Like everyone, I've been following the demolition of Chris Christie's political career with popcorn.
But along the way I missed this encyclopedic summary of how Christie's time as U.S. Attorney engendered a climate of fear among NJ Democrats, several of whom he prosecuted successfully, and therefore made it easier for him to bully Democratic politicians into supporting his 2013 re-election bid.
The near-month-old New York Observer article by Max Pizarro, entitled "Big Boy at the Brink: Chris Christie and the Discipline of Fear," has lots of details new to me, like that a Port Authority project to improve the connection between the Palisades Parkway and the George Washington Bridge has been mysteriously put on hold after the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee refused to endorse Christie last year.
Read the whole thing, for more insight into the cesspool of NJ politics and the character of a guy Romney could not risk as his running mate.
I will guarantee you do not know how Christie used his U.S. Attorney office to enrich John Ashcroft, and others who could help him run for governor.
More on that, below.
Christie was a mostly unsuccessful local pol who raised some major money for George W. Bush, and then got appointed U.S. Attorney, despite never having prosecuted even a shoplifter.
He was an active U.S. Attorney, "racking up convictions—and stirring fear in the hearts of both evildoers and those who had had the misfortune of being on the wrong side of the bombastic prosecutor."
Most of the political convictions involved Democrats, no surprise, really.
But what happened with the corporate cases is more interesting, and has gotten little attention.
Mr. Christie pioneered the tactic of deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs), in which the government would agree not to prosecute a corporation if the target agrees to follow conditions the government sets, ranging from paying a fine to changing personnel to adopting new practices.The Newark Star-Ledger found out about one of those "outside monitor" agreements; lo and behold, Christie picked the law firm of his former boss, John Ashcroft, to monitor Zimmer Holdings (for kickbacks on sales of knee and hip replacement devices).
To ensure that these conditions were met, Mr. Christie’s office recommended the appointment of “outside monitors” who would be paid handsomely for their service. Those facing the business end of unlimited subpoena power saw these DPAs as a shakedown.
Whatever one’s point of view one thing was certain: Chris Christie understood leverage and exercised it.
Ashcroft's firm billed more than $54 million in just 18 months!
Disclosed in SEC filings, the arrangement calls for Zimmer Holdings of Indiana to pay Ashcroft Group Consulting Services an average monthly fee between $1.5 million and $2.9 million. The figure includes a flat payment of $750,000 to the firm's "senior leadership group," individual legal and consulting services billed at up to $895 an hour, and as much as $250,000 a month for expenses including private airfare, lodging and meals.At least we know about that one, because it was so big the company had to disclose it.
Christie refused to disclose how much the "outside monitors" imposed on the four other cheating medical device makers.
Spokespersons for the other four companies -- Stryker Corp., Biomet Inc., Smith and Nephew PLC, and Depuy Inc., a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary -- declined to discuss their contracts. Christie said he would not release copies of the agreements because they involved "private" contracts.The cost of monitoring was probably more than the fines collected by the U.S. government, but Christie decided that that information was secret.
The monitors of the other companies were, naturally, connected Republicans who could help Christie's political career.
* David Kelley, former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, who decided not to indict Christie's brother for Wall Street crimes.
* Debra Yang, former U.S. attorney in Los Angeles, appointed by Bush and then working for a major Republican law firm in LA.
* David Samson, former New Jersey attorney general, and for now, Christie's top guy at the Port Authority. He's been in the news lately.
* John Carley, a former attorney for the Federal Trade Commission and later Cendant Corp., a longtime GOP lawyer appointed by Nixon, Reagan and Giuliani to revolving-door jobs.
Patronage like this is legal, but it usually involves a quid-pro-quo that pushes the envelope.
IANAL, but it seems to me that this "outside monitoring" of corporations who are getting a sweet plea-bargain deal anyway could be done by government employees rather than hyper-expensive private contractors.
Everyone Christie gifted with secret "outside monitor" contracts will be indebted to him, and were certainly on the Christie 2016 bandwagon in one way or another.
Before the wheels fell off.
P.S., OT: The popular-in-well-bribed-Congress idea that the 2.3 percent sales tax on medical devices to support the ACA must be repealed is risible. These things are absurdly high-priced, in this country alone, and a modest tax on them will have no effect on their sales.