OREGON GOVERNOR LACKED THE RESUME OF A FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: A TALE OF TWO GOVERNORS
By Louis Manzo / February 16, 2015
This past week, serious New Jersey journalists and other media sleuths—at least those with an attention span greater than the mayfly’s lifecycle—may have been scratching their heads when the news broke that the just resigned Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber, was under Federal investigation.
Kitzhaber is in meltdown mode over a deepening influence-peddling scandal surrounding his fiancée, Cylvia Hayes. Allegedly, Hayes pocketed $118,000 in previously undisclosed consulting fees in 2011 and 2012 from the Washington-based Clean Economy Development Center while also advising the governor on energy policy. The consulting fees were never revealed in annual disclosure filings. Kitzhaber is insisting that there is no conflict of interest. The United States Attorney for the District of Oregon, S. Amanda Marshall, has subpoenaed extensive personal and government documents and is now investigating.
Ironically, these are circumstances under which another State’s Governor—New Jersey’s Chris Christie—seems to thrive.
Thousands of miles away, on the Eastern seaboard, there’s not a “coast” of chance that far more egregious and apparent influence peddling circumstances surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and his wife Mary Pat had even barely raised an eyebrow in the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey. The same office is currently busy whitewashing, excuse me again, investigating the Christie George Washington Bridge scandal—an inquiry which has now lasted longer than the Warren Commission’s investigation of the Kennedy assassination.
Just months ago, at a time when Governor Christie was reportedly making the rounds with potential donors for his soon to be announced White House quest, word leaked out from sources—alleged to be from inside the United States Attorney’s Office [USAO]—that Christie would not be implicated by the USAO investigation. A leak that could but only serve in helping to open up the checkbooks of donors.
As documented in the book Ruthless Ambition, and drawing from the national United States Attorneys’ scandal that rocked the country in the 2000’s, federal prosecutors do not eat their own. Governor Kitzhaber was formerly a medical doctor. Governor Christie is a former United States Attorney.
When the International Business Times and New York Times recently broke a story surrounding the alleged influence peddling scandal involving Christie and his wife, just a week before last Christmas, the holiday spirit must have descended upon the New Jersey media—they treated the news item matter of factly. Then again, there is now a plethora of conflict of interest stories surrounding Christie, Republican campaign committees linked to him, and contractors or consultants doing business for New Jersey. So much so that the media here is suffering from scandal shell shock.
The Christie’s influence-peddling news item is every bit as ugly as Christie’s attempt to high-five Dallas Cowboy owner Jerry Jones in the latter’s luxury suite after a recent team playoff victory. It so happens that, in 2011, the New Jersey pension system terminated a $150 million investment in a fund called Angelo, Gordon & Co. However, after having done so, apparently, the State has still not yet closed out the books on the deal for this fortunate company.
In the three years since, New Jersey taxpayers have forked over hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees to the firm. During the same timeframe, coincidentally, of course, Angelo, Gordon & Co. made a prominent hire: Mary Pat Christie, wife of Governor Chris Christie. Mrs. Christie joined the company in 2012 as a managing director and now earns $475,000 annually, according to the governor’s most recent tax return.
This begs the questions: How? Why? The answers or excuses offered by everyone in authority, who are choosing to ignore what is obvious, is convoluted logic, i.e. bull****.
A spokesman for the New Jersey Treasury Department claims the payments to the firm that hired Mrs. Christie were legitimate because the state continues to hold an “illiquid” investment in the firm. The spokesperson and other Christie officials then declined to disclose details of what exactly that “illiquid” investment is and the justification for continuing to pay fees to Angelo, Gordon & Co. The governor, Mary Pat Christie and executives at the firm all declined to comment.
“Illiquid” investment? TRANSLATION: A clever term designed to confuse the masses in the defense of one of society’s upper crust. The term is to be taken serious by prosecuting authorities and journalists who are seeking to excuse what is otherwise corrupt conduct. You see, the use of this financial investment lexicon is intended to deflect attention away from the conflicts of interest stipulations that are at the heart of an assortment of State and Federal laws, as well as ethics codes, that have been kicked to the curb in this travesty.
An “illiquid” investment does not excuse influence peddling. As a United States Attorney, Christie sent scores of public officials to jail and ransacked the UMDNJ for less wanton behavior. Consider the Christie lexicon alibi as a latter day magic bullet theory.
Of course, you and I, or any other average Joe, would have been hauled away in handcuffs by now. And if we were to dare breathe the words “illiquid” investment in our defense, then the bulls from the USAO would have laughed right out loud in our faces.
But not everyone has remained silent, or is laughing. Another prominent Republican, South Carolina Treasurer Curtis Loftis Jr., a vey well-respected public official, felt that the magic “illiquid” investment theory didn’t quite cut the mustard. “It smells to high heaven,” he said. “When dealing with retiree money, the appearance of a conflict of interest is damning and must be avoided at all cost,” he told the media.
“If the state of New Jersey has a previous existing relationship with the fund, [the first lady] needs to look for a job elsewhere. The public employees of New Jersey shouldn’t have to worry about whether politically connected financial executives have an effect on their pensions. They’ve worked too hard for those pensions. They deserve these pensions without being concerned about political meddling,” Loftis Jr. concluded.
Of course, Angelo, Gordon & Co. will insist that the wife of the Governor and White House aspirant was uniquely qualified for the job. Perhaps they look upon Mrs. Christie as a valuable “illiquid” investment of their own, especially if her husband lands at the Pennsylvania Avenue address.
Once again, Governor Christie’s Teflon coating—a former United States Attorney—continues to shield him. Too bad for Doctor and former Oregon Governor Kitzhaber. The vast majority of the public and anyone else with a shred of common sense isn’t swallowing the magic “illiquid” investment theory as the latest excuse for Governor Christie’s behavior…only the USAO and select media are biting…as usual.