More on Christie’s “Ongoing Financial Relationship” with Michele Brown

picture-123.thumbnail.pngThis will just be a hodgepodge of details to follow up on this story, the news that former NJ US Attorney and current GOP candidate for Governor, Chris Christie gave one of his top AUSAs a mortgage loan for $46,000.

Christie Has Made Other Loans

Check out the original NJN report (click on Christie Mortgage Loan) on this–around the 5:48 mark. When asked whether he has ever given a loan like this in the past, he admits (after making a crazy-stupid face) he has given out such loans, though never as a mortgage.

I’d be really curious who and what those loans were about. But looking through his disclosure forms, I don’t see any hint of them, unless they involved the Christie Family Charitable Foundation, which he had until he became US Attorney (but in which he said he had no management control).

Now he did say he and his wife had give money, so maybe that’s where this money came from. But don’t you think Mr. Transparency ought to tell us about all the funky loans he has given in the last little while?

Michele Brown Was in the Middle of the Zimmer DPA

Meanwhile, remember the ginormous sweetheart deal that Chris Christie got his former boss, John Ashcroft, into? Where Ashcroft and his buddies made up to $52 million monitoring a deferred prosecution agreement of a medical device firm? And remember how, contrary to Christie’s claim that no one ever complained about those exorbitant fees, Zimmer’s lawyers were going crazy when they discovered that not only was Ashcroft basically charging them unlimited amounts, but was also pressuring them on further legal issues that seemed rather overblown?

Well, the first person they addressed their "going crazy" emails to was Michele Brown (and all the subsequent emails were cc’ed to her).


I believe you and Chris are in Warsaw already. I wanted to alert you to a potential issue with the Zimmer Monitor. On Friday evening, Zimmer received a proposed fee agreement from the Ashcroft Group. Zimmer was told the agreement needed to be in place by Tuesday morning.

I have to tell you I was shocked by the proposed fee agreement.

Brown responds on Tuesday morning (that is, when Ashcroft’s company was demanding a response) and says:

Rick–Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Read more

More on Christie’s Below-Market Loan Gift to a Prosecutor in His Office

Update: Here’s the document the IRS would use to weigh whether this would count as a below-market loan. I’m trying to figure out precisely where Brown’s loan will fall, but given the short term of the loan (10 years) it appears it would not count as a below-market loan. (h/t Duncan) 

NYT has a version of the Chris Christie loan story with some details that seem to confirm prostratedragon’s suggestion earlier: that the loan Christie gave to the Executive Assistant AUSA (and now First AUSA) in his office, Michele Brown, would probably count as a below-market loan (and therefore a gift) for someone in her financial position.

Mr. Christie said he received a second mortgage on Ms. Brown’s home, which was in her name only, and had been receiving regular payments ever since. County records show the loan was dated Oct. 22, 2007, and carried a 5.5 percent yearly interest rate, with monthly payments of $499.22 over 10 years. [my emphasis]

As prostratedragon pointed out, given the reported financial circumstances of Brown and her husband, there’s little possibility she could have gotten that rate from a bank.

I get a farthing under 5.5% p.a. using a standard 17B II. From the story, the loan sounds like a second mortgage which under the AUSA’s family circumstances especially, would be priced more like a subprime loan —higher.

By 2007 sometime, both seconds and subprimes dried up abruptly and haven’t really recovered since, making the effective interest rate on one a very large number.

Which would make this a gift. A gift that keeps on giving, you might say, particularly since both are now in a position where their potential mutual interest in influencing one another would make this a big ethics no-no. And keeps on giving because Christie hasn’t been declaring this source of income on his disclosure forms.

Mr. Christie did not list the loan on his June 21, 2008, personal financial disclosure form as a member of the federal executive branch, which requires the detailing of any assets (like loans or receivables) worth more than $1,000, and any sources of income of more than $100 a year. Ms. Comella confirmed that Mr. Christie’s final disclosure as a prosecutor also omitted the loan.

