– one that he failed to report, as he was required to do.

And now there are suspicions about Christie’s conduct while in office. For example, Christie’s name appeared on a list of U.S. Attorneys under consideration to be fired, back in 2006. He did not, of course, get fired, though three attorneys later were. As many other names that appeared on these lists also kept their jobs, it may be nothing.

But, as Talking Points Memo brings up

“…it’s worth noting that in September of 2006 — by which time he almost certainly had a run for governor in mind — Christie did something that greatly pleased national Republicans: His office leaked word that it was aggressively investigating Rep. Bob Menendez — the New Jersey Democrat who at the time was in a tight race for the Senate — over a rental deal.”

Possibly worse are the questions about conversations Christie had with Karl Rove- “political guru to George W. Bush“- while in the U.S. Attorney’s office. The NJ Star Ledger tells us that

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.”

The Hatch Act prohibits federal employees from participating in certain kinds of political activities, including running for office.

The result of all this madness?

The more people get to know Christie, the less they like him. And there are no guarantees in politics- especially in New Jersey.

P.S. Corzine’s running mate for lieutenant governor, state Senator Loretta Weinberg, “would be the first lieutenant governor, the first Jewish lieutenant governor, the first grandmother lieutenant governor… and  the first woman to hold the position as well.” Also, she told reporters that “Everyone needs a Jewish grandmother. Even the state of New Jersey.” You don’t get better than that.