The Corner

Christie’s Contracts

Several weeks ago, I wrote about Chris Christie, Republican candidate for governor of New Jersey. Thanks in part to his early lead over unpopular Gov. Jon Corzine (D), the Republican Governors’ Association has embraced him. They even had him address their big fundraiser, despite the fact that he does face a party primary. (His principal opponent is former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan.)

Today’s story in the Philadelphia Inquirer could be trouble for Christie, a former U.S. Attorney who prosecuted numerous corruption cases. Having convicted more than one hundred corrupt officials in a state known for its political corruption, Christie has been using the good-government theme heavily for his campaign.

The story pertains to Christie’s brother Todd, whose firm in 2005 was allowed to settle with the SEC over charges of improper trading without admitting any wrongdoing. Here’s how it ties in:

Christie, as U.S. attorney…gave a lucrative no-bid contract to David Kelly in September 2007. Kelly was the U.S. attorney who investigated the stock fraud case that included Todd Christie.

To be specific, Christie’s office gave Kelly, who by then had gone back to private practice, a contract to monitor parties in a so-called “deferred prosecution agreement.” Christie’s explanation:

Christie said yesterday that he had never had a conversation with Kelly about his brother’s SEC problems. He said he gave Kelly the monitoring contract because “he was a great prosecutor who ran one of the biggest offices in the country and I needed a tough guy.”

Democrats on the federal level are already using this to their full advantage. Two from New Jersey have a bill that would change the way such contracts are awarded.

That monitoring contract and a few others were the focus of a bill announced by New Jersey Democratic Reps. Frank Pallone and William Pascrell to regulate deferred prosecution agreements…The Pallone bill would have the attorney general issue written guidelines for future deferred prosecution agreements, have federal judges and not prosecutors select the monitors, have a standardized fee schedule for the monitors, and require public reporting of the monitors’ fees and activities.

The Newark Star-Ledger reported last January that Democrats in Congress were already interested in investigating and holding hearings on such a contract, awarded by Christie’s office to his former boss, John Ashcroft. This would offer New Jersey Democrats an opportunity to push their advantage and save Governor Corzine from his current low approval numbers.

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