Read

Search form

Why Governor Chris Christie and His Aides Belong in Handcuffs

Why Governor Chris Christie and His Aides Belong in Handcuffs
Fri, 1/10/2014 - by Carl Gibson

If Occupy Wall Street protesters get arrested for blocking a bridge to make a larger point, then every member of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s administration should receive at least the same treatment, if not face greater charges.

During his January 9 press conference, Gov. Christie’s explanations of the scandal in which he used his official position to score political payback prove that he’s corrupt, a coward and a bully. He’s a coward for deflecting accountability away from himself to members of his administration.

And he’s a bully for shutting down traffic in a political opponent’s city simply because that public official exercised his First Amendment rights to support a gubernatorial candidate other than Christie. But this is just the latest incident in Christie’s long career of cowardice, bullying and corruption.

As Ezra Klein wrote, Gov. Christie has a staffer who is paid to follow him around with a camera, record him bullying his constituents, and proudly post the videos on YouTube. One clip showed Gov. Christie shouting “Keep walking! Keep walking!” to a constituent who was criticizing him openly.

Another incident involved Christie shouting at a teacher who dared to criticize him at a campaign rally. There’s no reason to engage in such buffoonery as governor of a state unless you are actively trying to cultivate a tough-guy political image.

One of the most cowardly ways Christie exercised his executive power was by setting the date for the special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by the late Senator Frank Lautenberg, which popular Newark Mayor Cory Booker had already said he would seek. The three dates Christie could have chosen for the election were a Tuesday in November 2014, a Tuesday in November 2013, or a date of his choosing.

While Christie said he went with the last choice – October 15 – in order for the election to be held as soon as possible, it’s been widely speculated that he chose the date so he wouldn’t have to share a ballot with Booker in November, which would have provoked a much higher turnout for State Senator Barbara Buono, Christie's gubernatorial opponent.

Christie’s most nakedly corrupt acts as governor was in using his executive power to remove a public official from office for opposing one of his campaign contributor’s projects. On January 10, the New Jersey Pineland Commission is set to vote on a controversial pipeline that will run through state protective land, possibly harming residents nearby and threatening protected plants and wildlife.

On December 13, one of Christie’s deputy attorney generals removed Ed Lloyd, an environmental law professor, from the Pinelands Commission accusing him of having a conflict of interest in the upcoming vote. Lloyd’s firing came without due process and resulted in a weakening of the opposition bloc – which makes the close vote on the 15-member board this Friday even closer.

Normally, the commission will favor projects if they are built for the public good. But in this case, the two-foot-wide, 10-mile-long gas pipeline is solely for the profit of South Jersey Gas and Rockland Capital, which is financing the pipeline. In the 2009 election, Rockland Capital president Joseph Lambert donated $3,400 to Christie’s campaign.

While campaign finance records haven’t yet been made public for the 2013 New Jersey gubernatorial election, it’s probable that Lambert and other officials at Rockland and South Jersey had a financial stake in Christie’s success. And Lloyd’s removal from the Pinelands Commission, in which he claims there was no conflict of interest, likely resulted from Gov. Christie using executive power to improve his sponsor’s chances at getting rich.

What Chris Christie has in common with bullies is that he steals kids’ lunch money to give to his rich friends. Since he was inaugurated in 2010, Christie has cut public education by $1 billion, while giving out $2.1 billion in corporate tax breaks – half a billion more than the state previously gave out in the last ten years combined. The most recent corporate tax break bill Gov. Christie signed made it even easier for corporations to have access to public money.

The bill, the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013, expanded from 47 pages to 82 pages , and once it got to Gov. Christie’s desk he vetoed it and told the legislature he wouldn’t pass it unless language was taken out that guaranteed prevailing wages for the employees of companies receiving the tax breaks.

The bill’s key sponsor, Rep. Al Coutinho (D-Essex), was just as corrupt himself. Christie signed the tax breaks into law a week after Coutinho resigned as a result of pleading guilty to stealing money from his family’s foundation. As a consequence of Christie’s education cuts, schools in New Jersey have been forced to cut AP and Honors classes, make kids pay to participate in extra-curricular activities, and lay off staff like coaches, teacher assistants and janitors.

