Gov. Chris Christie has nominated Michele Brown, a trusted adviser over the years, to serve on the board of a health insurance company he seriously dislikes.
Christie for months has been attacking the state’s largest health insurer, Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield, and demanding that lawmakers pass a bill to take about $300 million a year from its contingency fund to pay for a new drug-addiction treatment program that once upon a time was one of his top priorities for his final year in office.
Assembly Speaker Vincent Prieto (D-Hudson) has said he will not advance Christie’s bill due to a complete lack of support from Democrats. Plenty of Republicans oppose it, too.
But Christie is not done with the company.
Brown, the chief executive of Choose New Jersey, a nonprofit established at Christie’s behest to promote the state’s business climate, was nominated Thursday to replace Mary O’Dowd, Christie’s former health commissioner, on Horizon’s board.
It is Christie’s second try this year at setting up Brown with a lucrative appointment. The governor last month submitted a notice of intent to nominate Brown to the state Superior Court, where judges earn $165,000 a year. But after Christie’s plan was reported, Brown announced she would not pursue the nomination.
The Democratic-controlled state Senate is required to approve Brown’s nomination to Horizon’s board of directors. The position does not pay quite as much as a Superior Court judgeship, but it pays well nonetheless for a part-time gig that essentially boils down to several meetings a year and would not require her to leave her job at Choose New Jersey.
O’Dowd earned $76,000 last year from her service on Horizon’s board, according to company records made public recently by Politico. Other directors earned as much as $119,000. It’s considered one of the best-paying appointments the governor and Senate can bestow.
Horizon declined to comment on Brown’s nomination.