Nor did he include the loan on his candidate’s disclosure with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission in April 2009. One of its catchall categories of unearned income requires the detailing of “other income (including interest)” of more than $100 when the total in that category exceeds $1,000. Mr. Christie listed Pfizer and three government bonds as the sources of such income, but made no mention of the loan to Ms. Brown.

Golly. Read more

What Did BushCo Hide By Not Revealing Surveillance Activities?

Via Threat Level, I see the EPIC has written a letter to Pat Leahy complaining about the Bush Administration’s failure to comply with requirements that it release details on the number of "pen register" and "trap and trace" orders.

As a reminder, "pen registers" are when the government collects the metadata from your telecom contacts–the phone numbers you call and the length of calls, as well as whom you email–to figure out who you’re talking to. And "trap and trace" orders are when the government figures out who is calling (or emailing) you. In addition, the EPIC letter explains that law enforcement has recently been using "hybrid" orders to pinpoint cell phone (and therefore, your) location.

Law enforcement agents use "hybrid" orders for cellular location information. Hybrid orders seek to determine a suspect’s past and future location based on non-content data transmitted by the suspect’s cellular phone. The government has engaged in this type of surveillance by invoking a combination of authorities under the Pen Register Act and the Stored Communications Act.

For pen registers and trap and trace, the government doesn’t have to get a warrant (the hybrid stuff is still up in the air). Instead, since 1986, DOJ has been required to report how much of this stuff is going on.

But, as EPIC explains, DOJ didn’t release the report publicly for the years 1999 through 2003, and only gave incomplete information to Congress at all in November 2004. And DOJ  appears not to have released reports at all since 2004.

You probably see where I’m going with this. 

We know, of course, that Bush’s illegal wiretap program involved some kind of data mining aspect.  It appears that they were doing pattern analysis based on things like length and recipient of call–precisely the kind of thing you get from pen registers–to determine whom to further wiretap.

Yet we have only incomplete information from the first three years of Bush’s illegal wiretap program. EPIC explains that DOJ did not include the suspected offenses that law enforcement officers were trying to investigatre, nor did it list which officers were doing the investigations.

And then we have nothing–no data–for the years after Jim Comey and Jack Goldsmith supposedly put the illegal wiretap program back on legal footing (and remember–the data mining aspect of the program was reportedly one of the things that Comey et al went crazy over). 

Read more

What Do Chris Christie and John Ashcroft Have to Hide?

I kinda figured this would happen (h/t TP):

United States Attorney Christopher Christie and former Attorney General John Ashcroft will not testify in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee next week.

The hearing, which was tentatively but not officially set for Tuesday, has been postponed until next month.

The Judiciary Committee had asked Christie to testify about the lucrative federal monitoring contract he gave to John Ashcroft to oversee the medical implant company Zimmer Holdings, LLC. Christie had said he would testify if asked by the Justice Department.

Justice Department spokesman Paul Bresson did not say whether his department had asked Christie to testify, or whether they were refusing to do so.

Christie, who was a Pioneer for Bush, is one of the most ethically suspect USAs outside of Alabama. And his deal with Ashcroft already looked stinky. If they weren’t worried about explaining it–or revealing the degree to which corporations have their own justice system in this country, one that works out very lucratively for people like John Ashcroft–you’d think would snap to and go testify before Sanchez’ subcommittee. But they’re–at best–stalling. Perhaps they’re worried about having Christie under oath, or perhaps they’re worried about testifying, period.

It sure does look like they’re trying to avoid Congressional scrutiny, though.

And can I note the one area where the Justice Department has gotten significantly worse since Mukasey took over–its public affairs department (presumably because Brian Roehrkasse and the chip on his shoulder took over). Click through to see the sheer obstinence of Bresson’s reply (don’t want to break fair use when quoting DOJ’s crappy press office).