In response to the Star-Ledger story this weekend that Gov. Jon Corzine gave $15,000 to the brother-in-law of his ex-girlfriend after he said he’d severed financial ties with her, Republican State Chairman Tom Wilson says Corzine is involved in a cover-up of "Watergate" proportions.
"At virtually every turn, Jon Corzine has been dishonest about his ties to Carla Katz," said the state Republican chairman.
In March, Corzine had told the newspaper that he didn’t have any financial ties with Carla Katz, head of the state Communications Workers of America (CWA), or her family.
But after Katz brother-in-law Rocco Riccio resigned from the state Turnpike Authority at the bequest of Corzine’s then-chief of staff, according to the Ledger, Corzine in the spring gave Riccio $10,000, in addition to $5,000 his business manager gave Riccio on Corzine’s behalf, according to the article. Katz, whom Corzine has paid thousands of dollars’ worth in gifts, controls the largest government union in the state, which negotiated a contract during Corzine’s first year as governor. Corzine has said he ended his relationship with Katz prior to taking office. Last week he told the Ledger that his gifts to Riccio don’t constitute a Katz-connection.
But Wilson’s not buying it.
"He lied to his own ethics advisors, he lied to the people and he even tried to lie to the Star-Ledger until he was confronted with evidence of payments to her family this year," Wilson said. "Governor Corzine has been caught in the web of lies that he and his handlers created to try to conceal the extent of his entanglement with Carla Katz."
"Mr. Riccio, acting at who knows whose direction, was caught routing through people's tax records," said Wilson. "At whose tax records was he looking and for what? Was he looking at those perceived to be enemies of the administration? Was this an effort to collect information on people critical of the administration or people who were advocating for significant pension and benefit reforms opposed by Ms. Katz's union? Whatever the case, this is a massive violation of the rights of those who expect their tax records to remain confidential."
State Democratic Chair Joseph Cryan took a ho-hum approach to the news about Corzine’s $15,000 gift.
"It’s going to have zero impact on the legislative races," said Cryan. "This whole story is not an issue. We’ve been there and we’ve done that. I read it over the weekend and my impression is that it’s just going to fall on deaf ears."
Wilson was adamant in his view that this is definitely an issue concerning the voters, invoking Watergate in his release: "The Governor and his handlers know they did something wrong and are now engaging in a cover-up of Watergate proportions. Stories don't square up and people have a right to know whether the governor is abusing the power of his office, offering hush-money, and whether any laws have been broken."