One recent New Jersey development that has been particularly upsetting is the state’s growing callousness towards political leaders who take advantage of the public trust.
No matter our perceptions of politicians (and the ethical standards to which we hold them), it is not entirely clear why Governor Corzine and his Democratic defenders believe his financial dealings with Carla Katz, a prominent, politically influential union leader are not of concern to the public. Governor Corzine and his aides claim that, because he and Katz have a personal relationship, they are therefore immune to any and all questions about their financial dealings. Governor Corzine recently alluded that he has made large monetary gifts to Katz, but he refuses to explain the contexts or amounts of these gifts.
Make no mistake – Governor Corzine is entitled to have this personal relationship with Katz, or virtually anyone else for that matter. I am not particularly interested in Governor Corzine’s personal life, so long as it does not adversely affect his job as governor. Where Corzine treads dangerously close to unethical behavior, however, is by refusing to disclose his financial dealings with this prominent union official.
When a government official has a relationship with one of the biggest bargaining bodies at the state level, the public has a right to know about their financial dealings. Just as public officials must disclose their investments, Governor Corzine is obliged to disclose the investment he has made with this major union leader, regardless of the nature of their personal relationship.
Governor Corzine can do whatever he wants with whomever he wants €” his only wrongdoing is not being open and honest about it. If New Jersey is to repair its image, we must demand from our leaders that they fully disclose their financial dealings with major state interests €” even when these dealings are shrouded in personal relationships.