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Friday, January 31, 2014

Bridgegate: How To Investigate When Your Witnesses Take The Fifth

Very simply, read my explanation in this article from earlier this week.

Wildstein Says Christie Knew About Bridge Lane Closings In Real Time

BREAKING
New York Times reports former Port Authority official David Wildstein is claiming, through his lawyer's three-page letter, that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie knew about the George Washington Bridge lane closures and ensuing traffic problems in Fort Lee and surrounding areas as they happened.
The implications of this allegation, which has yet to be proven, are staggering.
In another development, Christie campaign manager Bill Stepien, also through his lawyer, is challenging the New Jersey Legislature's Joint Special Committee's subpoena of documents.  Those documents are due Monday, February 3rd. 
As I predicted earlier this week, it will be very hard to get witnesses to testify and I explained the reasons why.  I also propose a plan for how investigators can get at the truth of what happened in the Bridgegate controversy. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Cruise Ship Sanitation: Illusion of Cleanliness

When I was young, I remember taking the Staten Island Ferry as the middle leg of my 90-minute ride to high school. In particular, I remember taking the "old" ferries, which in 1983 actually had wooden benches, at least the 7:00 am boat did. The earlier 6:40 am boat was my preferred ride, though, because it was a newer boat (the so-called S.I. Newhouse class of ferry).
 
The reason for my preference was that, in those pre-Giuliani days, the homeless vagrants would ride the old boats all night, all winter, and really stink up the joint. The stench drove me to the downstairs well of the ferry, where the smokers would inhale all types of things. As in, real joints. The sweet smoke (compared to car exhaust from the cars which would park in the middle of the boat) would at least clear the nostrils of the offending putridness.
 
Those pleasant memories of "the boat" are enough deterrence for me to swear never to take one of these so-called luxury cruises. Never mind that every so often passengers on these big boats seem to get sick by the boatload. 
 
The authorities are assuring us that the boats are being "sanitized."  Oh please. A wipedown with Clorox wipes, the ones that are now in vogue in so many offices, is not sufficient.
 
There are some things that, to be done well, must be done yourself. Outsourcing personal hygiene does not cut it.
 
The food preparation chain is the likely culprit, but basic handwashing etiquette in the restroom needs closer examination. Subtle observation will show that a good number of people do not wash their hands at all after using the restroom; many more do a perfunctory washing that suggests an aversion to either soap or water. The cross-contamination risk from doorknobs, stair banisters, elevator buttons, ATM screens, slot machine buttons and other common surfaces is substantial and, if you think about it, pretty obvious.
 
The ships will not cure the problem until the personnel abroad these ships have a personal commitment to obsessive cleanliness.
 
A serious solution would involve the recruitment of those with obsessive compulsive "cleanliness" disorders. These people can imagine all sorts of ick which the average slob thinks is harmlessly benign. But paying near-minimum wage for workers, largely born or raised in other countries where the standard for cleanliness, sanitation and food preparation does not approach the American standard, to go through the motions is asking for a repeat of the near-epidemic the cruise ship industry saw this week.
 
 

Friday, January 24, 2014

What Subpoenas Mean: Bridgegate Getting More Serious

WHY CHRISTIE CAMPAIGN & STATE GOP WERE SUBPOENAED. Earlier today it was revealed that the U.S. Attorney out of Newark issued subpoenas to each of the Christie reelection campaign AND the New Jersey Republican State Committee.  These subpoenas reportedly pertain only to Bridgegate, and not to the Sandy-related allegations coming out of Hoboken.

This news came courtesy of the attorneys for each entity. We don't know when the subpoenas were actually issued; could have been today, could have been a month ago, who knows?  But it is encouraging that the U.S. Attorney's Office is not publicizing this. Its job is to investigate, not to tarnish the reputation of (and possibly the jury pool for) the subjects of its investigations.

New Jersey Governor Christie stated at his now-legendary press conference two weeks ago that his office would "cooperate" with all "appropriate inquiries."  There are two terms there which require definition: "cooperate" and "appropriate."  The use of either term implies that actual cooperation without resistance may be a pipe dream.

Why were the subpoenas issued? This article quotes me with a partial explanation. The full explanation is that people who don't know about an investigation can destroy evidence and then claim they didn't know about it.  When you issue a subpoena you are putting the recipient on notice that if they destroy anything they are risking being charged with obstruction of justice.

