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The federal investigation of U.S. Senator Robert Menendez’s role as the landlord for a non-profit organization in Hudson County that received federal funding with Menendez’s help has led some Democrats to infer that the timing of U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie’s probe was designed to help Republican Thomas Kean, Jr. Last week, Governor Jon Corzine told reporters that Christie’s investigation “has the appearance of being less than objective.” Christie is a Republican who served as a Morris County Freeholder and as a leader of George W. Bush’s 2000 presidential campaign in New Jersey, but accusing the corruption-busting federal prosecutor of playing partisan politics is a tough sell. Christie authorized an FBI raid of Essex County Executive James Treffinger’s office while Treffinger was a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, and investigations of public officials over the last five years includes prominent members of both parties. Since Christie took office, no public officials accused of corruption has been acquitted — a record that might make Corzine a little nervous as Republicans talk about Christie as their candidate for Governor in 2009. Republicans have a chance to effectively arbitrate this conflict next Monday when Stuart Rabner, Corzine’s nominee for state Attorney General, appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Rabner is a career federal prosecutor who spent four years working for Christie and for Christie’s Democratic predecessors. One of the four Republican Senators on the panel — which is likely to unanimously recommend his confirmation — can simply ask Rabner his views on whether the timing of the Menendez investigation was tied to the upcoming election. But will one of the Senate Republicans (Kean serves on the Judiciary Committee) actually ask the question? “I could see something like that happening,” says Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson.

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