On August 28, 2012, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey is scheduled to take the podium at the Republican National Convention and deliver the Republican Party’s keynote address. Christie, who was frequently mentioned as a presidential and vice-presidential candidate, burst on to the public scene when appointed by George W. Bush as United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey in Newark, NJ. Christie’s appointment was widely believed to be a reward for his prodigious fund raising on behalf of Bush. Various media reports claim that Christie donated and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Bush campaign.
Chris Christie was an odd choice to make the Republican’s keynote address
Christie was the prototypical headline-grabbing federal prosecutor. His career in the U.S. attorney’s office was carefully orchestrated to position him for elected office. Heading his publicity effort was Michael Drewniak who served as the public affairs officer for the Newark office. Drewniak’s job was to see that a steady stream of favorable press releases flowed from the office. These self-serving, pseudo-news items were spoon fed to a compliant media who often regurgitated them verbatim in lieu of actual reporting. Drewniak’s efforts were noticeably appreciated by Christie as he now heads the governor’s propaganda arm in Trenton.
Michael Drewniak is Christie’s long-term loyal aide in charge of propaganda
The Newark U.S. attorney’s office has long served as a springboard to higher office. Christie’s predecessors Michael Chertoff and Sam Alito both parlayed stints as U.S attorney into big moves up the judicial-corporate ladder. Chertoff became George Bush’s second secretary of homeland security while Alito was installed on the United States Supreme Court. Their respective tenures in the Newark office were similarly noted for an affinity for self-serving publicity.
Michael Chertoff and Sam Alito both successfully used the Newark U.S. attorney’s office to launch their careers
Christie recognized the publicity value in prosecuting public officials and directed his minions accordingly. Numerous high-profile prosecutions of dubious value were launched by his office. His media machine kept producing favorable headlines and Christie was widely viewed as a crime-busting, hands-on federal prosecutor.
George W. Bush launched Christie’s political career by naming him New Jersey’s top federal prosecutor
Almost immediately after his 2009 election to governor of New Jersey, Christie began to attract serious national attention. His propaganda machine seamlessly moved their efforts from the office of the U.S. attorney to the governor’s mansion. Christie was hailed as being “no-nonsense,” a “tax reformer,” and a “real conservative.”
Nevertheless, he was not without detractors. MSNBC host Ed Schultz famously railed against Christie, urging him to “calm down” and calling him a “cold-hearted fat slob.” (Christie’s growing girth has many believing that he clocks-in somewhere in excess of 450 lbs.) Schultz further went on to call Christie a “big bully” who often “throws his weight around.” Sensing that these attacks may have been a bit too personal, MSNBC management subsequently reprimanded Schultz.
TV host Ed Schultz caught flack for referring to Christie as a “fat slob”
Attacking Christie for his weight and bullying demeanor misses his real Achilles’ heel, his well-documented history of corruption. Working along with Christie in his fund raising efforts for George Bush was his brother Todd Christie, a Wall Street trader. While Chris Christie was still the U.S. attorney, brother Todd became ensnared in a Wall Street scam that reportedly cost investors millions. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Todd Christie committed more than 1600 improper trades between 1999 and 2003. These trades generated “riskless profits” in excess of $1.6 million. Todd and 14 other specialists were accused in an SEC civil case of ripping-off investors for approximately $19 million.
Todd Christie was never prosecuted for his role in a $19 million stock fraud
Criminal charges soon followed for many of those involved. Three people with greater culpability and 11 with less were indicted on federal charges in the Southern District of New York. Oddly, Todd Christie’s name was absent from the list of those indicted. One of those indicted was alleged to have profited only $14,000 from the scheme while Todd’s personal take exceeded $1.4 million.
David Kelley, Chris Christie’s counterpart in the Office of the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, was reportedly behind the decision that allowed Todd to escape criminal liability. Todd Christie’s pass from Kelley’s office in and of itself was not necessarily indicative of an inside deal, but Kelley was soon rewarded for his efforts. Chris Christie steered a multi-million dollar, no bid monitoring contract to Kelley not long after Todd’s potential criminal matter was laid to rest.
David Kelley received a lucrative monitoring contract from Chris Christie after declining to prosecute brother Todd
Kelley’s was not the only monitoring contract dished-out by Christy that raised serious questions. John Ashcroft, Christie’s boss while serving as U.S. attorney, was another recipient of Christie’s largess. Shortly after stepping-down as Bush’s U.S. attorney, Ashcroft was given a $52 million no bid contract by Christie to monitor a medical device maker that was accused of making illegal kickbacks to doctors. The company, Zimmer Holdings, had been under criminal investigation by Christie’s US attorney’s office and ultimately entered into a settlement . The company hired Ashcroft’s consulting firm at the direction of Christie to monitor its compliance with the settlement.