So what does this mean? I interpret it to mean the U.S. Attorney was worried about destruction of evidence. They're in a rush. This is serious.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Did Hoboken Mayor Have A Lawyer When She Spoke To The Feds?

There is a lot about Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer's public statements in recent days which is really curious.
Today she said she has been asked by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark not to make any more public comments about her allegations that the Chris Christie Administration was pressuring her to support a large real estate development in exchange for state aid for recovery from Hurricane Sandy flooding ("Sandygate").
I thought it was strange for her to -- as she claimed days ago -- talk to the feds and then talk about it.
Usually the authorities (state or federal, makes no difference) tell informants and potential witnesses to say nothing.  I'm sure they aren't quite as diplomatic as I've written.  Understandably, the authorities want to protect their witnesses from undue influence, witness tampering or outright threats like violence.
Even stranger is that she spoke instead of her lawyer.  Nowhere in her statements or accompanying coverage was there anything about Zimmer being represented.
As I've written before, you need a lawyer when you talk to the authorities. Especially if you are innocent.
At a minimum, talk to a lawyer first before talking to the authorities.
But Zimmer apparently didn't bring a lawyer to her discussions with the feds.  UPDATE: This is even curiouser, given that Zimmer previously hired prominent criminal defense lawyer Gerard Krovatin in a civil case and (just tonight) wanted the Hoboken City Council to hire Krovatin to represent her and the City.  That in turn raises more questions, such as: Assuming Krovatin is hired, who is paying him? Who is the real client: Zimmer individually, or Zimmer merely in an official capacity, or the City of Hoboken? And why didn't -- or couldn't -- Zimmer hire Krovatin earlier and directly, using her own money?
Returning to the issue of the imprudence of talking without the aid of counsel, if Zimmer can be proven to have said anything that is inaccurate, she will be on a nasty road towards being charged with willfully false statements to government officials, which is a felony.  As I pointed out here, that is a major risk because the FBI does not record its meetings with witnesses and relies on written notes to memorialize what someone like Zimmer said.   

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lawyering Up Not A Sign Of Guilt

Most if not all of Governor Chris Christie's inner circle has lawyered up (hired lawyers) to respond to last week's wave of legislative subpoenas investigating the scandal known as Bridgegate.  Sunday morning (January 19th), the Star-Ledger of Newark reported that former New Jersey Attorney General and current Port Authority chairman David Samson has hired Michael Chertoff, the former U.S. Attorney in New Jersey (a Christie predecessor) and former Homeland Security director, to represent him.

Some commentators and activists are gleeful with each report that a lawyer has been retained.  It is argued that hiring a lawyer is a sign that there is something to hide, and hence some wrongdoing (if not criminality) that, in this case, warrants either the emasculation of Christie's presidential ambitions (without which very few would care one bit about Bridgegate), his resignation (which as I've explained is more likely if Christie gets exasperated more than implicated) or even his indictment and eventual imprisonment.
This is not warranted.  Not even in light of more developments.

(Update 1/19/14 9pm: Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer now claims that she met with federal prosecutors for several hours earlier today to discuss her rather explosive allegations that Christie Administration officials pressured her to support a real estate development as a quid pro quo for state funding in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy flooding damage.)

Now that it is likely that there are multiple criminal inquiries into Christie Administration and/or the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, with the precise subject matter yet to be revealed, it is uncertain where many people working in any of those orbits will fall in terms of any provable role in any wrongdoing.
It is highly prudent to hire a lawyer when you are involved in any investigation.  This is particularly true when you are in fact innocent. It is also particularly appropriate when the investigation has partisan overtones which support an inference that the investigation is more about the desired outcome than uncovering the truth and any possible crime.

