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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Schundler: NJ Gov Caught Red-Handed, Needed "Scapegoat"

In the still-unfolding New Jersey Race to the Top fiasco, fired education commissioner Bret Schundler on Friday told the Star-Ledger (reported Saturday, Sept. 4th):
"I wasn't fired because I misremembered details of a 10-second exchange with a reviewer weeks before.  I was fired because the governor was caught saying things that he knew were untrue and he needed a scapegoat."
It is the position of Crime, Politics and Policy that this allegation raises serious questions about Governor Chris Christie.  The problem here isn't a mere white lie; the allegation of "saying things that he knew were untrue" goes to the basic issue of being an honest public servant.  It raises questions as to both Christie's character and the propriety of his official actions.  As to the latter, the propriety of his official actions, the question extends not just to his actions as Governor, but also to his actions while United States Attorney for New Jersey.  Did Christie order or endorse actions, such as investigations, prosecutions, negotiations and settlements, when he knew that his office's position (that is, the office of United States Attorney) was either improper or incorrect?  There is, by implication in Schundler's remarks and his seven-page chronology (see page 7 of the document), which he released earlier this week, a hint (or more) that Christie previously charged innocent people.  Finally, to the extent that these alleged lies involved attempts to secure federal funding, there could even be criminal implications.

The implications of Schundler's allegations are very troubling, to say the least.  That is without getting into the political issue of whether certain public officials were justly or wrongfully targeted, investigated and prosecuted (and that issue is beyond the scope of this article).

Should the allegations be substantiated, this story will have even stronger "legs."  As Christie made sure to attack the Obama Administration in no uncertain terms last week, any lies or misstatements may atttract considerable attention within the Justice Department.  

Eric Dixon is a New York lawyer and president of Eric Dixon LLC. 

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