John Ashcroft, Christie’s former boss at the DOJ, was given a $52 million no bid monitoring contract
Christie was hauled before a House subcommittee during his gubernatorial campaign to testify about the deal. Facing a barrage of tough questions, Christie stormed out of the meeting without giving any substantive answers. Congressman John Conyers, Jr. noted that “there was neither public notice of the contract nor any public bidding for the assignment.” Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. had even harsher words for Christie. “With little say over which firm is appointed as a corporate monitor, companies are strong-armed into complying with the will of the U.S. attorney. This essentially amounts to corporate blackmail on the part of the U.S. attorneys.” Political opponents tried to make use of the deal and Christie’s refusal to testify about its details, but a diminished Jon Corzine was easily defeated in the race for governor. Former Governor Corzine subsequently became ensnared in a scandal of his own involving the disappearance of over a billion dollars from customers’ accounts at MF Global.
Jon Corzine was a weak governor, easily defeated by Christie and later caught in a scandal of his own
In 2009, Christie found himself in the middle of another scandal that threatened his bid for governor. Christie appears to have had a most unusual relationship with a prosecutor at the Newark U.S. attorney’s office, Michele Brown. Christie admits to lending Ms. Brown $46,000, which was purportedly to “help a family friend through a rough patch.” It appears that Brown was in a position to help Christie in a number of ways. Her job included handling Freedom of Information (FOI) requests which were anticipated in light of Christie’s upcoming run for public office. It was expected that at least some of the FOI requests would come from the campaign of Christie’s opponent for governor, Jon Corzine.
Michele Brown was another Christie associate involved in a quid pro quo
Ms. Brown’s gratitude did not end with how FOI requests about her former boss were handled. Shortly before Christie was scheduled to leave the US attorney’s office to begin his election campaign, Brown argued to colleagues that a major corruption probe should be immediately wrapped-up. Concluding the probe on Christie’s watch would ensure that credit for the case and the publicity it would generate would all flow to her benefactor. Brown resigned from the Newark office soon after news of the loan surfaced in the media.
The most recent scandal involving New Jersey’s crime-fighting governor involves the state’s halfway houses. A recent series of articles in the New York Times describes the trouble plagued halfway houses and Christie’s long-standing relationship with William Palatucci, the vice-president of the company in charge of those facilities, Community Education Centers. Christie and Palatucci have a relationship that goes back to at least the 1990’s when they both worked as lobbyists for Community Education. The New York Times reports that these halfway houses have become “dumping grounds” for all kinds of criminals. The facilities are meant to serve as low security rehabilitation centers for minor offenders. Community Education is paid on a per head basis, so packing them with any available offender, even those deemed to be unsuitable, adds to the company’s bottom line. Christie has repeatedly visited and praised the halfway houses run by Community Education despite their dismal record in New Jersey which has prompted recent state senate hearings.
William Palatucci is another Christie associate and private prison profiteer
Recent news reports claim that Christie’s past with Palatucci may have played a role in keeping him off of Mitt Romney’s short list for vice-presidential candidates. MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell noted that “One of the biggest profiteers of the for-profit system of halfway houses in New Jersey is William Palatucci. He is Chris Christie’s close friend and campaign fund raiser. This episode is enough to destroy Christie’s chances of being selected for the Republican vice presidential nomination, if he ever had a chance.”
TV host Lawrence O’Donnell claims Christie’s relationship with Palatucci ended his chance for the VP slot
Christie and Palatucci were also active together as fundraisers for George Bush. Palatucci began setting-up meetings between New Jersey Republicans and then-governor Bush. Christie actively supported these efforts and used his fundraising prowess to ingratiate Bush, who nicknamed Christie “Big Boy.” After Bush assumed the presidency, Christie’s resume was forwarded by Karl Rove to the president who nominated him to be New Jersey’s U.S. attorney. Interestingly, a then-senator Jon Corzine supported Christie’s nomination. In 2009, Corzine was quoted as saying that he regretted supporting Christie’s nomination. Corzine told the New York Times that Christie politicized the position and used it as a springboard to elected office.
Karl Rove approved of Christie’s nomination for New Jersey U.S. Attorney
Chris Christie’s questionable crime fighting credentials may have gained him national prominence, but scratching beneath the surface of his past reveals a myriad of problems which appear to be insurmountable. The implications of this sordid history likely played a role in Christie’s unwavering insistence that he would not be a presidential candidate in 2012. The same issues likely kept Christie from being seriously considered as Romney’s choice for vice-president. Despite a plethora of problems including well-documented allegations of corruption, Christie was still invited to be the keynote speaker at the 2012 Republican Convention. Unfortunately, media outlets covering the event are unlikely to report on any of these misdeeds. A carefully managed accounting of his past has been instrumental in allowing him to assume his current role, but this same past will likely ensure that Christie advances no further.
(Originally posted on Online Publishing Company, www.onlinepublishingcompany.info)