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March 04, 2011

Some Dirt on Christie: Previous Political Experience Marred By Cockiness, Dishonest Attacks on Opponents That Led To Defamation Suits

I'm posting this mostly out of a sense of balance. I've posted good things about Christie. But obviously, he's not perfect.

Over at Salon, some of the dirt.

To Christie, the main appeal of the job [of the office of freeholder] was its launching pad potential. He waged an aggressive -- and negative -- campaign; in one ad, Christie claimed that the GOP incumbents were "under investigation" for their record-keeping of closed sessions -- even though they weren't. But GOP voters bought his claim and Christie prevailed in the primary (which is tantamount to winning the general election in Morris).

As a new freeholder, Christie employed the same bull-in-a-china-shop tactics that are now making him famous as governor: grandstanding at meetings, picking fights with colleagues, and attracting outsize media attention. His brash demeanor and cockiness also made him plenty of enemies in the clubby world of Morris GOP politics. Not that Christie minded. He already had his sights set on a promotion: a seat in the state Assembly. Within months of joining the freeholder board, Christie announced his candidacy for one of two seats from the heavily Republican 25th District. It was supposed to be the next step in the up-and-comer's inevitable climb to statewide glory. Instead, it nearly destroyed him.

For the campaign, Christie again positioned himself as a reformer. Of the two seats on the ballot, one was open and the other was held by a Republican who had been placed in office months earlier by a vote of the county GOP committee. Christie portrayed that incumbent, Anthony Bucco, a former county official more than 20 years older than him, as a consummate insider, and attacked him hard.

But it was all just too much. The freeholders Christie had ousted in '94 decided to sue him for defamation over his ad -- which, it was clear by '95, had been false. The headlines were harmful, and many of the Morris Republicans Christie had alienated were happy to pile on. In this context, the attacks on Bucco, generally a well-liked figure in the Morris GOP, began to backfire. Republican voters began to see in Christie a young man in too much of a hurry. In the June '95 primary, he and his running mate were trounced by a nearly 2-to-1 margin. Christie had jumped too soon -- and paid the price.

And it only got worse. The defamation suit lingered until finally Christie was forced to issue a public apology.

Another defamation was pressed against him in connection with his statements about the firing of an architect for a new county jail who was costing too much money. Christie himself sued previous opponents, too, in 1997.

Salon casts this story as a "too fast, too soon" parable explaining Christie's declared lack of current ambition for higher office.

There's additional dirt, too, at Wikipedia; the most suspicious action concerns the reward of a contract to a former US attorney colleague who had declined to prosecute Christie's brother for securities fraud. (Of course, that could just be because he wasn't guilty or not provably so.)

A real stupid thing was making Bristol-Myers-Squibb, as part of deal to avoid prosecution in a fraud case, endow a chair of business ethics at his alma mater, Seton Hall Law School. That's not really corrupt per se but it does demonstrate a serious lack of judgment. When you're making a deal, you don't select your alma mater for a special bit of favoritism. That demonstrates a sort of feudal impulse.

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posted by Ace at 05:14 PM

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