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Chris Christie Was Worst US Attorney for Big Spending on Travel

DOJ’s Inspector General just released a report on whether or not US Attorneys were living it up on the government dime. It finds that five of the US Attorneys studied were the worst offenders for staying at luxury hotels and billing the government. And though it doesn’t refer to those US Attorneys by name, we know the one it calls the worst offender is Chris Christie, because one the trips discussed match the trips discussed when his exorbitant travel first focused attention on the issue of US Attorney travel.

Here’s how the report describes Christie:

In terms of the percentage of travel, U.S. Attorney C was the U.S. Attorney who most often exceeded the government rate without adequate justification. The U.S. Attorney provided insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification for 14 of 23 trips (61 percent) that exceeded the government rate. [my emphasis]

In particular, here’s a description of his travel to the Nine Zero hotel in Boston and the Four Seasons in DC.

For example, U.S. Attorney C traveled outside of his district to Boston, Massachusetts, for meetings with representatives of a defendant company at the Nine Zero Hotel. U.S. Attorney C stayed at the Nine Zero Hotel at a cost of $449 per night, which was more than double the government rate of $220 per night in Boston.16 U.S. Attorney C’s secretary told us that it was a “coincidence” that these meetings were at the same hotel where she had reserved a room for the U.S. Attorney.

In addition to his case-related travel, U.S. Attorney C also exceeded the government lodging rate when he traveled to Washington, D.C., to speak to an association. The U.S. Attorney stayed overnight at the Four Seasons Hotel, where he was scheduled to speak the following morning. The hotel rate at the Four Seasons was $475 per night, more than double the government rate of $233 per night. According to the justification memorandum, the U.S. Attorney stayed at the Four Seasons because his speech was scheduled at that hotel early in the morning.

16 U.S. Attorney C’s reimbursements for airport transportation costs were also noteworthy. For example, rather than take a taxi from the Boston airport to the Nine Zero Hotel in downtown Boston, a trip of approximately 4 miles, he prearranged a car service to and from the Boston airport to the hotel, which cost the government $236 round trip. In another example of excessive transportation costs, his car service from a London airport to his hotel in central London cost $562 round trip. [my emphasis]

Here is TPM’s description of the same trips.

On the high end, Christie spent nearly $500 in taxpayer money on a night’s stay in four star hotel in downtown Boston, claiming government rate rooms “weren’t available.” On the low end, Christie requested $109 for a night in Warsaw, IN. The majority of the trips for which Christie formally requested to spend more than the government allows fall somewhere in between those two examples.

The Boston trip came on Oct. 16, 2007. Christie stayed one night at the Nine Zero Hotel downtown, which touts its ranking as one of Travel And Leisure magazine’s 500 best hotels in the world. The room was $449 per night, which Christie asked the Justice Department to pay because, according to the memo he submitted to the department’s budget officer, “due to a high demand for rooms, the government rate is not available for my stay in Boston.”

On Nov. 17, 2004, Christie made a trip to D.C. and stayed at the Willard Intercontinental, arguably the city’s finest and most prestigious and unarguably among its most expensive. Again, he claimed it was the best deal he could find. “I was unable to locate lodging at the government rate,” he wrote in a memo dated Nov. 22. “The only available lodging was at a rate of $449.00 at the Willard hotel.”

On another trip to D.C. on Oct. 15, 2008, Christie again went over budget limits to stay at a tony spot — this time, the Four Seasons on Pennsylvania Ave. The explanation for the overage is redacted in the memo obtained by TPMDC. [my emphasis]

As Christie continues to call for austerity in New Jersey, it’s really worth pointing out what a big fan he is of billing taxpayers for his own luxury.

Springsteen on the State Level Politics that Matter

In a predictable move of arrogance and ignorance, Chris Christie asked Bruce Springsteen to perform at his inauguration.

Christopher J. Christie, the Republican governor-elect of New Jersey, has attended 122 Bruce Springsteen concerts and wanted nothing more than to have the Boss appear at his inauguration. Mr. Christie’s brother, Todd, a stock trader, sent a message through an intermediary to Jon Landau, Mr. Springsteen’s manager, saying that he would make a gift to a charity of the singer’s choosing if Mr. Springsteen performed.

