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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Honest Services Deprivation Indicated By New Bridgegate Testimony

The Bridgegate hearings might be glossing over the real abuse of power.

In the politically-charged environment surrounding the New Jersey Joint Investigative Committee hearings into various scandals (that's the press term, not mine) about "Bridgegate," "Sandygate" and anything else, some stray comments by former Intergovernmental Affairs Office (IGA) official Christina Renna may lead to an explosive line of new questions for subsequent witnesses.

Under questioning by State Senator Loretta Weinberg about how the IGA determined who were the "hands off mayors," Renna said the following:
"if there was reason to believe someone was under investigation or about to be indicted...we weren't told they were going to be indicted..."
And there's more:
[we were] told, absolutely no contact...for the protection of the Governor."

Renna then backtracked, or tried to, claiming that as to the "mayors under investigation," she used that phrase "as an example."  But the cat is out of the bag, even if no one sees the cat or hears it scratch.

This leads necessarily to the essential line of questioning:

How did the Governor's Office (and through it, its subsidiary, IGA) know who was about to be indicted?

This is information you know only if you are privy to an ongoing federal grand jury inquiry, which is supposed to be confidential. Of course, the New Jersey Governor used to run the United States Attorney's Office and presumably has lawyer and non-lawyer allies still populating the Rodino Federal Buiilding.)

Also, how did the Governor's Office know who was under investigation?

While the simple answer is that press coverage indicates what is going on, such coverage is not foolproof. Just look at the ample press coverage in the months leading up to last week's federal indictment of Rep. Michael Grimm (R-Staten Island, NY).  All the press coverage speculated on a campaign finance fraud charge (in fairness, Grimm's associates were previously indicted on such a charge), but the actual charges (twenty in all, so far) avoided campaign finance and instead centered on tax fraud. It is educated speculation, but speculation nonetheless, making for a good story but by no means conclusive or dispositive.

The logical suspicions have to concern all fans of good government and transparency:

1.  There are systemic leaks in the United States Attorney's Office and/or federal court system in the District of New Jersey, or;

2.  There is an established back-channel between Governor Chris Christie's state government office and his former federal office, through which the federal government and state government are improperly influencing one another, because:

3.  Renna admitted in her testimony that her department, IGA, avoided anyone "under investigation" or "about to be indicted," thus depriving the constituents of anyone subject to this inside information (accurately or fairly or not) of fair and equal treatment by their government.

Or as some prosecutors used to argue, of the "honest services" of their elected officials.

Eric Dixon is a corporate and investigative lawyer who handles transaction research, financial research and opposition research in a variety of contexts. 

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