Since U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie hasn’t answered to his letter, Rep. Frank Pallone has written the U.S. Attorney General asking that someone else at the Justice Department respond to concerns about a $35 million no-bid monitoring given to ex-U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
Pallone said it is his “understanding” that Christie believes internal Department of Justice guidelines prohibits his response. Unfortunately, it does not seem that Mr. Christie holds the same trepidation in speaking to the news media regarding the use of deferred prosecution agreements, his appointment of federal monitors, and other matters.
Christie, a likely Republican gubernatorial candidate in 2009, appeared on television over the weekend to discuss the federal monitor criticism with NJN senior political correspondent Michael Aron.
“Congress holds an important oversight role in the use of executive power under our Constitution,” Pallone wrote to Attorney General Michael Mukasey. “I believe there is an obligation on the part of the Department, Mr. Christie, or you as Attorney General to respond directly to my concerns.”
Pallone said he is preparing legislation “to provide increased accountability and oversight in choosing federal monitors,” and suggested it would be “beneficial and prudent to hear what the Department’s position is on this matter.”
The Monmouth County Democrats has been critical of Christie since learning that Ashcroft and others stand to make millions off monitoring a federal settlement against some medical device manufacturers. “The seemingly unfettered discretion that your office enjoys to frame the agreement and its terms, including choosing a firm or individual to monitor the agreement, invites the very sort of favoritism, political interference and back room dealing that your office has been so successful in combating throughout New Jersey,” Pallone wrote on November 21.
Pallone’s full letter:
December 3, 2007
United States Department of Justice
Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Mukasey:
Recently I wrote to the United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, regarding the increased use of deferred prosecution agreements and the lack of any apparent safeguards to protect against their abuse, particularly with regard to the way federal monitors are chosen. Specifically, I found troubling the tremendous discretion the United States Attorney seemingly holds in crafting the deferred prosecution agreement and in choosing the monitor to oversee its implementation. Allowing one individual to leverage the threat of criminal prosecution against those who have potentially engaged in criminal behavior without any independent oversight or judicial review invites the type of abuse and exploitation that our judicial system is designed to prevent.
To date, I have yet to receive a response from U.S. Attorney Christie regarding my letter and it is my understanding that he feels it is inappropriate to respond directly to my concerns or is barred from doing so by internal Department of Justice guidelines. Unfortunately, it does not seem that Mr. Christie holds the same trepidation in speaking to the news media regarding the use of deferred prosecution agreements, his appointment of federal monitors, and other matters.
As you know, Congress holds an important oversight role in the use of executive power under our Constitution. While I am sensitive to whatever guidelines the Department of Justice may have set forth regarding communication with Members of Congress, I believe there is an obligation on the part of the Department, Mr. Christie, or you as Attorney General to respond directly to my concerns.
Furthermore, as I prepare to draft legislation to provide increased accountability and oversight in choosing federal monitors, I believe it would be beneficial and prudent to hear what the Department’s position is on this matter. I would also appreciate knowing what, if any, guidelines the Department has set forth in how and under what circumstances U.S. Attorney’s should enter into deferred prosecution agreements, as well as what guidelines control their choosing of monitors.
For your convenience, I have enclosed a copy of the letter I sent to U.S. Attorney Christie on November 21, 2007. Thank you for your attention to this matter. I look forward to speaking with you soon.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
Cc: Acting Deputy Attorney General Craig Morford
Unites States Attorney for the District of New Jersey Christopher J. Christie