[snip]

But word came back that, while Mr. Springsteen had performed for the Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and John Kerry, “he doesn’t want to get involved in state politics,” Todd Christie said.

Turns out, though, Springsteen is willing to get involved in the kind of state politics that matter.

A BRIEF STATEMENT FROM BRUCE
Like many of you who live in New Jersey, I’ve been following the progress of the marriage-equality legislation currently being considered in Trenton. I’ve long believed in and have always spoken out for the rights of same sex couples and fully agree with Governor Corzine when he writes that, “The marriage-equality issue should be recognized for what it truly is — a civil rights issue that must be approved to assure that every citizen is treated equally under the law.” I couldn’t agree more with that statement and urge those who support equal treatment for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to let their voices be heard now.

May Santa bring coal to those who deserve it–and civil rights to all.

Update: To help Santa deliver civil rights to the same sex couples in New Jersey, click over to Garden State Equality and help make calls in advance of the vote on this.

Hal Turner: Chris Christie Declined to Prosecute Me

Oh, this might get interesting. (h/t Main Justice)

A subpoena has been issued for Gov.-elect Chris Christie to appear next month at the federal trial of North Bergen Internet radio host and blogger Hal Turner.

Michael Orozco, Turner’s lawyer, said in an affadavit supporting the subpoena, that Christie, as the U.S. Attorney, knew that Turner was working with the FBI, Christie gave legal advice to the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force regarding Turner, and issued a “Blanket Letter of Declination,” refusing to prosecute Turner.

For his part, Christie says he has yet to receive the subpoena, but that he might not be able to testify because it would expose internal deliberations.

Christie said it would be hard to testify because of the internal deliberations and other legal issues that go into the decision-making process.

“It’s very difficult for a U.S. Attorney to testify,” he said. “We’ll see what happens during the road.”

So does the fact that Christie is talking about “internal deliberations” support Turner’s contention that Christie declined to prosecute him, even while several other prosecutors were pursuing such a prosecution?

Christie Starts Paying Off His Campaign Debts

Wasting no time in paying off Ralph Marra for politicizing a bust of a bunch of Democrats this summer, Chris Christie has already indicated he will name Marra to be his Attorney General. (h/t Main Justice)

Knowledgeable Republican sources say that newly-elected Gov. Christopher Christie will name U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra as New Jersey’s new attorney general in January, after Christie is sworn in.

Any bets on which other AUSAs Christie will be bringing into state government as pay-off?

Did Michele Brown Quit Over FOIAs Naming Her Personally?

The Corzine campaign is ratcheting up the pressure on the US Attorney’s office to release a number of FOIAed documents. They’re calling on Christie to support full disclosure before the election.

But there’s a detail of their press release I find mighty interesting. The Corzine campaign FOIAed two items relating to Michele Brown just six days before she resigned, on August 19. They FOIAed:

  • Any written communications, emails, or any other records of communications since December 2001 between former U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie and Michele Brown that address or refer to the personal finances of either party, including, but not limited to, any loan or mortgage provided by Mr. Christie to Ms. Brown.
  • A complete history of all promotions and salaries since FY 2000 by Michele Brown, who is currently the First Assistant United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey.

DOJ refused both of those requests–though the Corzine campaign is appealing that decision.

The timing of these FOIAs adds a fascinating wrinkle to the NYT report from a few weeks ago. As the NYT reported, at almost precisely this time, DOJ told Ralph Marra to take Brown off of the FOIA response. And after DOJ insisted Brown be removed from the FOIA process, she quit.

In March, when Gov. Jon S. Corzine’s campaign requested public records about Mr. Christie’s tenure as prosecutor, Ms. Brown interceded to oversee the responses to the inquiries, taking over for the staff member who normally oversaw Freedom of Information Act requests, according to federal law enforcement officials in Newark and Washington. The requested information included records about Mr. Christie’s travel and expenses, along with Ms. Brown’s travel records.

