Misplaced priorities


The following editorial is from the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Oct. 26—Gov. Christie’s precarious presidential run now has him hitting up contractors who do business with state and local governments to solicit thousands of dollars in campaign cash.

State law frowns on being that cozy in New Jersey elections, but it’s legal for Christie to tap vendors for a federal race. Nonetheless, he is making a mockery of a pay-to-play law that resulted partly from his stint as a U.S. attorney who bagged convictions of more than a hundred state officials accused of corruption.

Reacting to public dismay at the influence of money in state elections, the Legislature passed a bill that requires that the principals of any company with state contracts exceeding $17,500 may contribute no more than $300 each to a sitting governor’s political campaign in the state.

That directive, however, doesn’t apply to federal elections. Records reviewed by The Inquirer show Christie’s presidential campaign has received much larger sums from state vendors, including $2,700 each from three executives of Crisdel Group Inc., a construction firm with $43 million in government contracts.

Other donors include two employees of the renewable-energy firm Covanta, which has $7.3 million in state contracts. Christie, a vociferous Dallas Cowboys fan, has also received donations from individuals with ties to the NFL team’s owner, Jerry Jones, whose company got Christie’s support to operate the World Trade Center’s observation deck.

The dubious donations total less than $50,000. But in a state where the appearance of impropriety is too often confirmed by reality, Christie’s decision to disregard state election rules suggests an insincerity that isn’t very attractive in a candidate who is asking the nation to trust him.

This isn’t new for Christie, however. Shortly after he took office in 2010, supporters raised money for a political organization that was supposed to promote his policies. It solicited $25,000 donations — well above the $300 limit for political campaigns — before it finally bended to public pressure and disbanded. The Republican Governors Association also took bales of money from state vendors during Christie’s 2013 reelection campaign.

Call it hubris, hypocrisy, or a blind spot, but Christie hasn’t led by example. Just because it was legal didn’t mean his presidential campaign had to take money from state vendors. He could have sent that message to corporate executives and to business-related super PACs. Instead, he acts as if his past work as a corruption-busting U.S. attorney excuses any questionable behavior.

That cavalier attitude doesn’t promote a state with a reputation for shady politicians. With a Rutgers University poll showing most New Jersey voters think Christie is doing a poor job, it’s time for him to shift his attention from raising campaign cash to their concerns.

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(c)2015 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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