Old unpublished article
A dated Journalista: I wrote the article below circa the summer of 2004 (hence the McGreevey and Kushner references).
I shopped it around town and Al Sullivan used some of my info in an article he wrote for the Hudson Reporter. Al worked on the story for a couple of weeks but we wound up getting scooped by the Ledger. (The link to Ledger story has expired, but WhiteHouseForSale.org sums it up pretty well.)
The $144,000 in donations from the Christies to the New Jersey State Republican committee from 2001-2004 were generally ignored newspaper-wise for the juicier fact that "Since the summer of 2001, Todd Christie (Chris Christie's brother) and his wife have donated more than $400,000 to various GOP coffers. In comparison, the couple had donated less than $12,000 in the time before Chris began lobbying for the U.S. attorney's job." (WhiteHouseForSale.org)
Todd Christie came into $100 million in 2000 when Goldman Sachs purchased his firm, Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, hence his ability to donate large sums of money to the state and national GOP. However, his time at Spear, Leeds & Kellogg has since drawn some controversy. In April 2005, Todd Christie was one of 20 folks charged civilly by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for using "their positions with the New York Stock Exchange to enrich themselves and their companies at the expense of investors".
The New York Times' editorial from April 16, 2005 included this interesting bite: "We can't help but note that Todd Christie, the brother of Christopher Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey, was among the 20 stock traders charged. But while 14 of the traders were charged with criminal fraud, Mr. Christie, a major donor to Republicans and the youngest brother of a prosecutor who has specialized in rooting out political corruption, faces only civil penalties and fines. ... Mr. Christie ranked fourth in the S.E.C. complaint among the 20 traders who earned the biggest profits at customers' expense. The top three were indicted, as were 11 traders lower down. We don't know whether this is a case of how nice it is to have big brothers in high places. But it doesn't look good."
Anyway, here's the thing I wrote in the summer of 2004. It wasn't written for Courier; it was a piece I was shopping around. There are a number of stylistic things I would change if I had written it today, but I'm not going to start nit-picking now.
Chris Christie's money trail
By JACKIE CORLEY
New Jersey's U.S. Attorney, Christopher J. Christie, has achieved a reputation as the Garden State's chief crusader for justice, racking up convictions against corrupt politicians and party fundraisers.
Recently, Charles Kushner, Governor Jim McGreevey's top Democratic money-maker, felt the sting of a Christie-led investigation. Kushner pled guilty in federal court on August 18 to 18 charges, including retaliating against a federal witness, violating campaign finance laws and filing false tax returns.
Christie has also been a vocal opponent of New Jersey's notorious pay-to-play political tactics in which campaign contributors are rewarded with jobs, tax breaks and other lucrative deals. Christie called such practices a hidden tax on residents.
While investigating shady political deals and fighting pay-to-play campaign donors, however, Christie has failed to discuss the $144,000 in campaign contributions he and his family have made to the New Jersey State Republican Committee (NJSRC).
Christie learned on September 10, 2001 he would receive the Presidential appointment and was sworn into office January 17, 2002. Early on, many New Jersey politicians questioned the selection, citing Christie's lack of experience: Christie had never tried a criminal case before becoming New Jersey's U.S. Attorney.
Despite early criticism, Christie struck out on such a fierce campaign of battling corruption that his name is currently being touted in Garden State Republican circles as a possible gubernatorial candidate in 2005 -- or earlier, should McGreevey bow to GOP pressure and resign immediately so a special election can take place this November.
New Jersey Republicans certainly have a lot to be grateful for in Chris Christie, and not just in the investigations that have whittled McGreevey's poll numbers down these past few months.
Campaign finance records from the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) reveal that before 2001, Christie made two contributions to the NJSRC, totaling a mere $800. From 2001 until 2004, however, Christie and his family donated $144,000 to the committee.
In May and June of 2001, at a time when state Republicans were still deciding who would become New Jersey's next U.S. Attorney, Christie and his family, including his brother Todd Christie and his sister-in-law Theresa Christie, donated $74,000 to the NJSRC.
A month after Christie took the oath of office for U.S. Attorney, his brother donated another $20,000 to the committee. Todd Christie would continue the trend in 2003 and 2004, donating $50,000 to the NJSRC during that time.
Todd Christie was the chief executive of Goldman Sachs' New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) specialist arm, Spear, Leeds & Kellogg. On March 21, 2003 he was nominated to the NYSE's board; in less than a week, he was ousted from his position at Spear, Leeds & Kellogg and withdrew his nomination to the exchange's board. No public explanation was given for the sudden departure.
In addition to the direct contributions from the Christie family, business associates of Christopher and Todd Christie have donated generously to the NJSRC and its chairman, State Senator Joe Kyrillos (R-Monmouth) over the past few years.
Members of Christie's former law firm, Dughi, Hewitt and Palatucci, and Todd Christie's former investment firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg, contributed $11,000 to the New Jersey State Republican Committee in 2001.
On October 21, 2001, 17 employees from Spear, Leeds & Kellogg donated a total of $14,000 to Kyrillos' campaign coffers. During his three-year tenure as committee chair, Kyrillos has received $30,850 from the Christies and their associates for his local campaigns.
While state U.S. Attorney positions are appointed by the President, leading state party officials hold the cards as to what names get sent to the White House, according to an aide at the Governor's Office who would not release his name.
Timothy A. White, political director of the NJSRC, denied that the committee has any influence over federal appointments, saying the NJSRC focuses its efforts strictly on campaigns at the federal and municipal.
However, Michael Drewniak, public affairs officer for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark, acknowledged that closed-door politicking influences how the state's U.S. Attorney post is chosen.
"Honestly, there's a lot of deal making involved," Drewniak said.
When asked directly if state politicians and organizations have a say in the appointment, Drewniak said, "I don't want to go there."