[snip]

News of Mr. Christie’s loan to Ms. Brown broke in August, dealing a blow to his candidacy, and he apologized for failing to report it on his tax returns and ethics filings.

Less than two weeks later, Justice Department officials told Mr. Christie’s interim replacement, Ralph Marra, to remove Ms. Brown from acting as coordinator of the Freedom of Information Act requests about Mr. Christie’s tenure because of the obvious conflict of interest, according to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the communications. Ms. Brown resigned from the prosecutor’s office the same day, the official said.

[snip]

In August, Mr. Marra defended the office’s handling of the Freedom of Information requests and denied that Ms. Brown oversaw the process, saying she only supplied records relating to herself.

Now, as today’s press release reveals, Brown may have been trying to protect more than records of the travel scam she and Christie had going, whereby she approved of Christie’s excessive travel costs and he, in turn, approved of hers. In fact, she may have been trying to hide the financial terms of her relationship with Christie–both the mortgage that has been reported, but also bonuses and salary.

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Karl Rove’s US Attorney Project, Mary Beth Buchanan Edition

Remember the stated reason Karl Rove gave for firing a bunch of US Attorneys? He saw these US Attorney positions as a great stepping stone for rising political stars.

And now it looks like Mary Beth Buchanan, best known for her politicized prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht, may join Chris Christie and Tim Griffin in pursuit of elected office, in her case to run against Blue Dog Jason Altmire.

U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan is pondering a run for Congress to challenge Democrat Rep. Jason Altmire next fall.

Ms. Buchanan, a Republican and appointee of former President George W. Bush, has been considering a run for at least a month, Allegheny County Republican Party Chairman Jim Roddey said yesterday.

[snip]

Mr. Roddey said he has met with her, and Ms. Buchanan is consulting with state and national Republican leaders to gauge support and her chances against the second-term Democrat from McCandless.

But remember. Buchanan is still the acting US Attorney. Which puts her in the same position Chris Christie got in when it came out he was working politics while still in office.

The county GOP leader said he did not see any ethical qualms with exploring a run while sitting as the chief federal prosecutor for Western Pennsylvania, and said Ms. Buchanan should step down only if she announces her candidacy.

Mr. Altmire, who said he has heard Ms. Buchanan’s name mentioned as a possible opponent, disagreed.

"She’s in a position that’s supposed to be nonpolitical," Mr. Altmire said. "If that’s true, I think it would be an inappropriate use of her time."

Who knows? Maybe like Christie she’ll go on to boast about discussing offering AUSAs political jobs when she wins (though a Congresswoman would have fewer patronage jobs than a Governor to dole out).  Or, maybe like Christie, it’ll become clear she has no platform (save, in Christie’s case, a plan to prevent women like Jane and me from getting mammograms) and her campaign will stall out.

In any case, it’s probably time to start tracking these races as a whole (including whatever race Troy Eid decides he’s going to run for) to monitor how effective the second part of Rove’s scheme to politicize US Attorneys turns out to be.

Chris Christie’s Death Panels for “Exceptions”

Seven years ago October 16, at the age of 34, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. After six rounds of pretty harsh chemo, surgery, radiation, and five years of hormonal treatments, I am still clean of cancer.

I’m almost getting to the point where I believe I won’t have a recurrence.  As I prepare to move my mother into her new retirement home, I’m beginning to believe I might outlive her.

Except.

Except for the fact that twelve years ago, when I was 29, my breast cancer was misdiagnosed. I had a palpable lump that my primary care physician agreed merited concern. But when I went to the referral doctor, he refused to send me for a mammogram. He refused to send me for an ultrasound. He refused to send me to aspirate what he assumed was "just a cyst."