And remember one thing: You don't need to have done anything wrong to be "involved" in an investigation. In fact, your factual innocence may put you at greater risk.  The reason is simple: You are within the orbit of people who have done something wrong, and who may need to blame others in order to build a case for leniency from prosecutors whose support is crucial in convincing a sentencing judge to go easy on any sentence for the crimes to which they admit. Therefore, being innocent is no protection, none at all, from a false yet plausible accusation made by someone desperate to reduce or avoid all jail time. And prosecutors get fooled more than you might think (but won't admit it) by con artists who have been manipulating people all their lives.
If you are guilty, you can always pull the safety valve by confessing. Of course there are adverse consequences such as a likely jail sentence, but it would stop the circling of predators in a sense. While I do not jump to conclusions about David Wildstein, it is worth noting that Wildstein's lawyer has publicly announced through the press that his client, who asserted his rights against self-incrimination in testimony before the New Jersey State Assembly Transportation Committee recently, is willing to testify if he is granted immunity by federal and state prosecutors. At a minimum, it supports the conjecture that these are the actions of someone eager to get the dogs called off. Furthermore, asking for immunity does imply that you have done something for which you may want or need immunity from prosecution, but it also is a smart move by a lawyer who will take no chances that his client might get prosecuted in a politically charged environment where a fair, impartial trial is not assured as a practical matter.
If you are innocent and have no option but to be very wary of any inquiry, the highest caution is warranted. That is because an inquiry shaped by overzealous inquisitors will focus on getting people held accountable -- no matter whether that is justified by the facts or even if the right people are held accountable.  That zeal will lead in many instances to a temptation to patch together circumstantial evidence, double hearsay and unreliable information from unreliable sources (they may be good enough for investigators but often will never see the witness chair at a trial or legislative hearing).
Without a lawyer serving as a barrier between the target and the investigation, there is a real risk of an investigation going off the tracks in its search for "answers." (Note the use of quotes.) Skilled counsel can redirect an investigation, not just to deflect blame but also to uncover additional facts which can exculpate a client but also lead to the truth (i.e., who really did it).
Hiring an attorney means the person being targeted is taking the investigation seriously.  In the case of Bridgegate, where political overzealousness may need to be restrained (as in any political investigation), such caution is virtually required.
Exercising caution when one's freedom is being targeted is hardly a sign of guilt.  The total "big picture" of loads of people lawyering up suggests there was wrongdoing somewhere, but the individual roles have yet to be determined and the likelihood is that only a small percentage of people in the vicinity of the scandal will actually have been culpable.  Sadly, reputations of people, who will likely be ultimately cleared, get tarnished in investigations and Bridgegate, featuring a likely presidential candidate and thus justifying heavy press coverage, will be no exception to this rule.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Bridgegate And Legal Conflicts

The law firm hired to represent the Office of the Governor of New Jersey (and note the "Office" is not the same as the person, Chris Christie) may have a conflict with its representation of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in a different matter.  It is easy to see how the PANYNJ could either point its finger at the New Jersey Executive Branch (i.e., Christie's Office), or vice versa.  As I point out below, the PANYNJ may not be able to give what's called its "informed consent" in this matter.

Lawyers are precluded under legal ethics rules -- called Rules of Professional Conduct in New Jersey -- from accepting representations of clients where there is a "concurrent conflict of interest." The primary rule at issue is Rule 1.7.  Note the text I highlight in bold:
  • (a) Except as provided in paragraph (b), a lawyer shall not represent a client if the representation involves a concurrent conflict of interest. A concurrent conflict of interest exists if:

    • (1) the representation of one client will be directly adverse to another client; or

    • (2) there is a significant risk that the representation of one or more clients will be materially limited by the lawyer's responsibilities to another client, a former client, or a third person or by a personal interest of the lawyer.
There's more. Let's look at the exception paragraph -- paragraph (b) referenced above.
  • (b) Notwithstanding the existence of a concurrent conflict of interest under paragraph (a), a lawyer may represent a client if:

    • (1) each affected client gives informed consent, confirmed in writing, after full disclosure and consultation, provided, however, that a public entity cannot consent to any such representation. When the lawyer represents multiple clients in a single matter, the consultation shall include an explanation of the common representation and the advantages and risks involved;

    • (2) the lawyer reasonably believes that the lawyer will be able to provide competent and diligent representation to each affected client;

    • (3) the representation is not prohibited by law; and

    • (4) the representation does not involve the assertion of a claim by one client against another client represented by the lawyer in the same litigation or other proceeding before a tribunal.
It is easy to see how Randy Mastro, the partner in charge of L'Affaire Bridgegate for the national law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, might run afoul of New Jersey's RPC 1.7 because -- as the Star-Ledger reports today -- he and the firm previously represented the PANYNJ.

Of course, that representation or other representations, other "client matters," might involve wholly unrelated subject matters.  Or they might represent personnel or operational matters, even traffic studies, and an attorney's knowledge of such things might give the new client an inappropriate advantage.  Such advantages could, theoretically (and this is just a hypothetical, to be sure) help the current client (the Office of the Governor) assign the blame to particular people or subagencies within the PANYNJ.

