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

carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

DiEM25, austerity policies, Brexit, Lexit, Democracy in Europe Movement, Grexit

Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis responds to his critics and lays out DiEM25’s plan for resisting within the European Union.

Five Star Movement, Beppe Grillo, anti-corruption movement, populist politics, Euro-skeptic party, Italian political corruption, Silvio Berlusconi, Virginia Raggi, Chiara Appendino

The transparency and political openness that helped the 5 Star Movement rise to power must now bring the party's current and future proposals to the forefront if it hopes to achieve any lasting change.

Occupy Wall Street, rising inequality, park occupations, financialization, debt, David Graeber, Occupy legacy, social protests, economic justice, Jeremy Corbyn

Five years after Occupy, organizer and anthropologist David Graeber speaks to ROAR about the power of finance, the history of inequality and the legacy of the movement.

Wells Fargo crimes, Wells Fargo accounts scam, Wells Fargo foreclosures, mortgage-backed securities, subprime loans, Wall Street crimes, John Stumpf

Despite all of the fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo continues to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Now a former employee is disputing that claim.

Posted 5 days 21 hours ago
occupy, activism, creative activism, alt-right, white supremacy, neo-nazi, bigotry, racism, sexism, white nationalism, white genocide, Milo Yiannopoulos, Richard Bertrand Spencer, Gabriella Coleman, hacktivism, Anonymous, hacker, whistleblower, digital ac

We're introducing a new segment for all those times you think to yourself, "Wow, that's fucked up." First topic: white supremacists.

Posted 5 days 3 hours ago
blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

Posted 6 days 23 hours ago
carbon emissions, Pakistan coal plants, Pakistan coal generation, Pakistan energy policy

On its projected track, Pakistan will generate a total capacity of over 23,000 megawatts of electricity from coal in the next few years to overcome its steep energy requirements.

Posted 3 days 3 hours ago
student loans, student debt, college debt, Student Loan Asset Backed Securities, subprime mortgage securities, collateralized debt, Federal Family Education Loan Program, Student Income Loans, Student Income Loans

A crucial difference between the subprime debt bubble and the student debt bubble is that the properties that comprised subprime mortgage securities served as collateral to the mortgage debt.

Posted 3 days 3 hours ago
AFL-CIO, union organizing, Keystone XL pipeline, jobs versus environment, Dakota Access Pipeline, Standing Rock Sioux tribe, Standing Rock protests, Communications Workers of America, National Nurses United

In sharp contrast to Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO, some unions really want to restrain climate change and are now vocally opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline.

blockchain currencies, blockchain technologies, crypto currencies, Bitcoin, Federal Reserve, Bank of England, fractional reserve lending, Central Bank Digital Currency, bank bailouts, bail-ins

Central Bank Digital Currencies could supplant the money now created by private banks.

Wells Fargo crimes, Wells Fargo accounts scam, Wells Fargo foreclosures, mortgage-backed securities, subprime loans, Wall Street crimes, John Stumpf

Despite all of the fines paid to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Wells Fargo continues to deny any allegations of wrongdoing. Now a former employee is disputing that claim.

Mylan, EpiPen, pharmaceutical industry, Big Pharma, National Institutes of Health, Daraprim, Martin Shkreli, pharmaceutical greed, pharmaceutical lobbying

“Somewhere, right now, a cash-strapped parent or budget-limited patient will skip acquiring an EpiPen. And someday they will need it in a life-threatening situation, and they won’t have it, and they will die.”

National Health Service, NHS, NHS cuts, austerity cuts, U.K. austerity policies, Patients Association, Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport NHS Watch

Stepping Hill Hospital is operating under intense financial pressure – but is still saving lives – as the U.K. government continues to make billions of pounds’ worth of cuts to Britain’s NHS.