That doctor, like NJ GOP Gubernatorial candidate Chris Christie, believed that women in their twenties just don’t get breast cancer. Or rather, those 5% of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer at a young age–like both Jane (diagnosed at 32) and me–are "exceptions." Exceptions for whom we should not require insurance companies to offer diagnostic tests like mammograms. Never mind that my insurance company would have had to spend far less than the $75,000 it eventually spent to treat my cancer if we had treated the lump when I first discovered it. Never mind any costs to treat the heart disease that chemo might eventually give me. Never mind the costs if–god forbid–cancer left untreated for five years shows up in the future in a vital organ or something.

Chris Christie thinks it’s smart to end the requirements on NJ insurance companies that they cover things like mammograms for the "exceptions" like me and Jane. He’s a walking death panel for "exceptions" like me and Jane.

And that’s what those of you from NJ can look forward to if he wins the gubernatorial election this November.

Michele Brown Gets the Payoff for her Role in Deferred Prosecution Agreements?

Guess where Michele Brown ended up, after leaving the US Attorney’s office to try to deflect attention both from Chris Christie’s inappropriate relationship with her as well as from Christie’s actions as US Attorney more generally? She’s gone to work for the law firm, McElroy, Deutsch, Mulvaney & Carpenter.

That’s interesting for two reasons. First, because one of the partners in the firm, Walter Timpone, is buddies with acting US Attorney Ralph Marra. But more importantly, Timpone is the guy who–as the Counsel for  DePuy Orthopaedics, signed the Deferred Prosecution Agreement that Chris Christie put through. And the Monitor who got big money for that DPA? Debra Yang, the woman who mysteriously got a sinecure at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher just as her US Attorney’s office was closing in on the ultra-corrupt Republican Jerry Lewis. 

We know from emails released this year during the House Judiciary’s hearing on Deferred Prosecution Agreements that Brown was intimately involved in the negotiations of these DPAs. 

It’s remarkable, don’t you think, how cozy all these DPAs end up being?

No Investigation of Chris Christie for His Rove Chats

The Office of Special Counsel has announced that it will not investigate Chris Christie’s campaign discussions with Karl Rove since it couldn’t punish Christie even if it found wrong-doing (it’s only available punishment is termination).

The Office of Special Counsel says it won’t investigate because it has no authority to discipline Christie even if a violation were found. Christie resigned last year to run for governor.

I have asked CREW, though, whether they mentioned this little admission from Christie–that he has talked to still-serving AUSAs about working for him once he becomes Governor (presuming he wins).

You know, we’re going to ferret out waste and fraud and abuse in the government. I think you know I’ll do that better than anybody. I’ve got a group of assistant U.S. attorneys sitting down in Newark still doing their job. But let me tell you, they are watching the newspapers. And after we win this election, I’m going to take a whole group of them to Trenton with me and put them in every one of the departments because they saw a lot of waste and abuse being investigated while we were in the U.S. Attorney’s office that didn’t rise to the level of a crime. So I told them, the good news is, when we get to Trenton we don’t have to worry about beyond a reasonable doubt anymore.

It seems to me OSC ought to at least ask which AUSAs Christie spoke about this with–and whether those AUSAs are currently still employed at the US Attorney’s office.

Why Are Jersey Cops Changing Accident Story 7 Years after the Fact?

The latest news from Chris Christie’s crappy driving record is that the story he has told about a second traffic mishap is falling apart. He maintains he was heading to a local prosecutor’s swearing in ceremony.

Christie said he was heading to [Union County Prosecutor Theodore] Romankow’s swearing-in ceremony at the time of the accident, but could not remember where he was coming from. He said he also couldn’t recall how he got to the ceremony after the car was totaled.

But the cops are now saying–after having originally corroborated this story–that Christie was headed away from this swearing-in ceremony.

Elizabeth police today adjusted their account of the July 26, 2002 incident. Police Director James Cosgrove said Christie was on his way from — not on his way to — the swearing-in of Union County Prosecutor Theodore Romankow when the accident occurred around 5:30 p.m.

Now, it may be this is just real confusion. Or maybe the cops figured out the timing didn’t work out the way the story was originally told. Or maybe there was a reason–back in the day–to claim to be heading to rather than away from these things (do they serve cocktails after prosecutors get sworn in?).

But Christie’s stories do have a way of falling apart.