This highlights the risk to people and businesses of hiring a large law firm. You cannot truly know "who knows whom" and what conflicts of interest are present. Particularly the unofficial ones. (It also explains why some lawyers practice on their own, because they get to choose and keep their clients and joining a big law firm means their client base might be "conflicted out" and they would lose business.  Law is a business, after all.)

On the other hand, hiring a big law firm could be an astute (some might say, Machiavellian) move. Bigger law firms have more lawyers, and hence a much wider net of potential conflicts.  If someone is intent on impeding an investigation by making it hard for witnesses to retain lawyers to assist in required appearances at hearings or other compliance, such as with subpoenas or warrants, you just might want to try to conflict out more and more lawyers.  In the end, this strategy will not win the game. It will only waste time. 
But large, complex investigations are often an issue of which side has the stamina to persevere.  Think of it as a war of attrition.  Of course the real facts matter.  The truth matters.  However, the willingness to fight to do the things necessary to uncover the truth (or hide it, as the case may be) may be determinative of the outcome.  
Endurance -- and mental strength -- matter.




And no one would know that more than a former federal prosecutor.






Saturday, January 11, 2014

Chris Christie: Crossing The Bridge To Resignation?

Chris Christie must be considering resigning as Governor.
"Bridgegate" is revealing long-suspected truths (including suspicions held by this commentator and expressed since this blog began in 2009) which are unpalatable to many voters and particularly to those who are apprehensive about growing government power (regardless of the party in charge).  Among other articles, see this critique from July 2010 of Christie's involvement with a nonprofit political group exempt from federal taxation under Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code. 
The resignation question was first broached publicly by WNBC-TV reporter Brian Thompson at the Thursday press conference.  It will not be the last time the question is asked, not unless Christie actually resigns before his next encounter with reporters or even checks his Twitter account (@GovChristie).
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR UPDATES!
When do politicians resign? 
Criminal charges do not force them from office; well, not until they are taken out in cuffs.  Elected officials routinely win after being investigated, indicted and even convicted. (See former Union City Mayor William Musto, reelected the day after his federal conviction in May 1982.)
Politicians resign their offices when the public adulation and power rush they feel gets replaced by contempt (whether from colleagues, family, the public or the press) and they cannot escape a sense of crushing humiliation or sense of being utterly disrespected.  Elected officials quickly go from the center of attention to acutely feeling they have been abandoned by their friends and allies and left to fend off a growing swarm of sharks sensing blood in the water.  These sharks can be political or personal enemies, or the press, or the general public. 
When the target's sense of hurt becomes so deep that it cannot be repaired, or that the attacks from outside (all sources) become so unrelenting that no answer, no press conference, no amount of hiding can offer a respite, the target reaches a tipping point where resignation may be the only way to stop the pain.
So is Chris Christie reaching the tipping point?
Consider that the most conservative columnist in New Jersey (my opinion and his) if not the entire country (his opinion) is now comparing Bridgegate with Watergate.
And now his political friends are beginning to abandon him.  Just moments ago, the Washington Post posted an article quoting former New Jersey Governor Tom Kean Sr. (with whom Christie got his start in politics as a teenage campaign volunteer) as asking,
"...you look at these other qualities and ask, do you really want that in your president?"
Each of these commentaries was posted in the last three hours  early Saturday morning (January 11th) right as I was drafting the original version of this article (since revised to add material).
Also consider that the New Jersey State Assembly Transportation Committee, which is investigating Bridgegate, unanimously voted to hold Christie's Port Authority lackey David Wildstein (fka Wally Edge) in contempt.  The unanimous vote from Republicans indicates that state Republicans may be about to abandon Christie.  (UPDATE: Assemblyman Wisniewski says impeachment is a possibility.) 
That is significant, given that Christie was recently rebuked by a majority of the State Senate Republican Caucus when he tried to replace current Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean Jr. (yes, the son of the aforementioned former Governor) with ally Senator Kevin O'Toole.  This shows Christie's previous iron-grip discipline on the New Jersey Republican Party may have been shaken.  Now it may be gone.

So, will Christie actually resign?

Here's the argument for why he would.  I do not see an emasculated, humiliated Chris Christie remaining in any environment where he is disrespected and mocked behind his back.  He will resign if he reaches a tipping point, not because he is forced to but because he likely will see no point in remaining in a Governor's Office when his interest and power in the position are no longer there.  Besides, resignation gets him out of Trenton and out of the state, the sooner to run for President.  Christie might actually welcome the prospect.