It is despicable for a public official like Gov. Christie to exercise state powers to help friends and scorn opponents, and anyone who does this should must not only lose his or her office, but also face criminal charges. When Christie shut down lanes on the George Washington Bridge to punish Fort Lee’s mayor for not supporting his re-election bid, he and everyone who followed his orders should be arrested – just as Occupy Wall Street activists were when we blocked bridges in acts of civil disobedience.

On November 17, 2011, I helped organize the blocking of the Travis Street Bridge in downtown Houston, Texas, during evening rush hour traffic. The action I was part of was also taking place in major cities across the country, where roughly 1,000 people were arrested in acts of civil disobedience, speaking out about the importance of fixing unemployment by repairing crumbling infrastructure like bridges.

But unlike members of Christie’s administration, these activists were private citizens peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to make a larger political point. Christie, on the other hand, was spitefully using his power as a public official to bully a political opponent.

When will top Christie aide Bridget Anne Kelly face criminal charges for emailing “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee,” and doing it from her Yahoo account instead of her work account? When will we see those responsible for maliciously shutting down a critical national thoroughfare face the consequences for a petty, political act that ruined the days of everyone involved in those traffic jams? If the state puts political activists in handcuffs for shutting down bridges, it should do the same to governors and the minions who do their bidding.

Add new comment

Sign Up

Article Tabs

climate chaos, carbon emissions, climate movement, Break Free from Fossil Fuels, worldwide climate protests, disrupting dirty power, Climate Mobilization, 350.org, keep it in the ground, renewable energy transition

Starting next week, a global wave of mass actions will target the world’s most dangerous fossil fuel projects.

protest movements, social mobilizations, movement of the squares, Occupy Wall Street, Podemos Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders, protest demands, horizontal democracy, Arab Spring, Nuit Debout

The movements of the squares were a watershed moment that profoundly changed grassroots and institutional politics – they have enthused in equal measure as they have disappointed, both under-delivering and over-delivering on their promises.

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

climate crisis, climate information, Climate Feedback, accurate climate coverage

Climate Feedback brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting.

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

migrant crisis, East African migrants, migrant smugglers, organ trafficking

A week ago, on April 17, 400 East Africans drowned in the Mediterranean Sea after their boat capsized on the way to Italy – and when the numbers get this big, we forget that they are individual lives being lost, like this, every day.

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago
Panama Papers, tax avoidance, tax shelters, corporate tax evasion, Oxfam

The names on the list of "Broken At the Top" are like a who’s who of big business – and some of the headline figures are simply staggering.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago
British academies, privatized education, lower teaching standards, low teacher pay, National Union of Teachers, Anti-Academies Alliance

“It is a complete bonfire of pay and conditions," said David Gilchrist of the Anti-Academies Alliance, who claims the government has "no evidence to back up the claim that academies improve educational standards – in fact the opposite is true."

Posted 5 days 4 hours ago

In recent weeks, thousands of people marched and were arrested on the steps of the Capitol demanding that the people’s voice be heard: that we the people, not money, be the driving force of our government.

Posted 6 days 9 hours ago

The Bay Area currency operates a commercial barter system – where businesses with unused inventory or excess capacity "deposit" their excess into an exchange, and “withdraw” other businesses’ excess goods and services instead of money.

Posted 3 days 3 hours ago
act out, occupy, spoken word, poetry, Harriet Tubman, 20 dollar bill, money in politics, regulation, cost benefit analysis, human life, cost of life, value of life, Public Citizen, Amit Narang, corporate accountability, corporate malfeasance, May Day, Int

This week, regulation is the name of the game if you want to hold corporations accountable and keep them in line with the interests of people and planet. Sadly, there's one serious hurdle standing between us and regulation.

climate crisis, climate information, Climate Feedback, accurate climate coverage

Climate Feedback brings together a global network of scientists who use a new web-annotation platform to provide feedback on climate change reporting.

solar energy, rooftop solar, California clean energy policies, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, carbon emissions, San Francisco solar policy

Starting Jan. 1 of next year, new commercial and residential buildings here up to 10 stories high must install rooftop solar systems for heat or electricity – making San Francisco the first major U.S. city to enact such legislation.

Black Lives Matter, ACLU of Oregon, state surveillance, surveillance programs

Monitoring the social media use of BLM activists is an example of "how the level of trust between law enforcement and communities of color has been so damaged," the civil rights group says.

With more than 1,300 people arrested on the steps of the Capitol earlier this month, the Democracy Spring campaign pulled off one of the largest acts of civil disobedience this century.