Note that my argument states why he might resign, but I will add that such a move would not necessarily represent or convey weakness or surrender.  It would be a strategic retreat, a move designed to remove oneself from battle (that being the maelstrom of a media feeding frenzy), allow the controversy to die down and then reappear on the field of battle after regrouping or reinventing himself.  It reminds me of none other than H. Ross Perot, who chose to pull out of the 1992 Presidential race days after his embarrassing "you people" remark before the NAACP in order to stop the media attacks.  Note that Perot always continued his ballot access efforts in New York (where I got my start as an election lawyer), and formally returned to the same campaign in October 1992 and rose in the polls from a one percent protest vote to 17% in the national popular vote.

In support of my argument that he could resign, I will cite the comebacks of two famous recent New York elected officials who resigned only to return.  Eliot Spitzer resigned as New York State Governor in March 2008 -- perhaps as part of a deal with authorities to avoid prosecution.  Spitzer then returned to the political scene in 2013, but only once the five-year federal statute of limitations had conveniently expired, to run for New York City Comptroller and lose narrowly in the Democratic primary.  The other comeback, of course, is that of Anthony Weiner. The former Brooklyn-Queens congressman resigned in June 2011 to put an end to unrelenting public humiliation following the revelations of his inappropriate use of social media.

With both Spitzer and Weiner, the impetus for resignation was the loss of their respect in the eyes of a large segment of the public. (This is also true for former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey, who resigned in his famous July 2004 "I am a gay American" speech and following his disgracing of ex-wife Dina Matos McGreevey, has chosen not to return to politics.)  While Spitzer's power in the State Capitol (first as Attorney General and then Governor) was unquestioned, few remember that Weiner was one of the most strident defenders of Obamacare from the time of its proposal.  Both elected officials commanded lots of respect and attention.  However, their respective scandals sharply diminished their clout.  It is possible that both could have remained in office, but the attention their scandals would have continued to receive would have drowned out anything else they tried to do and left them largely ineffective or ignored in all other regards.  Therefore, for both Spitzer and Weiner there was little point in remaining in office under such circumstances and especially when no end to the scandals was in sight.  Resignation, in each case, became a strategic move as opposed to a legal necessity.

One cannot credibly predict any probability of resignation, only that Christie is on a highway with some signs pointing in that direction.  But even if Christie does resign, he can regroup and return to public life.  It is easy to imagine him running in 2016, no matter what. Segments of the political media and, of course, political opponents, are rushing to write his political epitaph.  That is way, way too premature.

Friday, January 10, 2014

You Pay When Banks Settle Criminal Charges With Fines

 A new commentary that raises questions as to why individuals working at the big financial institutions are not being brought to account, while plenty of individuals will pay the real bill for the banks' billion-dollar settlements of criminal charges arising from the Madoff scandal. Click on the following link for the full commentary:
 
 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Are "Moochers" More Dangerous...to Democrats?

The term "moocher" appears to be much more popular in the political lexicon, particularly among self-described conservatives who wish to deride the irresponsibility of political opponents (liberals? progressives?) and/or recipients of various government subsidies.  The term is often attributed to Ayn Rand's seminal novel Atlas Shrugged, although in my reading of her work I've come across a far-less-used term of "looter." 

The nomenclature of the various sides (and there are many more than two, as political alliances are shifting) is open for debate all over the political spectrum. However, the common wisdom is that "moochers" vote Democratic and moocher-haters vote Republican.  But I ask: Does this voting preference accurately reflect the role of "moochers" and suggest they are a natural liberal-Democrat constituency?

Underlying the question is a challenge to the paradigm holding that moochers are natural opponents of Republicans and thus moochers cannot be opponents of Democrats because Democrats are also the natural opponents of Republicans.  I wonder whether moochers are more of a threat to Democrats than to Republicans, despite their relatively closer voting affinity.

I start my challenge with a plea to approach this issue on a post-partisan basis. Dispense of the political party identification for a moment.  Please put down the other ideological identifiers (e.g., conservative, libertarian, progressive), and put on hold the premise that the identifiers are even definable.

First, I need to define the moocher for purposes of this debate.  The moocher is the person who supports the expansion of the entitlement state to a point where government controls everything, is everything.  He is for entitlements uber alles.  Entitlements as far as the eye can see, no matter what the expense or who is the victim.  To cap it off, strategy dictates the moocher supports any other cause (social, geopolitical, etc.) which weakens the support of any political opponent.

I might just be describing the most radical wings within the Democratic Party voting bloc (if not the party establishment), perhaps even elements of the Organizing For America (nee Obama For America) movement. 

However, should my theory be accurate, is that a good thing for the Democratic Party?  Do moochers pose more of a threat to Democrats?

And can traditional Democrats retain their power -- either in elected office or even in party positions -- when (as is further explained below) their character and values are being undermined and attacked by a moocher class upon which the Party increasingly, desperately relies for its margin of victory?

Consider that any serious political campaign needs serious financial support plus organizing acumen.  These elements come, one way or another, from people who can be called "achievers."  And achievers, regardless of political affinity, are almost by definition a minority in society.  Most people do not achieve; they may work, they may own cars and houses, but they survive, they exist, but this is a far cry from leading, from achieving, from having an impact on those around them.  

But one thing about achievers: they are the opposite of moochers.

The people who get ahead in politics, in any part of the spectrum, are either achievers or very skilled manipulators. (Some are both.)  Assuming for the sake of clarity that the Democratic Party leadership consists of achievers, the party's increasing reliance upon moochers for votes suggests a growing separation between the natural interests and perhaps even of personal character of the party leadership and its voting base.  This means that the party has grown and continues to grow more dependent (or desperate) on getting votes from the moocher class whose values, attitudes and behavior conflict with and even undermine the values and accomplishment of the "old-line" Democrat achievers who had to actually work hard to get where they are today.

A different way of viewing this intraparty divide is to dispense with ideology and instead view self-interest and class consciousness as the driving factors.  Moochers vote with unabashed, shameless self-interest: I will have what I want...or else.  Traditional Democrats have an ideology.  Moochers could care less.  Accordingly, their loyalties may be shallow.

If this theory is correct, it would hold that moochers pose a threat to the overall society by their I-don't-give-a-damn-about-anyone-else-but-me attitude, but that politically their threat is not at all to the Republican coalition (for whom moochers have no use and the feeling is reciprocated).  Rather, their most dire threat is to the mainstream Democratic Party which faces revolution from within from radical elements eager to use this mercenary moocher anger to win party primaries and force the party far to the left.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Are Roman Catholics Going Galt?

The guilt trip accompanying moral superiority may have its limits, after all.

Wealthy Catholics are reportedly balking at supporting St. Patrick's Cathedral rehabilitation after Pope Francis' comments seemingly criticizing the "rich." This protest by donors is absolutely justified, in my humble opinion.  You cannot validly expect donations with one outstretched hand, while simultaneously hitting your benefactors with the fist of the other hand.  You cannot demonize "wealth" (which is relative, by the way, and is most effectively defined as having one dollar more than the person next to you) without also demonizing the processes, and notably, the effort, that led to it.  Anyone who has accomplished anything in life -- personal, professional, whatever -- knows first-hand the personal effort and sacrifice that led to the achievement.  But perhaps just as significant, any "achiever" (another relative term, best defined as having something that someone else wants) has felt the sharp resentment, jealousy and envy from many people around them.  Achievers become accustomed to this early in life, starting in grade school even.  There is a social penalty for doing well.

Comments demonizing wealth give moral cover to such negative emotions and the people who harbor and express them.  The judgment is another form of social penalty, which when compounded with peer pressure leads to a strong deterrence against achieving anything, or that if you achieve something you had better be really quiet about it and hide the signs of your success.

The inescapable implications are infuriating. Achievers not only have to atone for their "success," but that success is not even theirs and certainly has not been earned.  (Quick note: Your enemies, your inferiors, the people who will always envy you -- none of these people will ever acknowledge your achievement or allow you to keep it unmolested.  Seeking their approval will be as frustrating, ineffective and ultimately as perilous as paying off a cannibal to not eat you.)  Even worse, the implication by extension from the Pope is that the achiever must apologize to other people who did not contribute to their success and in many cases may have actively interfered with or undermined the efforts to become successful.  One can hardly blame the "wealthy" for actively resisting these moral judgments.

The disturbing "get the rich" rhetoric is not confined to the new Pope.  New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan is quoted saying that "Money, our wealth, is a gift from God." This is troubling; characterizing wealth as a "gift" all but explicitly denigrates any effort, expertise and education that produced that wealth. Cardinal Dolan may just as well have channeled President Obama's infamous "You didn't build that" phrase.